US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar was in Massachusetts today to announce that the Department of Interior is approving the Cape Cod offshore wind farm.
The project has been incredibly contentious in Massachusetts, resulting in a nine-year delay on moving forward and the development of unusual political fissures in the state. The project was famously opposed by the late Ted Kennedy who was thought to have been worried about its impact on the Nantucket Sound–a prime yachting corridor. Other Massachusetts politicians, including Governor Deval Patrick, have been key supporters, recognizing the economic development potential and the environmental benefits from an expansion of wind energy.
Salazar did make some concessions to opponents. The project will be smaller than initially anticipated with 130 turbines, rather than 170, approved. Salazar also indicated that the developer will have to do more marine archaeological surveys and reduce the visual impact of the turbines.
Given how prevalent the off-shore wind development is in Europe, it is amazing that the Cape Wind project will be the first of its kind in the US. Much of the delay has been due to the lack of federal leadership on the issue. Thankfully, Salazar recognized this problem and said that nine years of review for a project is excessive and that the process should be more “rational and orderly.”
He also indicated that today’s approval of Cape Wind should be seen as a signal that the approval process should not be so onerous for other projects in development on the Atlantic coast.
There are still hurdles to overcome before Cape Wind is a reality. Although Gov. Patrick said that construction will begin next year, the deregulated electricity market has to be taken into account. Cape Wind will need to sell its electricity to distributors. If the price point is insufficient, this could have an impact on the financing needed to carry out a massive construction project.
–Reactions to the US, China, India, South Africa and Brazil all having reached an agreement tonight Friday (December 18) to cut greenhouse gas emissions–
YVO DE BOER, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change “The mountain goes on and on, it seems. I do think we need to see how this text is received by the broader group of countries. It’s great that [a] small group of leaders gets together and tries to advance the process but ultimately, the way things work here, it has to be acceptable to every country.”
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, US President “We’re going to have to build on the momentum that we’ve established here in Copenhagen to ensure that international action to significantly reduce emissions is sustained and sufficient over time. We’ve come a long way but we have much further to go.”
XIE ZHENHUA, Head of Chinese Delegation “The meeting has had a positive result, everyone should be happy. After negotiations both sides have managed to preserve their bottom line. For the Chinese this was our sovereignty and our national interest.”
GORDON BROWN, British Prime Minister “We have made a start. I believe that what we need to follow up on quickly is ensuring a legally binding outcome.”
NNIMMO BASSEY, Chair of Friends of the Earth International “Copenhagen has been an abject failure. Justice has not been done. By delaying action, rich countries have condemned millions of the world’s poorest people to hunger, suffering and loss of life as climate change accelerates. The blame for this disastrous outcome is squarely on the developed nations.”
JOHN SAUVEN, Executive Director, Green Peace UK “The city of Copenhagen is a crime scene tonight, with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport. There are no targets for carbon cuts and no agreement on a legally binding treaty. It seems there are too few politicians in this world capable of looking beyond the horizon of their own narrow self-interest, let alone caring much for the millions of people who are facing down the threat of climate change.”
Here is the advanced text of Obama’s speech via the New York Times:
Good morning. It’s an honor to for me to join this distinguished group of leaders from nations around the world. We come together here in Copenhagen because climate change poses a grave and growing danger to our people. You would not be here unless you – like me – were convinced that this danger is real. This is not fiction, this is science. Unchecked, climate change will pose unacceptable risks to our security, our economies, and our planet. That much we know.
So the question before us is no longer the nature of the challenge – the question is our capacity to meet it. For while the reality of climate change is not in doubt, our ability to take collective action hangs in the balance.
I believe that we can act boldly, and decisively, in the face of this common threat. And that is why I have come here today.
As the world’s largest economy and the world’s second largest emitter, America bears our share of responsibility in addressing climate change, and we intend to meet that responsibility. That is why we have renewed our leadership within international climate negotiations, and worked with other nations to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. And that is why we have taken bold action at home – by making historic investments in renewable energy; by putting our people to work increasing efficiency in our homes and buildings; and by pursuing comprehensive legislation to transform to a clean energy economy.
These actions are ambitious, and we are taking them not simply to meet our global responsibilities. We are convinced that changing the way that we produce and use energy is essential to America’s economic future – that it will create millions of new jobs, power new industry, keep us competitive, and spark new innovation. And we are convinced that changing the way we use energy is essential to America’s national security, because it will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and help us deal with some of the dangers posed by climate change.
So America is going to continue on this course of action no matter what happens in Copenhagen. But we will all be stronger and safer and more secure if we act together. That is why it is in our mutual interest to achieve a global accord in which we agree to take certain steps, and to hold each other accountable for our commitments.
After months of talk, and two weeks of negotiations, I believe that the pieces of that accord are now clear.
First, all major economies must put forward decisive national actions that will reduce their emissions, and begin to turn the corner on climate change. I’m pleased that many of us have already done so, and I’m confident that America will fulfill the commitments that we have made: cutting our emissions in the range of 17 percent by 2020, and by more than 80 percent by 2050 in line with final legislation.
Second, we must have a mechanism to review whether we are keeping our commitments, and to exchange this information in a transparent manner. These measures need not be intrusive, or infringe upon sovereignty. They must, however, ensure that an accord is credible, and that we are living up to our obligations. For without such accountability, any agreement would be empty words on a page.
Third, we must have financing that helps developing countries adapt, particularly the least-developed and most vulnerable to climate change. America will be a part of fast-start funding that will ramp up to $10 billion in 2012. And, yesterday, Secretary Clinton made it clear that we will engage in a global effort to mobilize $100 billion in financing by 2020, if – and only if – it is part of the broader accord that I have just described.
Mitigation. Transparency. And financing. It is a clear formula – one that embraces the principle of common but differentiated responses and respective capabilities. And it adds up to a significant accord – one that takes us farther than we have ever gone before as an international community.
The question is whether we will move forward together, or split apart. This is not a perfect agreement, and no country would get everything that it wants. There are those developing countries that want aid with no strings attached, and who think that the most advanced nations should pay a higher price. And there are those advanced nations who think that developing countries cannot absorb this assistance, or that the world’s fastest-growing emitters should bear a greater share of the burden.
We know the fault lines because we’ve been imprisoned by them for years. But here is the bottom line: we can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, and continue to refine it and build upon its foundation. We can do that, and everyone who is in this room will be a part of an historic endeavor – one that makes life better for our children and grandchildren.
Or we can again choose delay, falling back into the same divisions that have stood in the way of action for years. And we will be back having the same stale arguments month after month, year after year – all while the danger of climate change grows until it is irreversible.
There is no time to waste. America has made our choice. We have charted our course, we have made our commitments, and we will do what we say. Now, I believe that it’s time for the nations and people of the world to come together behind a common purpose.
We must choose action over inaction; the future over the past – with courage and faith, let us meet our responsibility to our people, and to the future of our planet. Thank you.
Negotiators in a key sub-group of the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen worked through the early morning today which culminated in the release of a draft text that is supposed to serve as the basis of an agreement for world leaders to sign when they arrive here on Friday.
As the iteration which appeared on Saturday, the latest text makes little progress on key issues of mitigation for developed and developing countries while saying little about financing schemes for developing countries to adapt to climate change and shift to low-carbon technologies .
The consequence is that the high-level ministers will now have to get involved in the heavy lifting aspect of the negotiating process if any sort of agreement is to be signed by world leaders on Friday.
In other developments, Senator John Kerry addressed the conference in what amounted to a campaign speech for the US position. My impression has been that Kerry has a lot of respect amongst delegates for his long-standing interest in the climate change issue. However, his speech was a bit troubling for the negotiations.
He spent quite a bit of time dispelling climate skeptics–which was clearly geared towards domestic consumption. When you’ve been at a climate change conference in Europe for over a week, it is pretty easy to forget that skeptics actually exist! His impassioned plea for following the science wasn’t really needed inside the COP, so what it told me is that his Senate bill must be in at least a little trouble–although he equally forcefully said at the end of his speech that the US would pass climate legislation by the end of next year, with the Senate taking up the issue in the spring.
I would have to concur with Tan Copsey at China Dialogue, that the most troubling part of his speech were lightly veiled attacks at the Chinese position in the talks. He expressed a bit of protectionism by talking about “dumping high carbon” products into the US market. Additionally, he focused heavily on the idea that countries must have “measurable, reportable, and verifiable” emissions targets.
This is another swipe at China. The US seems quite skeptical about China’s recent pronouncements that they will reduce their emissions from business-as-usual projections and want to have some assurance that emissions mitigation can be quantified. China, of course, is hesitant to commit to reductions in the first place and wants to maintain as much flexibility as possible in the negotiations.
Thus with Kerry’s rather hard line speech and the minimal movement on the negotiating text, the only thing clear about the next couple of days is that they will be unpredictable and probably contentious.
Yesterday the US Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, gave a speech at the UN Climate Change conference in Copenhagen. He is part of a cavalcade of high-level administration officials coming to Copenhagen in advance of President Obama’s participation in the high-level segment of negotiations next week.
Salazar laid out the administration’s standard line on climate change, asserting that “the United States understands the danger of climate change poses for the world” and laid out the vision of his department has for facing this challenge.
The Interior Department is a key government agency in addressing the climate problem due to the large amount of land that falls under its purview. Much of that land is in the Southwestern US in areas that could be ripe for renewable energy projects using wind and solar.
The most curious part of his talk was when he discussed “carbon capture.” He rightly mentioned the large swaths of forest land that need to be preserved to act as a carbon sink for sequestration and announced the release of a study by the US Geologic Survey that contends “the U.S. hypothetically have the potential to store an additional 3-7 billion metric tons of carbon in forests, if agricultural lands were to be used for planting forests. This potential is equivalent to 2 to 4 years of America’s current CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels.”
But more troubling was his stance on the controversial practice of carbon capture and storage. This involves taking carbon emissions from a point source and injecting it into the ground to keep out of the atmosphere. This is largely an untested technology that hasn’t been implemented to any significant degree on a commercial scale. Issues like transporting the gassified CO2, and the permanence of its storage have not been adequately resolved. Coal companies, however, are counting on carbon capture and storage’s (CCS) viability to continue burning “clean coal” in a carbon-regulated environment.
Salazar was pushed by a questioner on the problems inherent in maintaining a coal-based energy policy given the problems with CCS. Salazar expressed confidence in the development of CCS technology and suggested that storage could occur on public lands. But this stance fails to look at the problems of coal extraction, which can disrupt landscapes and water quality when “mountaintop removal” techniques are used. Obama has been a consistent advocate of “clean coal” without, so Salazar’s position isn’t surprising. However, one would hope that the administration would take a more systematic analysis of CCS’ drawbacks.
The desire to have a positive outcome from the conference has caused some to believe that the Danish presidency has assisted the rich and developed countries of the world to create a deal in private and spearhead a likely US-friendly deal to the rest of the world. This desire also contributed to the marketing scheme of “Hopenhagen,” which is a blatant attempt to commercialize the conference by the city of Copenhagen.
I first became aware of this possibility of a last minute deal while reading blog posts on day one of the conference. Now in day 4, news agencies are reporting that leaked e-mails show this is a not just a far out speculation. Just as a reminder, the leaked documents showed world leaders will next week be asked to sign an agreement that hands more power to rich countries.
Whether or not the Danish presidency has any influence on this non-equitable outcome is beside the point. The UN is expected by the international community to provide fair and equitable negotiation process, and it is become fairly obvious that this is not the case.
Today, myself and several others in the class went to the “Intergenerational Inquiry on Climate Solutions calls Yvo de Boer, youth, negotiators to testify”. A representative from the UN climate change support team stated the obvious, that economic and political interests influence the negotiations, and that it is not a matter of if they should, but it is inevitable that they do.
In a blog by Bolivia’s Ambassador to the UN and Copenhagen on Tuesday he argued the possibility of the developed countries getting the chair of the UNFCCC or some ad hoc group to introduce a last minute paper. By saying this paper is the last chance and pressuring the other parties to sign it, mainly developing countries by placing blame on them for a possible failure to the conference, which is something the world and the Danish government do not want as an outcome.
This point reiterates the fact that developed and powerful nations have more influence over the negotiations than other parties involved. These other parties include both developing counties, and the youth of the world. I see high parallels between the youth movement here at the conference and positions of developing countries. While I have yet to be in an actual negotiating session, I saw a young man’s e-mail where he was stating that in the negotiations it seemed that a lot of developing nations delegates were struggling quite a bit in keeping up with the talks, he was using an example of a man who was shuffling through papers and it seemed obviously that he did not understand what was going on, and in the e-mail it he was saying he though it was because they were never provided the right documentation. The guy was seeing if there was a way in which he could be of assistance to delegations that need extra assistance, something I highly doubt the US or any other powerful country has any problems with.
While the developed countries are trying to place blame on other countries and are not being flexible in their positions because of economic and political interests, the rest of us are questioning the very idea of negotiations on a subject of climate change. How is safeguarding the future of the international youth and the entire populations of developing countries (some of which will be completely destroyed in less than 100 years) something that is negotiated over economic interests in closed meetings attended by those who will not have the deal with the ultimate outcome of their decisions?
Developed country negotiators and the UN secretariat want us to have a “sense of realism,” but I think that they do not see the reality of the situation because their point of view is too clouded by international, national, or local institutions that have discriminatory and inhumane policies in the foundations of their negotiating positions.
In a side event last night the organization Greenpeace talked about the pressing issues that the USA has to deal with during these negotiations and in the future. The first presentation by Kyle Ash talked about how America is taking steps forward but also they are regressing in other ways. First, they are progressing with the support of groups like REDD. The steps back are seen when looking at the amount that the USA wants to reduce their emissions. Hopefully, it is already well known that America is aiming for a 4% reduction in emissions. Although, the long term emission goals do appear to comply with what the world is calling for. He also talked about the Waxman-Markey bill, which would drastically reduce the power that the EPA currently has to control emissions. This bill wants to promote “offset credits” within the Cap and Trade system for the carbon market. In theory this means that companies could acquire a loan for an offset which would expire after a 5 year term. As Kyle Ash said, this undermines the permanence of climate change policies. If this legislation passes then by 2020, over half of the American energy consumption would still be based on fossil fuels, with only six percent coming from renewable energy.
The second speaker talked about how the Americans do have a political process that can help with the climate change policies, considering that Congress tends to be a block to the process. Her focus was that Obama has to, “act out of political moral and courage.” This was the platform on which she presented about the Sole Executive Agreement, possibly more commonly known as an executive order. She believes with this executive power that America will be able to meet the standards in which the world is calling for. One factor that she did not talk about is that the funding for the Executive Orders comes from congress, and if a program does not have the right funding then how would that program successfully operate to the standards in which it was expected too.
The third presenter was from Brazil. He opened with an integrating story of how Brazil has changed over from their old slavery process to their current one. The key points that he wanted to highlight was that it is not the government or the market that started the change, it was actually the people that allowed the transition to happen. This switch in their economic markets did not come with several unintended outcomes, but it did get the ball moving and allowed for change to happen. The moral of this story is that, “if the people really want a change then it will happen. Although, it is important to note that the changes should not be done cheaply, because that will just create more problems in the future. Finally, just like the second presenter he also called for President Obama to step up and take the chances, even though this path would be currently unpopular to certain groups, and take country in the right way for reducing emissions.
Finally, I would like to discuss a question that was asked during this event. The question was confronted the topic how Canada does not want reduce their emissions to a lower amount because of their heavy investment of their Tar Sands. This directly relates with the American emissions goals, because Canada does not want to make a move because if they do the country would be losing the economic potential of the Tar-Sands. Also, she mentioned that other countries are using America to block the spot light from hitting them. It has become a dialog of, “… but America is doing X, Y, and Z so why should our country reduce emission” which stops progress of creating a treaty. So, if America steps up and Obama become the leader that the world wants the other countries will stop having these excuses. These excuses are not valid in the first place as the presenter from Brazil reinforced. It is not what the government wants to do, but it is what the people want, because the people in a collective group can create progress.
Today we rushed into the US delegation center to listen to a speech by US EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. It was no surprise to those of us who attended that she stated that climate change is a global problem and we need to confront the situation starting at home in the United States. Her speech was very hopeful of progress in the states because she stated over and over that the US must act now and that we will seize opportunities to reduce our emissions.
One thing that Jackson mentioned is that in the United States 85% of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions will be tracked. This means that we will be able to have accurate measurements so that we know what technology we need to invest in and in which areas we need to do more work in, in order to reduce as much of our emissions as possible.
Jackson also said that there are plans to work with Congress in order to pass clean energy reforms and to lower emissions by 80% by 2050.
At the end of her speech, Jackson stated, “Climate Change is real, and now is the time to act.” I am very glad to see continuing support for combating climate change for the sake of human health and for the survival of the Earth. The United States has the chance to make a huge difference in reducing emissions and I am happy to see that we are realizing that combating climate change is a shared challenge and all countries need to put forth effort in order for us all to succeed.
As the youth environmental movement gains momentum prior to COP15, The White House announced just the Wednesday before Thanksgiving that they would host a Youth and Clean Energy Forum with youth environmental leaders on Dec 2, 2009. The act in and of itself is a great victory for the youth environmental movement. Achieving such type of open dialogue was a heavier task during the Bush administration especially considering the fact that Bush did not acknowledge climate change until the last 2 years of his term. The fact that the Obama administration put this forum together is a great step forward.
As a prominent youth environmental justice leader with the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization in Chicago, I was one of 100 youth leaders invited to participate in the forum. At first, I thought the forum was just going to be a speil session with little time to ask questions. Well, the forum exceeded my expectations even though the president did not attend the forum. Those present at the forum included Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy; Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor; Lisa Jackson, Administrator of Environmental Protection Agency; Nancy Sutley ,Chair of Council on Environmental Quality; Jon Carson, Chief of Staff for Council on Environmental Quality; Carol Browner, Director of White House Office of Energy and Climate Change. The forum was broken down into two parts: 1) panel with Q&A session. 2) Working groups with senior level staff.
During the panel with Q&A, Steven Chu spoke about his views on where the U.S. stands with Climate Change. He stated that he does not see the U.S. “turning it’s back on coal” when there is such a high energy demand and many people would lose their jobs. This comment turned off most of the youth who work actively to reach a common goal: transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. Steven Chu took a few questions after his speech and then left. Lisa Jackson and Hilda Solis then came into the room, introduced themselves and took questions.
With Steven Chu’s coal comment in mind and my intentions to ask Lisa Jackson a question in regards to environmental disparities and exposure to hazards, I raised my hand up high in the air. Luckily, I was sitting in the second row of the room and got called on for the second question. To begin, I thanked Lisa Jackson for leading EPA into filing a lawsuit against Midwest Generation, the owner of six coal power plants in Illinois with two of those located in Chicago’s predominantly Mexican-American neighborhoods. I proceeded with the question “Steven Chu mentioned earlier that he does not see the U.S. turning it’s back on coal. Is the use of coal more important than protecting the health of communities living in close proximity to coal mining sites and coal power plants? ” To that Lisa Jackson responded, “Oh no, no. That is my job, to make sure that emissions do not harm environment and the people.” She continued stating that the transitions from fossil fuels to renewable sources is not an easy one but that we must work towards that direction. As the panel continued, Lisa Jackson stated that she would like to see a legally binding agreement in Copenhagen.
During the working group session, my group worked with staff from the Department of Energy. It was a productive working group session with a conversation about maintaining open communication as well as discussing the science behind 350ppm as being the amount of CO2 the earth can handle and maintain itself stable as opposed to 450ppm or 550ppm. Surely, getting to 350ppm is no easy task. What is needed is a strong commitment to stop permitting mountain top removal and the construction of new coal power plants among other emitters of CO2. The conversation went further in depth when expressing our concern for the continuation of nuclear and coal technologies as supported by Department of Energy. The youth present at the forum unanimously agreed that we can no longer continue with nuclear and coal technologies. We demanded to create a feasible timeline/vision to transition to renewable sources of energy ideally by 2050. We also went into depth with the coal discussion in regards to environmental justice. One of the youth leaders in my group was from Appalachia and he described the health issues related to coal mining and dumping of coal waste in local rivers, which are in close proximity to low-income white communities. I then took the opportunity to highlight the coal cycle and how it affects Americans each day whether it is from the extraction process or burning process. Right now, the government is very focused on “clean coal” since it does not emit green house gasses into the atmosphere. However, with clean coal we still have to mine the coal and thus continue oppressing these communities affected by black lung disease among other respiratory illnesses.
Our working group concluded with the suggestion to create a youth clean energy advisory council to have open communication with the White House and be present at the policy table. As youth, we helped elect President Obama and we will support him in taking stronger actions to address Climate Change internationally and domestically. Why continue depending on coal through “clean coal”? That is a short-term fix. We have no time for short-term fixes. We need to invest our time in developing long-term fixes. We acknowledge the White House cannot act on it’s own and are willing to help pressure the House and Senate to create a stronger Climate bill as well. We are ready to establish a time line and follow it! The question remains: “President Obama, are you willing to take bigger step forward and help start that transition?”
Several White House cabinet members and staff will attend COP15.
Overall, a very productive meeting in terms of expressing our concerns openly and dialoguing with staff. Let’s hope the White House keeps in communication with us and gets a White house youth clean energy advisory board started.
I’ll keep you posted.
One of the worlds leading climate change experts says that the Copenhagen summit talks are so flawed that a deal would be a disaster. James Hansen, a reknown scienctist involved in the looming scientific arguments surrouding the climate change debate believes that “we don’t have a leader who is able to grasp the issue and say what is really needed. Instead we are trying to continue business as usual concepts”. Hansen represents one of the many who are in opposition to the negotiations and who believe that the approach to the summit is being viewed in the completely wrong light. He explians that “the whole approach is so fundamentally wrong that it is better to reassess the situation. If it is going to be the Kyoto-type thing then people will spend years trying to determine exactly what that means.” Due to the availability of offsets introduced by such propoals as “Cap and Trade” along with the idea that certain “goals” are to be reached within alloted time frames (as there are within the Kyoto Protocol), Hansen believes that these attempts to achieve levels of commitment and “outs” (aka offsets) are politicians attempt to treat these negotiations with a ”business as usual” mentality. While many including Hansen believe that this process is extremely flawed due to its reliance on “Cap and Trade” policies, others believe positive points can come out of the “Cap and Trade” system. As Hansen tries to set himself apart from everyone else in the environmental community he does point out what he thinks can be a start toward tackling the global carbon emissions dilemma. By putting a tax on the price of carbon directly at the mine or the port Hansen believes that a sufficient start to a global reduction in carbon emissions could be established.
Hansen also addressed the recent emails leaked regarding falsified scientific data and results produced by the climate research center of the University of Anglica. While he believes that these emails have no significant impact on the understanding of climate change research he does mention that it represents a bad public relations matter more than anything else. While the leaked emails have caused a stir amongst many United States officials, the majority of scientists and reseach and development coordinators believe that the science is sound and highly credible.
Another issue addressed by Hansen was in regard to nuclear research and development. He points out that the U.S. Democratic party should rise above the minority of the anti nuke community and continue its development for the future use of nuclear energy. He believes that the R and D should have never been limited by President Clinton during the 1970’s and that even if the US government believes that nuclear power is very uncertain they should definitely keep up the research to ensure other world powers do not capitalize on such a resource. Hansen goes on to explain that the United States has had and still has the best expertise in this field and it would be a shame if they caved into the small but vocal anti nuclear segments of the US community.
What needs to be understood is that the situation regarding nuclear power is completely different now than it ever has been before. While many say that the US has growing interest in the development nuke technnolgy many uncertainties do still exist. What has to be realized is that other alternative energies must be developed in order for nulear power to even be put into the same equation.