Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Resolutions for a More Sustainable World in 2010

The beginning of the new decade is a good time make a resolution for a more sustainable world. During the holidays we collectively generate mountains of waste. According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board and Recycle Works, the US alone purchases over 2.6 billion holiday cards each year. (enough to fill a football field 10 stories high). Between Thanksgiving and the New Year, Americans throw out an extra million tons of trash each week (a 25% increase). In addition, 38,000 miles of ribbon are discarded each year–enough to tie a bow around the Earth.

Powerful improvements can be made through relatively simple business innovations and consumer decisions. Each year, 50 million Christmas trees are purchased in the U.S. and about 30 million go to the landfill. During the average 15 year life span of a fake Christmas tree, a real tree user will put about 1/2 ton of waste into landfills. Fake trees are even more destructive to the environment as they are made with polyvinyl chloride (or PVC, otherwise known as vinyl), one of the most environmentally offensive forms of non-renewable, petroleum-derived plastic. Fake Christmas trees are also know to have several carcinogens, including dioxin, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride. Fake trees also contain lead and other additives that have been linked to liver, kidney, neurological and reproductive system damage.

The most eco-friendly way to enjoy a Christmas tree is to buy a live tree with its roots intact from a local grower. As reviewed in a recent New York Times article, Scott Martin, a landscape designer in California, has established a business that rents living Christmas trees to LA homes using biodiesel trucks. After the holidays, the trees are picked up and planted on industrial properties.

The beginning of the new year is a good time to make green resolutions. Here are several suggestions:

Inform yourself about sustainable business
Raise awareness about sustainable business
Lobby your legislators on behalf of the green economy
Get a green degree
Get a green job
Invest in sustainable stock
Start a sustainable business
Make your existing business more sustainable

Whatever you resolve to do, find a way to get involved in the green economy. As consumers we can resolve to make more informed, responsible buying decisions. As entrepreneurs and business owners, we can make our businesses more sustainable by resolving to adopt the triple bottom line of planet, people and profits.

Other green business resolutions include incorporating sustainable principles into your business decisions. Supplying environmentally friendly products or services that replace the demand for non green products or services. Being greener than traditional competition and making an enduring commitment to environmental principles. (for more specific information on sustainable business frameworks and guidelines see ISO14001).

You can also follow THE GREEN MARKET and get updated, topical information delivered to your inbox, as well as gain access to the wealth of resources and tools in the Green Link Library.

Whether you are a business owner, entrepreneur or consumer, everyone can make sustainable resolutions for 2010.
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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Food and Water

Vertical Farming: Valcent, a company based in El Paso, Texas, is pioneering a space efficient hydroponic-farming system that grows plants in rotating rows, which expands food supplies without using more land. The rotation gives the plants the precise amount of light and nutrients they need, while the vertical stacking enables the use of far less water than conventional farming. The company claims it will use 95 percent less water than conventional agriculture, increase crop yields 20-fold for the same amount of land, and eliminate pesticide and herbicide use.

Green inventions for Water: This invention enables the extraction of water from the atmosphere. The Solar Powered Water Purifier eliminates the need to boil water using wood or coal. There are currently 1.2 billion people in the world living without clean drinking water.

Reusable Fruit and Vegtable Bags: As revealed in the sneak peek of G Magazine's list of the year's 10 most innovative eco-products, there have been a few interesting green inventions from Australia in 2009 including Greensacks, a finalist in the 2009 news.com.au Green Awards. Greensacks are reusable, lightweight mesh bags designed to replace small, single-use plastic fruit and vegie bags. A reusable alternative to plastic bags will reduce the current Australian use of over 10 million plastic bags a day, which take between 15 and 1,000 years to break down.
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The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Education

Climate Change Video: The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has produced a film about the reality of climate change in the Pacific island of Kiribati. The film clearly shows how people’s lives are being affected right now by rising sea waters. This powerful video shows how Climate Change is impacting people all around the world.

Children's Education Through Videos: Teachers are providing environmental education for children using videos. Videos from sites such as Green Energy TV foster awareness about what kids can do with regard to such things as the elimination of Junk Mail.

Copenhagen Conference Teacher's Website: Together, ClimateChangeEducation.Org and GlobalWarmingKids.Net are working to provide climate change education programs to educate children and provide resources to teachers.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Miscellaneous Consumer Goods

The Environmental Toothbrush: Developed in Australia, this toothbrush uses bamboo and biodegradable polymer bristles rather than plastic. These brushes break down into compost, leaving no residue. Hundreds of millions of non-renewable plastic toothbrushes are discarded annually, adding 1,000 tonnes to landfill.

Another toothbrush design has a slot in the handle that squeezes toothpaste completely out of the tube. Rather than discarding it, this brush can be re-purposed for cleaning.

Greener Alcohol: An organic liquor company by the name of TRU alcohol offers spirits that are USDA certified organic from the field to the bottle. TRU’s packaging is light and sustainable - meaning everything is recycled, recyclable or biodegradable. TRU plants a tree for every bottle sold to replenish forests and paper stocks.

Remote Controls: Shake & Control remote control works by pressing or shaking. The Wind Up Remote Control works by winding a crank on the control. Both remote controls eliminate the need for batteries.

Water-Powered Clock: Simply fill it with water and a squeeze of lemon juice and it will run accurately for six to eight weeks without an external power source.

Green Inventions In Fabric: The Wonderland Project has unveiled the dissolving dress also known as catalytic clothing. These clothes can harness pollutants that would then be neutralized by washing. Clothes have a massive surface area, and this surface could be used to purify the air.

The Danish fashion industry made a green statement with the fashion show 'Innovating Sustainable Fashion' in Copenhagen on December 3. Karin Eggert Hansen, student at the Danish Design School made a collection out of the material from 100% recycled plastic bottles.
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Next: The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Education / The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Food and Water

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The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Transportation

The Nissan Leaf: Launched in August, the Leaf is the first fully electric mass production vehicle built for the global market. Nissan has developed a worldwide network of partners focused on building a recharging infrastructure. The car's top speed is more than 90 m.p.h. (145 km/h), and its range is 100 miles (160 km) on a full charge. Nissan will produce 50,000 Leafs each starting in the fall of 2010.

Air Car: A San Jose, California based company called Magnetic Car Care says that a car that runs on air and magnets will be available in 2010, India's largest automaker already has an air powered Car. The Tata Motors car runs on compressed air and reportedly costs less than $18,000.

YikeBike Electric Bicycle: It weighs about 20 pounds, runs on a lithium phosphate battery, folds into a small carrying bag, and moves at up to 12 MPH.

World First F3: A Formula 3 race car developed at the University of Warwick runs on a mix of chocolate and vegetable oil, has a coating on its radiator that converts ozone emissions into oxygen, and components made with carrot fibers, potato starch and cashew shells.
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The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Energy Efficiency

The Smart Thermostat: The EnergyHub Dashboard communicates wirelessly with your furnace and your appliances and monitors energy consumption and costs. It can also turn appliances on and off and raise or lower the temperature in your house. The EnergyHub device provides detailed spreadsheets for programming energy usage, and offers features such as comparing your home’s energy usage to that of other EnergyHub users and weekly energy consumption. EnergyHub is currently partnering with utilities for trials and will be available direct to consumers in early 2010.

A More Energy Efficient Light Bulb: Philips Electronics has developed a light-emitting diode (LED) bulb said to produce as much light as a 60W incandescent bulb using less than 10W, and lasting 25 times as long. Sixty-watt lights account for 50% of the domestic incandescent market; replacing conventional light bulbs with LED. could save electricity equivalent to the energy required to power 17.4 million households.

Electron Stimulated Luminescence (ESL) Lighting Technology: This technology from Vu1 uses accelerated electrons to stimulate phosphor which creates light by making the surface of the bulb glow. ESL Technology says that this bulb creates the same light quality as an incandescent but is more energy conserving. These bulbs are mercury free.

Electricity Management with Mobile Technology: Z-Wave enabled home automation systems enables users to control thermostat, lighting etc from a mobile phone.

Blink Photocell Controlled Outlet has an adjustable eyelid that can be fine tuned to activate or deactivate the light sensing function. This gives it the energy saving advantage of automatically disabling and enabling outlets with the rising or setting of the sun. These little sensors can replace the need for bulky, complicated timers.
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Next: The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Transportation / The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Consumer Goods / The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Education / The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Food and Water

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Energy Production

The Solar Shingle: The Dow Chemical Co. has developed a new roof shingle that doubles as a solar panel. The new shingle incorporates thin-film solar cells and can be installed alongside regular asphalt shingles. The innovative shingle is expected to cost 10% to 15% less than traditional solar panels and wil be quicker to install. Dow predicts it will bring in as much as $10 billion in revenue by 2020.

Turning Waste into Energy: Green Energy TV has given Ze-gen, the Two Green Thumbs Up Award for being one of the Best Green Companies. Over one billion tons of waste have already been landfilled across the globe so far this year. Ze-gen's waste transformation is an economical and environmentally superior alternative to land filling or incineration. Clean and highly efficient gasification technology unlocks the potential for waste to be a domestically produced, renewable resource.

Turning Used Oil into Power: The Vegawatt is a turnkey plant that converts a restaurant's spent vegetable fryer oil into electricity and hot water.

Green Exercise: One man is reported to have lost over 70 pounds from riding his bike that powered the TV in his home. Some gyms are also starting to harness the energy from treadmills, bikes, and other equipment to power their electricity needs.
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Next: The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Energy Efficiency / The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Transportation / The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Consumer Goods / The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Education / The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Food and Water

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Best Eco-Inventions 2009

There were a host of greener inventions in 2009 and they include everything from tooth brushes to a planetary nervous system.

The term "eco-inventions" is composed of "eco" the short form of ecology, defined as the branch of biology concerned with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings. The word "invention" is defined as the creation of a new device or process, resulting from study and experimentation.

In the simplist terms, eco-inventions can claim one or more of the following: They save materials, they reduce energy, they increase efficiency, and they promote recycling or repurposing.

Some of the best inventions of 2009 involve monitoring technology. NASA and Cisco have teamed up to develop the "Planetary Skin," it will integrate land, sea, air and space-based sensors, helping the public and private sectors make decisions to prevent and adapt to climate change. The pilot project will track geographically specific carbon levels held by rain forests. A prototype will be released in 2010.

Researchers from Princeton University have developed a method of measuring the Personal Carbon Footprint. Their efforts stress individual carbon emissions rather than national levels.

Some of the more widely available green inventions include portable solar or wind powered rechargers for personal electronics like mobile phones and mp3 players. Although not a new technology, support.com's free “Green Computer” service helps people save energy and money. This service makes your computer more energy efficient and can save up to $75 dollars per year, equivalent to 400 to 1200 pounds of CO2 emissions. Seemingly small efforts add up, if one hundred thousand people used support.com's Green Computer service the carbon savings would be equivalent to planting 1000 acres of trees.

Recently Time magazine published its list of the 50 Best Inventions of 2009 and green innovations figured prominently in their list. As the year draws to a close, The Green Market will post a summary of 25 of the best eco-inventions of 2009. These inventions will be presented under the following 6 headings:

1. Energy Production
2. Energy Efficiency
3. Transportation
4. Consumer Goods
5. Education
6. Food/Water

From large scale projects to small scale creations, green inventions and energy innovation are the way of the future.
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Next: The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Energy Production / The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Energy Efficiency / The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Transportation / The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Consumer Goods / The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Education / The Best Eco-Inventions of 2009: Food and Water

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The US is Bound by Law to Honor Climate Change Treaty

Although the Copenhagen Accord set no overall emissions targets, the US is bound by law to honor its international committment to emissions-reduction.

In 1992 the US signed a UN sponsored treaty intended to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. It was ratified by the US congress and subsequently entered into force on March 21, 1994.

The treaty is known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or FCCC). This international environmental treaty was produced at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), informally known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992.

The US is bound by its signature on the 1992 treaty and this is legally binding under US law. According to The American Society of International Law, the members of the United Nations, including the US, have accepted the authority of the U.N.'s principal judicial organ, the International Court of Justice, which includes article 38.

The statute states, "The Court, whose function is to decide in accordance with international law such disputes as are submitted to it, shall apply [among other sources] international conventions [i.e. treaties], whether general or particular, establishing rules expressly recognized by the contesting states."

US action on climate change remains critical for a global deal and although we did not find the formula for a binding agreement at COP15, the US is still beholden to its treaty obligations.
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Monday, December 21, 2009

Why We Did Not Get A Binding Agreement At COP15

Despite some progress on funding and compliance verification, there are good reasons why we did not get a binding agreement on emissions reductions at COP15.

Although Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said Washington would help create a $100 billion a year climate aid fund by 2020, the all important issue of detailed emissions reductions remains unresolved.

China made concessions on a compliance mechanism, however, Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, negotiating on behalf of the 27-nation European Union, blamed the impasse on the Chinese for "blocking again and again.''

Much of the blame was directed towards the American President, "Obama was not very proactive. He didn't offer anything more,'' said delegate Thomas Negints, from Papua New Guinea. Negints said his country had hoped for "more on emissions, put more money on the table, take the lead.''

Obama may eventually become known as "the man who killed Copenhagen,'' said Greenpeace US Executive Director Phil Radford.

Despite the harsh words directed at Obama, the lack of domestic support tied the President's hands at COP15. A recent Washington Post article indicates that going into COP15, American support for Obama's climate change policy was at an all time low, "his approval rating on dealing with global warming crumbled at home and there is broad opposition to spending taxpayer money to encourage developing nations to curtail their energy use."

According to the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, despite the plethora of good science supporting anthropomorphic climate change, only 57 percent of Americans think there is solid evidence the world is getting warmer, down 20 points in just three years. Less Americans believe humans are the cause of global warming and fewer see the situation as a serious problem. Only about a third, or 36 percent of the respondents, feel that human activities are behind the temperature increase. That's down from 47 percent in 2006.

Many people living in the Midwest and mountainous areas of the West appear to have ignored or disregarded climate change science. While a majority of people in the Northeast and on the West Coast appear to appreciate the scope of the dangers we face due to global warming.

In the US, scientific understanding seems to slow just right of center. Three-quarters of Democrats believe there is solid evidence for global warming, and nearly half believe the problem is serious. Far fewer conservative and moderate Democrats see the problem as grave. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans say there is no solid evidence of global warming, up from 31 percent in early 2007.

In a democracy it is hard for the executive or the legislature to act decisively in the absence of public support. As with the health care debate, public relations firms and lobby groups have managed to manipulate the facts and instill a sense of uncertainty and confusion in the US.

The Chinese did not kill COP15, nor did President Obama, COP15 was undermined by the ignorance of the American people.
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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Obama Salvages 'Meaningful' Agreement at COP15

US President Barack Obama urged international action as the UN climate conference drew to a close. "We are running short on time...These international discussions have essentially taken place now for almost two decades, and we have very little to show for it … the time for talk is over," Obama said.

The President said the US, China and several other countries reached an "unprecedented breakthrough'' to curb greenhouse gas emissions, including a mechanism to verify compliance. To reach this agreement Obama extended his stay by more than six hours and spent the final scheduled day of the climate talks negotiating with world leaders, including Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

The agreement takes the form of a two-page political statement, signed by the US and China as well as the developing nations of India, South Africa and Brazil. The five-nation agreement requires each country to specify their emissions-reductions efforts.

To help poorer nations prepare for climate change, the agreement also includes $30 billion in funding for the next three years, increasing to $100 billion a year by 2020.

However, the agreement does not detail specific emissions-reductions commitments.
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Reaction to COP15

German Chancellor Angela Merkel: "The talks were extremely difficult and I must also say that I view the outcome with mixed feelings.''

Brazilian Ambassador Sergio Barbosa Serra: "It's not what we expected, It may still be a way of salvaging something and paving the way for another a meeting or series of meetings next year.''

New Zealand's climate change ambassador Adrian Macey: "A modest deal. I see Kyoto as a first step. This another first step, a global first step.''

US President Barack Obama: "We are ready to get this done today but there has to be movement on all sides to recognize that is better for us to act rather than talk...We have come a long way, but we have much further to go''

Carl Pope of the Sierra Club: “weak and incomplete -- more of a commitment to keep talking than a real agreement”..."[however, COP15 is] a major step forward."

Nicole Granacki of Greenpeace: “The job of world leaders is not done. Today they failed to avert catastrophic climate change.
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Thursday, December 17, 2009

COP15: Groups and Subgroups


There are 192 countries represented at COP15 and nations with similar issues and aims come together to form UN recognized groups.

COP13's Bali Action Plan called for a long-term action plan to reduce GHG emissions, as well as increased levels of cooperation on mitigation and adaptation. It also called for a final architecture for technology transfer to the developing countries to allow them to develop low-carbon economies. Finally, it called for a pledge on funds to support these actions. However, at COP15 an agreement on these issues is proving elusive, in part because of disagreement between the various groups.

Major Groups

G77 : The largest of these groups is the G77 led by China. This 133 member group consists mainly of developing countries and emerging economies. The Group was established on 15 June 1964 by seventy-seven developing countries' signatories of the “Joint Declaration of the Seventy-Seven Countries,” issued at the end of the first session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva.

The G77 is the largest intergovernmental organization of developing states in the United Nations. It provides the means for the countries of the South to articulate and promote their collective economic interests. The G77 also enhances their joint negotiating capacity on all major international economic issues within the UN system, and promotes South-South cooperation for development.

Industrialized Nations: Industrialized countries outside the EU form an umbrella group that includes the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, Norway, and Iceland. Led by the US this group is responsible for a considerable portion of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). They are also amongst the groups most critisized for not doing enough to push for a global climate deal.

European Union (EU): The European Union consists of 27 members that speak with one voice and negotiate as one. The EU has long been at the forefront of international efforts to combat climate change. According to the EU, Climate change is already happening and represents one of the greatest environmental, social and economic threats facing the planet. The EU is committed to working constructively for a global agreement to control climate change, and is leading the way by taking ambitious action of its own.

Least Developed Countries (LDC): This group is comprised of 49 countries, 33 African nations, 15 Asian nations and Haiti. According to the UN, these are the world's least developed nations. The LDC have the most to lose due to the effects of climate change and they do not have the technology or the funds to adapt to its effects.

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS): This group is most at risk from global warming. The group is a coalition of small island and low-lying coastal countries that that will be submerged if sea levels rise due to melting sea ice. The Alliance of Small Island States functions primarily as an ad hoc lobby and negotiating voice for small island developing States (SIDS) within the United Nations system.

AOSIS has a membership of 42 States and observers, drawn from all oceans and regions of the world: Africa, Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, Pacific and South China Sea. Thirty-seven are members of the United Nations, close to 28 percent of developing countries, and 20 percent of the UN's total membership. Together, SIDS communities constitute some five percent of the global population.

Serious adverse impacts are already being felt by island states at the current 0.8°C of warming, including coastal erosion, flooding, coral bleaching and more frequent and intense extreme weather events. The U.N.'s lead agency on refugees has already warned that some particularly low-lying island states are 'very likely to become entirely uninhabitable'.

Subgroups

The African Union (AU): The African Union is a subset of the G77. On 9 August 1999, the Heads of State and Government of the Organisation of African Unity issued a Declaration (the Sirte Declaration) calling for the establishment of an African Union. The AU seeks to accelerate the process of integration in the continent and to play a role in the global economy while addressing multifaceted social, economic and political problems. The AU recently held up proceedings at COP15 to encourage developed nations to do more on climate change.

The Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC): The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is a permanent intergovernmental organization, created at the Baghdad Conference on September 10–14, 1960, by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

Issue Oriented Subgroups

Reduction of Emissions from Degradation and Deforestation (REDD): This group is trying to come up with a mechanism for forest preservation and regeneration. The organization known as REDD was introduced into the COP agenda in 2005 at its eleventh session in Montreal.

The IPCC (2007) estimated emissions from deforestation in the 1990s to be at 5.8 GtCO2/year. It also noted that reducing and/or preventing deforestation and the release of carbon emissions into the atmosphere is the mitigation option with the largest and most immediate carbon stock impact in the short term.

Technology Transfer: The United Nations endeavors to secure the economic and social well-being of people everywhere. As the global center for consensus-building, the UN has set priorities and goals for international cooperation to assist countries in their development efforts and to foster a supportive global economic environment. The UN's technology transfer initiative seeks to develop a formula for transferring technology from the developed world to developing countries. This initiative endeavors to bring technology to less affluent countries for the purpose of building low-carbon economies. This subgroup deals with key issues like funding and intellectual property rights associated with technology transfer.

As COP15 approaches its end significant issues remain including the widely publicised disagreements between the G77 and industrialized nations. While the groups attending the Copenhagen climate conference may be well known for their disputes, they are also able to work together in pursuit of common goals. For example, earlier this year, AOSIS was joined by the LDC, and together these 80 countries collectively demanded that global temperature increases be kept as far below 1.5°C as possible to limit the anticipated devastating effects of climate change on the world's most vulnerable countries.

Unlike Kytoto everyone must be included in the new deal, particularly big emitters like the US and developing nations like China, India, and Brazil. But before any climate change deal is signed, these groups must come to an agreement.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New Beginnings or Ignoring the Apocalypse?



The United Nations climate summit is a study of stark contrasts where hopeful aspirations coexist alongside predictions of failure. COP15 has revealed the diametrically opposed perspectives of environmental advocates and climate change deniers. The Denmark negotiations have illuminated the distinctions between policy and legislation and the differences between wealthy and developing nations.

The negotiating text released on Friday highlights the rift between wealthy and developing countries. Wealthier nations, including the US, Japan and the EU, criticised the draft agreement for not asking enough of developing countries.

While china and other emerging nations have made voluntary commitments to reduce their carbon emissions, they are resistant to being bound by international law. Their position is that industrialized countries have contributed more emissions historically and therefore they have a greater responsibility.

Disagreement is not limited to the differences between wealthier nations and emerging economies. European delegates also criticised the US for not doing more to advance the agenda.

Finding a formula to help developing nations pay for climate change is a key ingredient for a final deal. While negotiators are making progress on a short-term finance package, details of the long–term package remain unresolved.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is expected to announce a pledge of 10 billion US dollars to help developing countries fight global warming.

Despite efforts from nations like Japan, the clock is counting down and many disagreements have yet to be bridged. We are rapidly running out of time and as Phil Thornhill said on behalf of the Global Climate Campaign:

"Every year of inaction sees us slide closer to the point where a tragedy of unprecedented scale becomes irreversible. As politicians fail to find the collective will to overcome inertia, international rivalries, and the all-pervasive power of vested interests, ordinary people all around the world will be demanding decisive action now, not later when the fate of billions could already have been sealed and the catastrophe will have become unstoppable."
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Friday, December 11, 2009

Obama Needs the Senate to Succeed on Climate Change

President Obama is a multilateralist and a champion of emissions reductions, but he will not produce a binding agreement at COP15 because of the inaction of the US Senate.

The President addressed those that oppose him during his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, Norway. "There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, more famine, more mass displacement -- all of which will fuel more conflict for decades,” Obama said.

Greenpeace has urged the President to show that he is worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize by showing leadership in Copenhagen. “He won it, and now is the time to earn it,” commented Damon Moglen. “Obama, in part, has been awarded the Nobel Prize with the expectation that he will deliver the kind of leadership necessary to get a climate treaty,” Moglen said.

Yesterday the President received some much needed help from three Senators who together reflect the spectrum of political parties in Washington. On Thursday December 10, Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) sent a letter to the President proposing a new climate bill that would cut carbon emissions by 17% by the year 2020.

Although this is 3% less than the 20% in the climate bill that passed in the House earlier this year, the letter is noteworthy because it was drafted by a Democrat, an Independent and a Republican. However, the compromise bill would push for reductions in carbon emissions through some questionable means, including incentives for offshore drilling, and low emission coal technology.

While the President may be serious about limiting emissions through legislation, many in the Senate do not share his view. If climate change legislation does not pass in the Senate, the US Environmental Protection Agency has been given the authority to enact regulations that would curb emissions. However, a climate change law would be more enduring and more nuanced than the EPA's proposed regulatory initiatives. In the legislative process, various interests would have an opportunity to contribute to the debate and help shape the final law, in a regulatory effort these players would not have a forum to contribute. While laws have many advantages over regulation, laws are passed in the Senate not the oval office.

Cap-and-trade is an important provision in the original climate change bill. However some are advocating for its removal and under the new bill proposed by Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman, cap-and-trade would be scaled back. Removal of the cap-and-trade provision would gut the climate change bill the way the health care bill is being gutted by the removal of the public option. Unlike the public option, cap-and-trade is not a government sponsored plan, it is an ingenious way to tie carbon to free markets, in effect to make industry accountable for its own emissions. Senator Lieberman remarked, “That is going to be a very active area of negotiation."

European efforts to manage climate change are far ahead of the US. Sweden is the most recent European nation to pledge money to the “fast-start” fund. On Thursday, a Swedish government spokeswomen said that Sweden would donate $800 million Euros. The “fast-start” fund was created to assist developing nations fight climate change, however this idea is unpopular in the US. In a Times of India online report, Todd Stern, President Obama’s climate change envoy, said that the US was not ready to fund developing nations in the fight against climate change.

The US is not expected to improve its emission reduction targets at COP15, nor will the US disclose its share of funding to help poorer countries manage climate change. As a consequence the EU and Japan are unlikely to sign on to an agreement on climate aid funding.

A global formula to manage climate change cannot be achieved without American leadership. As the world's largest per capita emitter, the US has a moral responsibility to all the inhabitants of the earth. As the world's weathiest nation, the US also has a fiduciary responsibility to stakeholders in the American economy.

The US risks being left behind as the global economy shifts to more sustainable practices. “I believe the green economy is coming. It’s not a question of if it’s going to happen; it’s when it’s going to happen.” said Graham, the only Republican Senator to work on a climate resolution. What the US does or doesnt do with regard to its climate change policy will have global repercussions.

President Obama may say all the right things in Copenhagen, but despite his international prestige we are not going to see a binding legal agreement at COP15. Although much work remains, Kerry's statement that, “The US Senate is committed to addressing this [climate change] challenge,” places the onus on legislators.

If America is to assume its responsibilities and prepare for the new economic reality, the Senate must summon the courage to pass climate change legislation that reduces emissions and creates a market for carbon trading.

Despite all the activity in Denmark, the front line of the climate issue is not in Copenhagen, it is in Washington.
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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Dangerous Diversion of Climategate

At a time when we should be focusing on finding solutions at COP15, we are debating the meaning of word choices in a stolen email. Climate change deniers point to controversial emails hacked from climate scientists and say it is evidence of corruption, but the sad reality is that good science is being ignored in favor of a sensationalistic ruse.

A few weeks ago the emails from a British university's climate center were obtained by computer hackers and posted online. Climate change deniers contend the messages reveal that researchers manipulated and suppressed data and stifled dissent.

The controversy led Phil Jones to step aside as head of the climate research unit at the University of East Anglia while the university investigates the matter and Penn State University is investigating emails written by Michael Mann.

At Washington hearings staged to focus on the latest evidence for global warming, government scientist Jane Lubchenco, a climate researcher, who heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, tried to demonstrate how oceans are being made more acidic but Republican's were more interested in hacked emails.

"These e-mails show a pattern of suppression, manipulation and secrecy that was inspired by ideology, condescension and profit," said U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis. However many more informed commentators disagree, "The e-mails do nothing to undermine the very strong scientific consensus ... that tells us the earth is warming, that warming is largely a result of human activity." Lubchenco exlaimed.

Regardless of the how Jones intended to use the word "trick," the e-mails don't negate all the independent data sources (including NOAA and NASA), all of which show dramatic warming.

The chairman of the Academy of Science panel, Texas A&M University atmospheric scientist Gerald North, said "even if Jones, Mann and others had done no research at all, the world would still be warming and scientists would still be able to show it."

The world does not need to re-examine experts' claims on the science of global warming. Even if the climate change deniers allegations are true, it does not change the fact that numerous independent credible scientific sources have data that indicates the world is warming.

Participants at COP15 need to understand that the overwhelming body of climate change science is sound. As we debate these diversions, we continue to emit ever increasing levels of greenhouse gasses, the Arctic continues to warm, the glaciers continue to melt and the oceans are acidifying.
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Impact of a Climate Change Deal on Canada

A new report suggests a deal on climate change is not economically unmanageable. Conservatives and other climate change deniers tend to ignore the scientific evidence and parrot fears about the catastrophic economic impact of an international climate change deal.

A recent report acknowledges the costs, but refutes conservative economic concerns. The report was carried out by the Pembina Institute and David Suzuki Foundation, titled "Climate, Leadership, Economic Prosperity; final report on an economic study of greenhouse gas targets and policies for Canada," This report indicates that a pledge to substantively cut Canada's greenhouse gas emissions would have the following costs:

- Alberta's gross domestic product would shrink between seven and 12 per cent below what it would otherwise be, and Saskatchewan and British Columbia also would suffer losses.

- Canada would annually have to purchase between $2 billion and $8 billion worth of offshore carbon credits a year.

Despite these costs, the report indicates that, even with serious cutbacks, Canada's GDP would continue to grow, on average, by 2.1 per cent annually between 2010 and 2020.(Since 2000, Canada's GDP growth has exceeded 2.1 in five of the years, and been below that the other four).

This report suggests that a climate change deal will not cause cataclysmic economic impacts in Canada. However, if emissions are left unchecked there is a wealth of peer reviewed scientific data that indicates we would be facing a host of dire life threatening impacts.

A global agreement on climate change will reduce emissions and hasten the development of an entirely new green economy. Although there are serious challenges associated with the adoption of a post Kyoto deal, the absence of such a deal could prove calamitous.
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Next: The Dangerous Diversion of Climategate

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