Environmental Policy

Canada first nation to pull out of Kyoto protocol
December 13, 2011 08:35 AM - David Ljunggren and Randall Palmer, Reuters, OTTOWA

Canada on Monday became the first country to announce it would withdraw from the Kyoto protocol on climate change, dealing a symbolic blow to the already troubled global treaty. Environment Minister Peter Kent broke the news on his return from talks in Durban, where countries agreed to extend Kyoto for five years and hammer out a new deal forcing all big polluters for the first time to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Canada, a major energy producer which critics complain is becoming a climate renegade, has long complained Kyoto is unworkable precisely because it excludes so many significant emitters.

Geo-engineering: a bad idea whose time has come?
December 10, 2011 02:11 PM - Deborah Zabarenko, Reuters, Environment Correspondent WASHINGTON

The mainstream approach to climate change does not seem to be working so some scientists and policymakers say it may be time to look into something completely different: re-engineering Earth's climate. Variously called geo-engineering, climate remediation and planet hacking, the idea is to do on purpose what industry and other human activities have done inadvertently, which is to change the amount of climate-warming greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and as a result, cool it down. The concept has been around for nearly a century, from about the same time scientists and engineers noted the warming effect carbon dioxide emissions had on climate. Until quite recently, the notion has been relegated to the fringes of debate. Global climate talks have focused instead on curbing future emissions of greenhouse gases, known as mitigation. But in the lead-up to the latest round of U.N. climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa, there have been serious examinations of what it might take to start countering the effects of increasing carbon dioxide in the air.

UN Climate deal reached in Durban
December 9, 2011 10:59 AM - Nina Chestney and Jon Herskovitz, Reuters, DURBAN

Climate negotiators agreed a pact on Sunday that would for the first time force all the biggest polluters to take action on greenhouse gas emissions, but critics said the action plan was not aggressive enough to slow the pace of global warming. The package of accords extended the Kyoto Protocol, the only global pact that enforces carbon cuts, agreed the format of a fund to help poor countries tackle climate change and mapped out a path to a legally binding agreement on emissions reductions. But many small island states and developing nations at risk of being swamped by rising sea levels and extreme weather said the deal marked the lowest common denominator possible and lacked the ambition needed to ensure their survival. Agreement on the package, reached in the early hours of Sunday, avoided a collapse of the talks and spared the blushes of host South Africa, whose stewardship of the two weeks of often fractious negotiations came under fire from rich and poor nations.

Climate talks mean life or death for island states
December 9, 2011 06:46 AM - Agnieszka Flak, Reuters, DURBAN

So while climate change delegates haggle over deadlines, binding targets and finance, some of the world's poorest states are warning that rising sea levels and storms will sweep them away unless the world agrees to tackle global warning. "We will be one of the first countries to go under water," said Foua Toloa, a senior politician on Tokelau, an island half-way between Hawaii and New Zealand that is no more than five meters above sea-level. "We are a small and fragile nation very susceptible to environment and climate developments." Grenada's Foreign Minister Karl Hood, chairman of the 43-nation Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), whose members are in the frontline of climate change, was even more blunt: "If we don't act now, some of us will die." Many low lying nations can already calculate the cost of rising greenhouse gas emissions in lives lost, economies shattered and landscapes transformed. "By 2025, rising sea levels could lead to the displacement of at least 10 percent of the population", Comores Vice President Fouad Mohadji told delegates at climate change talks in the South African port city of Durban.

NJ Governor Christie's Energy Master Plan
December 8, 2011 10:12 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

The 138 page document has been released by the New Jersey Governor's Office that is a master plan on energy for the state. This final version is largely the same as the draft document released last summer, save for a few changes. It lays out the direction for how the state will meet its energy demands over the next decade. The point that stands out is the goal for renewable energy, which has been lowered to 22.5 percent by 2021 as compared to the goal of 30 percent by the previous administration. The plan sets an overall goal of obtaining 70 percent of electricity from clean energy sources by 2050, which would include nuclear, natural gas, and hydroelectric.

Chevrolet Carbon Story 4 Rockingham County Landfill
December 7, 2011 02:12 PM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Americans create over 200 million tons of trash each year. As garbage in landfills decomposes, it creates a gas that is half methane (the primary component of natural gas), which has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Instead of letting the gas escape into the air, landfill gas projects collect the gas and destroy it through either flaring, or using the gas to power electric generators or boilers. Thus garbage is turned into energy. As part of its Carbon Initiative Program, Chevrolet is supporting the Rockingham County (Virginia) Landfill’s methane capture and use program. Rockingham County Landfill collects the methane from the landfill and pipes it to Rockingham (Virginia) Memorial Hospital (RMH) where it will fuel boilers that produce steam, heat and electricity for the Hospital’s use. RMH is a LEED certified facility and one of the first hospitals to utilize landfill gas for the vast majority of their fuel needs. Destroying landfill gasses helps to reduce odors and other hazards associated with Landfill Gas emissions, and it helps prevent methane from migrating into the atmosphere and contributing to local smog and global climate change. Over the next few years, Chevrolet will be investing in projects that will help reduce up to 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Every carbon-reducing project Chevrolet invests in will be based in the United States, and each will be focused in one of three areas: renewable energy, energy efficiency programs, and forestry (including conservation). Chevrolet has chosen projects they believe will make a lasting difference in communities across the country. Progress is already underway, and Chevrolet estimates it will take up to five years to achieve the initial goal. There's still a lot of work to be done, but every project is a step in the right direction.

Amazon forest loss lowest in more than 20 years
December 7, 2011 07:19 AM - Reuters, Brasilia

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon region fell to its lowest in 23 years in the year through July, the government said Monday, attributing the drop to its tougher stance against illegal logging. Destruction of the Brazilian portion of the world's largest rain forest dropped 11 percent to 6,238 square km (2,400 square miles) over the 12-month period, satellite data from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research showed. That is less than a quarter of the forest area that was destroyed in 2004, when clear-cutting by farmers expanding their cattle and soy operations reached a recent peak. Brazil has stepped up its monitoring and enforcement policies in the Amazon in recent years but the improvement has partly been driven by slower global economic growth that has reduced demand and prices for the country's farm produce.

A Green Military: Saving More than Energy
December 6, 2011 09:04 AM - Debra Atlas, Sierra Club Green Home

The Pentagon says that it aims to "develop more energy-efficient weapons, embrace non-oil energy sources, and demand more energy-conscious behavior from the troops." This move towards energy efficiency in all the branches of the military was mandated by congressional directives and presidential orders, many dating to former President George W. Bush and expanded on by President Barack Obama.

Pipeline deal could open up Alaskan oil
December 6, 2011 07:09 AM - Reuters

Two U.S. agencies have reached an agreement with ConocoPhillips on a plan in Alaska that could let the company be the first to drill for crude and gas in a national oil reserve in the state, the Interior Department said on Monday. The agreement, which was with the company, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, confirms that construction of a pipeline and bridge over the Colville River to the Alpine development known as CD-5 is acceptable, as long as environmental mitigations and other changes are outlined in the permit application. The development is in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, which is managed by the Interior Department. The Army Corps of Engineers is expected to carry out the remaining steps associated with the permit review in coming weeks. Lisa Murkowski, a U.S. senator from Alaska, said the agreement could begin to open up the NPR-A to crude and national gas production. The reserve is estimated to contain more than 1 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil.

Heavy Beijing smog causes flight delays, cancellations
December 5, 2011 06:39 AM - Reuters, BEIJING

A heavy fog blanketed parts of northern China on Monday, delaying flights and causing hundreds of cancellations, while smog hung in a dark haze over Beijing. As of 2 p.m. (0600 GMT), 126 flights had been delayed by an hour or longer and 207 were cancelled at Beijing, the world's second-busiest airport, Xinhua news agency said. The Beijing sky was so dark that many drivers kept their headlights on throughout the day, giving the city an eery, netherworld feeling. "Such super foggy weather looks like the end of the world," commented one microblogger using the name David Jiaoxiaomao. China's national weather forecaster said the fog was likely to persist across parts of China to Wednesday, causing more transport disruptions. By then, a cold front would begin dispersing the fog, said the forecaster, according to Xinhua. Highways across the northern provinces of Shandong and Hebei were also closed.

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