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International Climate Update Feb '14: US announces domestic actions on HFCs, countries preparing for Paris 2015, new deforestation tool

Jake Schmidt

Posted March 10, 2014 in Solving Global Warming

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Below is a compilation of climate change and clean energy news from around the world. This compilation includes stories from February 2014. You can sign-up to receive these compilations in your email inbox.

U.S. ANNOUNCES DOMESTIC ACTIONS ON HFCs

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced that by this summer they will lay out a schedule to replace some of the most dangerous HFCs with newer refrigerants, foam-blowing agents, and aerosol propellants that have much less impact on our climate. This follows from the commitment in the U.S. Climate Action Plan to use authority under the Clean Air Act’s “Significant New Alternatives Program” (SNAP) to start removing the worst HFCs from the market.  EPA announced that they will act on four key uses: motor vehicle air conditioners, commercial refrigeration, plastic foam products, and consumer aerosols.  And they announced that they will propose a second rule this spring to accelerate the approval of more low-impact replacement chemicals.

CLIMATE NEGOTIATIONS: ROAD TO PARIS 2015 & MORE

Countries are starting to outline their proposed parameters of the international climate agreement in Paris 2015. Countries are focused on having a draft negotiating text developed by the end of this year, so these proposals begin to articulate what countries think should be in the Paris 2015 agreement and the specific contours of the agreement (see Reuters on US proposals, Reuters on Chinese proposals, and RTCC on EU’s proposals).

The Green Climate Fund had another Board meeting to consider some of the key institutional issues necessary to have the fund on a solid footing to receive and spend funding – the so-called “Essential Eight”. The Board agreed to some of these outstanding issues. Additional decisions are set to be taken at the May meeting of the Fund so that the outstanding “Essential Eight” are finalized (some of the issues were covered by Reuters and RTCC). In advance, the World Resources Institute outlined key issues to consider in deciding how to allocate funding amongst countries, activities (mitigation and adaptation), and the private sector window.

A new study by a global parliamentarian group – GLOBE – details the climate change legislation in 66 countries. The study shows that more countries are adopting climate legislation and details the kinds of actions that key countries are taking.

Secretary Kerry stressed in a new speech that climate change needs to be tackled like a "weapon of mass destruction". And as he discussed this will require finalizing an “ambitious global agreement in Paris next year” and lots of other actions (“you  name it”).  As he said: “It’s time to recognize that the choices the world makes in the coming months and years will directly and substantially affect our quality of life for generations to come.” As my colleague discussed: actions at home send the strongest message to the world that the US is serious about climate change.

China and U.S. agree on concrete action steps under the Joint Climate Change Working Group. The latest round provides specific details on what actions they are going to implement together, which agency in each country is leading the task, and the specific timeline to deliver the outcome.

DEFORESTATION: NEW TOOL & ANOTHER COMPANY TO GO DEFORESTATION-FREE

Global Tree Cover Loss~WRI.jpgThe world loses 50 soccer fields’ of forests every minute of every day. That is one reason that WRI and about 40 organizations have launched Global Forest Watch. This is a free online system that provides detailed data on what is happening to forests everywhere. This tool a lot of great information as WRI pointed out with 9 maps that explain the world's forests including where oil palm development is driving deforestation in Indonesia’s protected forests, hotspots in the Congo Basin are under threat, deforestation rates are falling in the Brazilian Amazon, and other trends. One user of this new tool honed in on the forest loss occurring in Canada and the U.S. – an oft overlooked source of concern.

The multinational food giant Kellogg Co. has announced that it will require palm oil suppliers to comply with the principles of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) by the end of 2015 (ClimateProgress).

INDIA CLIMATE, SOLAR ENERGY, ENERGY EFFICIENCY & ADAPTATION

With air pollution in India generating a huge amount of buzz in the media and policy circles my colleague discusses how India can defeat its debilitating smog.

In a guest blog, a leading NRDC partner in India points out that due to climate change, rising temperatures are expected to keep heating up a typically scorching summer season in fast-growing Ahmedabad, India. And recent research found that the city’s urban poor women are disproportionately affected by increasingly severe heat waves. Ensuring that outreach and protection measures are tailored to reach Ahmedabad’s most vulnerable communities, including urban poor women, is key to reducing heat-related deaths and health issues.

As India embarks on the 2nd phase of the Solar Mission the Government has announced plans for 2 GW of new large-scale solar projects (CleanTechnica).

NEW VEHICLE & APPLIANCE EFFICIENCY STANDARDS IN THE U.S.

President Obama announced that the EPA and Department of Transportation will finalize the next round of heavy-duty truck efficiency standards by March 2016. Heavy-duty trucks account for just 4% of U.S. highway vehicles yet they account for about 20% of carbon pollution in the U.S. transportation sector. We know that these vehicles can significantly improve efficiency, cut carbon pollution, and reduce oil consumption as NRDC’s Executive Director discusses.

Energy efficiency efforts in the U.S. are starting to show-up in energy use. A new report shows that the economic recession is no longer the chief reason for declining energy usage – stricter energy-efficient standards for appliances and buildings were the main reasons.

LATIN AMERICAN CLEAN ENERGY DEPLOYMENT

In an op-ed, NRDC and a leading Mexican NGO discuss how Mexico can clean its dirty air by acting aggressively on dirty diesel fuel and vehicles (Houston Chronicle). One of the main culprits of air pollution in Mexico is the country’s fleet of inefficient trucks and cars that consume dirty diesel fuels and emit high levels of black carbon and particulate matter. Fortunately, the solutions to this problem are known, tried and tested.

The Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA), along with three other organizations have called for legislation under the new energy reform to provide concrete plans for achieving Mexico’s renewable energy development and emission reduction goals. And Mexico is poised to publish its Special Climate Change Program no later than April 30th. CEMDA points out that this plan must have aggressive action if the Mexican government is to meet its ambitious targets for reducing emissions by 30% by 2020 (El Financero).

Costa Rica is potentially poised to adopt a Framework Law on Climate Change grants the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) more tools to implement policies on climate change (El Financiero).

CHINA COAL CAP, AIR POLLUTION & MORE

NRDC’s multi-research project with key Chinese partners to study a China Coal Consumption Cap Plan and Policy continues to progress (see more details here):

  • The State Council Development Research Center held its project kick-off meeting. Participants discussed the kinds of broad structural economic shifts that must be considered in assessing a coal cap including shifts towards more of the service sector (the “tertiary sector”), urbanization trends, and international trends.
  • Key sectors held their kick-off meeting. The China Cement Association held its project kick-off meeting to assess a coal consumption control system for the cement industry.  The China Iron and Steel Industry Association held its project kick-off meeting to begin to evaluate both near-term and medium-term trends in the sector that will play a role in a coal reduction effort. A third sector – the coal chemical industry – held its kick-off meeting and will focus on analysis of  coal-to-gas projects because of their high water use and greenhouse gas emissions.

China's National Energy Administration has set a 2014 goal of incentivizing 14 GW of domestic solar capacity, with 6 GW aimed at utility-scale projects and 8 GW for distributed generation(Greentech Media). And an analysis conducted for WWF shows that by embracing conservation measures and renewable energy China can have 80% of its electric power system powered by renewable energy by 2050 at far less cost than continuing to rely on coal.

China’s air pollution continues to generate significant attention as bad air blanketed the country again. After seven straight days of hazardous air pollution President Xi Jinping called preventing air pollution the “most prominent” problem Beijing faces. China's environment ministry has vowed to 'harshly punish' factories and power plants that contributed to a hazardous smog which enveloped much of Northern China (Reuters). And a citizen in Shijiazhuang, a city with heavy air pollution, in Hebei province in northern China, sues his hometown for the air pollution cost he has had to bear (Bloomberg).

U.S. CAN COST-EFFECTIVELY CUT METHANE EMISSIONS & MORE US NEWS

A new study found that the U.S. methane emissions from oil and gas are projected to rise 4.5% by 2018 even with current regulations. Almost all of these emissions will come from oil production and existing natural gas infrastructure. But the industry could cut these emissions by 40% below projected levels in 2018 at a net saving of $100 million per year.

The State of Colorado has finalized new standards that will be big step forward to control methane pollution from the state’s booming oil and gas industry.  These standards are the first set of rules to directly regulate the release of methane from the oil and gas sector.

As my colleague discusses tackling climate change means curbing emissions from smokestacks, but also expanding U.S. forests. And that means making sure they aren’t unsustainably burned in power plants.

A new poll from NRDC-Action Fund found that voters in Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, North Carolina, Iowa, Michigan, Virginia, Colorado, and New Hampshire all strongly support reducing carbon pollution.

The U.S. solar market had a record year in 2013 as it grew by 41% from the previous year. The U.S. installed 4.7 GW of solar PV in 2013.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in its third case in the last seven years on climate-changing carbon pollution and the Clean Air Act.  The earlier cases cemented EPA’s authority to tackle carbon pollution; this case concerns a secondary question about the Act’s permitting provisions.  My colleague discusses what is at issue and what is not – hint: EPA’s ability to act on power plant carbon standards is not at issue. And after the oral arguments my colleague discusses six quick impressions about the oral arguments including that there is no going back on Mass vs. EPA and climate science is not on trial.

CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS

Once again 2013 invoked another round of extreme weather events on communities across the U.S. And as my colleague point out climate change is one of the most serious public health threats facing the U.S.

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Previous newsletters are available: 2013 - JulyMayAug-SeptOctober, and November; and 2014 - January.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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