Daily Media Coverage Highlights Tuesday, June 03, 2014
1. Times-Picayune “What Environmental Groups Are Saying About EPA's Proposed Carbon Pollution Limits For Power Plants”
June 2, 2014
By Mark Schleifstein
National and state environmental groups Monday largely welcomed the EPA's proposed guidelines requiring 30 percent cuts in carbon emissions below 2005 levels by power plants nationwide by the year 2030, in an effort to reduce greenhouse gases linked to global warming.
The proposal, however, drew quick opposition from Louisiana's congressional delegation. (Read a story on the political reaction.)
The rules would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 500 million metric tons a year by 2030.
The proposed rules also would result in reductions in particle pollutions, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent, which EPA officials say would result in 6,600 fewer premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks by children a year, when fully implemented. The health improvements also would result in the avoidance of 490,000 missed work or school days, which EPA says represents savings of $93 billion a year.
EPA also says that because the rules will require increased use of energy efficiency and reduction of demand for electricity, nationwide, electric bills would shrink by 8 percent.
The rules have been criticized by electric utilities that predominantly use coal and the coal industry as too expensive. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity contends the rules will stress state-based power grids, increase electric bills and increase the risk of rolling blackouts.
Here's what some environmental leaders are saying:
Marylee Orr, executive director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, which includes more than 50 local environmental organizations among its members, said the new program is long overdue.
"We are at a time in the history of our country and our world where we must no longer talk about the impact of climate change, but take concrete actions to reduce greenhouse emissions to help the health and the economy of our state, nation and world," Orr said.
"The Clean Power Plan is very important because it reduces carbon pollution from existing power plants," she said. "There are four carbon/lignite powered plants in Louisiana. This plan will go along way to reduce greenhouse gasses and help public health. Natural gas powered plants will also reduce emissions."
Anne Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, which tracks environmental issues involving oil refineries, said she expects Gov. Bobby Jindal and the state's congressional delegation to oppose the proposed rules.
"Here in Louisiana we should celebrate these new rules, for our state is the state most vulnerable to climate change," Rolfes said, pointing to the contribution that rising sea levels caused by global warming has on the loss of the state's coastline and its increased vulnerability to hurricane storm surges.
"Our congressional delegation and senators will decry this rule, but they should be celebrating it and asking the EPA to do more," she said. "Our leadership instead suffers from a lack of imagination and creativity regarding job creation. What about investing intensely in renewable energy? We don't need any more dirty jobs."
"The bottom line is that it's unfortunate that our state will fight these rules when we should be a leader in implementing them, given our vulnerability to climate change," she said. Instead, she said, it's time for the state to set similar rules for other major carbon-producing industries in the state, including refineries and chemical plants.
"Many of the facilities in Louisiana are now producing chemicals and energy for export. Do we really want to ruin Louisiana so that people on the other side of the globe can consume more? We have become a colony. It is unacceptable," Rolfes said.
"The first project that should be stopped because of this is the Sasol facility near Lake Charles," she said. "It will add an unbelievable amount of greenhouse gases to the air. It is a devastating project for Louisiana, one that provides temporary jobs and long-term sickness."
Sasol's proposed $16 billion to $21 billion natural gas to liquids refinery would also produce 10.7 million tons of carbon gases a year, according to its permit requests.
America's WETLAND Foundation sees the legislation's "cap and trade" provisions, which allow industries to to pay for credits generated by carbon storage projects, including the creation of wetlands, as a potential benefit for the state.
"We view the President's plan as having strong potential for coastal sustainability, if state plans along the Gulf Coast will allow restoration as one of the tools to meet their targets," said a statement by the foundation's managing director, Valsin Marmillion. "Particularly in Louisiana and Texas, where sea level rise adds to the loss of critical wetlands and coastal landscapes at alarming rates daily, our states can ensure that coastal restoration qualifies under any guidelines created.
"This action supports public sentiment from America's WETLAND Foundation polling, where seventy-one percent of voters support building wetland as carbon sinks and 72 percent feel that sea level rise is a serious problem tied to climate change," Marmillion said.
The American Lung Association focused on the proposal's health benefits in a statement of support.
"Power plant pollution makes people sick and cuts short lives," said Harold Wimmer, national president of the American Lung Association. He said that when completely adopted in 2030, the new rules will prevent up to 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks a year.
"Cleaning up carbon pollution will have an immediate, positive impact on public health; particularly for those who suffer from chronic diseases like asthma, heart disease or diabetes," Wimmer said. "Steps to clean up carbon pollution can reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, both poisonous emissions from coal-fired power plants that are also major precursors to lethal ozone and particulate matter pollution."
The Sierra Club also supports the proposal.
"Climate disruption is the greatest challenge facing our generation," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club in a statement. "Until now, power plants have been allowed to dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into our air, driving dangerous climate disruption, and fueling severe drought, wildfires, heat waves and superstorms. Extreme weather, and the costs to Americans' health and wallets, will only worsen unless we act."
Also supportive was the Natural Resources Defense Council.
"The EPA's proposal to limit carbon pollution from power plants for the first time ever is a giant leap forward in protecting the health of all Americans and future generations," said Frances Beinecke, NRDC president, who also served on the President's Commission on the BP Deepwater Oil Spill.
"It sets fair targets for each state and empowers the states with the flexibility to craft the best local solutions, using an array of compliance tools," Beinecke said. "And if states embrace the huge energy efficiency opportunities, consumers will save on their electric bills and see hundreds of thousands of jobs created across the country."
Earthjustice, a non-profit public interest law organization that has represented environmental groups in lawsuits attempting to strengthen EPA regulation of emissions, also praised the new rules.
"There is no graver challenge facing humanity right now than reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses," said Earthjustice president Trip Van Noppen. "And there is no better place to start than the aging power plants currently pumping out 40 percent of the nation's carbon pollution. The substantial reduction in greenhouse gasses achieved by these safeguards will help avert or mitigate the ongoing disaster of climate change and the widespread effects it will have on public health."
The Union of Concerned Scientists praised the new policy and said its own recent study indicates that even larger, cost effective carbon emission reductions are possible beyond the 30 percent goal set by EPA.
"With the flexibility to include renewable energy and energy efficiency in state plans to meet these new standards, the proposal presents a significant opportunity for states to make meaningful reductions in their emissions," said UCS President Ken Kimmell, former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and former Board Chair of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, in a news release.
The new UCS analysis concluded that combining more aggressive power plant standards with strong renewable and efficiency policies could cut power sector carbon emissions by 40 percent below 2013 levels by 2020 and by more than 50 percent by 2030.
"While the power plant carbon standard is a tremendous step forward, ultimately we will need to make much deeper cuts in emissions to help limit worsening climate impacts, something the administration cannot do alone," said Rachel Cleetus, senior climate economist with UCS and a co-author of the report. "Congress must step up and enact legislation that will lead to deep cuts in emissions throughout the economy."
Meanwhile, two environmental organizations said the proposal doesn't go far enough in regulating greenhouse gases.
"We applaud the President for using the tools he has available, with a Congress that refuses to act and for setting hard targets for emissions reductions," said a joint statement by Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, and Janet Redman, program director for the Institute for Policy Studies Climate Policy Program. "However, the targets don't make the U.S. a leader in seeking emissions reduction.
"Because this rule applies to only one segment of our economy, existing coal-fired power plants, the reduction targets fall far short of the IPCC's goals for developed countries of economy-wide reductions of 15 to 40 percent below 1990 emission by 2020," Hauter and Redman said. "With these targets, U.S. economy-wide emissions would still be above 1990 levels in 2030."
Opposing the legislation is American's for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group supported by the energy industry's Koch brothers that was formed to fight big government and spending.
"Once again the Obama Administration is putting its own global-warming ideology ahead of the interests of hardworking taxpayers," said AFP president Tim Phillips. "These proposed EPA rules will lead to higher energy bills for families, lost jobs, and diminished economic growth. Even worse, this proposal comes just days after it was revealed that last quarter the U.S. economy actually shrank for the first time in three years.
"The tragedy is that while the new EPA regulations will hit taxpayers square in the pocketbook, even the administration admits they are 'unlikely' to have any meaningful impact on the environment," Phillips said in a news release after McCarthy's announcement.
2. WBUR, Here & Now, “EPA Sets New Rules On Power Plant Emissions”
June 2, 2014
[Listen to the Interview]
The U.S. Environmental Protect Agency today announced new regulations that will limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants by nearly a third over the next 15 years.
Power plants are the single largest source of carbon emissions in the United States, and scientists say CO2 is the main cause of climate change.
Environmentalists are applauding the move, which is the centerpiece of President Obama’s climate plan. But the coal industry and members of Congress from coal-producing states say the measure will kill jobs and raise electricity costs.
Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson speaks with Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association.
Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council. He tweets @p_lehner.
Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association.
3. Wall Street Journal, “Emissions Cap Is A Relief For Some Power Plants, Coal Firms”
June 2, 2014
By Alicia Mundy and John W. Miller
The coal industry quickly and loudly criticized proposed new U.S. emissions rules for power plants, saying that the proposal was tougher than expected and posed a threat to the industry.
But behind the scenes, some people in the industry said were relieved.
"This is a vast overreach," said Vic Svec, director of investor relations for coal miner Peabody Energy Corp. BTU -0.31% "It's being billed as a coal measure, but when you hit coal, you hit the American consumer hard."
National Mining Association President Hal Quinn called the new Environmental Protection Agency draft "a major gamble that America cannot afford to make."
The coal and utility industries had been hoping that the agency would apply emission-reduction standards from a baseline of 2005, since emissions from electric plants have dropped since then. Yet despite rounds of increasingly intense phone calls and meetings between energy lobbyists and the administration, the White House had taken 2005 "off the table," a lawyer for coal interests said Friday. The coal industry feared that the EPA draft would use a more recent, and thus tougher-to-meet baseline, for example, 2012, he said.
By Sunday, though, word was spreading in Washington that the administration had decided on 2005, after all.
"We aren't sure how that happened, but it's a big relief," a coal-industry lobbyist said Monday.
Scott Segal of law firm Bracewell & Giuliani LLC in Washington, who works with coal-fired power plants expressed a similar view. "This rule could have been a whole lot worse. But as it is, it will still inflict considerable economic harm for little or no benefit," said Mr. Segal, who is director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, which lobbies for coal-fired utilities.
The EPA said 2005 is an international benchmark year in comparing pollution across countries.
David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council environmental advocacy group said that states that already have developed strong programs to reduce power-plant emissions had wanted the White House and the EPA to include 2005 for state planning because after that, their emissions began to fall.
Coal-fired power plants won't have much difficulty meeting the EPA's mandate for a 30% reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions by 2030, a lobbyist for the industry said; carbon emissions from coal plants have dropped 14% since 2005. Also, many coal-fueled electric plants already are scheduled to be retired over the next several years because of regulations involving mercury emissions and because a glut of lower-emission natural gas has lowered prices for that fuel.
Coal companies and electric plants still are concerned about an earlier deadline to reduce emissions 25% by 2020, since that means finding ways to cut 11% in relatively short order.
"People thought these would be watered down, and this is not watered down," said Matt Preston, an analyst with consulting firm Wood Mackenzie. "This is pretty dramatic. The 2020 limits are pretty aggressive."
Beyond electric plants, other big consumers of power said they, too, could have a tough time with the new rules.
The rules "could severely harm the international competitiveness of energy-intensive, trade-exposed U.S. industries like steel," said the America Iron and Steel Institute trade group. "Energy—in particular electricity—is one of the most significant cost drivers for the production of steel," said institute President Thomas Gibson. "This proposal may adversely impact the affordability and reliability of electricity supply to major industrial consumers, which will harm workers, jobs and further impede the postrecession growth of American manufacturing."
4. Chicago Tribune, “With Carbon Rule, Illinois Power Struggle Begins”
June 3, 2014
By Julie Wernau
President Barack Obama's announcement Monday that it will be up to states to decide how to enforce his vision for a low-carbon future portends a battle among Illinois' power giants, with Exelon in a great bargaining position.
"I expect a pretty big fight within all the competing interests," said Jane Montgomery, a specialist in environmental law at Schiff Hardin LLP in Chicago.
With a power mix that's split mostly between carbon-heavy coal-fired power plants and carbon-free nuclear power, Illinois is also home to the corporate headquarters of more than a dozen wind companies. Still, none is better positioned under the new rule than Chicago-based Exelon Corp., parent company of Commonwealth Edison. Exelon owns six nuclear plants in Illinois and has threatened to close plants if energy policies don't go its way.
The Environmental Protection Agency's aggressive goals of 30 percent greenhouse gas reductions from 2005 levels by 2030 give Exelon a strong hand if the company demands rules that reward its nuclear plants. Closing just one of those plants would set the state back in its goals because the formula that the EPA proposes to calculate state-by-state emissions rates gives the state credit for its nuclear plants.
On Thursday, Exelon Chief Executive Chris Crane said he was looking for a "clean energy standard that would compensate or have some clean energy credits for generation that is carbon free." He called the market-based system a "probable path in some of the states, including Illinois."
The company generates 175 million megawatt-hours nationally, on an annual basis, of carbon-free electricity, mostly from nuclear plants, Crane said. In Illinois, a $1-per-megawatt-hour price on carbon would add $100 million to the company's gross margins, he said.
As a result of competition from lower-priced forms of power, Exelon's earnings have suffered, and it has said at least three plants in the state could be forced to close.
According to the draft rule, the EPA believes that about 6 percent of nuclear generation in the United States is at risk for retirement absent the rule.
Robert McCullough, managing partner at McCullough Research in Portland, Ore., said a carbon rule won't solve all of Exelon's problems.
"The downward pressure on prices comes from inexpensive natural gas and zero marginal cost renewables," McCullough said.
In what the White House is calling a "flexible" approach, states can choose from a menu of measures to reach targets.
Rebecca Stanfield, deputy director for policy in the Midwest for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said Illinois already has energy-efficiency goals on the books, as well as goals for renewable energy that, if met, will get the state most of the way toward its targets.
"We know that Exelon would really like it if their nuclear fleet was part of the state standards as well; there's going to be competition for that space," she said. "We should compare the cost of keeping those plants open with the cost of replacing those plants with something that's cleaner and cheaper like renewables."
Exelon officials said they needed time to read the more than 600-page climate rule document.
Changes afoot for Illinois' coal plants could also help the state meet carbon targets.
Even before the carbon rule was announced, Houston-based Dynegy, owner of nine Illinois coal plants, signaled that it might shut some of them.
New Jersey-based NRG Energy Inc., which recently bought four Illinois coal plants, has talked about converting coal plants to natural gas, a fuel that emits half the carbon of coal.
"If you repower with gas, you're replacing half right there," said Howard Learner, executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center. He called the flexibility of the draft rules a "pragmatic attempt to get us on a path to significant carbon reductions by 2030."
NRG on Monday said it endorses a policy that gives it time to shift to a more clean, tech-focused business model. The company has been investing significantly in solar power but has said the market will continue to need coal plants in the near term.
NRG said it has concerns that the EPA's "dramatically varying state emission targets" could adversely affect electricity reliability and create legal uncertainty.
Bob Flexon, chief executive of Dynegy Inc., said the devil will be in the details. For instance, the company has talked about ways it could sell fly ash to reduce carbon, but it's not sure if that will count under the new rules.
"It's safe to assume that we're more impacted in the state of Illinois than any other generator," Flexon said. "We would advocate for a number of things we would work on that create carbon offsets, and we want to make sure things of that nature are reflected in the state plan."
Flexon said consumers can expect to pay more for electricity as a result of the rule as major power producers charge more as costs increase. He said the company has been preparing for a carbon rule for some time.
"I think if you sit there and do nothing or sit there and try to fight it, you could find yourself in a difficult place," Flexon said.
Since 2005, Illinois has achieved 8 percent of the EPA goals, according to an analysis by Georgetown Law. But a glitch in the state's renewable energy law has held up wind and solar build-outs. Attempts to fix the law haven't passed muster in Springfield. Advocates of renewable energy are hoping that a carbon standard will force a legislative fix to move forward.
"If you're looking for the easiest, most rapidly scalable, cheap forms of emissions reductions, we've got one," said Kevin Borgia, public policy manager for Wind on the Wires in Illinois. "And that's wind power. We can do it in communities in rural Illinois right now."
But critics said it would take an area the size of Rhode Island to replace a nuclear plant with enough wind power to produce a similar amount of energy. Critics also said the wind power would not be dispatchable unless the wind was blowing.
5. KBIA, “New Carbon Dioxide Limits Could Bring Changes For Coal-Powered States Like Missouri”
June 3, 2014
By Véronique LaCapra
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the first-ever rules to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.
The new regulations would set different emissions targets for each state, and would leave it up to the states to figure out how to meet them over the next 15 years. David Weiskopf is with the Midwest office of the Natural Resources Defense Council. He says Missouri’s target rate for 2030 is higher than what many states are emitting now. “I think what this rule is reflecting is an acknowledgement that Missouri is heavily reliant on power plants that are fueled by coal. And it’s not asking anybody to shut them all down and replace them with cleaner power plants immediately.” Weiskopf says Missouri should be able to meet its reduction targets by continuing to invest in renewable energy and increasing its energy efficiency. Ameren says it’s already making those investments. The company says the EPA’s proposed emission reductions are unrealistic and would result in higher electricity rates for consumers.
6. The Desert Sun, “California Is OK With Obama Climate Goal”
June 2, 2014
By Raju Chebium
California should have little trouble meeting the Obama administration’s new pollution-reduction goals for the nation’s existing power plants, officials said Monday.
California has long been cleaning up its air and increasing energy efficiency, well ahead of Uncle Sam, said Stanley Young, spokesman for the California Air Resources Board.
“We believe that the proposed regulation supports and confirms the programs that we already have in place. We feel that we are ahead of the curve as we usually are, and we will continue on our trajectory,” he said in a telephone interview. “We are very confident that we will be able to meet this.”
Environmentalists also weren’t worried about California doing its part to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed emissions reductions of 30 percent from existing power plants nationwide by 2030 as compared to 2005 levels. It would be up to states to figure out how to meet the pollution targets.
“We are well on our way, but we’re going to have to continue to make the steady progress we already have,” said Ann Notthoff, California advocacy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco. “California’s program is a good example of how you can cut pollution and have strong economic growth at the same time.”
The EPA said California power plants in 2012 emitted 698 pounds of carbon per megawatt-hour — a commonly used measurement in the electricity industry. If Monday’s regulations are finalized as written, power plants currently in use would have to cut that to 537 pounds per megawatt-hour.
Some steps the California State Legislature has taken in recent years:
• Capping emissions and lowering the caps every year through 2020.
• Requiring 33 percent of the electricity used statewide to come from wind, solar, geothermal or some other renewable resource, also by 2020.
• Enacting a tough “cap-and-trade” system to discourage utilities from buying power from polluted sources.
• Passing a law in 2006 barring utilities from signing long-term contracts with power plants that spew more pollution than a typical natural gas facility.
California also has no coal-burning power plants, which spew the most pollution. There are 895 power plants in the state, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
California Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer, chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has long urged the EPA to regulate emissions from existing power plants. New power plants are already required to be cleaner.
On Monday, she praised the proposal, saying it would improve public health, save lives and create jobs.
“America will finally lead on a path to averting the most calamitous impacts of climate change — such as sea level rise, dangerous heat waves and economic disruption,” she said.
Read the first part of The Desert Sun’s three-part series about climate change in the Southwest, including Joshua Tree National Park
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., encouraged other states to follow California’s lead. Existing power plants, she said, “account for nearly 40 percent of U.S. emissions and need to be regulated.”
Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, welcomed the possibility for greater regional cooperation and noted that last year’s climate agreement between California, Oregon, Washington and the Canadian province of British Columbia would complement the federal effort. The Pacific Coast Climate and Energy agreement calls on the four jurisdictions to coordinate their climate and energy policies and come up with ways to increase the use of clean energy throughout the region.
Complying with the regulations would be harder for many Midwestern and Southern states, which have a number of coal-burning plants.
The rule, which will likely spark legal challenges, isn’t scheduled to take effect for at least two more years.
Republicans and powerful business groups such as the U.S. Chambers of Commerce blasted the proposal.
“The president’s plan is nuts,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “Americans are still asking, ‘Where are the jobs?’ and here he is proposing rules to ship jobs overseas for years to come. Americans are already paying more for everything, and here he is condemning them to higher bills and lower incomes long after he leaves office.”
USA Today contributed to this report.
Read the first part of The Desert Sun’s three-part series about climate change in the Southwest, including Joshua Tree National Park, at DesertSun.com/climatechange, where you’ll find an in-depth story, interactive maps, videos and photo galleries.
Learn more about the EPA’s new emission-cutting proposals in today’s USA Today section in The Desert Sun.
Carbon emission cuts could shift energy mix.
7. New York Times, “A Role For G-7 In Global Warming Battle”
June 2, 2014
By David Jolly
PARIS — When the leaders of the Group of 7 meet this week in Brussels, they will have plenty on their plates, not least the crisis in Ukraine and the energy security issues it raises. If history is any guide, they will pay little more than lip service to a subject where international leadership is needed: climate change.
Cooperation on halting rising global temperatures has been scant since the 2009 debacle at the Copenhagen climate conference, and time is short if the next big meeting, in the autumn of 2015 in Paris, is to have a chance for success. Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, is so concerned that he has asked world leaders to a climate summit meeting this September.
“The G-7 should be in the lead,” said Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the main international body for addressing the problem.
“They should be familiarizing themselves with the long-term challenge that science is calling on us to face,” Ms. Figueres added, namely holding the rise in global temperatures below the benchmark target of 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
“The fact that the United Nations climate conference has been making so little progress suggests that it makes sense to consider other institutions,” said Robert N. Stavins, director of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements.
The G-7 countries contribute a significant percentage of global emissions, Mr. Stavins noted, and it would be “a lot easier to work out a deal” with a handful of nations than with around 180 countries of the United Nations convention.
There have been steps at the level of individual nations. On Monday, the Obama administration was to announce it was going over the head of a reluctant Congress to require carbon emissions cuts from America’s 600 coal-fired power plants. China said last week that it would take more than five million of the worst polluting cars off its streets.
Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel-winning economist, said the best thing the leaders could do this week would be to cut emissions through a carbon tax or the cap-and-trade system, but that doing so was not politically feasible.
“There’s nothing the G-7 can do to affect the domestic U.S. climate deniers or the carbon-intensive industry lobby,” said Mr. Stiglitz, who served as a lead author for the International Panel for Climate Control’s 1995 report.
Congress, fearing a loss of competitiveness for American corporations, has been unwilling to back any agreement that doesn’t require all nations to shoulder an equal burden, he said. But China and many developing nations argue that the countries that have produced most of the man-made greenhouse gases now in the atmosphere should bear most of the cost.
Considering the stalemate, he said, it would be a major step forward if the G-7 could agree on the necessity of enforcement action for whatever deal is finally reached, through trade sanctions against countries that fail to meet the limits: “They’d be saying that this is a global problem and there won’t be any global free riders.”
Jo Leinen, a German member of the European Parliament’s climate committee, said the biggest priority for the G-7 should be to provide promised financing for the Green Climate Fund, agreed on at Copenhagen, to help poor countries embrace low-carbon energy and adapt to a warming climate. That fund was supposed to have gotten off to a quick start, with $10 billion annually to operate from 2010 to 2012. “It’s an empty box now,” Mr. Leinen, a Social Democrat, said. “There’s no money in it.”
Mohamed Adow, climate policy adviser for Christian Aid, a nonprofit development organization, said the G-7 could give the global climate negotiations “a dramatic boost by living up to the spirit of the climate convention.”
The group combines most of the countries “with the greatest emissions and the greatest wealth,” he said. “If they raised their pledges for emissions cuts and finance for helping the poor who desperately need it to survive, that would provide a huge injection of trust into the negotiations.”
Jake Schmidt, international climate policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, a nonprofit advocacy group, said the most important thing the G-7 could do would be “to give a clear signal” that they planned to put serious emissions cuts on the table next year in Paris.
“If the G-7 don’t do it, how can you ask China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Korea to come forward with targets for the next round?” he asked.
Scott Barrett, a professor of natural resource economics at Columbia University, said another approach would be to act on a relatively modest objective to demonstrate that global leaders actually can cooperate on global warming.
One candidate, he said, would be to strongly back a proposal, championed by the United States and others, to assign a type of refrigerant known as hydrofluorocarbons — among the most potent of the man-made greenhouse gases — to the Montreal Protocol, the agreement that was created to end the use of gases that deplete the ozone layer.
In contrast to the failed Kyoto Protocol for combating climate change, the Montreal treaty includes an enforcement mechanism, in the form of trade sanctions, and has been used to phase out nearly 100 dangerous gases.
“The Montreal Protocol didn’t set out to protect the climate, but it has been very successful,” Mr. Barrett said.
Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said by e-mail that for the G-7 to help galvanize action, it needed ultimately to embrace a positive message. “It is critical to emphasize the hope of taking action, not the despair of doing nothing,” he said.
“We have the technology to transition to a low-carbon economy,” Mr. Pachauri said, “and the pathways along which we can move toward that goal. We can make that transition without imposing an unacceptable burden on the global economy.”
8. Wall Street Journal, “N.Y., N.J. To Receive Nearly $1 Billion To Protect Against Future Storms”
June 2, 2014
By Laura Kusisto
The federal government plans to spend nearly a billion dollars to build earthen levees, add a system of water pumps and construct partially submerged barriers that will double as marine habitat to guard New York and New Jersey against future storms, officials said Monday.
The money represents a down payment on the daunting task of protecting one of the most densely populated coastal areas in the U.S., one expert said.
"You've got to start somewhere and this can best be seen as a creative beginning to a long-term challenge," said Eric Goldstein, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental organization.
Appearing together at a news conference, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, promised the region wouldn't be as vulnerable if it were rocked by another storm on the scale of superstorm Sandy.
"Sandy was devastating, and frankly as a nation and as a region, we were unprepared. That won't happen again, plain and simple, because of what we have done here today," said Mr. Schumer, who spoke at the event held at a public-housing complex on the far east side of Manhattan.
The $920 million will be distributed among six projects in New York and New Jersey. The largest share—$335 million—will go toward building a portion of the first phase of a 10-mile protective barrier on Manhattan's east side. The first step will be creating an earthen berm 10 to 20 feet tall that will run along the middle of East River Park and FDR Drive and will connect residents to the river by sloping bridges over the highway.
The project represents one element of a larger vision presented by BIG, an architecture firm, to protect the lower half of Manhattan with structures that also serve as recreation sites. The entire first phase of the project would cost about $1.2 billion, according to the team.
In another winning proposal, interconnected pumps and drainage routes would capture and store excess rainwater and prevent flash flooding in Jersey City, Hoboken and Weehawken. The initial $230 million would be focused in Hoboken. HUD officials said that award could help attract additional public and private investment through a "Flood Development Corporation" or "Resilience District" model.
Another idea, which received $60 million, would create partly submerged barriers known as breakwaters off the south shore of Staten Island to dampen the impact of storms while promoting habitat for marine life, including lobster and oysters.
The federal competition, called Rebuild by Design, offered a way for HUD to distribute some of the money allocated as part of a $60 billion aid package to help the region recover from superstorm Sandy, which blasted the area in October 2012.
Mr. Donovan, a former New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development commissioner, is said to have been inspired to hold the competition by his work in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration, which launched such programs to tackle public projects while also creating an atmosphere of excitement.
The federal housing department is trying to distribute about $1 billion of the remaining money through a national resiliency competition. Mr. Goldstein said some of those funds could instead be used to pay for needed infrastructure.
Projects will need to seek additional money from federal, city and state governments, as well as private sources, HUD officials said.
Mr. Bloomberg's administration issued a report outlining billions of dollars of initiatives to help protect the city, though those initiatives remain largely unfunded.
Henk Ovink, a senior adviser to Mr. Donovan who ran the competition and is a deputy director at the Dutch ministry for infrastructure and the environment, said it was intended to spark a greater recognition of the need for large-scale resiliency projects in the U.S.
"A cultural change always starts small," he said. "It will take a long time. With Rebuild by Design, we set some steps in this cultural change."