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Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

EPA takes big step to regulate aircraft GHGs

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Pulpolux_20secondsThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) intends to issue a scientific finding that greenhouse gases from aircraft pose a risk to human health, paving the way for regulating emissions from the U.S. aviation industry.

Touching off what is likely to be a long and contentious regulatory process, the EPA on Wednesday said it is “proposing to find under the Clean Air Act that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from commercial aircraft contribute to the pollution that causes climate change endangering the health and welfare of Americans.”

At the same time, the agency released information about the international process underway by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for developing carbon dioxide (CO2) standards for aircraft and EPA’s participation in that process. EPA is seeking public input to inform future steps by the agency. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by William DiBenedetto

10 June, 2015 at 11:27 am

France’s green artistic panache

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img_5446Leave it to the French to make something as mundane as a wind turbine into a work of art by installing two of them on the Eiffel Tower.

Yes, that Eiffel Tower, which itself is a monument to both creativity and sustainability: when it was built in 1889 it was only intended to last for 20 years. In the ensuing 126 years the tower has gone through many renovations, but the latest sends a decidedly green message whirling into the future.

Earlier this year, the renewable energy firm Urban Green Energy installed two wind turbines inside the metal scaffolding of the tower. The turbines will produce 10,000 kilowatt hours, enough to power the tower’s first floor commercial establishments, which include restaurants, a souvenir shop, and exhibits about the history of the tower.

The turbines are part of a plan to reduce the environmental impact of the tower. Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE), the organization that runs the tower, is also installing rainwater collection systems, LED lights, and solar panels on it. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by William DiBenedetto

8 June, 2015 at 6:00 am

Prince Ea and an apology to future generations

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Celebrity activist and spoken word artist Prince Ea launched his newest online video, “Dear Future Generations: Sorry” to motivate individuals to take immediate action to stop climate change by Standing for Trees.

Prince Ea was inspired to produce the video by the Stand for Trees campaign, an innovative way for individuals to take action to protect threatened forests and help mitigate global climate change, all with the press of a button on their smart phones.

 

Written by William DiBenedetto

27 April, 2015 at 6:00 am

Five Earth Days later

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BP is claiming that the “…Gulf environment (is) returning to pre-spill conditions,” although the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees (NRDA Trustees) are still assessing the injury resulting from the largest offshore oil spill in our nation’s history.

“It is inappropriate as well as premature for BP to reach conclusions about impacts from the spill before the completion of the assessment,” the NRDA Trustees said.

“Citing scientific studies conducted by experts from around the Gulf, as well as this council, BP misinterprets and misapplies data while ignoring published literature that doesn’t support its claims and attempts to obscure our role as caretakers of the critical resources damaged by the spill.”

At more than 100 million gallons of spilled oil, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was more than 10 times the size of the Exxon Valdez. The environmental effects of this spill are likely to last for generations.

 

Written by William DiBenedetto

22 April, 2015 at 6:02 am

Mondelez moves to third-party sustainability evaluation

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a small cup of coffee_DebbieCMondelez International, the multinational snack foods giant, is developing an outcome-based sustainability framework that will use an external party to measure the impact of its $200 million Coffee Made Happy program.

Mondelez, the world’s second largest coffee company, says the arrangement with the independent third-party organization, the Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA), will “provide unprecedented transparency on large scale” along the coffee supply chain.

Mondelez coffee brands include JacobsCarte NoireKenco and Tassimo. COSA will evaluate the “real impact experienced by farmers on the ground” of the Coffee Made Happy program. Program objectives aim to measure how Coffee Made Happy is achieving its objectives to improve farmers’ business and agricultural skills, increase farm yields and “engage young people and women in coffee farming so as to empower one million coffee entrepreneurs by 2020.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by William DiBenedetto

19 January, 2015 at 7:00 am

International law is quiet on climate change responsibility

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globe_with_flags_4m8p_1hus-235x236If global climate change increasingly affects everything from public health to species extinction to infrastructure and property destruction to migration patterns—and it does—well, who can I sue about this?

No one apparently. If you think the international community’s struggles on what to do about climate change is pretty much a fragmented, inadequate mess, then international law on the subject is even messier and more inadequate.

A recent article in the Guardian notes that international law “stays silent on the responsibility for climate change.” This is not much of a surprise actually, but it’s actually important because if there were serious legal ramifications regarding climate change, faster action to mitigate its effects might occur.

“The global economy is underpinned by law, but you would think it had nothing to do with climate change,” Stephen Humphreys writes. “Climate-related cases have been absent from international courts – even from disputes involving human rights, investment or the environment. While there have been cases heard in some national courts, particularly in the US, they do not progress far.”

This weak legal response and virtually nonexistent regime means that “big polluters are getting off lightly.”

The article continues: “It is clear that 60% of proven oil reserves must be left in the ground if we are to have even a remote chance of limiting global warming to two degrees. Yet oil companies and exporters continue to drill and explore, to enjoy their assets and hedge against future losses, as though climate change were a mere financial risk rather than an existential threat to peoples’ lives and livelihoods.

“The world of international law is behaving as though the problem of climate change does not exist.”Look at one aspect, international trade law. An obvious policy for a country that’s serious about dealing with climate change would be to impose low carbon standards on the production of various everyday goods such as meat, mobile phones and plastics. “Does international trade law allow states to impose low-carbon standards on imported goods? The answer is yes and no,” Humphreys writes. “A low or zero-carbon import policy is almost certain to violate World Trade Organization (WTO) law. There may be viable policies but they will be time consuming and expensive to design, and there is no guarantee the WTO’s principal court won’t slap down any such policy on a technicality. No country has yet tried.“Why has the WTO not taken more proactive steps to tackle climate change? And why has the estimated $600 billion (£382 billion) in annual subsidies to fossil fuels never been challenged, while paltry subsidies to support renewable energy technologies have been stopped?”

These are unanswerable questions; and the questions become just as complex with respect to other international regimes, such as investment law and human rights law. A 2008 paper, “Global Climate Change and the Fragmentation of International Law” addressed this issue in highly academic terms, highlighting the challenges for international lawyers and policymakers “in navigating the relationship between the climate regime and the biodiversity regime, and the relationship between the climate regime and the multilateral trading system.”The authors concluded that a “narrow focus on conflicts misrepresents the multifaceted nature of climate change and precludes an adequate jurisprudential understanding of the relationship between the climate regime and other regimes.” They called for “improved understanding” and a “broadening of the debate.”

Seven years later, the needle has barely moved on any of this, but what is gaining some traction is the notion that it might be wise for international agreements to recognize national laws. Countries around the world are taking actions domestically to help cope with climate change. Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law has conveniently collected the relevant laws and policies of various countries into a database.

So is it too much to ask that an international agreement on climate change include legally binding enforcement mechanisms with teeth. Hey, you know the answer.

Image: From the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law website.

Enviros sue gov’t over climate effects of coal lease program

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powder river coal_chrisTwo environmental groups are taking the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to court for failing to consider the harmful climate effects of the federal government’s coal leasing program.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by Friends of the Earth and the Western Organization of Resource Councils. Interestingly, Bloomberg reported that the suit is funded by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen.

In addition to the Allen connection, this is a big deal because the two groups are seeking the first comprehensive review of the federal coal-leasing program since 1979. “Since that time, scientific evidence has established that greenhouse gases produced by coal mining and combustion endanger the public health and welfare,” the groups said in a statement. “The BLM, however, has never analyzed the coal leasing program’s impact on climate change.” Read the rest of this entry »

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