Posts Tagged ‘climate change’
President Obama is traveling to Arctic Alaska this week to call for urgent action on climate change, but—and there’s always a but these days—his journey also comes in the context of his recent decision permitting offshore oil and gas drilling by Shell Oil in the same region.
As Julie Hirschfield Davis wrote in yesterday’s New York Times, “While the Arctic is a fitting backdrop for the president’s call to action, it is also a place where the conflicting threads of his environmental policy collide, and where the bracing public debate over how to address the warming of the planet is particularly animated.” Read the rest of this entry »
Word that ExxonMobil is still funding climate science deniers comes as no surprise but does reveal much about how feckless and arrogant the company is. Basically, the oil major is playing with us while thinking we won’t notice.
A long piece this month in the Huffington Post by Elliott Negin, a senior writer at the Union of Concerned Scientists, outlined ExxonMobil’s current approach on climate change. It also noted this carefully parsed statement from spokesman Richard Kiel: “We do not fund or support those who deny the reality of climate change.” Read the rest of this entry »
When the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell chats up the importance of renewable energy as part of the globe’s future energy mix, one might well be a tad suspicious—after all this is an oil major speaking, right?
Could it be that Ben van Beurden has seen the light, powered by things other than fossil fuels? Is it possible he is thinking about the future in a way that’s perhaps more enlightened than simply rhetorical?
Speaking recently at OPEC‘s 167th meeting in Vienna, van Beurden said traditional energy sources should integrate and work together with clean technologies to provide sustainable and economically-sensible power for the future. Read the rest of this entry »
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.
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.
Here are the details from President Obama’s Executive Order that intends to the Federal Government’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 40 percent over the next decade from 2008 levels — saving taxpayers up to $18 billion in avoided energy costs — and increase the share of electricity the Federal Government consumes from renewable sources to 30 percent.
Complementing the effort, several major Federal suppliers announced commitments to cut their own GHG emissions.
For the record, here are excerpts from the White House Fact Sheet:
“Together, the combined results of the Federal Government actions and new supplier commitments will reduce GHG emissions by 26 million metric tons by 2025 from 2008 levels, the equivalent of taking nearly 5.5 million cars off the road for a year. And to encourage continued progress across the Federal supply chain, the Administration is releasing a new scorecard to publicly track self-reported emissions disclosure and progress for all major Federal suppliers, who together represent more than $187 billion in Federal spending and account for more than 40 percent of all Federal contract dollars.
“Since the Federal Government is the single largest consumer of energy in the Nation, Federal emissions reductions and progress across the supply chain will have broad impacts. The new commitments announced today support the United States’ international commitment to cut net GHG emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, which President Obama first announced in November 2014 as part of an historic agreement with China…” Read the rest of this entry »
If 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.