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September 24 2013


Fighting Aphids Naturally: How the Mall of America Handled their Pest Problem

3240104822_212aa12067Ladybugs are universally loved, rarely looked at with the same disgust reserved for other members of the bug family, like roaches or ants. Beyond their reputation as a symbol of good luck, however, ladybugs are actually quite useful; they are the natural enemy of aphids, preying on pests and providing a form of natural pest control. The Mall of America recently dealt with an aphid infestation, and they turned to ladybugs to help them control the problem.

An Aphid Invasion

The Mall of America is a huge retail space, housing an aquarium, a theme park, a golf course and even a mirror maze. In addition, it is the home to tens of thousands of plants and hundreds of trees; in addition to providing a nice atmosphere for patrons, the greenery works to purify the air inside the building. Aphids unfortunately began to thrive inside the mall, eating the plants and leaving small trails of destruction in their wake. Rather than use pesticides to reduce the aphid population, however, the Mall of America decided to take a different approach.

The Pesticide-Free Solution

More than 70,000 ladybugs were released in the Mall of America to help battle the aphids, a strategy that mall officials have turned to before to combat similar issues. Although it may seem as though releasing so many bugs would simply compound the problem, officials say that generally isn’t true; ladybugs tend to stay in one place, moving from plant to plant rather than flying through the air and bothering patrons. Unless they knew of the mall’s plans, most visitors would never realize there were so many ladybugs in their midst. In addition, the presence of the ladybugs meant that the Mall of America could avoid using pesticides to bring down the aphid population.

Concerns for the Future

For a variety of reasons, ladybug populations are dwindling in numbers across North America. Scientists speculate that part of the problem may be tied to global warming. The Lost Ladybug Project is looking into the issue in an attempt to understand what this phenomenon could mean for the future. Because these bugs are so helpful, it is important to try and understand what is happening and figure out how to reverse the trend, if possible.

Natural pest control methods, like using ladybugs to control aphid populations, are becoming more popular as businesses and private citizens alike try to avoid using pesticides as much as possible. The Mall of America is a great example of how successful this approach can be. Remember, however, that if you are faced with a particularly tricky bug problem, many New Jersey pest control companies use an integrated pest management approach that is much “greener” than simply spraying chemicals on your property.

Image Credit: Some rights reserved by Martin LaBar

The post Fighting Aphids Naturally: How the Mall of America Handled their Pest Problem appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

April 20 2011


Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Volcanoes, Oh My!

Scientists predict increased global warming can lead to more earthquakes and other "natural" disastersJust when we thought that things couldn’t get any worse after last year, with its record breaking heat waves, snowstorms, floods, drought, fires and extreme weather events including the volcano in Iceland and a tornado in New York City, then this year began. Already, in only the first 3 months, we have seen flocks of dead birds falling from the sky, schools of dead fish floating in marinas, deadly mudslide in Brazil, floods in Australia the size of Germany and France, and a massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan…

Now all of these events, last year and this one may seem unnatural, unexpected, bizarre, and yet all have been predicted by climate models as a result of climate change. Yes, if you were wondering about the reality of climate change, it is here. And this is only the beginning.

Geologists predict that with further global warming, we will see even more earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes, and in seemingly unexpected places like the Arctic and Newfoundland.

This is because glaciers, with their enormous weight (ice weighs about one ton per cubic meter), exert a great amount of pressure upon the surface of the Earth that they cover. As they continue to melt at an ever-increasing rate, this pressure on the underlying earth is released, resulting in a myriad of geologic reactions – earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes.

“What happens is the weight of this thick ice puts a lot of stress on the earth,” Prof. Patrick Wu, geologist at the University of Alberta, explains. “The weight sort of suppresses the earthquakes, but when you melt the ice the earthquakes get triggered.”

Some also suspect that as the ice melts, which causes sea levels to rise, more weight is added upon the ocean floor, and subsequently upon the tectonic plates below.

“All over the world evidence is stacking up that changes in global climate can and do affect the frequencies of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and catastrophic sea-floor landslides,” says British geologist Bill McGuire.

Sources and further reading:
Fire and Ice: Melting Glaciers Trigger Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanoes
Melting glaciers could have fiery result, geologists warn

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April 19 2011


Budget Passed in Congress Will Invest in International Efforts to Curb Global Warming (but still not enough)

NRDC - the SwitchboardThis post first appeared on the Natural Resources Defense Council blog Switchboard

The long drama of whether or not the US Congress would invest in international efforts to curb global warming pollution or gut these investments is finally over – at least for the rest of this fiscal year.  Last week President Obama signed into law a budget for the rest of this fiscal year (fiscal year 2011).  Investments in international climate activities fared alright.  The final bill would fund core international climate activities at $750-950 million, with other activities potentially adding to this total. This is a continued investment in these critical programs, but still far away from the ultimate need.

As others have pointed out there is good, ok, and bad news.  This budget could have been much, much worse as the original House Republican passed bill would have gutted these critical investments by zeroing out some of the funding levels.  In addition, the House Republican version would have eliminated funding to help the best scientists in the world document and communicate the science behind carbon pollution (effectively having the house Republicans pretending global warming doesn’t exist and muffling the scientists that would tell them otherwise).  Thankfully that provision wasn’t included.

On the rest of the funding picture it is a mixed story.  So let’s look at the numbers in a bit greater detail (I’ll compare to last year’s amount and the President’s request where possible*).

Total investments are slightly down from last year and down a fair amount from the President’s request. Last year’s budget included about $1 billion in funding for core international climate action.  On top of that the US State Department reported that other US funding which supports international climate action would bring the total to $1.3 billion ($1.7 billion if you count support provided by US export credit agencies).**  For this year the President requested $1.3 billion in core funding (not including the additional programs produce climate action as a co-benefit).  The House Republicans would have gutted this funding.  The final bill approved $750-950 million in core climate funding, so it is 5-25% below last year’s amount.

Making climate change a priority could lead to $950 million of funding. The final total funding for core international climate action could be very close to last year’s levels, but only if the Administration makes climate change a priority in its final allocation of bilateral assistance funding.***    If the Administration decides that global warming funding is a high priority and allocates the bilateral assistance at a level close to the President’s request then the total ($950 million) will be pretty close to last year’s amount.  If they don’t make it this level of a priority then the funding ($750 million) will be significantly below last year’s amount.  The ball is in their court.  We hope that they’ll allocate the full amount that they requested as international climate investments are in the US interest.

Investments in deploying clean energy were cut, but not as bad as the House Republicans would have cut them. The US funds global efforts to deploy clean energy through bilateral and multilateral assistance – with the largest chunk of multilateral assistance going through the Clean Technology Fund.  Unfortunately the clean energy investments through the Clean Technology Fund were cut from $300 million in last year’s budget to $185 million in this year’s budget (a cut of over 50% from the President’s request and 38% below last year’s amount.  The House Republicans proposed to completely zero out the Clean Technology Fund so it could have been worse.  The Clean Technology Fund is supporting such projects as wind development in Mexico, geothermal in Indonesia, and large-scale solar in North Africa.  Bilateral clean energy funding could fare not too bad if the Administration prioritizes it in their allocation of bilateral assistance.***    

Support for deforestation investments are about what they were last year as long as the Administration prioritizes them in the final allocations. Last year the US invested $241 million in direct programs to reduce deforestation emissions (called “sustainable landscapes” in the US budget descriptions).  In addition the US has continued to fund biodiversity efforts, many of which have deforestation reductions as a co-benefit.  In this year’s final budget the amount of core deforestation reduction funding is about $236 million, but could be higher if they allocate bilateral funding with deforestation getting a higher amount.  Additional money to reduce deforestation might also be mobilized through biodiversity programs and the Millennium Challenge Corporation which is currently considering funding deforestation reduction efforts in Indonesia.

This funding must be the floor. These investments are in the US interest as they create clean energy opportunities, reduce deforestation emissions, and reduce future instability throughout the world.  The Administration has the ability to ensure that the damage of these cuts is minimized by ensuring that the final allocations of bilateral assistance prioritize international climate action.  This will be critical.

But we must also begin the fight to ensure that next year’s budget increases funding from this floor.  Hopefully President Obama and Congress will restore these cuts as the President’s budget request envisioned scale-up resources for these investments.  No rest for the weary.


Thanks to Michael Wolosin at the Climate Advisors for the detailed breakdowns on the deforestation reduction efforts and Eric Haxthausen at The Nature Conservancy who has a good blog on the budget with some more numbers.

Jake Schmidt is the International Climate Policy Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council where he helps to develop the post-2012 international response to climate change (for more information see his blog or follow him on twitter). And help track countries actions to reduce their global warming pollution.

* Note that the full breakouts aren’t yet available as the budget that is passed doesn’t break out the spending for all the programs that the US had funded in the past.  The final values for some categories depend on how the Administration allocates some funds amongst the various programs.

**All the values below are based on the “core” climate funding as it isn’t clear at this stage how the other programs will be implemented.

*** Funding for a number of the US programs comes through general bilateral assistance accounts which took cuts in the final bill.  The “Development Assistance” account which funds most of these programs was passed at roughly last year’s levels.  The “Economic Support Fund” which funds a couple of these programs was passed with a 29% cut from last year’s levels.


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December 02 2010


The Climate Change Divide: Have We Reached a Political Tipping Point?

Are we at a political tipping point with global warming?Despite overwhelming physical evidence of anthropogenic climate change, and a definite of majority (97 percent) of scientists who agree that human activities are causing the climate to change, in the latest poll from the Pew Research Center found that the number of Americans who believe in climate change, particularly Republicans, has decreased dramatically since 2006.

In 2006, 79 percent of Americans believed there was evidence of global warming and 50% said it was caused by human activity. 61 percent felt it required immediate action. 59 percent said scientists agreed that the cause was human activity.  Only 29 percent said that scientists did not agree.

Now in 2010, 59 percent of American adults believe that there is evidence that the planet has been warming over the past decades, and 34 percent state that it is mostly caused by human activity. 32 percent see global warming as a serious problem, while 31 percent think it is somewhat serious. The public is also divided as to whether scientists themselves are in agreement that the planet is warming as a result of human activity – only 44 percent say that scientists agree, and 44 percent say that they do not.

While 80 percent of Democrats and a majority of independents state that there is solid evidence of climate change, with 34 percent believing that it is a result of human activities only 53 percent of Republicans say that there is no evidence of climate change whatsoever.

70 percent of those Republicans who were on board with the Tea Party movement were “much more likely…to say there is no solid evidence,” and “do not think that the earth’s temperature has been rising.” (Of the Republicans who are not aligned with the Tea Partiers, only 38 percent hold this view.) 50 percent of the Tea Partiers  do not see global warming as any sort of problem and 71 percent believe that scientist do not agree as to whether or not human activity is the cause of global warming.

Evidence and perception diverge

This all during a year of climate disasters, of extreme weather – record breaking temperatures, heat waves, floods, and droughts. In the past century, sea level has risen 4 to 10 inches, and glaciers and ice caps are melting at unprecedented rates. On the Antarctic Peninsula, 90 percent of the glaciers are in retreat, and winter temperatures have soared by 11 degrees Fahrenheit. Habitats are shifting and seasonal cycles are changing, endangering countless species of plants and animals.

NOAA has reported that planet has been warming significantly, a full 1 degree Fahrenheit, over the last 50 years, that each of the past three decades was warmer than the last, and the 2000s is the warmest decade in recorded history. According to NASA, 2010 is on track to be the hottest year ever recorded.

Furthermore, the current level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere — about 390 parts per million — is higher today than at any time in measurable history — at least the last 2.1 million years.

So, as the evidence has become alarmingly apparent year after year, why are the numbers of Americans who believe in climate change decreasing? When even prior climate change deniers poster boys Bjorn Lomberg and Fran Luntz have seen the light – or rather the heat.

Granted, the economy has taken its toll. These days, when countless Americans are focused on how to keep or get a job, concerned with how to feed their families, any other threats, especially those that are not immediately in one’s face, do not seem so urgent or significant. Moreover, the changes due to global warming are gradual, subtle, and much more pronounced in regions like Antarctica, where most Americans never go, much less even think about.

As Fen Montaigne writes:

“If such  profound changes (those occurring at the Antarctica peninsula) had come to our temperate zones over the last few decades – if average winter temps in New York City had soared a dozen degrees, if our oaks and maples were being replaced by palms, if sea levels had risen half a dozen feet – chances are the public would not be so indifferent to our warming world and many politicians would not be denying that climate is changing because of human activity.”

A tipping point?

And yet, they are. Have we reached the political tipping point in regards to climate change? Has the intensely divisive nature of our two party system, created two separate and not necessarily equal Americas? Even the news media is now as divided, and in parroting their own party line, they relay completely different views of the issues, of the world, of reality altogether.

A Yale/George Mason University poll released this past summer found similar results whereas a large number of those who considered themselves conservative, and/or part of the Tea Party movement, were either doubtful or dismissive about global warming, and those who considered themselves alarmed or concerned identified themselves as Democrats or liberals.  This poll also revealed that the news media consumed by those considered “alarmists” and those “dismissive” regarding climate change, were completely different – i.e. Fox News or MSNBC.

That said, what one may deduce from these polls is that Americans overall are NOT ignorant nor apathetic when it comes to climate change – only some, maybe half, of us, and mostly the Tea Party members of the Republican party. That’s the good news. The bad news, well, it is those Republicans, who as of this past Fall, have completely changed our political landscape, which may just have a direct effect upon our cultural, and our physical landscape, as well.

According to the blog Think Progress, 50 percent of the freshmen Republicans entering Congressdeny the existence of manmade climate change, while a shocking 86 percent are opposed to any legislation to address climate change and increases government revenue. Meanwhile, all of the Republicans vying to chair the House Energy Committee — which handles climate and energy issues — in the new Congress are climate change deniers,” including longtime climate denier, and BP apologist, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX).

Nevertheless, though opinions about and reactions to climate change are in stark contradiction between party lines, we all still live on the same planet, like it or not. When the seas and rivers rise, and the heartland turns to dust bowls, when the winter and summers are nearly intolerable, these effects will not vary between red states and blue states. Just because you don’t believe doesn’t mean it will not affect you – nor your grandchildren – nor theirs.

So here we are. In the worst recession since the 1930s, with an economy and infrastructure that desperately needs an influx of jobs, of which green jobs and a green economy is a perfect fit. Right as the UN Conference on climate change has begun; right as the moratorium on deepwater drilling has been lifted. At the brink of another year, another decade, where (some) Americans continue to hide their heads in the sands, or rather tar pits, and may just continue to do so for further decades, and generations to come. While China, and soon other countries, has quickly overtaken us in research and development, emerging as the pioneers in green technology and the green market, leaving us literally in the dust.

October 08 2010


Climate Change Negotiations Part Way through the Week in Tianjin

Visit NRDCs Switchboard BlogCountries meeting here in Tianjin, China are trying to make final progress before the world comes together in Cancun.  As I outlined there are some essential elements that need to be agreed in Cancun to prove to the world that this process can deliver real action, to begin to implement key elements of the international response to climate change, and to lay the foundation for further commitments beyond Cancun.  The meeting in Tianjin needs to accomplish a couple of things in order for Cancun to be a success.  So how are we doing a little over one week into the Tianjin session?  We have mixed results.

So let me start with the bad news…

Countries are talking process, not areas of agreement.  Every time we have a debate about the process in these negotiations it is a bad sign.  It means that countries are trying to find excuses not to agree to some particular item.  While many of these discussions aren’t occurring in the open, I’ve been hearing from a variety of countries that there is a lot of discussion about how to structure the discussions.  So instead of trying to unlock the key stumbling blocks, some countries are stacking more blocks on top of each other.

I’ve been in this process long enough to know that such a dynamic doesn’t necessarily last as we get into the final days.  Climate negotiators like to try to get the best deal, so this tends to mean that they hold out to the last minute.  Unfortunately, if countries don’t blink here in Tianjin then the chances of agreement in Cancun are very limited.

But there is some good news which gives me hope…

Countries aren’t backing away from their commitments to reduce emissions and mobilize financial resources to assist developing countries.  The international negotiation dynamic here in Tianjin is in stark contrast to what is happening on the ground in the key countries.  It is almost like living in an alternative universe. 

In Copenhagen, countries accounting for over 80% of the world’s emissions made specific commitments to reduce their emissions.  So given the state of play in the negotiations are countries walking away from their commitments and taking no action at home?  No.  Key countries are getting to work at home by implementing policies and programs to reduce their emissions.  We did a side-event presenting on what China is doing (where we released three new reports and a new fact sheet), discussing what India is doing, and outlining the prospects for Mexico to come to Cancun with additional actions.  NRDC joined a trip to see a pilot power plant in Tianjin—GreenGen—that will capture CO2 emissions and store these emissions underground.  And next week I’ll visit an industrial complex which we are helping to transform into a low carbon economic zone.  So things are happening on the ground.

Countries also agreed in Copenhagen that they would mobilize $30 billion from 2010-2012 to assist developing countries.  An independent assessment by the World Resources Institute shows that if countries generate the resources that they have pledged then we’ll reach this goal.  For example, the US Congressional committees have continued to support US contributions to this effort which we hope they will soon finalize in order to further unleash these resources.

Negotiators have made progress on the agreements to aid developing countries in reducing deforestation emissions, deploying clean energy, and adapting to the impacts of climate change.  While there are still some differences between key countries on these issues, the disagreements are minor in the broader dynamic of what we are trying to achieve in Cancun.  They are white noise, not ear shattering noise. 

If the transparency and finance pieces fall into place in Cancun then agreement on these issues is within reach.  Unfortunatelyin Tianjin there is still division on the transparency and finance pieces, but I continue to believe that countries can find agreement on these issues (as my colleague Barbara Finamore discusses).  After all, they need to agree on these issues in Cancun and resolving these issues is in everyone’s interest.

Still time to turn it around.  There are two days left for countries to turn around this week and therefore prospects in Cancun.  I’ve followed this long enough to know that the end game can often surprise you.  Let’s hope that countries surprise us with clear signals that they really want a positive agreement in Cancun.

September 14 2010


Key steps on global warming need to be agreed in Mexico later this year

This December, 194 countries will be in Cancun, Mexico to continue negotiations on international efforts to address climate change.  My colleagues and I are in Mexico City this week for a series of discussions with key government officials, NGOs, businesses, and members of the media so we’ve been reflecting on Cancun. The Cancun climate negotiation session (COP16) must serve three critical functions to ensure the continued progress on international climate change efforts and to rebuild some of the trust lost during and after Copenhagen.    

First, at Cancun, the international community needs to prove to countries and the world public that it can work together to address climate change.  It is essential that countries make some progress in Cancun and show that the international system can work.  This is paramount, as a perceived failure will make it even more difficult to build political momentum within the UN system and may lead the public and countries to disengage.

Second, Cancun needs to produce agreement on aspects of the key implementing activities to be delivered by the international agreement –e.g., clean energy technology deployment, deforestation reductions, improving the resilience of countries to the impacts of climate change, etc.  While it is unlikely that every aspect of these issues will be resolved in Cancun, it is possible to make significant progress on each of these issues at Cancun.  The notion of “nothing is agreed, until everything is agreed” must be set aside in favor of re-establishing confidence by progressively building the agreement component by component.

Third, COP16 needs to produce momentum and enough progress that COP17 (in South Africa) and the Rio 2012 Earth Summit can finalize additional commitments and implementation steps.

So what are a couple of tangible steps that countries can agree in Cancun to achieve these three aims?

1. Commitments for “Actions” and “Support”.  The meeting in Cancun needs to create the expectation that this and future meetings will focus strong political and public attention on what actions countries are taking to reduce their emissions and on what support they are offering to help deploy clean energy, reduce deforestation emissions, and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Action, Action, Action.  Countries accounting for over 80% of the world’s emissions have now committed to specific actions that undertake at home to reduce their global warming pollution.  Much of the political posturing, focus of the general public and the media, and dynamics of the international negotiations is focused on what “the agreement” (or the negotiating text) has to say.  Much less attention is focused on what actions countries commit to take, what concrete steps they are taking at home to reduce their emissions, and how they could be assisted in the move to a low carbon economy.    The meeting in Cancun needs to reaffirm the expectation that countries are to implement specific actions at home and report those efforts with the international community at every subsequent meeting.  Over time this reporting should become more formal, but countries should be expected to informally report on their actions at Cancun.  Countries should have to say: “we have done nothing” or “we have taken such and such step, but need to go further”.  It is critical that we immediately create the expectation that the world is paying attention to the actions of countries, not just their words.

Focus on “Prompt Start Funding”.  In Copenhagen, developed countries committed to provide $30 billion in financing from 2010-2012 to aid developing countries in deploying clean energy, reducing deforestation emissions, and adapting to the impacts of climate change.  To build trust it is critical that developed countries show in tangible ways how their pledges to “prompt start” funding are turning into real money.  But it is also important to focus on tangible actions that are occurring on-the-ground with the money.  This dual focus will establish the expectations both that real money is generated and that tangible actions are being delivered with the money.  The recent Dutch initiative to create a website where countries report on their contribution is a good step in this direction, as is the REDD+ Partnership’s efforts to create a database where deforestation efforts are transparently reported.

2. Decisions to Show Progress on Key Issues.  It is important that countries agree in Cancun to make tangible progress by reaching agreement on some of the key aspects of the international response to climate change.  Without some tangible outcomes, countries, the general public, and key policymakers will disengage from the international negotiations.  These include the following (as I discussed here).  

MRV and Finance are Linchpins.  Resolving some aspects of monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) and finance are critical to a successful outcome in Cancun.  Without forward progress on developing country MRV, developed countries are unlikely to agree to let other issues move forward–such as REDD, adaptation, and technology.  At the same time, without progress on finance, developing countries are unlikely to allow progress on MRV.  These two issues are intertwined in the negotiations. 

Critical Implementing Actions Can be Agreed – Making progress on REDD, Technology, and Adaptation.  In Copenhagen, countries were very close to agreeing on elements of the international approach to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), clean energy deployment, and adaptation.  While there are aspects of these that are still controversial, it is possible to agree in Cancun on key elements that enable tangible action to materialize on these three critical issues.  Progress on these fronts is essential to prove to countries and the general public that the UNFCCC can move forward on tangible actions which make a real difference in the efforts to address global warming.


Countries will come to Tianjin, China next month for the next climate negotiations.  At this meeting, countries will have a choice: do they want to see progress in Cancun that moves the world forward or do they want to throw up roadblocks to progress. 

Officials in Mexico seemed cautiously optimistic, but they clearly see the uncertain path to Cancun.  The Mexican team is extremely capable as it combines Ministries and individuals with strong diplomatic skills and extensive knowledge of the key issues.  That gives me hope that they can help move the 194 countries towards some specific outcomes which move the world forward.  I’m leaving Mexico with the same cautious optimism that we sensed from the Mexican officials.


Follow me on twitter and help track countries actions to reduce their global warming pollution.

July 19 2010


Energy Ministers meet in US to Discuss Clean Energy: Who will be in the clean energy race?

Visit NRDCs Switchboard Blog

The race for the clean energy future comes to Washington, DC today—only symbolically if the US doesn’t seize the moment.  Energy ministers from 20 countries that account for over 80% of the world’s global warming pollution are in the US to discuss how to speed up the deployment of clean energy throughout the world, as a part of the Clean Energy MinisterialThe subplot of the meeting will be which of these countries will come out sprinting and which ones will begin by jogging in the race for the clean energy future.

The meeting hosted by the US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu will include energy ministers from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, European Union, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Norway, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.  This is the first time that energy ministers from these key countries have focused solely on clean energy—when they typically meet they have oil, coal, and other energy sources also on their agenda.  I hope they are ambitious as this letter from leading groups emphasizes.

The race for the clean energy future is on.  The clean energy future will be a $13 trillion market over the next two decades.  The countries that enter the race by sprinting will tap into this growing demand for the technologies, industries, and the jobs of this century.  Those countries that don’t join the race or only tentatively enter (start out jogging) will be left in the dust or will come up short.  In fact, just last year alone $162 billion was invested in clean energy (as I discussed here).   

China is in the race and leading…Last year China overtook the US in clean energy investment – with $34.6 billion compared to the US at $18.6 billion.  Looking at some of the trends in key clean energy technologies such as wind and solar provides some concrete examples of China’s surge.  China’s top three domestic wind manufacturers doubled their global market share from about 12% to almost 23% from 2008 to 2009 (according to BTM Consulting).  In 2009, 50% of solar PV cells produced in the world came from China and Taiwan (according to GTM Research). 

India is also in the race…In 2009, India invested $2.3 billion in clean energy—growing at over 72% over the last 5 years (according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance).  While India has consistently been one of the top countries for wind installations, it is also now embarking on a significant effort to deploy solar (as my colleague discussed).

US jogging?  While the US was 2nd in clean energy investment last year, it lost its top slot to China.  And if the European Union is considered as a whole the US would be in 3rd place (see this report from the Pew Charitable Trusts).  The US played a leading role in early stages of developing many of the clean energy technologies that are dominating the market today, yet on a number of fronts the US is lagging.  Sometime over the next 3 weeks, the US Senate will debate (and hopefully vote to pass) a climate and energy bill which will send a concrete signal that the US wants to be sprinting in the clean energy race.


So the energy ministers from these 20 countries meet with this backdrop in mind—a race for the clean energy future is happening as we speak and some are full of energy and others are unsure where they want to go.  These key countries will be making critical choices in the coming years—will they embrace clean energy or will they choose to sit on the sidelines. 

It is time for the US to get off the bench and invest in a clean energy future.

June 23 2010


G20 Leaders to Meet and Discuss Global Warming…but only a little bit

Visit NRDCs Switchboard BlogOn June 26-27, Leaders from the 20 largest economies will meet in Toronto, Canada as a part of the Group of 20 Summit.  These countries represent 85% of the world’s global warming pollution and 83% of the world’s economic output.   So with the Heads of Government of these powerhouse countries meeting, will climate change be on the agenda and will they make any strides in dealing with this challenge? The answers are: just barely and maybe.

Climate change just barely on the agenda as Canada really doesn’t want to talk about it. The host country gets to largely set the agenda for the G20 Summits.  Canada really, really didn’t want to put climate change on the agenda of this month’s Summit and only agreed to put it on the agenda at the last minute (thanks to a bunch of world leader’s essentially lobbying Canada).  After all, the current Canadian government isn’t really thrilled to talk about climate change as it essentially has a no climate (or even an anti-climate) policy agenda.

Canada has an international legal commitment to reduce its global warming pollution by 6% below 1990 levels for the period 2008-2012.  According to the Government of Canada’s own projections they will be 29% above their current target even with its current action.  One of the main reasons is that their energy policy is encouraging the massive expansion of tar sands (as my colleagues have discussed here and here).  And their current emissions target for 2020 is essentially to wait and see what the US does (as this guest post highlights), while doing very little to proactively implement policies to change the trajectory of its pollution.

So climate change is just barely on the agenda at this G20 Summit and likely won’t be the main focus of this month’s Summit, but could they still move the international effort forward?

Maybe some positive strides on climate change. So climate change isn’t front and center at this G20 summit, but there are three opportunities to move the global effort forward—phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies, prompt-start finance, and “green growth”.

1.  Moving forward on the phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies. The G20 leader’s agreed at last year’s summit to: “Rationalize and phase out over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption…” Phasing out these subsidies is a win-win-win.  A recent draft report by the IEA found that fossil fuel subsidies are worth about $557 billion in emerging and developing countries (as Reuters reported).  This didn’t include subsidies in the developed world because they are generally more indirect (e.g., reduced tax rates, faster capital depreciation rates, etc.), but previous studies have estimated that these are significant.  So phasing out these subsidies will free up some much needed cash for strapped economies.  And it will free up some incentives which could be redirected to creating the future clean energy economy instead of supporting the dirty energy past.  They are also estimated to have a sizeable impact on global warming pollution –up to an estimated 10% cut in emissions.

While it isn’t expected that this G20 Summit will finalize how that commitment will be met, they will need to make enough progress so that firm decisions can be made at the G20 Summit this November (this paper has some good suggestions on specifics that need to be agreed in Toronto).  And just as I was about to post this a leaked draft of the G20 statement (available here) shows that the G20 may weaken this commitment by making it "voluntary" and "member specific" (ClimateWire, sub req.).  This is a significant weakening of the only concrete step the G20 committed to take on climate change last year and hopefully will be eliminated before it is finalized this weekend.

2.  Outlining the prompt-start funding from key countries. In the Copenhagen Accord, developed countries made a commitment to deliver around $30 billion over the next three years to assist developing countries in deploying clean energy, reducing deforestation emissions, and adapting to the impacts of climate change (as I’ve discussed here).  According to data compiled by WRI, total pledges are around $31 billion so meeting that objective is easily within reach.  But not all of that money is actually committed as countries are in various stages of their budget cycle.  For example, the Obama Administration outlined $1.4 billion in this year’s budget (as my colleague detailed), but Congress has yet to approve the expected number (and there are troubling signs that it may be cut a bit).  And countries are slowly moving the money out the door to assist developing countries in these efforts.  Some coordination is already beginning to occur around deforestation, but the other avenues of funding (adaptation and clean energy) have very little coordination.

The G20 could play a key role in accountability of that prompt-start funding.  These leaders could look each other in the eye and ask: “you committed to X amount, where are you in delivering on that amount?”

3.  Begin the drumbeat on the creation of low carbon economies (or “green growth”). These major economies of the world could jump start a real race for the clean energy future – a market that will be valued at $17 trillion over the next two decades (as I’ve discussed).  The current G20 Summit is grappling largely with economic issues.  While the current state of the global economy will be front and center, these key countries need to also begin to focus on the future drivers of economic prosperity.  As many economists, labor unions, policymakers, and columnists have pointed out: clean energy will be one of the main drivers of this century.

The G20 could begin a serious focus on what steps each country is taking to create their own “race for the clean energy future” and how the G20 countries could collectively spur low carbon (or “green growth”) throughout the world. While Canada isn’t really the best country to lead a conversation on the development of low carbon growth (as I’ve pointed out above), the hosts of the next G20 –South Korea—are a leading country pursuing and advocating for low carbon growth.  In fact, they are the only country that has a Presidential commission on green growth and recently launched a “Global Green Growth Institute”.  The Toronto G20 Summit could launch a shift in the G20 to a much more focused effort on creating low carbon economies throughout the world.  This shift could lead to a concerted focus on this issue at the Rio+20 Summit to be held in 2012 (as my colleague discussed), with tangible outcomes in the meantime.     

Looking to Seoul, Korea to firm up some of these details. I don’t expect that this month’s G20 Summit will resolve the issues around the phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies, prompt start finance, or how to spur “green growth”.  But this Summit will have to make enough progress that real decisions can be agreed at the next G20 summit in Seoul, Korea (Nov. 11-12).

These key countries are too dominant in global warming pollution and economic output to not be critical in leading the world to a clean energy future which addresses global warming.  Let’s hope they use their time wisely to really spur the necessary action.

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council Switchboard.


Jake Schmidt is the International Climate Policy Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council where he helps to develop the post-2012 international response to climate change (for more information see his blog or follow him on twitter). And help track countries actions to reduce their global warming pollution.

June 15 2010


The Choice to Move Forward on International Efforts to Address Global Warming

Every day a huge amount of oil is spewing into the Gulf of Mexico in the US.  This is symbolic of the energy choices that we have made to date.  And it shows the dramatic implications of that energy choice.  But those energy choices are also having devastating impacts which are less visual but more damaging.  Rampant global warming is impacting countries around the world as a result of our energy and development choices.  The oil catastrophe is a wake-up call for the United States and should be a wake-up call for the world. 

We have a choice between a clean energy future or a dirty energy past.  As countries end the most recent round of negotiations on an international effort to address global warming, they face the same choice.  Do they choose to agree to implement a clean energy future or do they choose to have the same old stale debates hold us back.  I hope that they choose the clean energy choice.

A Spirit of Cooperation.  Here in Bonn, Germany countries signaled a clear willingness to work together in a spirit of cooperation to address this critical challenge.  While the key stumbling blocks for a strong outcome in Cancun, Mexico weren’t resolved, there were constructive movements on a number of the key elements of international efforts.  For example, countries narrowed the differences around how best to guide the needed global finance to help developing countries deploy clean energy, reduce deforestation, and adapt to the impacts of climate change.  A number of countries both recognized the critical need for strong transparency and accountability provisions in the international agreement, and showed a willingness to find a reasonable path forward. 

Much work remains to be done on these and other issues, but countries showed a willingness to roll-up their sleeves and find a path forward.  I hope that spirit continues as we go into Cancun, Mexico.  The Chair of the session released a text which can help countries focus on those choices and create the conditions for them to cooperate on a path forward.

The Path Ahead is Clear.  Now countries need to go home and create the political conditions for action both at home and internationally.  All countries need to move forward on actions to reduce their emissions, mobilize the necessary resources to aid developing countries in moving to a low carbon economy and adapt to the impacts of climate change.  Both need to be done in a transparent and accountable manner so that we can ensure that we are really moving on the path that countries committed to undertake.   These are elements that they committed to in Copenhagen and they must deliver upon them.

The US must pass a comprehensive climate and energy bill this year. 

They need to come back to Bonn, Germany in August ready to tackle the key outstanding issues and begin to agree on the elements of a strong path forward in Cancun, Mexico later this year.

Much work remains and time is unfortunately not on our side, but it can and must be done.  We have no choice.

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council Switchboard.


Jake Schmidt is the International Climate Policy Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council where he helps to develop the post-2012 international response to climate change (for more information see his blog or follow him on twitter). And help track countries actions to reduce their global warming pollution.

June 02 2010


Indonesia Takes Concrete Steps to Address Deforestation as a Part of Agreement with Norway

Indonesia and Norway inked a deal last week to take concrete actions to reduce Indonesia’s deforestation emissions.  Indonesia is the world’s 3rd largest emitter of global warming pollution (when deforestation emissions are included) so this is a very important effort.  The deal between Indonesia and Norway was reached in the lead-in to the Oslo forest conference where over 50 countries agreed to a new Partnership to address deforestation (as I discussed here).  The deal with Indonesia is a critical agreement as it requires action from the Indonesian government and assistance from the Norwegian government to make a serious dent in the loss of Indonesia’s forests. 

In announcing the agreement Indonesian President Yudhoyono stated:

“Indonesia stands by its commitment to reduce our emissions by 26 per cent relative to business as usual levels by 2020. This we will do out of our own funds through a set of measures I will be announcing in the near future.” With the help of international partners, we could reduce our emissions by as much as 41 per cent”

This is a commitment made by Indonesia as a part of the Copenhagen Accord (as we’ve tracked here).  Its efforts to reduce deforestation will be critical to meeting that commitment as deforestation accounts for the majority of Indonesia’s emissions.  So the actions of Indonesia and Norway are an important component of ongoing efforts to implement specific actions to meet the commitments of these countries to reduce global warming pollution.

This agreement couldn’t come soon enough as Indonesia loses an area the size of approximately 12 football fields every day to deforestation.  So what have they agreed to do immediately to stop this trend? 

Details of the package are just emerging, so here are some of the core elements that have emerged to date.  Some of which have been spelled out explicitly in the Letter of Intent (LOI) between Norway and Indonesia and others have been reported in the press by leading Indonesian officials (I’ll note where they are explicitly in the LOI).

Indonesia will place a 2 year moratorium on granting new concessions for rainforest and peat forest clearing beginning in 2011 (in the LOI).  Concessions already granted to companies will not be stopped (a point that it seems will be one of the actions stemming from the agreement as I’ll discuss below).  This is an important freeze as it will essentially stop digging the hole by not granting more permits for future deforestation.  It is expected that this moratorium will be enshrined in an Indonesia Presidential decree, which hopefully will send a clear signal that this is real and will encourage cross-ministry coordination (both have been challenging issues in Indonesia in the past).

Norway will commit $1 billion to assist Indonesia in taking specific actions (in the LOI).  The agreement is to be implemented in three phases:

1. “Preparation”.  Beginning immediately the countries agree to specific steps including to:

  • Complete a national forestry strategy;
  • Establish a special agency reporting directly to President to coordinate efforts;
  • Create a funding mechanism to be managed by an internationally reputable financial institution to ensure that money is properly spent, managed, reported, and accounted; and
  • Select a province-wide pilot effort to reduce deforestation (the “province must have large intact tracts of rainforest and face planned deforestation and forest degradation projects of a scale that will have significant impact on national emissions levels if implemented”).

2. “Transformation”.  Starting in January 2011, they will begin the second phase which is to make Indonesia ready for contributions based on verified emissions reductions (the 3rd phase) while also “initiating large scale mitigation action[s]”.  Steps outlined in the agreement include to:

  • Develop a country-wide system for monitoring, reporting, and verifying emissions associated with deforestation and forest degradation, including independent international verification.
  • “Indentify, develop and implement appropriate Indonesia-wide policy instruments and enforcement capabilities” including: a 2 year suspension on all new concessions (as reported above), establish a database of degraded lands so that economic activity can be focused on these lands instead of converted peatland or natural forests; and enforcing existing laws against illegal logging and trade in timber.
  • Implement a province-wide pilot program to reduce deforestation emissions to begin in January 2011 and possibly a second to begin in 2012.  

3. “Contributions for Verified Emissions Reductions”.  Funding for the first 2 phases will be made on the basis of performance, but not necessarily on the basis of achieving specific emissions reductions.  So Phase 3, to begin in 2014, will be based upon implementing a national system of “contributions-for-verified emissions reductions”.  The system will be based upon annual contributions to Indonesia for independently verified national emissions reductions below an agreed deforestation “reference level”.

Indonesia will revoke existing forestry licenses held by palm oil and timber firms.  A key Indonesian official announced that as a part of the funding from Norway, the government will spend part of the money to compensate businesses that have existing concessions (as reported by Reuters).  The story reports that Agus Purnomo, head of the secretariat of Indonesia's National Climate Change Council, clarified that:

Compensation to permit holders could include cash, land swaps or other "amicable, workable and realistic solutions"

Permit holders will find out within six months if their concessions will be honoured, he said.  "Some of them don't have a valid permit, they are just making a claim," said Purnomo. "If they don't have a valid permit, we are not going to compensate. If they are getting it through bribery, we are not going to give" compensation.  


This agreement includes three critical elements that are essential to addressing deforestation.  First, it includes clear political will by Indonesia that it wants to take critical steps to address its deforestation emissions (and it aims to establish some lasting institutions and structures to ensure that this will is signaled across all relevant players in the country).  Second, the agreement includes concrete steps that Indonesia will take.  And recent statements from key government officials provide additional signals that they are moving in the right direction.  Lastly, it sets aside dedicated resources from Norway to support Indonesia in implementing specific measures.

President Obama is expected to make a trip to Indonesia later this month, where there are rumors that the US and Indonesia will announce a partnership on deforestation reductions.  We expect that the US adds to and complements the promising signs emerging from the Indonesia and Norwegian agreement.

Hopefully this agreement and the subsequent US one will help set Indonesia on a path to addressing its global warming pollution from deforestation.  We’ll have to await further details and the implementation of specific steps before passing final judgment, but the signs are promising.

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council Switchboard.


Jake Schmidt is the International Climate Policy Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council where he helps to develop the post-2012 international response to climate change (for more information see his blog or follow him on twitter). And help track countries actions to reduce their global warming pollution.

May 14 2010


Tools for Supporting International Action on Global Warming: American Power Act

The draft of the American Power Act is now out (see NRDC's first read summary of the entire bill).  The core global warming pollution limits in the bill, covering all major pollution sources, are a solid foundation for Senate legislation to put a final bill on President Obama’s desk this year.  So how does this legislative proposal address the critical international investments that aid our international efforts to address global warming?

The bill includes most of the key tools to aid the world in addressing global warming but doesn’t provide the necessary funding to aid developing countries in deploying clean energy, reducing deforestation, and adapting to the impacts of climate change (as a coalition of 24 environmental, development, and religious groups has highlighted).  The bill contains broad authorizing language for a program to reduce deforestation, provides for only a small and belated effort to help the most vulnerable developing countries, and doesn’t have any program for clean energy exports.  Failure to provide the president with the needed tools to promote international cooperation will prove penny-wise but pound-foolish (this is one of the carbon program problems that must be fixed).

It is critical that the US become a strong component of international efforts to address global warming by passing a climate and energy bill this year.  To aid in achieving strong international action and providing the US with the necessary tools to support other countries in addressing this challenge such a bill needs several key components:

  • Firm limits on global warming pollution – This depends on the stringency of the limit (A) and the overall environmental integrity, as my colleague discussed in more detail and I’ll discuss in the context of the international offsets (B).
  • Properly designed incentives to encourage, nudge, and push strong actions from other countries – How the international offsets (B) are designed can play a critical role, but it is also important to design specific programs to reduce deforestation emissions (C) and deploy clean energy in developing countries (D).  And there are some other tools which can help nudge other countries to take action (E).
  • Support for the most vulnerable countries to adapt to the impacts that are already occurring and that will occur – Global warming is already impacting the most vulnerable developing countries so we need a dedicated program to aid these countries in adaptation (F).

A. Firm Limits on Global Warming Pollution

At the core of the US engagement in an international agreement is a firm limit on global warming pollution which steadily declines and drives clean energy investments both in the US and elsewhere.  The bill creates greenhouse gas reduction targets for the sectors that are covered by emission limits, commencing in 2013 (Sec. 703):

  • 17% below 2005 levels in 2020 (4% below 1990 levels);
  • 42% below 2005 levels in 2030 (32% below 1990 levels); and
  • 83% below 2005 levels in 2050 (80% below 1990 levels).

Overall reductions will potentially be larger because of the requirement that international offsets provide "extra reductions" to make overall progress every time offsets are used.  Starting in 2018, a company using international offsets must obtain 1.25 tons of those offsets to cover a ton of its own emissions – the extra quarter ton increases the total carbon pollution reduction achieved.

B. International carbon offset access rules (Sec. 751-763).

International offsets will be issued only to developing countries that are part of a multilateral or bilateral agreement with the US.  An International Offsets Integrity Advisory Board will provide recommendations on the international rules and the EPA, in consultation with other US government agencies, will implement a set of rules to assure that offset credits are earned only for real and permanent actions that would not happen anyway and won’t simply shift to other locations.  These rules would also need to establish a process to “accept and respond to” comments from the public, providing an important “citizen” watchdog function to the proper implementation of the rules.  At least every 5 years the program is to be reviewed to ensure the environmental integrity of the rules.

The program creates a framework where offsets generally can be produced only by countries that adopt policies to reduce emissions across an entire sector of the economy and only for countries that take some action on their own.  These are important principles to retain as it helps ensure that we evolve from "offsets" to sectoral approaches for developing countries – i.e., that offsets are aiding in reducing global emissions not simply shifting reductions from the US to other countries.  There are transitions and some exceptions (which I’ll note), but that general framework applies to the majority of the four offset categories outlined in the bill.

1. Sector-based program. The bill would have the EPA Administrator identify sectors of specific countries where emissions credits can be generated only when an entire sector of the economy in the country reduces its emissions – a sectoral approach.  That means that a country can’t produce an offset (get credit) for building a windmill, while not simultaneously getting a debit for building a coal-fired power plant – the net emissions of the sector have to be reduced before an offset can be generated.  There are a number of criteria that will be used to determine if a country and sector will be eligible for crediting only on a sectoral basis, which will lead to an offset program where key sectors in the largest emitting countries will only be able to generate offsets if their entire sector reduces emissions:

  • The country has comparatively high emissions or greater levels of economic development; and
  • That it would be a sector covered by the US cap (e.g., electricity, industrial, transportation, etc.).

Credits for these sectors in the country shall be on the basis of an established performance level based upon certain criteria to ensure that the program produces real reductions.  These performance levels shall be established at a level lower than the business-as-usual level, take into account nationally appropriate actions of the country, and be consistent with a declining limit to reduce global emissions.

2. Deforestation. Offset credits can be generated from national deforestation emissions reductions with a transition for “state/province” systems, as I'll discuss in more detail below.

3. Offsets from an International System that meet the requirements outlined in the bill and as implemented in the US rules. Offsets may be issued from an international body (e.g., the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) if they meet the same requirements as established in the bill and designed by EPA.  This will provide an important safeguard against less stringent rules and an incentive for the international community, working with the US negotiators, to design strong provisions for international credits (but the onus is on the international rules to reform along the lines in the bill).  Starting in 2016, this international system would have to apply sector-based rules in order to be eligible to access the US market.

4. Supplemental/Other offset types. Sectors not covered by the sectoral regulation or the deforestation program may be available to generate credits, if the Administrator determines the offset category eligible and there are higher than expected program costs (the “price collar” is met for a period of time).  These potential offset sources would be subject to strict rules before they can generate credits, and won’t necessarily be designed to require that the entire sector reduce emissions before they generate offsets.  This would most likely apply to such sources as agriculture, forest replanting, and waste management.

C. Incentives for reductions in deforestation emissions.

Deforestation accounts for around 15% of the world’s emissions and is generally considered a relatively lower cost emission reduction option.  So included a targeted set of tools to combat the loss of the tropical forests is central in our efforts to address global warming.  Unfortunately the draft bill contains only funding for one of the key incentive mechanisms to address deforestation emissions—carbon offsets for credible deforestation reductions – but fails to include a dedicated source of investment to ensure that countries develop robust systems, don’t shift emissions to other countries, and achieve early reductions in deforestation.  We need both the set aside of dedicated resources and strong rules governing offsets to ensure that efforts to reduce deforestation are actually leading to global warming pollution cuts across the world and that the offsets generated aren’t “subprime” (a point recognized by major companies, farmers, ranchers, and environmental groups from across the spectrum, as I discussed here and here).

1. Early investment in market readiness, early emissions reductions, and ensuring an environmentally sound system (Sec. 5004).  The draft bill contains program language which could be mobilized towards early investments in designing a credible approach to reducingdeforestation emissions, but provides no dedicated resources towards implementing such a program.

The program (if it were funded) is designed to achieve emissions reductions, prevent emissions leakage where deforestation shifts from participating to non participating countries, and prepare developing countries to participate in international offset systems for deforestation by building the necessary tools for a credible system. The program would support a variety of activities, including national and subnational emissions reduction activities, forest governance, illegal logging prevention, and enforcement.

Funds generated through this program may be distributed to an international fund to reduce deforestation emissions or through bilateral assistance.  The program is guided by an interagency body (which oversees the adaptation investments as well) made up of the key US government officials, in order to ensure that the program is focused, targeted, and effective (Sec. 5003).

2. Carbon credits for credible deforestation reductions. International offsets may be issued from efforts that reduce deforestation emissions.  The discussion draft allows offsets to be generated for national level deforestation reductions and state/province level reductions for a transition period of 5 years.  Importantly, countries that generate credits must have established a baseline that is based on real historical data on deforestation rates, declines to zero net emissions after 20 years, accounts for nationally appropriate mitigation commitments, and covers all significant sources of deforestation emissions (no playing around with definitions of forests to avoid covering emissions sources).

Eligible countries also are required to have developed a "land use or forest sector strategic plan" that prepares the country for efforts to address deforestation and encourages a holistic government approach to the management of its lands.  Countries that receive investments must have protections for indigenous and forest dependent peoples, ensure the preservation of biodiversity, and develop transparent and equitable sharing of benefits to relevant populations on-the-ground.  The program can be extended to other sources of forestry emissions (e.g., degradation and peatland carbon loss, as appropriate).

D. Incentives for clean energy export to developing countries that take on their own commitment.

A large share of the investments that will drive future developing country energy production and use will be built in the very near future.  We must aid these countries in deploying the state of the art technologies that will be spurred by the US (and global) drive for clean energy.  The draft bill doesn’t include either program language or dedicated funding to assist developing countries in deploying clean energy.  It is important to fix this as the draft moves through the process as such a program will be an important component of efforts to assist developing countries in reducing their emissions.  And such a program with funding would also benefit the US as it would:

  • encourage countries to adopt policies and measures that substantially reduce emissions;
  • assist in the widespread deployment of technologies that reduce emissions; and
  • increase the demand for clean energy products and open up new markets for US companies.

E. Nudging major emitting economies to reduce their emissions and improve transparency around their actions

The draft bill includes a “border adjustment” (Sec. 775-778) and a reporting provision for major emitting countries.  The border adjustment requires that importers buy carbon allowances when bringing in commodities such as steel, aluminum, or cement from countries that fail to adopt their own carbon control programs.  The border adjustment would take effect in 2025 to the extent carbon-related competitive gaps remain with other countries and are not covered by the allowance rebates (as my colleague has discussed).  For example, the Canadian federal government has said it will follow what the United States does on climate change. What is clear is that the United States is expecting for trading partners like Canada to have equivalent systems in place for regulating greenhouse gas emissions. For Canada, that means that the tar sands oil industry would need to abide by a Canadian cap on greenhouse gas emissions at least equivalent to the cuts in the US bill.

The other provision requires that an assessment is conducted every 2-years on the climate and energy policies of the 5 largest emitting countries that are emerging markets (Sec. 5007).  The assessment is to be conducted by the State Department with the Interagency Board (Sec. 5003) made up of all the key agencies.  This provision would provide the US with a complementary assessment to what was agreed in the Copenhagen Accord on emissions reporting and transparency (as I’ve discussed).

F. Developing country adaptation and reducing national security threats (Section 5005).

The draft explicitly recognizes that the impacts of climate change are likely to “exacerbate competition and conflict over agricultural, vegetative, marine and water resources;” and increase “displacement of people, poverty and hunger within developing countries”.  To address this the bill establishes the only dedicated source of international investments by setting aside 0.75% of allowances in 2019, rising to 3% in 2030.

This investment will provide some needed resources to help reduce future national security  threats expected to arise from the impacts of global warming (as the Defense Department Quadrennial Review finds) and help the most vulnerable populations adapt to global warming.

The draft establishes an International Climate Change Adaptation and Global Security Program headed by the Secretary of State in consultation with USAID, Treasury and the EPA.  The program requires that local communities be engaged through the planning and decision making processes for adaptation programs and provides assistance to countries most vulnerable to climate change and the people most at risk in those countries (women, children, the impoverished and indigenous groups).  Assistance may come in a variety of forms:

  • investments in adaptation planning and research,
  • renewable and efficient energy technologies,
  • access to data and early warning systems for storms and disasters,
  • protection of natural ecosystems like Mangroves which can buffer against storms, prevent coastal erosion and promote fisheries production.

Agricultural and fisheries production in developing countries is expected to decline as a result of climate change, and the draft bill allows for additional support for agricultural development and emergency responses to food insecurity, as well as investments in production techniques to “raise yields through low-input, sustainable, and biodiverse methods”.

Multilateral funds or institutions receiving funding have to meet certain program requirements.  These programs have to be governed by a body that includes representatives from the most vulnerable developing countries, protects local communities and indigenous peoples in areas that receive funding, and provides an annual report on the support activities.


The core components to assist the US in working with the world to address global warming are included in the discussion draft, unfortunately the bill does not provide dedicated funding to aid our international cooperation in the fight against climate change.  It does provide the important possibility of creating international funding by giving the President the discretion to set aside up to 5% of allowances for international actions if there is a strong international agreement, but this is uncertain.  Making this permanent would provide greater certainty to both the domestic and international community.

The lack of dedicated funding is unfortunate as providing a targeted investment in supporting developing countries was a pledge made by President Obama at the Copenhagen Climate Summit (as I discussed here and as my colleague discussed here) and proved critical in moving other countries towards international agreement.

This is not charity, these are strategic investments which create opportunities for the export of clean energy technologies abroad, create US jobs, build the necessary capacity to ensure the credibility of the deforestation offset system, protect farmers and ranchers here in the US, reduce the national security threats of undue impacts on countries, and assist in solving the global nature of the challenge (as I’ve discussed).  Or as President Obama put it:

“Providing this assistance is not only a humanitarian imperative – it's an investment in our common security” [emphasis added].

So let’s be sure that these critical investments are secured as the climate and energy bills move through the Senate and onto the President’s desk.


Jake Schmidt is the International Climate Policy Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council where he helps to develop the post-2012 international response to climate change (for more information see his blog or follow him on twitter).

May 12 2010


Now is the Time to Shift World Bank Resources to Clean Energy

The World Bank has just announced its intent to seek $86 billion for a general capital increase (the GCI) from its donor countries (see World Bank press release).  It is time for the World Bank to become a full part of the solution to global warming, not part of the problem and part of the solution at the same time. The World Bank needs to seize this opportunity to shift its energy investments to clean energy.  The US should only approve a contribution towards the Bank’s general capital increase if it secures a firm commitment to transition to clean energy.

With the request of a general capital increase from the Bank, individual donor countries will now need to agree to fund this increase and commit to provide specific amounts.  In the case of the U.S., the Treasury Department requests the funding, Congress would then need to authorize and ultimately approve a possible U.S. contribution.  We expect such a request in the coming weeks. 

World Bank is Not Doing Enough to Support Clean Energy Lending. With over $8.2 billion in energy investments around the world last year the World Bank has a significant influence on developing country energy investments.  In 2009, the World Bank estimates that 40% of its energy sector lending was in “low carbon energy”*—with energy efficiency and renewables** accounting for 21% and 17% respectively .  While the share of “low carbon energy” has increased in the past from only 17% in 2003, fossil fuels are still a large share of the Bank’s energy investments.  The Bank Information Center calculates that from 2007-2009 fossil fuels still made up over 48% of the World Bank’s energy lending, while 35% of their energy loans were for energy efficiency and renewables (excluding large hydro).

To put this energy investment in context, the total lending for energy efficiency and renewables** in 2009 was $3.1 billion and the recent coal-fired power plant approved by the World Bank for South Africa was $3 billion – so a single fossil project was the size of all of their energy efficiency and renewable investments in 2009.  While the South African’s proposed that they would come back to the Bank for a $1.25 billion loan for emissions reduction actions and they did package $260 million for renewable energy as a part of the Eskom loan, this combined energy efficiency and renewable energy package would amount to 33% of the total energy loan to South Africa – less than the modest 40% share that the Bank has achieved for its entire energy lending of late.

At the same time, the World Bank is working to position itself as a leader in providing clean sustainable energy to the poor.  As part of their mission to fight poverty they see a strong role for the Bank in helping deliver energy access for the 1.5 billion people that don’t have access to electricity.  Those are worthy objectives that we support.  But achieving this aim doesn’t have to be at the expense of putting those same populations at risk of severe impacts on their development which will come from global warming.

Commitments to Address Global Warming and Phase-Out Fossil Fuel Subsidies Must Shape Decisions on the GCI. Governments around the world must consider the general capital increase request in light of the Bank’s recent performance in the area of low carbon sustainable energy projects, the commitments made by world leaders to address global warming, and the commitment by the G20 to phase-out fossil fuel subsidies.  In light of the World Bank’s recent foray into lending for a South African coal-fired power plant, the Bank needs to do better on energy sector investments.  A point formally outlined in the US response to this loan.

Following from the Copenhagen Climate Summit over 120 governments formally associated with the Copenhagen Accord –committing to move to a global low carbon economy – and over 75 countries formally registered specific actions that they would take to reduce emissions.  These same countries are both the donors to and recipients of World Bank funding so this commitment should presumably guide their World Bank strategy.

And the 20 developed and developing countries that make up the G20 committed at their last Summit to: rationalize and phase out over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption (as I discussed here).  Continuing to subsidize fossil fuel projects through the World Bank or other multilateral development banks would go against such a commitment.

These are commitments and context which should not be taken lightly or ignored.

The general capital increase should not be approved without clear energy reforms from the Bank. When the Bank announced its request for the general capital increase it did mention climate change in its areas for strategic focus, but it didn’t address the call to condition capital increases in sustainable energy financing as urged by over 100 environmental, faith, women’s, indigenous and development organizations throughout the world, including the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In a statement these groups called for international financial institutions to stop using public resources to subsidize the fossil fuel industry. The statement said:

We call on governments to not support a general capital increase for any part of the World Bank Group unless the Bank Group ends support for all fossil fuel projects (other than assistance with transition such as mine closure) that do not have as their sole purpose energy access for the poor.  Fossil fuel projects that expand energy access for the poor should only be supported after a full examination of all costs–including damages to public health, welfare and the environment–of the project and any new renewable and efficiency alternatives demonstrates that they are the best alternative for delivering energy services to the poor.

Until such policies are approved, countries should direct funds requested by the Bank and other institutions for general capital increases to other financing mechanisms for supporting sustainable development, poverty reduction and clean energy.”

We need clear commitments (in writing and practice) that the World Bank is truly turning to clean energy investments. Right now the World Bank is developing an energy strategy, which will guide their future energy lending.  Until commitments to truly shift to clean energy are ensured, the US and other donors should withhold commitments to the World Bank’s general capital increase.

It is time for the World Bank to truly become a part of the solution to address global warming.

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council Switchboard.


This post was written with my colleague Heather Allen.

* Defined as new renewable energy, energy efficiency, and hydropower.


Jake Schmidt is the International Climate Policy Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council where he helps to develop the post-2012 international response to climate change (for more information see his blog or follow him on twitter).

March 11 2010


Where Do Things Stand on International Efforts to Address Global Warming?

It is almost 3 months after the Copenhagen Accord was hammered out by 28 of the world’s key countries that represent over 80% of the world’s global warming pollution and some of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change (as I discussed here).  Given the state of the Accord just after Copenhagen with some calling it a failure, some outlining the foundations in the Accord for international efforts (and as my colleague discussed here), and others…well not quite sure what to make of it, where do things stand on international efforts to address global warming?

If you just picked up the paper, watched TV, listened to the radio, or read blogs you might think that things aren’t really moving as there is very little coverage of international global warming discussions (especially compared to last year when every 5 seconds some news story or analysis emerged).  But that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening on the international front.  In fact, despite the lack of regular coverage, things are moving forward – albeit tentatively, behind the scenes, and without a big splash.  Here are four things that are occurring that are worth following.

Over 108 countries have “associated with” the Copenhagen Accord (as summarized here).* These countries account for over 80% of the emissions and 77% of the population of the world.  The last two major pieces fell into place when China and India formally “associated with the Accord” in the last 2 days (as my colleagues discussed here and as covered by the New York Times).  Basically these countries are saying: “we agree to international action on global warming and on the basis of the outlines agreed in the Accord”.  Of course many of these countries have urged for deeper action than outlined in the Accord, but by Associating with the Accord they are signaling that they want to proceed internationally to address global warming.

60 countries representing over 80% of the world’s emissions have formally recorded actions to reduce their global warming pollution (as I discussed here).  Many of these countries aren’t simply waiting for some future international meeting or for the final international agreement to implement specific policies and programs to reduce their pollution.  For example, as my colleagues have discussed, China and India have adopted new domestic policies since Copenhagen that will reduce their global warming pollution.  Brazil signed a bilateral agreement with the US (available here) and there are expectations that the US will sign another one with Indonesia when President Obama goes there March 20-22 (hopefully with concrete near term actions).

Key countries will begin to coordinate efforts to address deforestation emissions. Over 15% of the world’s global warming pollution comes from deforestation and forest degradation, so the Copenhagen Accord agreed: “on the need to provide positive incentives to such actions [that reduce deforestation and forest degradation]”.  Key countries including the US, Australia, Germany, and France agreed to contribute $3.5 billion over 3 years to “prompt start” efforts to reduce deforestation emissions.  It is critical to ensure that the flow of this early money goes to effective actions that reduce deforestation as every second a football field size of rainforest is lost (and it won’t return).  So instead of waiting for the next international negotiating session or greater clarity on how things proceed (and more loss of the tropical forests), a group of key developed countries and deforesting countries are meeting as we speak to begin efforts to better coordinate global efforts to combat deforestation.

High-level and influential set of policymakers will be discussing ways to generate sizeable funding to assist developing countries in deploying clean energy, reducing deforestation emissions, and adapting to the impacts of climate change.  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has created a High-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing to be chaired by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, with representatives including George Soros, Nick Stern, and Lawrence Summers.  The group is tentatively scheduled to meet March 29th and will provide an initial report to the May/June climate negotiating session and a final report to the climate meeting in Cancun, Mexico in December.  Let’s hope some politically possible and specific proposals emerge that can be adopted by key countries.

That is the positive momentum that has occurred post-Copenhagen.  But of course not everything is all good news. The World Bank is still funding things that are taking us in the wrong direction by proposing to finance a coal plant in South Africa that isn’t capturing its carbon (and doesn’t put in place a real plan to capture it’s carbon in the future), and is barely investing in renewables and doesn’t have a real energy efficiency investment as a part of this proposal. Indonesia is proposing to classify its palm forests as “forests” in order to access money that is supposed to be set aside for deforestation reduction efforts – not exactly the aim of that funding as it is supposed to support things that are slowing deforestation, not actions that deforested rainforests in the first place.  Critical actions by the US gained a little momentum when President Obama met with key Senators and made clear his support for a comprehensive climate and energy bill this year, but uncertainty about US action still clouds international prospects (let alone holding back the needed investments in job creation, energy independence, and clean energy technology leadership).


So there is some uncertainty about how things proceed. In many respects that is only natural as the Summit in Copenhagen wasn’t your normal climate negotiations and the process after the Summit was left unclear.  So the world spent a couple of months sorting out what was achieved, how the Copenhagen Accord was to proceed, and what are the next steps for the UN climate negotiations.  But while that “sorting” was occurring, things proceeded and countries moved forward with actions to reduce their emissions (with some hiccups along the way).

The expectations for the climate meeting in Cancun, Mexico this December appear to be focused not on agreeing to the final treaty (as the European Commission just outlined is likely), but rather to making concrete progress to implement the actions that countries committed to reduce their emissions, the finance that is to be deployed in the near- and medium-term, the rules for the “transparency” provisions agreed in the Accord, and the guidelines for efforts to solve the loss of tropical rainforests.  Those actions are critical and countries have made it clear that they want those things to proceed, even while they sort out exactly how things will progress this year.

Now is not the time to sit in a holding pattern and wait for exact clarity on how things proceed.  We must plug ahead and implement key actions that will put the world closer to solving this critical challenge.


* This includes countries that have formally sent letters to the UNFCCC signaling their desire to be “associated with the Accord” and those that have submitted emissions reduction actions but may not have not clarified in their submission that they want to be “associated”.  All values based upon data from the World Resources Institute Climate Analysis Indicator Tool.  Emissions from 2005 and include deforestation; population data from 2006.


Jake Schmidt is the International Climate Policy Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council

February 17 2010


80% of the World’s Emissions are Taking Steps to Curb Their Global Warming Pollution

As I mentioned here by the end of January countries were to register their actions to reduce global warming pollution as agreed under the Copenhagen Accord.  And by deadline countries accounting for over 80% of the world’s global warming pollution (and a bit more) have registered their actions to reduce their pollution.  So what does this all mean?

The Natural Resources Defense Council has pulled together a little summary table which shows the commitments from all the countries*.  A total of 60** countries have outlined commitments to take steps to reduce their global warming pollution. These include all the top 12 emitting countries, all the countries in the BASIC negotiating group (Brazil, South Africa, India, and China), all the current members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (with the exception of Chile that just joined, but who is taking steps as my colleague discussed here), and 12 of the top 15 countries in terms of economic output (by gross domestic product).

These countries are the “big players” which almost single-handedly hold the key to solving global warming.  The steps they take are critical.  So let me repeat: countries representing over 80% of the world’s emissions have just committed to steps to reduce their global warming pollution. As I’ve discussed on my NRDC blog, this is a huge shift from where we were just 2 years ago (and even 6 months ago).  That is something to build upon since the key to solving global warming is whether or not key countries are committing to take action, implementing policies and programs to achieve those commitments, and whether those actions are actually reducing emissions (as I discussed in this ClimateWire/NY Times article).

This focus on ACTION is one of the reasons that we created a new website to track the actions that countries commit to and their policies/programs to achieve those commitments (see Tracking National Commitments to Curb Global Warming).

So how do the actions of these countries stack up against global efforts to hold temperatures to less than 2°C (3.6°F) – the goal agreed in the Copenhagen Accord? There have been a couple of recent analyses which provide some insight.  Their conclusions range from: “we are within reach” to “we are headed way off track” – as I’ll discuss below (and as my colleague discussed right after Copenhagen).

“We are within reach”
An analysis by the Peterson Institute (and reported about at DotEarth) concluded that: “if countries follow through on their pledges and follow on with more aggressive action, it looks like keeping global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius is still within reach.”  A report by Sir Nick Stern of the proposed pledges prior to Copenhagen found that: “if delivered, [they] constitute a big step towards a path consistent with the 2°C goal”, but there was still a gap in 2020.

“We are headed way off track”
An analysis by a coalition of research institutes called Climate Action Tracker concluded that: “the current pledges leave the world heading for a global warming of over 3°C above pre-industrial levels”.  A study by the Climate Interactive team similarly found that we are more likely headed for an above 3°C world as they concluded that: the current pledges “if fully implemented, would allow global mean temperature to increase approximately 3.9°C (7.0°F)”.  And another analysis by Project Catalyst of the pledges on the table prior to Copenhagen found that: “Copenhagen must lock-in commitments at or above the high end of the current proposal range in order to preserve the possibility of limiting warming to 2°C”, but there was still a big gap in 2020.  They also concluded that: “The low-end of the proposal range would risk permanently losing the opportunity to limit warming to 2°C and exposing the world to unacceptable climate risks”.

A bit confused how the same proposals to cut emissions can result in different conclusions on the impact of those emissions reductions for solving global warming? Think of it this way: for every ton of global warming pollution that you don’t reduce now you have to reduce later, since it is essentially about how much cumulative emissions the world emits.***  So these different studies draw different conclusions largely because they assume different rates that the world can reduce emissions after 2020 (the date when most of the targets were defined).  This is because they have different assumptions about: how fast technology can be developed and deployed (e.g., if you don’t drive innovation now, you won’t have the necessary technologies in the future), the political will to undertake aggressive actions in the future (e.g., future politicians will never put in place the necessary policies to embark on that rate of change), etc.

What does this all mean? Do we throw in our towel and give up or do we celebrate as we are on the necessary path.  The answer is neither, so we must:

  1. Find ways to ensure that countries meet (or exceed) their stated commitments. The atmosphere doesn’t look favorably on pledges that aren’t met (nor should we) so we must encourage, nudge, etc. countries to live up their commitments.  This means that countries will need to effectively implement policies and programs in their domestic law that reduce emissions and it means “giving life” to the transparency and accountability provisions that were agreed as a part of Copenhagen (that I discussed here).
  2. Keep at it. If you thought that solving global warming was going to be achieved in one meeting or one year, you were following the wrong issue.  Solving global warming will require the dedicated focus over a sustained period of time.  And that effort will have to get more aggressive over time as I highlight in point #3.
  3. Change the politics and prove that it can be done. Right now the current global warming politics is stuck between those that say that this can be done and those that say that it will destroy the economy (or in developing countries, it will stymie efforts to pull millions of people out of poverty).  Of course, we know in the U.S. from independent analysis that meeting the reduction goals is cost-effective (see here and here), will create more jobs (see here), will achieve other important objectives like reducing dependence on foreign oil (see here).  And we are seeing some developing countries pulling millions out of poverty while still implementing serious efforts to reduce their pollution.  So it can be done.  But to change the politics we need to prove that it can be done by actually doing it across the world, which is why we need to get started.  That is the typical history of environmental regulation – we get started, we find out that it can be done without destroying the economy (despite claims to the contrary), and this allows us to make it tougher over time.

So, we must lock-in the emissions reduction actions that we have, ensure that they are met, and make them tougher over time.

* The compilation of country submissions was greatly aided by our intern Lovelyn Nwarueze and our program assistant Carolina Herrera.

** I've updated this tally to breakout the 27 countries of the EU.

***That is an overly simple way of describing the challenge as there are important feedbacks which might be triggered if we exceed certain thresholds, but it helps to simply the differences in the conclusions of these studies.


Jake Schmidt is the International Climate Policy Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council

February 02 2010


Copenhagen Accord = Climate Action

In December 2009, more than 120 Heads of Government attended the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit, the largest meeting of world leaders in history (the previous largest one was the funeral of the Pope according to Wikipedia).  Many of the leaders came to Copenhagen with new commitments to actions on global warming pollution (as I discussed here and here).  Under the Accord, all of the big emitters are expected to record their commitments officially by January 31st, 2010 (in Appendix I and Appendix II).

Countries used to say: “we’ll act if you act”.  Coming out of Copenhagen they are saying: “we’ll all act together”.  So at the end of January, where are we towards those commitments?

Presidents and Prime Ministers from more than two dozen key countries that represent more than 80 percent of the world’s global warming pollution hammered out the Copenhagen Accord (as you can see in this table).  So actions by these countries to reduce their emissions will be critical to solving global warming.

While the Accord didn’t accomplish all that we will ultimately need to address global warming, the Copenhagen Accord made progress on one of the key foundations for international efforts — ACTIONS BY KEY COUNTRIES TO REDUCE THEIR GLOBAL WARMING POLLUTION (as I discussed here, my colleague discussed here, and NRDC’s President discussed here).

NRDC will be tracking the commitments that countries outline to reduce their emissions.  We will also follow the steps taken to implement these commitments — the laws, policies, programs, etc — and countries progress towards those commitments.  And we’ll be tracking the support that is provided to assist developing countries in deploying clean energy, reducing deforestation emissions, and adapting to the impacts of global warming.  So please follow progress on our new webpage and help us go From the Copenhagen Accord to Climate Action: Tracking National Commitments to Curb Global Warming.

We are at the end of January — the timeframe established in the Accord for countries to register their emissions reduction actions.  So let’s look at what key countries have registered as their actions towards reducing their global warming pollution.

United States — reduce emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, 42 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, and 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050 and ultimately in line with the energy and climate legislation passed by Congress.  See David Doniger’s post for more details on the US.

China — reduce emissions per unit of GDP of 40 to 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and a commitment to increasing energy from non-fossil fuels to supply 15 percent of China's primary energy consumption by 2020. Also committed to increase forest cover by 40 million hectares by 2020 and increase forest stock volume 1.3 billion cubic meters above 2005 levels by 2020.  See my colleague Barbara Finamore’s post for more details on the actions in China.

India — reduce emissions per unit of GDP of 20 to 25 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. To meet and exceed this goal, India is increasing fuel efficiency standards by 2011; adopting building energy codes by 2012; increasing forest cover to sequester 10 percent of India's annual emissions in their forests; increasing the fraction of India's electricity derived from wind, solar, and small hydro to 20 percent in 2020 (from the current level of 8 percent).  My colleague Anjali Jaiswal’s will post for more details on the actions in India.

Brazil — reduce emissions growth by 36 to 39 percent below business-as-usual levels by 2020 — a level estimated to bring down Brazil’s emissions to 1994 levels. Brazil also pledged to cut deforestation by 80 percent from historic levels by 2020 (as I’ve discussed here).

European Union — reduce emissions to 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and would increase their commitment to 30 percent if other countries commit to ambitious efforts.

South Africa — reduce emissions growth 34 to 42 percent below business-as-usual levels by 2020 with finance, technology, and capacity-building support from the developed world.  See my previous post on South Africa for more details.

Mexico — reduce emissions 50 percent below 2002 levels by 2050 and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50 million tons per year starting in 2012 with its own means and funds.

Indonesia — reduce emissions by 26 percent by 2020 from business-as-usual levels and by as much as 41 percent with international support.  See my previous post for more on Indonesia.

South Korea — reduce emissions to 30 percent below projected levels by 2020, which equates to a target of approximately 4 percent below 2005 levels.  See my previous post for more context on South Korea’s actions.

Some of these commitments are being conveyed to the U.N. as “voluntary commitments”.  And I’m sure some will say, “we’ll those aren’t meaningful since the country isn’t saying that they’ll definitely do it”.  But these countries are actually putting in place laws, regulations, and programs in their domestic context to actually meet these objectives.  That is important as that is where the rubber meets the road.  And with the agreement on transparency in the Copenhagen Accord (as I discussed here) we’ll actually have regular mechanisms to evaluate the progress of countries towards their commitments.

These commitments are not enough to curb global warming, but they could be the first steps on a new pathway to real progress in reducing emissions and moving to a global low-carbon economy.  They signal a real willingness of countries to move past words and to concrete actions to curb their global warming pollution.

So now is the time to move past words and to action.  As the international efforts continue, let’s continue to focus on the actions that countries take to reduce their global warming pollution – after all that is what will actually solve global warming.  I hope you’ll help us keep track and make sure that the Copenhagen Accord leads to climate action.

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