US-China Sign Major Climate Pact, then John Kerry Slams Deniers

by Guest Contributor Sophie Vorrath.

Originally published on RenewEconomy.

As Australia’s political leaders shift firmly into reverse on climate change, China and the US have jointly reaffirmed their commitment to contribute significantly to global efforts to meet the climate challenge.

“In light of the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change and its worsening impacts, and the related issue of air pollution from burning fossil fuels, the United States and China recognise the urgent need for action to meet these twin challenges,” the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters said in a joint statement.

The statement, issued by US Secretary of State John Kerry at the end of his Beijing visit on Saturday, committed the two countries to “collaborate through enhanced policy dialogue, including the sharing of information regarding their respective post-2020 plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions,” and to “devote significant effort and resources to secure concrete results,” by the Sixth US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue later this year.

The two sides have also reached agreement on the implementation plans for the five initiatives launched under the CCWG, including vehicle emission reductions, smart grids, carbon capture and storage, emissions data collection, and energy efficiency.

It’s a far cry from the political mood in Australia, where the climate focus is on scrapping the carbon price, winding back renewable energy targets, and on coal, coal and more coal.

On the bright side, it is perhaps thanks to countries like ours that Kerry – who announced earlier this month he was serving his last term in US politics – has embarked on a climate mission, or “climate blitz” as it has been dubbed, which he kicked off in Jakarta on Sunday with the first speech in a series that will urge the international community and world leaders to fall in line on climate.

And what a speech it was, describing climate change as one of the top global security threats, and pillorying those who deny the science behind it:

When I think about the array of global climate – of global threats – think about this: terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – all challenges that know no borders – the reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them.

“…The science of climate change is leaping out at us like a scene from a 3D movie. It’s warning us; it’s compelling us to act. And let there be no doubt in anybody’s mind that the science is absolutely certain.

“We need to move on this, and we need to move together now. …We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific fact. Nor should we allow any room for those who think that the costs associated with doing the right thing outweigh the benefits.  …We certainly should not allow more time to be wasted by those who want to sit around debating whose responsibility it is to deal with this threat, while we come closer and closer to the point of no return.”

According to reports, Kerry chose Indonesia to start the blitz because the archipelago of more than 17,000 islands is particularly at risk from rising sea levels.

“Because of climate change, it’s no secret that today Indonesia is… one of the most vulnerable countries on Earth,” Kerry told the audience a high-tech US-funded cultural centre at a Jakarta mall.

“If we truly want to prevent the worst consequences of climate change from happening, we do not have time to have a debate about whose responsibility this is,” he said.

“The answer is pretty simple: It’s everyone’s responsibility. Now certainly some countries – and I will say this very clearly, some countries, including the United States, contribute more to the problem and therefore we have an obligation to contribute more to the solution. I agree with that. But, ultimately, every nation on Earth has a responsibility to do its part if we have any hope of leaving our future generations the safe and healthy planet that they deserve.”

The US-China climate pact, and Kerry’s strongly worded Indonesia speech, follow a joint US-France statement on climate action, in the form of an op-ed co-authored by Presidents Barack Obama and Francois Hollande.

Published last week in the Washington Post, the piece talked of expanding the two countries’ clean energy partnership, moving toward low-carbon growth, and doing more to help developing countries shift to low-carbon energy.

“As we work toward next year’s climate conference in Paris, we continue to urge all nations to join us in pursuit of an ambitious and inclusive global agreement that reduces greenhouse gas emissions through concrete actions,” the article said.

“The climate summit organised by the UN secretary general this September will give us the opportunity to reaffirm our ambitions for the climate conference in Paris.”

Paris will host the 21st Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP 21) in December 2015, which will provide the architecture for post-2020 emission cuts. It is expected to yield decisive results.

Amid all this joint reaffirming of climate ambition, the silence from down under is deafening. As can be seen in the charts below, Australia currently exists in a league of its own, leading the backwards-looking climate laggards among the developed nations.

As HSBC climate analyst Zoe Knight notes, “chart 1 shows that for some countries, emissions are still on the rise and that the rate of carbon intensity improvement is declining. While table 1 shows that the reality is not aligned with countries’ reduction pledges.”

Meanwhile, in Canberra…

This article, Kerry Slams Global Warming Deniers After US–China Pact, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

74% Of Voters Back EPA Power Plant Emissions Regulation

by Silvio Marcacci

LCV EPA regulations poll results
EPA regulations poll results chart via LCV/Huffington Post

Fighting emissions regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency must be a winning national electoral issue, right? Otherwise why would so many politicians fight so hard to allow power plants to keep spewing pollution into the air?

Um, not so much. An overwhelming majority of voters in swing states across the country support EPA action to limit the amount of carbon power plants can emit, according to a new survey from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV).

By wide margins, voters in 11 states considered in play for 2014 Senate elections not only support emissions regulation, but trust EPA to administer the policy and say they’re less likely to vote for candidates who either oppose EPA’s proposal or deny climate change.

Wide Support For EPA Across State & Party Lines

74% of voters support EPA’s proposals to limit power plant emissions. That support cuts across states Barack Obama (73%) and Mitt Romney (73%) as well as party identification for Democrats (92%), independents (72%), and Republicans (58%). “The anti-environmental message is a losing argument with the American people,” blogged Gene Karpinski, LCV President.

The LCV poll derived these findings from telephone interviews on October 9-13 with 1,113 likely voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Virginia.

It’s also probably not surprising to learn the public wants EPA to regulate emissions, not Congress. At the height of the government shutdown, voters preferred EPA regulation to Congressional action by a 5-to-1 margin, 66% to 12%

Anti-EPA Stance & Climate Denial Cost Votes

In fact, EPA opposition may actually turn out to be a harmful policy position for 2014 candidates. Nearly half (48%) of all voters said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who opposed emissions regulation, while only 17% said they’d be more likely to vote for that candidate. By comparison, 44% of voters said they’d be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported power plant emissions regulations by EPA.

When presented with both sides of the argument (war on coal, higher electricity prices, and job killer were used against regulation while climate change, public health, and protecting the planet were used for regulation), 64% of voters said they wanted their senator to support EPA’s proposal.

Those same trends translate to voter perceptions about the threat of climate change. 65% of voters say climate change is a serious problem nationwide, and surprisingly say so at a higher rate in Romney states (67%) compared to Obama states (64%).

And if candidates deny climate change, they may be shooting their campaigns in the foot. 63% of voters said hearing their Senate candidate deny climate change would make them view the candidate less favorably than one recognizing basic science.

Pro-Climate Trends Taking Shape One Year Out

Election Day 2014 could be a major turning point for clean energy and climate policy – if Republicans keep the House of Representatives and take control of the Senate, action would grind to a halt for the rest of Obama’s term. However, if Democrats cut into the GOP’s House majority and hold the Senate, Obama could cement his progressive legacy by pushing through renewables support and emissions reduction goals.

LCV’s latest survey tracks with a bipartisan poll from July 2013 that found young voters “intensely supportive” of action to fight climate change, and willing to punish those who ignore the problem. Now that those trends are showing up across the wider US population, on broader policy fronts, it might just be time to scrap that climate-denier, anti-EPA playbook.

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This article, 74% Of Voters Back EPA Power Plant Emissions Regulation, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio Marcacci Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

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How Change Manifests, How Action To Stop Global Warming Must Come About

by Cynthia Shahan

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earth globe
Image Credit: Grassy Earth via Shutterstock

There is just something about brevity. A recent episode of David Biello’s Scientific American podcast Sixty Second Earth cuts to the chase of how change manifests, and how to most effectively tackle the global warming crisis: by local action. Here’s a transcript of part of the Sixty Second Earth podcast:

It’s obvious. Global efforts to combat climate change have failed. International summits are full of hot air and greenhouse gas pollution continues to rise. If a country bails on a climate commitment, they pay a price of, well, zero.

Turns out that’s okay, at least according to game theory analyses by researchers at the University of Lisbon. Their models suggest that punishment by global institutions has no effect. They also say that global summits actually impede cooperation.

Now, in a new report, the researchers suggest that if punishment starts getting handed out at the local level, say city governments, what emerges is a much more cooperative global regime for combating climate change.

Interestingly, though, the local actors must be stimulated by an understanding that global warming means catastrophe… big time. Thus, the remarkable bottom line to change is essentially an old bumper sticker tagline (link added):

Nevertheless, the math of how people play games suggests that successfully curbing carbon pollution will rely on the old adage: think globally… act locally.

The journal Nature Climate Change describes how that proverbial pond inspires change with many ripples from within — it is the rippling of change (link added):

We show that a bottom-up approach, in which parties create local institutions that punish free-riders, promotes the emergence of widespread cooperation, mostly when risk perception is low, as it is at present3, 7. On the contrary, global institutions provide, at best, marginal improvements regarding overall cooperation. Our results clearly suggest that a polycentric approach involving multiple institutions is more effective than that associated with a single, global one, indicating that such a bottom-up, self-organization approach, set up at a local scale, provides a better ground on which to attempt a solution for such a complex and global dilemma.

Another international climate conference is coming up, this one being held in Poland. There isn’t much optimism regarding what is to come out of this, and it seems there’s no reason for optimism. What is needed is a stronger focus on creating action on the local level. What is needed is an emphasis on communicating the great risks and costs that come with global warming, while showing people local solutions that they can implement in their cities. People are starting to realize this, but the message needs to get out to more and more of us, especially the ones who are motivated and assertive enough to push for meaningful change.

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This article, How Change Manifests, How Action To Stop Global Warming Must Come About, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Cynthia Shahan is an Organic Farmer, Classical Homeopath, Art Teacher, Creative Writer, Anthropologist, Natural Medicine Activist, Journalist, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings who have lit the way for me for decades.