• Home

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

G20 Outcomes

So now that everything is back to normal, what did the G20 actually accomplish and what did it not (from the Green perspective)?


1. Replacing G7/8 with the G20
Since 1975, the Group of 7 richest countries in the world has met to discuss the fate of the world. The less rich countries and the emerging nations have long been ired at this totalitarian governance. The first G20 occurred in November of 2008 in Washington, DC. It is a much more inclusive group representing both developing and developed nations. The heads of state have decided that this group in addition to being more representative is also better. Win for all. As I blogged about earlier, many of these developing nations are very serious about addressing climate change.

2. Fossil Fuel subsidies to be eliminated... sometime
The heads of the G20 have committed to eliminating fossil fuels. It's great to see a unanimous front on this issue. It's a joke to claim that clean energy is a goal while giving developing countries incentive to use dirty energy. Unfortunately, the process of eliminating the subsidies still needs to be ironed out and will take many studies both here and abroad to even figure out the many ways fossil fuels are subsidized in developing countries.

Not Done:

1. No firm footing on subsidies for developing nations to invest in clean energy.

In July, United States President Barack Obama asked the G20 finance ministers to take up climate financing issues and report back at the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh. The ball was dropped and no clear plan emerged from the finance ministers. The number one argument by developing nations against Climate Change action is that they are being affected by climate change already but are neither causing it nor prepared financially to respond to it. It is imperative that if the richest nations (and most carbon-producing nations) in the world want to address the issue of climate change that they start by reaching into their pockets.

What's Next?

1. G20 meets in November in Scotland
The finance ministers are to report back at the next G20 meeting. Hopefully with more solid ground.

2. The last meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is in December in Copenhagen
This group has been charged with having an environmental treaty in place to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012. If financing is not in place by then, many people believe that a new treaty will not be viable. The United States was conspicuously absent from the Kyoto Protocol agreement. Hopefully, we will not have a repeat of that.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Paul Krugman: "This truth is just too inconvenient"

Paul Krugman says that some of the doom and gloom scenarios of global climate change may only be years away from affecting the Southwestern United States. If this is true, then why isn't climate change the dominant public policy issue here in the US? In one paragraph Krugman sums up why we can't seem to take big steps towards curbing greenhouse gas emissions and global warming:

But the larger reason we’re ignoring climate change is that Al Gore was right: This truth is just too inconvenient. Responding to climate change with the vigor that the threat deserves would not, contrary to legend, be devastating for the economy as a whole. But it would shuffle the economic deck, hurting some powerful vested interests even as it created new economic opportunities. And the industries of the past have armies of lobbyists in place right now; the industries of the future don’t.

I hope climate change skeptics and even the deniers take a few minutes to read the rest of Mr. Krugman's column on the climate change crisis.

Rendell On Green

On Friday, I had the opportunity to listen to Pennsylvania Governor Rendell talk about Pennsylvania's green initiatives. The governor addressed the bloggers and NGO representatives stationed at the August Wilson Center during the G20.

He highly touted the state's economic investments in green technology companies from wind giant Gamesa to electric car manufacturer CT&T. These companies and others have generated 9,000 new jobs in Pennsylvania since Rendell has been Governor. The recurring theme in the August Wilson Center this weekend was that strong action would lead to great results. Governor Rendell himself said that investing in green technologies was a great way to create new jobs, keep money in Pennsylvania, and even maintain national security by not spending money on foreign oil. He feels that part of the reason Pennsylvania has withstood this recent recession so well is the number of green jobs in the state. As of 2007, Pennsylvania ranked 3rd in the country for green jobs, only trailing California and Texas - states with a 3x and 2x higher population respectively.

Yet Governor Rendell is still hanging onto the oxymoron of "Clean Coal." This technology may be feasible in 50 years, but "clean coal" is not going to help us now. Now, as Rendell's co-speaker Dr Kumi Naidoo, chair of the the Global Campaign for Climate Action, we are in a global crisis, and we need to focus on the proven alternative energy technologies. Through research right here at CMU, we have seen major breakthroughs in solar technology. Given as much money as would be necessary for "clean coal," it's hard to imagine there would be any hurdles to using a combination of solar and wind sources for all our power. The sun and the climate are precious commodities and tremendous assets. We must value them and use them.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Climate War

What do Brazil, Mexico, China, India, and South Africa have in common? They're all developing countries meeting in Pittsburgh this week that have plans for addressing their emissions and dealing with Climate Change.

Brazil's President Lula has committed to reducing deforestation by 80% and reduce carbon emissions by 4.8 billion tons by 2020. Considering that deforestation contributes to more than 70% of Brazil's emissions and they are the 4th largest contributor to the 20% of greenhouse gas emissions globally caused by deforestation, this would be a major coup for reducing Greenhouse gases globally. They could also lead the way for countries like Indonesia.

In June, "Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon announced that Mexico will voluntarily cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 million tons a year by 2012 through the use of more efficient cars and power plants as well as reductions in gas leaks and flaring by the oil industry, reports Reuters. The cut represents approximately 8 percent of the country’s emissions, according to the environment ministry." Mexico is also taking a leadership position in the global effort. The country is a member of the "Environmental Integrity Group." The county has also brought forth proposals such as a "Green Fund" to help developing nations in a measurable fashion.

Earlier this week, Chinese President Hu Jintao committed to reducing its carbon emissions by a "notable margin" by 2020. Unfortunately, the President stopped short of giving hard measurable numbers. As the largest emitter of carbon emissions (immediately followed by yours truly), any commitment is crucial.

India is the country at the summit with the highest poverty level. Yet even they are moving forward on voluntary emissions reduction. They are adamant in their insistence that the more developed countries also commit to reducing emissions by 2020.

South Africa
"President Jacob Zuma said the world needs to act now to ensure there is a global agreement on the critical challenge." They, like many other developing countries, are directly feeling the effects of Climate Change and are realizing that if we do not act soon globally, the ramifications will be much further reaching than the temperature. Climate Change indirectly affects agricultural supplies, housing, and more through increased rate of natural disasters and more extreme weather patterns.

In July of this year, President Obama requested the G20 finance ministers to come up with a plan for helping to support the developing countries of the world in addressing the issue of Climate Change. If the ministers can come up with an agreed-upon plan to, then in December in Copenhagen, we may have grounds to come up with an true international plan.

And hopefully the United States will continue to step up in the meantime. The recurring theme here is one of getting and maintaining energy for real climate progress. Let's enter a "Climate War" with China where we're each fighting to generate less carbon emissions. That would be a war everyone wins.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

On The G20 Edge

Technically, the G20 is intended to deal with the finances of the world. However, finances affect many humanitarian causes and it seems like everyone wants a piece of the pie. Greenpeace has been the loudest so far, unfurling a banner off the edge of the West End Bridge to advertise their cause. But causes from Africa's poverty to Climate Change to Burmese monks are marching in the streets and getting our attention.

In particular, Climate Change is making headlines. According to the Post-Gazette, yesterday at the University of Pittsburgh, "the president of the European Commission of the European Union, called for greater cooperation between Europe and the United States in reforming financial markets and combating climate change."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The G20 and Climate Change

Greenpeace activists kick off the G20 in Pittsburgh with a cool stunt and a message to world leaders:

The PG posted some video of the bridge stunt

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Welcome to the Neighborhood

A big friendly Pittsburgh welcome goes out to EverPower who opened their Mid-Atlantic headquarters in Lawrenceville this week. The company is starting with a modest 6 employees in the region, but expects to expand that (along with its wind projects) to 35 employees in the next 18 months.

In an interview, Mr. Spencer [EverPower's CEO] said Pittsburgh first came under consideration as an office location simply because of geography. The city was almost dead center of both existing and planned projects in Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania. "Pittsburgh is closer to our western New York projects than our Manhattan office," he said.

We tend to think of Pittsburgh as isolated, but it's a very accessible city bridging the East Coast and the Midwest. Let's continue to take advantage of that. It would be a lovely sight to see windmills lining our rural highways all the way from New York City to Chicago.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Look Up

Next time you're in the South Side, don't forget to look up. There are 40 different energy efficient street light styles being tested out in that neighborhood.

The Mayor's office is requesting feedback from interested parties. Email them at streetlight@city.pittsburgh.pa.us to show your preference. The test lights will be in use until February 2010, after which point a decision will be made and the winner will have their street lights installed throughout the city. Ultimately, this process will save the city over $1 Million annually.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Van Jones resigns from his post as White House adviser

Van Jones, founder of Green for All and the leading voice of the green jobs movement, has stepped down from his post as White House environmental adviser. Jones was seen as the President's "Green Jobs Czar" and his views on the environmental movement, his past as a political activist, and the partisan attacks (a while back he was taped referring to Republicans as "assholes") have led to cries for his resignation. Jones, realizing that falling on his sword made more sense since it would be less of a distraction than trying to combat the distortions and smears, said, in his statement, that "I came here to fight for others, not for myself."

Here are the facts related to the right wing media attacks on Jones's character:

1. Van Jones was among the many who were arrested in San Francisco for protesting during the aftermath of the Rodney King verdict in 1992. Jones was a law student at Yale at the time and was working for the San Fran based Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, and was monitoring the demonstrations at the time he was arrested.
2. Later that same year Jones said he became a "communist." He was a leftist activist for the next several years but upon realizing that their cause resulted in little or no progress he came around to the idea of capitalism, saying that he "...realized that there are a lot of people who are capitalists....who are really committed to fairly significant change in the economy, and were having bigger impacts than me and a lot of my friends with our protest signs" The full story on Jone's political past can be found in this Bay Area newspaper story.
3. Jones referred to Republicans as "assholes." It seemed like he was trying to be funny, because he even admitted the too could sometimes be an asshole, and that sometimes you have to be an asshole to pass legislation. Jones said this on 2/11/2009, prior to his being named to his post as White House adviser.
4. Jones spoke out about the role of race in environmental issues an decisions. Here he is talking about how white polluters, in the form of big business CEOs have "steered poison" into colored peoples' neighborhoods.

So basically, the far right didn't want a guy with a radical past and history of speaking the truth of the role of race in the environmental movement working closely with the President and his administration. Fair enough, and I think the Obama administration should have known better than to hire someone with Jones' background, because it plays into the right's hand and their argument that Obama "surrounds himself with radicals", although, up until this point, their accusations have turned out to be wrong.

I doubt Van Jones is going to lose sleep over resigning. Part of what makes Van Jones the leader that he is today is his radical roots, and his willingness to speak bluntly about the environmental and green jobs divide. As Al Gore has proven, someone with the drive of a Van Jones can probably do more for their cause working outside of government than they could from within.

UPDATE: This editorial from the San Fran Chronicle pretty much sums up what I posted above, but I wanted to highlight the following paragraph:

"Those of us who have observed Van Jones' work over the years know him as a dedicated activist whose once polemic and confrontational style on matters such as police misconduct has been redirected and transformed into a more polished and inclusive advocacy of the environment. In the politics of the San Francisco Bay Area, a fiery radical past is almost a rite of passage."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Congrats to Bike-PGH

Yesterday, Bike-PGH and their partners in biking scored a minor victory in the battle for bicycle commuting.

"The city planning commission yesterday approved requiring bicycle parking at commercial developments of more than 6,000 square feet and residential developments of more than 12 units."

This is on top of the recent successful initiatives of Car-Free Fridays and ever more bike markings on traffic roads. Additionally, according to twitter, Bike-PGH is partnering with the city on a small business bike rack program. Congratulations to Bike-PGH for making a difference in the biking situation in the city of Pittsburgh.