Tag Archives: Greenhouse gas emissions

Paris climate talks: Developed countries must do more than reduce emissions

Repost from The Guardian
[Editor:  An important discussion of “survival emissions” in developing nations vs. “lifestyle emissions” in industrial nations.  – RS]

Paris climate talks: Developed countries must do more than reduce emissions

By Shyam Saran, 23 November 2015 05.35 EST  –  Saran is a former foreign secretary of India. He was India’s chief negotiator on climate change from 2007 to 2010
Preparations for the upcoming COP21 climate summit t Le Bourget, near Paris, France
Preparations for the upcoming COP21 climate summit t Le Bourget, near Paris, France. Photograph: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

We are only days away from the climate change summit in Paris. Several world leaders are likely to be present to applaud a successful outcome, which is virtually guaranteed since the bar has been set so low in terms of effort expected from the major industrialized economies.

Under the UN process which the negotiations have been taking place, countries are required only to present their climate pledges (known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs, which are voluntary and subject to an international review but with no strict compliance procedure.

It is this pledge and review system which will become the template for future climate change action. Past experience shows that such weak international regimes, which posit only a best endeavour commitment, rarely deliver expected results.

The UN recently reported that aggregating all the INDCs so far, the world would be on an a trajectory of 2.7C, when a 2C rise is already the limit of safety defined by scientists.

What many people fail to realize is that global warming is the consequence of the stock of greenhouse gas emissions, chiefly CO2, which has accumulated in the Earth’s atmosphere as a result of fossil fuel based industrial activity in the industrialized countries of the world.

This is the reason why the UN recognizes the historical responsibility of the developed countries in causing global warming even though current industrial activity in major developing countries such as China and, to a much lesser extent, India is adding incrementally to that stock.

If developed countries do not make significant and absolute reductions in their emissions there will be a progressively smaller carbon space available to accommodate the development needs of developing countries. There is a difference between the emissions of developing countries which are “survival” emissions and those of developed countries which are in the nature of “lifestyle” emissions. They do not belong to the same category and cannot be treated on a par.

To blur this distinction is to accept the argument that because “we got here first, so we get to keep what we have, while those who come later must stay where they are for the sake of the saving the planet from the threat of climate change.” Far from accepting their historical responsibility developed countries are instead trying to shift the burden on to the shoulders of developing countries.

This they have been doing by keeping attention focused on current emissions while ignoring the source of the stock of emissions in the atmosphere. A sustainable and effective climate change regime cannot be built on the basis of such inequity.

A coal-fired power plant near residential property in Badarpur, Delhi, India
Emissions billow from smokestacks at a coal-fired power plant near residential property in Badarpur, Delhi, India. Photograph: Kuni Takahashi / Bloomberg / Getty Images

One often hears the argument that it is all very well to preach equity but given the planetary emergency the world faces from the threat of climate change we must set aside the equity principle in the interests of humanity as a whole. This is a wholly specious and self serving argument. It reflects the sense of entitlement to an affluent lifestyle, based on energy intensive production and consumption, while denying the even modest aspirations of people in developing countries.

In a densely interconnected and globalised world, it will be impossible to maintain islands of prosperity in an ocean of poverty and deprivation. It is not that developing countries are claiming the right to spew as much carbon as possible into the atmosphere without regard to the health of the planet.

As the main victims of climate change– the impacts of which they are already suffering – they have a much bigger stake in dealing with this challenge. They are, in fact, doing much more than most developed countries, to adopt energy frugal methods of growth, conserving energy, promoting renewable power and limiting waste within the limits of their own resources.

They could do much more if they had access to finance, technology and capacity building from developed countries, a commitment which is incorporated in the UN. Success may elude Paris if developed countries continue to evade their responsibility to provide adequate financial resources and transfer appropriate technologies to developing countries to enable them to enhance their own domestic efforts.

Climate negotiations have become less about meeting an elemental challenge to human survival and more about safeguarding narrowly conceived economic self interests of nations. These are negotiations conducted in a competitive frame, where each party gives as little as possible and extracts as much as possible. The inevitable result is a least common denominator result and this is what is expected at Paris.

Imagine if each country came with the intention to contribute as much as it can and take away as little benefit to itself as possible, because we are all faced with an urgent and global challenge. We would then get a maximal outcome – which is what the world requires if it has to escape the catastrophic consequences of climate change. The negotiating dynamic may change dramatically.

Villagers carry illegally scavenged coal from an open-cast coal mine in Dhanbad, Jharkhand, India
Villagers carry illegally scavenged coal from an open-cast coal mine in Dhanbad, Jharkhand, India, trying to earn a few dollars a day. Photograph: Kuni Takahashi/Getty Images

The leaders can capture the imagination of people around the world if they explicitly acknowledge the seriousness of the threat we all confront and commit themselves to a global collaborative effort to deal with it based on the principle of equitable burden sharing.

Countries can then contribute according to their capacities and resource availability and I have no doubt that emerging countries such as India, China or Brazil will be enthusiastic participants in such initiatives. Even if we are unable at this stage to go beyond the INDCs which have already been submitted the adoption of these initiatives may reassure the world that a new and more promising process has been set in motion to deliver a more sustainable future for our common home.

‘Keep It in the Ground’ Win: Utah Oil and Gas Auction Halted

Repost from the Center For Biological Diversity
[Editor: sign their petition .  – RS]

BLM postpones Utah auction to ‘accommodate’ climate activists

By Phil Taylor, E and E News, November 17, 2015

About the CenterThe Bureau of Land Management late last night announced it is postponing today’s scheduled oil and gas lease sale in Salt Lake City to appease activists who are fighting to keep those minerals in the ground.

BLM had planned to lease up to 37,580 acres scattered around the center of the Beehive State for future oil and gas development, but the agency said it needed more time to “better accommodate the high level of public interest in attending the sale.”

It marks the first time that the “Keep it in the Ground” climate movement — which seeks to end the sale of federally owned oil, gas and coal — has disrupted a BLM lease auction.

BLM said it intends to reschedule the sale in the “near future.”

“As a public agency, we understand the importance of transparency,” said BLM spokeswoman Megan Crandall. “Given the large interest, we chose to postpone the sale and will be working to find the best way to accommodate the public and those who wish to attend and participate in the auction when it is held.”

It was the third consecutive BLM lease sale to be confronted by climate protesters who believe the burning of federally owned fossil fuels will undermine the nation’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Roughly 50 people gathered last week outside BLM’s Colorado headquarters in Lakewood to protest the agency’s sale of 90,000 acres in the Pawnee National Grassland, according to the Western Energy Alliance.

BLM moved forward with that auction, selling 106 parcels covering 83,534 acres for $5 million.

Protesters also demonstrated outside a Nov. 3 lease sale in Wyoming.

Crandall said there was not enough room in BLM’s downtown Salt Lake City auction room to accommodate members of the public who wanted to attend. The room is about 28 feet wide by 60 feet long and also has to accommodate up to 30 bidders and reporters, she said.

BLM planned to live-stream the auction, but many activists insisted on attending in person, she said.

The “Keep it in the Ground” campaign is backed by some major environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council and is buoyed in Congress by legislation from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) that would end new leasing and renewals of nonproducing federal leases for oil, coal and gas.

The movement is riding the momentum of President Obama’s recent rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline and Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s decision to abandon oil exploration in the Arctic Ocean. It now seeks to stop BLM from leasing fossil fuels in the West and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management from opening the Atlantic Ocean to offshore drilling.

In Salt Lake City this morning, roughly 40 activists displayed theatrical bidding paddles, held up photos of their grandkids and sang folk songs including John Prine’s “Paradise,” according to Tim Ream, an organizer from WildEarth Guardians who is based in San Francisco and attended this morning’s protest. Organizing groups included WildEarth, the Center for Biological Diversity, Women’s Congress for Future Generations, 350.org, the Rainforest Action Network and Elders Rising for Intergenerational Justice.

Ream said BLM informed him last week that some members of the public would be turned back from the auction room regardless of whether there was space. This morning’s protest was led primarily by older activists who had no intention of disrupting the sale, he said.

“They wanted to touch the hearts of those who are selling and buying our public lands,” he said. “They realized two years in prison is too high a price.”

Ream was referring to the two-year prison sentence handed down in 2011 to activist Tim DeChristopher for his decision to pose as a bidder at a BLM lease sale in Utah in late 2008 and snatch up $1.8 million in leases with no intention of paying for them.

Vaughn Lovejoy of the group Elders Rising was among those who attended this morning’s rally.

“We’d like to see if there’s a way to inspire my generation … to spend this piece of our life doing something for the future rather than hanging out on cruise ships or golf courses,” he said.

Ream said activists will also stage protests at BLM’s upcoming oil and gas lease sales in Reno, Nev., on Dec. 8 and in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 10. “We’re going to keep on hitting every one of these lease sales,” he said.

The American Petroleum Institute has criticized the movement and Merkley’s legislation as a “political stunt,” warning that halting federal sales of fossil fuels would hike energy costs and hurt the federal government’s coffers.

The Mineral Leasing Act requires BLM to hold regular oil and gas auctions.

Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs at the Western Energy Alliance, whose members depend heavily on public lands leasing, said this morning that the Salt Lake City protesters are ignoring how increased production of natural gas has helped the nation transition away from coal that is more harmful to the climate when burned.

“Apparently, BLM is seeking a larger venue to accommodate the expected crowd of protesters whose goal is to disrupt the sale,” she said. “These same professional protesters bragged that they were traveling to other lease sales to try to disrupt them, but they’re on a fool’s errand.”

Sgamma noted that Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has rebuffed the “Keep it in the Ground” movement as unrealistic.

“There are millions of jobs around the country that are dependent on these industries, and you can’t just cut it off overnight,” Jewell said in September during a breakfast organized by The Christian Science Monitor (Greenwire, Sept. 15).

CREDO Action generates over 1,800 letters opposing Valero Crude by Rail

Repost from CREDO Action
[Editor:  The following call to action arrived in thousands of email inboxes on October 27, 2015.  The response was huge – so far over 1800 CREDO-generated letters have been sent to the City of Benicia (in the first 24 hours).   The link here will take you to the CREDO Action page.  Letters deadline is 5pm on Friday, October 30, 2015.  – RS]

Tell the Benicia City Council: Block Valero’s dangerous oil trains terminal

Tell the Benicia City Council: Block Valero's dangerous oil trains terminal.

Oil giant Valero is trying to build a massive oil trains terminal at its refinery in Benicia.

Two 50-car oil trains per day would carry toxic fracked oil and tar sands across California to the refinery, passing through Roseville, Sacramento, Davis, Fairfield and other cities before reaching their destination in Benicia.¹

If approved by the Benicia City Council, the terminal would exacerbate local air pollution in Benicia and in communities along the rail route, expose those communities to the catastrophic danger of an oil train derailment and explosion, and fuel the climate crisis by encouraging fracking and tar sands extraction.

The Benicia City Council is accepting public comments on the project until 5pm on Friday, October 30, 2015. Local opposition has already delayed the project once – we need to speak out right now and demand that the city council block Valero’s dangerous oil terminal.²

Tell the Benicia City Council: Block Valero’s dangerous oil trains terminal. Submit a public comment directly to the city council.

The number of crude by rail accidents in recent years has skyrocketed. In addition to the deadly oil train explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Québec in July 2013, which killed 47 people, there have been nine major oil train explosions in the United States since the start of 2013.

In addition to the threat of deadly train derailments and explosions, Valero’s plan would worsen air quality for communities all along the rail line. In Benicia, shipping more fracked oil and tar sands to Valero’s refinery would only increase toxic refinery pollution. Further, oil trains leak dangerous chemicals, creating a toxic plume around rail lines up and down the rail route.³

With no end in sight to the record drought threatening California, there is simply no excuse for green-lighting any fossil fuel infrastructure project that will encourage the extraction of more dirty fracked oil and tar sands and exacerbating climate change.

Valero will get its way if we remain silent. Submit a public comment urging the Benicia City Council to reject Valero’s crude by rail project.

¹ Jaxon Van Derbeken, “Benicia sees cash in crude oil; neighbors see catastrophe,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 24, 2014
² Tony Bizjak, “Benicia plans more study of crude-oil train impacts,” Sacramento Bee, February 3, 2015
³ Diane Bailey, “Valero’s Promise to Benicia: We’ll only have an environmental disaster once every 111 years,” NRDC Switchboard, September 17, 2014

Send an email.

Tell the Benicia City Council:

Valero’s outrageous proposal to build an oil trains terminal at its refinery in Benicia threatens the health and safety of people all along the rail route.

If approved by the Benicia City Council, the terminal would exacerbate local air pollution in Benicia and in communities along the rail route, expose those communities to the catastrophic danger of an oil train derailment and explosion, and fuel the climate crisis by encouraging fracking and tar sands extraction.

I urge the Planning Commission and the City Council to reject Valero’s dangerous plan.

Click here to send this email.

Tell the Benicia City Council: Block Valero's dangerous oil trains terminal.

Oil giant Valero is trying to build a massive oil trains terminal at its refinery in Benicia.

Two 50-car oil trains per day would carry toxic fracked oil and tar sands across California to the refinery, passing through Roseville, Sacramento, Davis, Fairfield and other cities before reaching their destination in Benicia.¹

If approved by the Benicia City Council, the terminal would exacerbate local air pollution in Benicia and in communities along the rail route, expose those communities to the catastrophic danger of an oil train derailment and explosion, and fuel the climate crisis by encouraging fracking and tar sands extraction.

The Benicia City Council is accepting public comments on the project until Friday. Local opposition has already delayed the project once – we need to speak out right now and demand that the city council block Valero’s dangerous oil terminal.²

Tell the Benicia City Council: Block Valero’s dangerous oil trains terminal. Submit a public comment directly to the city council.

The number of crude by rail accidents in recent years has skyrocketed. In addition to the deadly oil train explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Québec in July 2013, which killed 47 people, there have been nine major oil train explosions in the United States since the start of 2013.

In addition to the threat of deadly train derailments and explosions, Valero’s plan would worsen air quality for communities all along the rail line. In Benicia, shipping more fracked oil and tar sands to Valero’s refinery would only increase toxic refinery pollution. Further, oil trains leak dangerous chemicals, creating a toxic plume around rail lines up and down the rail route.³

With no end in sight to the record drought threatening California, there is simply no excuse for green-lighting any fossil fuel infrastructure project that will encourage the extraction of more dirty fracked oil and tar sands and exacerbating climate change.

Valero will get its way if we remain silent. Submit a public comment urging the Benicia City Council to reject Valero’s crude by rail project.

¹ Jaxon Van Derbeken, “Benicia sees cash in crude oil; neighbors see catastrophe,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 24, 2014
² Tony Bizjak, “Benicia plans more study of crude-oil train impacts,” Sacramento Bee, February 3, 2015
³ Diane Bailey, “Valero’s Promise to Benicia: We’ll only have an environmental disaster once every 111 years,” NRDC Switchboard, September 17, 2014

 

U.S. Rep. Lois Capps: Oil-by-rail is too risky

Repost from the San Luis Obispo Tribune
[Editor:  See also the follow-up story covering the Cal Poly forum on Oct. 16: “Capps touts clean energy alternatives to Phillips 66 project at Cal Poly forum.”  – RS]

Phillip 66’s oil-by-rail plan is too risky

By Rep. Lois Capps, October 13, 2015
Lois Capps in her office in Washington, D.C.
Lois Capps in her office in Washington, D.C.

The Central Coast was thrust into the national spotlight in May as news broke of an oil pipeline rupture that allowed tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil to spill into the Pacific Ocean.

The ensuing damage devastated wildlife and our sensitive coastline, cost our local economy millions of dollars and put the health of Central Coast residents at risk. Sadly, this is just the most recent reminder of the hazards of drilling for and transporting fossil fuels.

In the months since the spill, I’ve redoubled my efforts to ensure federal agencies update and strengthen pipeline safety standards, prevent new offshore drilling and guarantee that our communities are properly compensated for their losses. And yet, just as the final traces of tar are cleaned from the rocks at Refugio Beach, another serious oil hazard looms on the Central Coast.

As many know, Phillips 66 has applied for a permit through San Luis Obispo County to construct a 1.3-mile rail spur to the Nipomo Mesa refinery. Construction of the new spur would allow the refinery to receive up to five deliveries of crude oil per week, with 2 million gallons aboard each mile-long freight train.

This rail spur proposal comes amidst booming North American oil production and a dramatic expansion across the country in the use of railroads to transport crude oil. Not surprisingly, the increased use of rail to transport oil over the last five years has correlated with a sharp increase in the number of derailments by oil-hauling trains. The increase in oil rail derailments is even more troubling considering the large investments made in recent years to improve rail safety.

The most devastating of these recent accidents occurred in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, when a 74-car freight train carrying crude oil derailed in a downtown area and several cars exploded, killing 47 people and leveling half of the downtown area with a blast zone radius of more than half a mile.

Approving the Phillips 66 rail spur project would put communities throughout California at risk for a similar tragedy. If approved, communities within 1 mile of the rails would be within the potential blast radius of these crude oil freight trains as they make their way to their final destination in San Luis Obispo County. This is one of the many reasons why I am joining other community leaders, cities and counties throughout the state in opposing this project.

The Plains oil spill near Santa Barbara in May and the Phillips 66 rail spur project debate are both stark reminders of the dangers posed by our continued reliance upon oil and other fossil fuels to meet our energy needs.

We know that this dependence puts our environment, public health and economy at risk due to spills, derailments and the growing impacts of climate change.

With each extreme storm, severe wildfire and persistent drought, we’re reminded of the very real consequences of our continued dependence on fossil fuels.

The truth is that an economy that continues to rely upon fossil fuels is not prepared to succeed in the 21st century.

That is why I have spent my career in Congress advocating for efforts to transition to clean, renewable energy sources that produce the energy we need while also minimizing the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change.

I am proud to say that the Central Coast is leading this transition. With our cuttingedge research universities, two of the largest solar fields in the world and some of the most innovative entrepreneurs and energy companies in the country, I am excited to see what the future holds.

Now, more than ever, we are presented with a wonderful opportunity to pivot away from our reliance on dirty fossil fuels and toward a more sustainable energy future.

That is why I am convening a panel of industry leaders and academic experts for a public forum at Cal Poly’s Performing Arts Center on Friday to discuss how we can continue to expand our clean-energy economy on the Central Coast and across the country.

During the forum, I look forward to discussing the multitude of threats posed by our continued fossil fuel dependence, the progress made toward developing renewable energy sources, and how we can overcome the remaining barriers to fully transition to a cleanenergy future. Please join us this Friday at 1 p.m. as we come together to build a safer, cleaner energy economy suitable to meet the demands of the 21st century.