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Posts Tagged ‘environmental policy’

First the French, now the Norwegians . . . According to a recent Reuters‘ announcement, ‘Norway says aims to go carbon neutral by 2030‘:

The plan includes offsetting Norwegian emissions by spending around 3 billion crowns ($553.1 million) per year to combat deforestation in developing countries. Forests act as a sink for CO2, the main greenhouse gas blamed for causing global warming.

Under the Kyoto Protocol curbing greenhouse emissions, countries do not get credit for the effect of their own forests, but they can get credits by planting trees in developing lands.

“The parties now think it is realistic to assume reductions in Norwegian climate gas emissions of 15-17 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents by 2020 when forests are included,” the government said in a statement.

Three million metric tons of that reduction would come from Norway’s forests absorbing carbon, it said.

The initial target was to cut 13-16 million metric tons of CO2.

Achieving the target will require cutting Norway’s total emissions by two-thirds domestically, the statement said.

Environmental groups said the deal was too vague, and Oil and Energy Minister Aaslaug Haga acknowledged: “We don’t know how we will achieve the goals yet, and that is challenging.”

A “significant sum” of money will be earmarked for investment in renewable energy, mass transport and measures to reduce emissions from the transport sector, while tax on diesel fuel will rise by 0.1 crowns ($0.018) per liter and on gasoline by 0.05 crowns, the government said.

“Both carrot and stick will be used to promote more environmentally friendly behavior and to reduce climate gas emissions,” the centre-left coalition said.

Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen of the Socialist Left (SV) party said the policy would lead to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions both in Norway and abroad.

“The agreement gives Norway a far-sighted climate policy that can stand independently of shifting governments,” Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said in the statement.

MOON LANDING

Stoltenberg, who heads the Labour Party, has said Norway’s policy on cutting CO2 emissions is the world’s most ambitious and he has likened the challenge of fighting climate change to a “moon landing” for the 21st century.

Norway, with a population of just 4.7 million, is the world’s fifth-biggest exporter of oil and Western Europe’s biggest exporter of natural gas.

Endowed with rivers and waterfalls, it gets almost all its own electricity from non-polluting hydroelectric stations. But the Nordic country aims to begin burning natural gas for power generation in the future to satisfy growing demand.

The government wants emissions from such power plants to be captured and buried, a technology still under development.

“The agreement implies technologies that are not known yet,” Stoltenberg told a news conference.

The government said it would spend an extra 70 million crowns ($12.91 million) this year on research into renewable energy and carbon capture and storage this year, and funding for such research would rise to at least 600 million in 2010.

My first reaction was Wow! Kudos to the Norwegians. If they can do it, why can’t the rest the world, and the U.S. especially, follow? Upon closer look, I am uncomfortable with their plan however. Too much is left up to chance, including relying on not yet existing technologies. Also too much of their anticipated reductions will be the result of carbon offsets – reforestation in developing countries. They could be more specific with possible reductions from existing solutions. So, yes, I agree with the environmental groups. The plan is way too vague.

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Philip DeFranco is appealing for all of us to unite and fight, regardless of the cause of Arctic melting. There is new evidence that nature and man, both, are cooking the Arctic, and causing accelerated melting of the ice. It looks like the Arctic was in for some warming up, and that we are just responsible for those few extra degrees that are going to make all the difference – between sea level staying as is versus catastrophic rising. Needless to say, the threat of waters rising has never been greater. Philip’s point is, no matter what’s the cause, we, the humans are the only ones who can do something about it.

Will we listen to Philip? I listened to him and my first reaction was, how refreshing, a call from the young to wake up. Quickly, though, my cynical side questioned the value of such plea. It seems that not a week goes by without another celebrity taking the stage, and exhorting the crowds . . .

And I go back to the need for leadership, policy, organizing, and practical solutions. In other words, the North Korelia experiment.

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One Track Mind

New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post, AOL homepage, NPR, my habitual news sources are mute on climate change. Have been for the last week. The elections have taken over, and there is no space left for much else. I no longer see, hear green. Like the rest of my fellow Americans, I have become obsessed with the polls, latest gossips, and predictions. I am an Obama girl, cheering for her man. In the mean time, CO2 is continuing its dirty work. But we are all taking a break from watching. Our minds are too busy keeping track of Hillary, Obama, and Edwards, and Mc Cain, and Romney, and Huckabee. There is a competition going on, and the thrill of not knowing who’s going to win in the end, is too hard to resist. Yesterday Hillary nearly cried, and that was big news. Tonight, it looks as if Obama is winning again. We are addicted. And that’s ok, as long as we make sure to vote for candidates with a sound climate change agenda.

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Last month, the Center for Strategic and International Studies released an important report on ‘The Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Global Climate Change‘, the result of months long conversations between ‘nationally recognized leaders in the fields of climate science, foreign policy, political science, oceanography, history, and national security. The CSIS report takes the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report one step further, and paints likely scenarios for the “age of consequences”, one that will increasingly be defined by the intersection of climate change and the security of nations.’

According to the report, the world should be prepared for the following ‘10 highly consequential implications of climate change‘:

1) Soft power and North-South tensions will increase.

‘A failure of the developed nations to assist developing countries to manage the climate change challenge will almost certainly cause a further spike in north-south tensions.

2) Migration and immigration will rise, producing a strong backlash.

‘A profound increase in the movement of people will cause greater tensions and perhaps violent conflicts between and within countries over uncontrolled immigration issues.’

3) Public health problems will grow.

‘Climate change will also have profoundly negative consequences for global health, especially in poorer regions of the world.’

4) Resource conflicts and vulnerabilities will intensify.

‘Over the next three decades, climate change-exacerbated water scarcity could well contribute to instability in many regions of the world.’

‘Climate change could also affect the international politics of energy production and consumption.

5) Nuclear activity will increase, with attendant risks.

‘many developing countries will begin operating their own commercial nuclear reactors during the next few decades. This would increase the total number of nuclear reactors around the world, including those under the control of nations that may lack the experience to safely conduct these operation. The threat of global climate change also provides governments interested in acquiring nuclear weapons yet another justification to pursue nuclear-related research and nuclear technologies.’

6) Challenges to global governance will intensify.

‘the United Nations and other existing international institutions will have great difficulty managing the full range of adverse consequences. The implication of new international alignments driven by environmental factors are uncertain, but the complex and inherently divisive nature of climate change is likely to impede collective responses.

7) Domestic political repercussions and state failure will occur.

‘Political authorities unable to manage climate-induced challenges might well lose necessary public support. National leaders professing authoritarian ideologies could become more attractive if liberal democratic systems fail to marshal sufficient political will to manage the climate challenge. In some instances people might resort to violent means-especially when opportunities to change leaders through elections are circumscribed-to remove existing governments. In a few places people might turn to non-state actors, including religious movements or terrorist groups for comfort or to effect more dramatic change. Moreover, under conditions of severe global climate change, environmental factors may push already failed states deeper into the abyss of ungovernability, while driving other states toward the brink.’

8) The balance of power will shift in unpredictable ways.

‘Over the long term, the very divergent regional effects of climate change could affect the evolving global distribution of power with unpredictable consequences for international security.’

9) China’s role will be critical.

‘Many members of the international community are calling on Beijing to adopt more rigorous policies to limit the growth of China’s carbon emissions to reflect the country’s status as an emerging global stakeholder sharing the burdens of world leadership. Some of these appeals have been less than effective as China’s reasoning that the United States is not showing itself to be serious still holds. According to the World Bank, 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in China.’

10) The United States must come to terms with climate change.

‘the unique character of the American people, with the depths of optimism and penchant for practicality, will be a major asset.’

If there is one thing to take away from this report, it is the need for a systems approach to the climate change solution. One cannot stress enough the pivotal role to be played by the United State within the world system of nations.

The report ends on a positive note:

‘While all those who collaborated in this study completed the process with a profound sense of urgency, we also collectively are encouraged that there is still time for the United States and the international community to plan an effective response to prevent, mitigate, and where possible adapt, to global climate change.’

To be tempered by Machiavelli’s cautionary wisdom, as quoted in the report’s preface:

“The Romans did in these instances what all prudent princes ought to do, who have to regard not only present troubles, but also future ones, for which they must prepare with every energy, because, when foreseen, it is easy to remedy them; but if you wait until they approach, the medicine is no longer in time because the malady has become incurable; for it happens in this, as the physicians say it happens in hectic fever, that in the beginning of the malady it is easy to cure but difficult to detect, but in the course of time not having been either detected or treated in the beginning, it becomes easy to detect but difficult to cure. Thus it happens in affairs of state, for when the evil that arise have be3n foreseen (which it is only given to a wise man to see), they can be quickly redressed, but when, through not having been foreseen, they have been permitted to grow in a way that every one can see them, there is no longer a remedy.”

For more on The Age of Consequences report, I suggest you go to Real Climate, and read David’s post there.

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Was I missing something? When I read the Bali Roadmap document, I was not quite sure what to make of it. Should I rejoice? After all, 190 countries had agreed and signed a pact. The United States’ last minute turnaround was celebrated as a victory of diplomacy, and I joined the chorus of satisfied voices. Why, then, was I left with a feeling of unease? Had we been sold of bill of goods? Turns out, I was wise to follow my feelings. Scientists and environmental experts quickly rallied to denounce the Bali Pact as a bad joke played on the planet.

Yesterday, Thomas Friedman, in turn, expressed his concerns in ‘What Was That All About?’:

If you need an environmental expert to explain it (global climate agreements) to you, it’s not real. I needed 10 experts to explain to me the Bali Climate agreement – and I was there! I’m still not quite sure what it adds up to. I’m not opposed to forging a regime with 190 countries for reducing carbon emissions, but my gut tells me that both the North and South Poles will melt before e get it to work.’ . . .

‘whatever the U. S. is now doing to address the global warming challenge, it is not transformational. It is an incremental approach to a scale problem that can only be solved by triggering massive innovation in clan power. And without a price signal – a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system – to make it profitable to invest enormous sums, long term, in new clean technologies, it will not happen at scale.’ . . .

‘” This is a problem of economic transformation, not environmental regulation,” said Glenn Prickett, senior vice president at Conservation International . . . “The transformation needed will require far more than just passing one law or signing one treaty. It will require the same level of focus and initiative that the Bush administration is devoting to the war on terror. No political leader in the U.S. is approaching this issue yet with anywhere near the seriousness required.”

So I still don’t know what Bali was about, but I do know that it was incremental, not transformational — and incrementalism, when it comes to clean energy, is just a hobby.

That’s right, what is called for. is a transformation of our whole country, from top to bottom, fast. A paradigm shift, where carbon emissions take center stage. Not small steps. Being French, I always have an ear for what goes on in my native country. It is my belief that the U. S. leadership has a lot to learn from its French counterparts. For those of you who speak French, here is a video of President Nicolas Sarkozy delivering his speech, on the Grenelle Environment Agreement. The video also includes a few words from Al Gore (in English).

Here are some excepts from the transcript of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s speech – I highly recommend your read the entire speech, as it is quite beautiful, in addition to being a remarkable piece of policy writing – :

‘CARBON COST/NON-ECOLOGICAL PROSPECTS/TRANSPORT

First principle: the climate cost, the “carbon cost” will be taken into account from now on in all major public projects, in all public decisions. The biodiversity cost will be taken into account in all public decisions. To be clear, a project with an excessive environmental cost will be rejected.

Second principle, we will reverse the burden of proof. Ecological solutions will no longer be required to prove their benefits. Instead, non-ecological projects will be required to prove that they could not be carried out differently. Proof will be required of so-called non-ecological decisions that they were the last resort. This is a complete revolution in this country’s method of governance and we will be applying this principle to transport policy immediately. The Grenelle proposes a break with the past and I adopt that proposal as my own. In the effort to catch up in transport systems, priority will no longer be given to road construction but to other modes.

WASTE MANAGEMENT

We will also apply this principle to our waste management policy. Priority will now be given to avoiding waste, rather than merely treating it. We will adopt every proposal that enables us to prohibit or tax unnecessary waste such as excessive packaging. Priority will no longer be given to incineration but to recycling. Proof will be required of every new incinerator project that it is a last resort. There will be no more incinerators without permanent and transparent monitoring of pollution emitted. There will be no more incinerator projects that do not generate energy from waste incineration.

POLICY OF TRUTH/PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE/ACCOUNTABILITY

We will create a right to total transparency of environmental information and expertise. All the data, without exception, including nuclear and GMO data, can from now on be disclosed. The only limits will be protection of privacy – much needs to be done here –, national security and industrial secrets.

This policy of truth is a policy of responsibility. No one must be able to say, henceforth, that he or she did not know. We are all accountable for our actions. And this brings me back to the precautionary principle. To suggest that it should be abolished because it hampers action demonstrates, in my view, a major misapprehension. The precautionary principle is not a principle based on inaction. It is a principle based on action. It is a principle based on action and expertise aimed at reducing uncertainty. It is a principle based on vigilance and transparency. It must therefore be interpreted as a principle based on responsibility. Responsibility is one of the values on which I focused during the election campaign.

I also wish to reopen the debate on responsibility and shoulder my own responsibility. Those who pollute a river for years, who design and sell a chemical or create a new genetically modified product must be accountable for their actions, even many years later, if a disaster occurs. And together with Europe we are going to remove the legal barriers to prosecuting polluters, wherever they are. It is not acceptable for a parent company to escape accountability for environmental violations committed by its subsidiaries. It is not acceptable for the principle of limited liability to be used as an excuse for unlimited immunity. When a company controls a subsidiary, it must consider itself liable for ecological disasters caused by that subsidiary. One cannot be liable in the morning and immune from liability in the afternoon. At any rate that will not be the policy in France.

GMOs

In compliance with the precautionary principle, I call for the commercial production of pest-resistant GMOs to be suspended pending the conclusions of an investigation to be carried out by a new body, to be created before the end of the year in close coordination with you – the Grenelle – and the European Commission. Here, too, I am shouldering my responsibilities. We will comply with our commitments.

And the proof of this commitment, José Manuel, is that I undertake to ensure that France adopts legislation transposing the relevant Directive in the spring of 2008. But I cannot be guilty of inconsistency, and there is a precautionary principle. There are pest-resistant GMOs, and I want to suspend their production in order to comply with the precautionary principle. Meanwhile, France is playing her role in Europe. France is in no way unaware of her obligations. We will transpose the Directive and we will discuss it together. The Grenelle has set out new principles governing GMO research and production. There is the transparency principle. There is the right to produce with or without GMOs. There is the obligation to prove the health and environmental benefits of GMOs. Jean-Louis will include these principles in the Bill transposing the directive. And at least there will be one rule, transparency. Each party will assume its responsibility.

The suspension of the commercial production of pest-resistant GMOs does not mean – let me be clear about this – that we should condemn all GMOs and in particular future GMOs. We must accelerate research. I do not accept the destruction of the research plots. What we are proposing is in reality a return to democracy: debate, transparency, decisions based exclusively on the public interest and not just on commercial interest, responsibility; and in return, everyone will come back to democratic procedures and the rule of law: debate and controversy, not abuses and violence. And I will never be persuaded that it is normal to violate private property. Let me say that I respect the view of those who disagree with me, but I will tell them quite frankly that the sincere commitment of the government also contains principles that are important to us.

NUCLEAR/RENEWABLES

In the same spirit, let me say a word about the nuclear issue to show that it is possible to have a policy of truth and overcome problems. The idea that we can meet the climate challenge, our primary challenge, in France without nuclear energy is an illusion. Today we have no choice, unless we give up growth. This is the reality that I consistently defended before the elections and afterwards.

But this in no way means that nuclear technology must be the only solution to the climate challenge. Certainly not. Our first priority – and this is one of the Grenelle’s conclusions – is to reduce our energy requirements. The goal is to improve our energy efficiency by 20% between now and 2020. And our second priority is to achieve the objective of generating over 95% of our electrical energy without impacting the climate, that is, without using carbon. This is as I see it the only objective that will enable us to face up to climate challenges.

We have nuclear energy. I do not wish to build further nuclear sites, but I know that we must not give up this energy. However, I will take on board the principles that you propose, particularly the principle of transparency.

Just as we have the national nuclear program, which was launched in 1974 with the goal of reducing our energy dependence, I want us to undertake a national renewable energy program with the same ambition. Why contrast renewables with nuclear, when everyone knows we need both? We want France to become the leader in renewables, over and above, José Manuel, the European objective of 20% of our energy consumption by 2020.

Nevertheless, I am against a form of hasty action that would ultimately damage the environment. Wind turbines, yes, but we should start by building them in brownfield areas away from our emblematic sites. Frankly when I fly over a number of European countries what I see does not recommend wind energy. We must also revisit our policy of supporting biofuels in future, without calling into question the commitments made. I want priority to be given the development of second-generation biofuels, which better address both the environmental challenge and the food challenge.

And we are going to give priority to areas where the concept of energy independence makes sense. Corsica, which should be energy independent, comes to mind. Energy independence is very important. And imagine what can be done for Corsica and for our overseas departments and territorial units. And I am announcing that in 2008 we will be initiating the Reunion 2030 program. We can truly – the Minister of the Interior will agree – give these territories the opportunity to be research laboratories for renewable energies.

In the same spirit of efficiency, the government will work with Michel Barnier to initiate a major energy autonomy plan for farms.

There will therefore be a reduction of the share of nuclear power in our energy consumption, and there will be a reduction of the share of “carbon-based” energies that are harmful for the climate. We will continue our research on nuclear energy and we will launch a renewable energy development plan. Why choose between them when we need both?

ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY/INVESTMENT/“MARSHALL PLAN”

I will say this: environmental policy is investment policy.

To say that ecological policy amounts to “a step back” is a sham. The greatest pollution is observed at least as much in the rich countries as in the poor countries. The greatest climate aggressors are both rich countries and poor countries. And let us be realistic. There is no point in attempting to convince the developing countries that they must remain forever poor because they are not allowed to grow. There is no point in trying to convince the French that they should live with shortages for the sake of the well-being of future generations.

The goal is to carry out massive investments to pave the way for tomorrow’s growth. We will therefore be adopting a major national sustainable development program.

This is what Vice-President Gore is proposing. He is calling for a “Marshall Plan” for France and for the planet. It succeeded in 1947 and it must succeed today. Sir Nicholas Stern has assessed the investment needed at 1% of GDP. I remind you that the Marshall Plan, at the time, accounted for 2% of GDP. Who, today, disputes the fact that the Marshall Plan made the 30-year post-war boom possible?

The solution does not lie in increased public spending and taxation. We will succeed through investment. First we will invest in research, in technological progress, in changing behavior, in innovation and inventiveness. We will earmark €1 billion over a four-year period for the energies and the engines of the future, for biodiversity and for environmental health. Where we spend €1 on nuclear research, we will also spend €1 on clean technologies and the prevention of environmental violations. We want to be exemplary in both areas.

TRANSPORT/INVESTMENT

We will invest massively in transport.

I say that the State was wrong to disengage from developing urban transport. The main issue today is indeed congestion in city centers. I will restore State participation in the construction of bus lanes, bicycle lanes and tramways. Over 1,500 kilometers will be built outside the Ile-de-France [Greater Paris] area.

The TGV high-speed rail system is a great step forward. We will be building an additional 2,000 kilometers of track. And I propose that we adopt the principle of allocating the lines thus freed up to freight transport. That will amount to 2 million fewer lorries traveling north-south through France in 2020.

We will be refurbishing the inland waterway and sea transport systems. France has outstanding assets. I propose an investment plan for inland waterway transport that will remove one million lorries from the roads by 2020. And I make the commitment to revitalize our ports to ensure that goods at long last come in through our ports and not only by road. We will be discussing this with a number of trade union organizations.

ENERGY-EFFICIENT BUILDINGS

And we will have a policy of massive investment in buildings.

This is a priority and it is urgent. We want to reduce the amount of energy that buildings consume.

I propose that we adopt two rules. By 2012, all new buildings built in France should comply with the so-called “low-consumption” standards; and by 2020, all new buildings should be energy positive, i.e. they should produce more energy than they consume. Why 2020? Because we do not, at this time, have the necessary contractors and skilled labour, and because a substantial amount of training will be needed.

The major issue will be the 30 million old dwellings and buildings. We will double the number of old buildings renovated every year and raise the number of old dwellings renovated every year to 400,000. This program will start with the 800,000 public housing units that are currently in poor condition.

Finally I set out a simple rule for all the household appliances, television sets, hi-fis and other equipment that are causing an exponential increase in household energy budgets. As soon as an alternative becomes available at a reasonable price, the appliances that consume the most energy will be prohibited. We will begin applying this rule to incandescent light bulbs and single-glazed windows in 2010.

AGRICULTURE/INVESTMENT/CATERING

Policy of massive investment in agriculture.

Sustainable agriculture is important – there are 800,000 people dying of hunger. And by 2050 there will be an additional three billion human beings. Don’t say we do not need agriculture! Agriculture is a major issue. But we do not want an agriculture that depletes our soils, an agriculture that makes increasing use of dangerous chemicals. José Manuel, I will be conveying this message at the beginning of the French presidency of the European Union, set for the second half of 2008, during the major policy debate on the underlying principles for the 2013 Common Agricultural Policy.

The Grenelle discussions have shown that it is now possible to make major strides towards the development of environmentally-friendly agriculture and fishing.

All public canteens will be offering at least one meal a week based on organic farming. This is a minimum. The Prime Minister and I will be setting much higher objectives in coming months and years.

And I make a commitment that catering specifications will require labeled products or products from certified farms. High-quality producers exist and it is up to the State, in its public specifications, to help them – not by making speeches but by taking decisions. When this cannot be done voluntarily, we will provide incentives to do this in the form of obligations.

PUBLIC BUILDINGS

And the State will take the lead. Starting in 2008, all the ministries and administrations will draw up their carbon balance and undertake a program to improve their energy efficiency by 20%.

Starting in 2008, the public procurement code will be revised to make environmental clauses compulsory rather than optional.

Starting in 2008, all public building projects will meet the best energy performance standards.

And starting in 2009, all new administration vehicles will have to be clean-energy ones.

EMPLOYMENT

This major program is not an expenditure but an investment. It is the most profitable investment we can make today.

In the building sector alone, we will create 100,000 jobs and new training programs.

In the new energy sector, 50,000 jobs will be created.

HOUSEHOLD BILLS

Energy independence in France will be improved and we will succeed in reducing household energy bills by nearly 40% between now and 2020.

INCENTIVES/TAXES/PRICES/ENVIRONMENTAL DUMPING

We want a policy of incentives.

The Grenelle has been an extraordinary eye opener. The French expect us to be ecologically very ambitious. Of course, there are misgivings. But the main challenge is no longer to persuade. The main challenge is to take decisions.

I propose to introduce a right to an alternative for everyone. Environmental decisions should not leave anyone in insurmountable difficulty or in an unsustainable position. If the ban on bringing cars into city centers prevents someone from going to work, then local authorities must offer that person an alternative transport solution. People must not be punished. They must be provided with incentives.

I am told that this policy is expensive and that new taxes would be required to finance it.

These are the objections of the same people who question the environmental policy and are convinced that we can do no more than we are doing now.

Pollution is very costly for society. Pollution is a debt we are passing on to our children.

I think that building renovation has a payback period of less than 10 years because it reduces the energy bill.

As for transport, I observe that no one worried, before, about the cost of roads. Can we not finance alternative transport by reducing the amount of money allocated to building roads?

We must also stop seeing ecology taxes as a way to finance additional State spending.

So I make a commitment: Grenelle taxes will finance Grenelle solutions.

I propose to tax lorries traveling through France and using our road network. José Manuel, there is no reason why France should welcome all the lorries that are avoiding the roads of our neighbors. This tax will be used to finance public transport.

Grenelle proposes an annual ecology tax on the highest-polluting new vehicles. I call for this tax to finance the withdrawal of old high-polluting vehicles by making a progressive and long-term vehicle scrapping bonus available to support the purchase of a clean-energy vehicle.

And the best way to bring about a change in behavior is to use the price system. Today’s prices do not reflect the reality of pollution and shortages. You have made the proposal to label consumer staples to indicate their carbon content. This is a first step.

I want to do more. I want to focus on the carbon price. And José Manuel Barroso is the inventor of this system. It is not normal that a product shipped halfway around the world should cost less than a local product because the price of its production and transport does not include its greenhouse gas emissions.

I have asked the European Union about this. We were the first to subject our leading companies to a system of quotas to limit their emissions impacting the climate. It is not normal that their competitors importing the same products in Europe should not be subject to any obligations.

I do not want to shelve this issue just because it could be complicated. It must be dealt with at Community level. We must examine the possibility of taxing products imported from countries that do not comply with the Kyoto Protocol. We have imposed environmental standards on our producers. It is not normal that their competitors should be completely exempted. And I propose that within the next six months the European Union should debate the meaning of fair competition. Environmental dumping is not fair. It is a European issue that we must raise.

The Grenelle concluded that there is a need to consider a “climate-energy” tax, in other words a tax on fossil fuels.

 

I would set the following principles:

 

I am against any additional taxation of households and businesses. There can be no question of raising the tax rate. And the government is against any levy that would reduce household purchasing power. All new taxes must be strictly offset.

 

Ecological taxation makes sense only if it brings about a change in behaviour. It makes sense only if it fosters new production methods, new innovations. It does not make sense if it unfairly punishes our citizens and unnecessarily punishes our businesses.

When a clean product is available, it should be less expensive than a polluting product. I call, José Manuel, for the creation of a lower VAT rate on all ecological products that protect the climate and biodiversity. I will fight to obtain it.

I agree to go further in addressing this issue. Ecological taxation should not be just a series of small taxes. What we need is an in-depth overhaul. The goal is to obtain a higher tax on pollution – especially fossil fuels – and a lower tax on labour.

I make a commitment that the general tax system overhaul will be based on the creation of a “climate-energy” tax to compensate for a reduction in the tax on labour – on competitiveness, I say this to the Minister of Finance – and to maintain purchasing power – I say this to the trade union leaders.’

Even Nicolas Hulot, France’s uber environmentalist was pleased with the Grenelle Environment Agreement. I am too. Mr. or Mrs. Future President of the United States, may I add to my earlier letter to you, will you please look at the work by your fellow European leaders, including France, and take note. Much of the thinking has already be done. All that is needed is the political will, your political will, to stand up to some old interests, and move forward.

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Day 30 of Daily Footprint Project. A good time to conclude the project. And to reflect on the lessons learned during these thirty days spent under the close scrutiny of the green lens:

How to evaluate one’s personal environmental impact, is still up for discussion:

Starting with today. I drove a lot today. Some of the trips I could have done on ‘Pervenche‘, no question. That would have meant one extra hour spent on the bike. One less hour to work on two green projects I am involved with. What’s more important, to try to contribute to the global warming solution on a global scale, through my professional endeavors, or on a personal level through my daily actions? This is a question that keeps coming up, and I have heard two school of thoughts on the matter. One says, you’ve got to be pure and try to align your personal actions with your talk, as best as you can. According to these folks, I should have biked, and then maybe spent an extra hour working. The other school says, you’ve got to look at the net effect of your actions. If, through your work, you are going to mitigate more than your personal part of carbon emissions, then you have the license to sin a bit, as long as it is in the service of the green cause. When it was found that Al Gore was not as green as he could be, the two sides went at it. I say, they are probably both right. My own line of conduct is be as conscious as you possibly can of your actions, and if you are going to sin, do it full knowingly, and try to make up some other way. And I don’t mean carbon offsets here . . . Although, here again, if I am going to fly, I will purchase carbon offsets.

Green consciousness eventually leads to more responsible behavior:

Second, I have noticed my green conscience has become a lot more acute as a result of this daily process of systematic observation. I would like to pause and talk about the difference between observing, and judging. It is important to not censor and let the inner critic have a field day with one’s observations. That would be missing the point. No, the most important thing is to become more conscious. Without willing it, the conscience becomes strengthened, and it is only a matter of time, before one starts acting more responsibility. This morning at the pool, was a perfect example. As I was about to step into the hot tub, I noticed the jets had not been turned on. There are two buttons, one for the jets on the right side, the other for the jets on the left side. I thought why turn both on? I am the only one, and I will only be using one jet. Then comes this old lady, who gets annoyed. Why aren’t both sides turned on? It did not even occur to her why both jets would not be on. This is what I mean by being unconscious.

Green Wannabes need external help to go green all the way:

A well developed green conscience can only go so far however. There has been plenty of instances, many documented in this blog, when I didn’t have any excuses for not behaving green, and I still went ahead and behaved badly, out of sheer laziness, or because I had other things on my mind, or I fell back into old habits. I am just a Green Girl Wannabe, not UberGreenie. And I need help. Many of my comments on the Huffington Post deal with that reality, and the fact that I, and I would venture to say, most Americans, no matter how well intentioned, need some external help to go green all the way. In my public letter to the future President of the United States, I listed fifteen things I would need from our next leader. These mostly have to do with incentive, policies, taxes, laws and regulations, standards, public infrastructures, and technologies. You’ve got to make it easy for folks to green their lives. Cheap, convenient, efficient, appealing, fun, and impossible to not follow.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #30

Water
personal:
flush toilet 3
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 5
shower at pool 2
mom:
wash salad
communal:
rinse dishes

Electricity/gas
personal:
electric toothbrush 4’
microwave tea 2’
microwave milk 2’
laptop on all day
microwave oatmeal 4’
microwave soup  3’
mom:
boil pasta
communal:
lights

Food
personal:
tea
organic milk
organic apples 2
organic chocolate
oatmeal
takeout chicken soup from Whole Foods
whole wheat bread 
mom:
cheese pasta
salad
communal:

Waste
personal:
toilet paper
soup carton
mom:
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers

Recycling
personal:
mom:
communal:
2 papers
junk mail

Transportation
personal:
mom:
communal:
drive friend to airport 45 miles
drive to pool 6 miles
drive to night meeting 2 miles
drive to grocery store 5 miles

Non food shopping
personal:
mom:
communal:

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The latest news from Associated Press, is that:

‘Nobel laureate Al Gore accused the United States on Thursday of blocking progress at the U.N. climate conference, and European nations threatened to boycott U.S.-led climate talks next month unless Washington compromises on emissions reductions.

Al Gore Standing Up to George Bush at U.N Climate Conference

The former vice president urged delegates to take urgent action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, and told them that the next U.S. president will likely be more supportive of international caps on polluting gases.

My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali,” said Gore, who flew to Bali from Oslo, Norway, where he received the Nobel Peace Prize for helping alert the world to the danger of climate change.

Asked about Gore’s charge, Kristen Hellmer, a member of the American delegation in Bali, said: “The U.S. is being open and working very constructively with the other countries that are here. We are rolling our sleeves up and really working to come up with a global post-2012 framework.”

Earlier, the United Nations warned that time was running out for an agreement aimed at launching negotiations for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012 and the talks in Bali were in danger of “falling to pieces.”

The United States, Japan and several other governments are refusing to accept language in a draft document suggesting that industrialized nations consider cutting emissions by 25 percent to 40 percent by 2020, saying specific targets would limit the scope of future talks.

European nations said they may boycott a U.S.-led climate meeting next month unless Washington compromises.

“No result in Bali means no Major Economies Meeting,” said Sigmar Gabriel, top EU environment official from Germany, referring to a series of separate climate talks initiated by President Bush in September. “This is the clear position of the EU. I do not know what we should talk about if there is no target.”

The European Union and others say the proposed emissions caps reflect the measures scientists say are needed to rein in global warming and head off predictions of rising sea levels, worsening floods and droughts, and the extinction of plant and animal species.

The U.S. invited 16 other major economies, including European countries, Japan, China and India, to discuss a program of what are expected to be nationally determined, voluntary cutbacks in greenhouse gas emissions.

The Bush administration views the major economies process as the main vehicle for determining future steps by the U.S. — and it hopes by others — to slow emissions. But environmentalists accuse the U.S. of trying to undermine the U.N. process.

Gore urged delegates to reach agreement even without the backing of the United States, saying President Bush’s successor, who will take office in January 2009, would likely be more supportive of binding cuts.

“Over the next two years, the United States is going to be somewhere it is not now,” he said. “I must tell you candidly that I cannot promise that the person who is elected will have the position I expect they will have, but I can tell you I believe it is quite likely.”

Gore, who helped in the final negotiation of the Kyoto pact in 1997, also called for implementing a successor agreement two years early, in 2010. The first implementation period of the Kyoto pact expires at the end of 2012.

“We can’t afford to wait another five years,” he said.

U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer said he was worried the U.S.-EU deadlock could derail the process and that a final “Bali roadmap” would contain an agreement to negotiate a new climate deal by 2009, but may not include specific targets for emission reductions.

“I’m very concerned about the pace of things,” he said. “If we don’t get wording on the future, then the whole house of cards falls to pieces.”

The United States delegation said while it continues to reject inclusion of specific emission cut targets, it hopes eventually to reach an agreement that is “environmentally effective” and “economically sustainable.”

It also noted that that the conference was the start of negotiations for a new climate pact, not the end.

“We don’t have to resolve all these issues … here in Bali,” said Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky, the head of the U.S. delegation.

The United States is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases and the only major industrial country to have rejected Kyoto, which expires in 2012. It has been on the defensive since the conference began Dec. 3.

The Kyoto Protocol requires 37 industrial nations to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by a relatively modest average 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Bush has argued that the pact would harm the U.S. economy and cutbacks should have been imposed on poorer but fast-developing nations such as China and India.

The talks in Bali are scheduled to wrap up Friday.’

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

This is an interesting development in light of article I wrote earlier on ‘How George Bush’s pathology gets played out in the climate change debate‘, and in which I quoted Dr. Justin Clark, including his assessment of what it would take to stop George Bush from behaving irresponsibly:

‘these people (megalomaniac personalities) never stop, unless some outside force stops them. And, Bush will not stop of his own choosing. He will only have to be stopped. And that would have to be, by people who are willing to stand up and say, “Stop it! You can’t do this any more. I don’t care if you’re President.” ‘

Now, Al Gore and the European leaders are standing up to George Bush. Will they succeed in stopping him?

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Just released from Associated Press, ‘Ominous Arctic Melt Worries Experts:

An already relentless melting of the Arctic greatly accelerated this summer, a warning sign that some scientists worry could mean global warming has passed an ominous tipping point. One even speculated that summer sea ice would be gone in five years.

Greenland’s ice sheet melted nearly 19 billion tons more than the previous high mark, and the volume of Arctic sea ice at summer’s end was half what it was just four years earlier, according to new NASA satellite data obtained by The Associated Press.

“The Arctic is screaming,” said Mark Serreze, senior scientist at the government’s snow and ice data center in Boulder, Colo.

 

The Arctic is Screaming 2

 

The Arctic is Screaming 1

 

Just last year, two top scientists surprised their colleagues by projecting that the Arctic sea ice was melting so rapidly that it could disappear entirely by the summer of 2040.

This week, after reviewing his own new data, NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally said: “At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions.”

So scientists in recent days have been asking themselves these questions: Was the record melt seen all over the Arctic in 2007 a blip amid relentless and steady warming? Or has everything sped up to a new climate cycle that goes beyond the worst case scenarios presented by computer models?

“The Arctic is often cited as the canary in the coal mine for climate warming,” said Zwally, who as a teenager hauled coal. “Now as a sign of climate warming, the canary has died. It is time to start getting out of the coal mines.”

Earlier at dinner, my friend Veronique asked, ‘Why so much attention on global warming? Shouldn’t we place our efforts on, say, saving the children in Bengladesh?’

The answer is, The Arctic is Screaming, that’s why.

Tonight, I am mad, at myself, and even more so, the rest of the world, for having been oblivious to nature’s protests, for a little too long.

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Public letters are in these days. The desmogblog has this cool project going, The 100 Year Letter Project, where various guests get to tell their version of the climate story. The latest one, by climate scientist Simon Donner was recently featured on DotEarth. Not wanting to be left out, I have my own version of a public letter. This one is to the future president of the United States.

To the Future President of the United States,

I am writing to ask that you please hear what I have to say as a concerned Green Girl Wannabe. See, there are all these talks in the media, about us, the people not being good green citizens

Not a day goes by, without us being accused of dumping more nasty gases into the air. We are told we drive too much, cars that are too big for our own good. We consume too much electricity. We are guilty of passively supporting coal mountaintop removal in the Appalachian Mountains. We fly too much. Our houses are too big. We don’t shut off our computers at night. We should be using public transportation more. We consume too much. We use too many plastic bags. We are responsible for a huge Garbage Patch in the midst of the Atlantic. We should recycle more. We should all have solar installations on our roofs. We should stop using our dryers and hang our clothes to dry on clotheslines. We should conserve water. We should plant more trees. We generate too much garbage. We eat too much red meat. We should stop our junk mail. We should weatherize our homes. We should switch to tankless water heaters. We should insulate. We should find jobs closer to home. We should stop procreating so much. We should . . .

Do you get it? I am overwhelmed with all that’s thrown at me. I have enough to deal with as it is. I’ve got family worries to deal with, teenagers rebelling, a mother going insane with Alzheimer’s, work to be done, the angst of midlife striking, a house to keep, and not enough hours in the day to keep it all together. And now, I am supposed to become a green citizen, on top of it all. Don’t get me wrong, I do want to be green. I am convinced the human race is heading towards catastrophe, unless we all start changing our ways, quick. I just can’t make these changes right now, the way things are set up. This is where you come into play.

I need you, Future President, to step up to the challenge, and lead us all with a vision to inspire, and a plan that will make it impossible for me and my fellow citizens to fail in our green wannabe efforts. The folks at the Presidential Climate Action Project already gave you a list of 300 concrete steps they want you to take as soon as we elect you. I also have a list, of 15 things I need from you:

  1. Make it harder for me to sin, and impose a carbon tax on all my bad habits
  2. Have standards in place that will let me know what is green and what is not
  3. Make it free for me to install solar on my roof
  4. Make it possible for me to trade in my old appliances for Energy Star appliances
  5. Make it hard for me to use my car, and set curfews.
  6. Set the example, and be a green citizen yourself
  7. Take the troops out of Irak, and train them as green soldiers to weatherize homes, do solar installs, and retrofit cars
  8. Ban bad plastics
  9. Impose limits on packaging
  10. Encourage telecommuting
  11. Cover the land with solar and wind farms, and more trees
  12. Lower the speed limit on freeways
  13. Build a national green transportation infrastructure of more trains, more buses, car share, bike routes, and no car zones.
  14. One day a month ask your people to do one green thing
  15. Sign the Basel Convention, so I can feel better about recycling my computer

These are all the things I need from you, Future President, if I am going to come through with my responsibilities as a green citizen.

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Day 28 of Daily Footprint Project. Cold, and rainy. I had to go out twice, once to a doctor’s appointment, and then to the pool. Both outings in the five miles range, a perfect ‘bike it’ distance. ‘Pervenche‘ was waiting, and I had made such a big deal of looking for the perfect bike and finding it, and being ready to ditch my car, that I felt obligated to come through.

What happened next is less glorious. I was busy blogging, making comments on the Huffington Post. Lots of posts on global warming today, and I had to make my opinion heard. Came 12. 30, the time when I could still have made it to the doctor on my bike, and I had to decide. To bike or to drive. The computer screen was luring me with one more post to comment on. Ten minutes more, that’s all I needed. What the heck! Forget my green conscience, forget all the promises to myself, and to my readers. The temptation of convenience, of minutes shaved away for more blogging about environmental concerns, was too great. The truth is I love my car.

This is the kind of stuff that I would push back in the recess of my mind, and my heart, if I was not committed to telling the truth, all of it. Am I embarrassed? Yes. The irony of the situation does not escape me. Today, I was a Green Hypocrite. I could dwell in self-loathing. More interesting, though, is to get down to the root of my behavior, to understand as I have tried in the past, what causes the split between my rather high awareness, and those moments when I choose to not act accordingly. This is where it is important to pay attention to thoughts, no matter how seemingly mundane, for they hold clues to the intrinsic human problem at the root of climate change. Going back to that 12.30 moment, when I had to decide, to bike or to drive, here is what I found:

Laziness. Priorities. A drop in the invisible cloud of CO2. It won’t make a difference. I am having so much fun, don’t want to be bothered. Habit. Comfort. Convenience. How bad is it anyway, to drive such short distance once or twice a day? It can’t hurt that much. Effort, I don’t want to make the effort. The weather wasn’t even that nice. My time is precious. The extra time spent biking, I can use doing other ‘more productive’, more important things, such as working on green projects. Nothing is going to happen if I drive instead of biking. No consequences. I don’t have the discipline. What’s in it for me? The car, so fast, such a proven entity. I can zip in and out of places. I know, I should bike. But it’s such a small thing. Today, I can ‘sin’, only once, maybe twice. I will get it right some other time. Ah! the immediate pleasure of blogging away, versus the higher satisfaction of a clean conscience. Big, instant pleasure over small dent in my green conscience. Pleasure wins. I can’t even see that CO2 anyway. It’s invisible. A crime without the evidence to prove it. Everybody else is driving anyway, or almost everyone. I am too wrapped up into the moment. The present supersedes any hypothetical concerns about the consequence of my small actions for the whole planet, myself included. There are two issues. The lack of immediate consequence for my action. And the dilution of personal responsibility, the big pot problem.

There is a lot to be learned from that thought soup – I stole the words from Nadine – Lots of insights, not just about myself, but more importantly, about the human condition in relationship to climate change. What are the personal obstacles to change? How can these can be best addressed? I just followed a fascinating exchange on DotEarth, between Andrew Revkin, and his readers, on that same topic yesterday. The discussion did not suffer from a lack of opinions . . . and intellectual ramblings. What is missing most in many of the climate change conversations, is that connection to the psychological reality of the individual. That reality affects individuals in their personal lifestyle choices, their professional choices as influencers, deciders, and politicians. It is probably the single most important factor, besides technology, with the potential to critically alter the course of climate change.

 

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #28

Water
personal:
flush toilet 3
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 5
shower at pool 2
mom:
wash fruit
communal:
rinse dishes
wash vegetables
wash rice

Electricity/gas
personal:
electric toothbrush 4’
microwave tea 2’
microwave milk 2’
laptop on all  day
microwave oatmeal 4’
mom:
communal:
lights
bake chicken in oven 30’
stir fry zucchinis 4’
microwave rice 30’

Food
personal:
tea
organic milk
organic persimmons 2
organic chocolate
oatmeal
mom:
grapes
breakfast pastries from Whole Foods
communal:
baked organic chicken
organic brown rice
organic zucchinis
organic salad

Waste
personal:
toilet paper
mom:
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers
chicken packaging
zucchini package
salad plastic 

Recycling
personal:
mom:
communal:
2 papers

Transportation
personal:
drive to appointment (stop by Trader Joe’s on way back) 5 miles
drive to pool 6 miles
mom:
communal:

Non food shopping
personal:
mom:
communal:

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