Obama and Xi Breathe New Qi into Global Climate Talks

Context is everything in understanding the U.S.-China climate deal struck in Beijing by U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping last week. The deal’s ambitions may fall short of what climate scientists called for in the latest entreaty from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but its realpolitik is important.

Obama and Xi’s accord sets a new target for reductions in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions: 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. And for the first time sets a deadline for China’s rising GHGs to peak: 2030. This is potentially strong medicine for cooperation, when seen in the context of recent disappointments for global climate policy. Continue reading “Obama and Xi Breathe New Qi into Global Climate Talks”

How Canada Should Return Obama’s Oil Pipeline Punt

Late last week President Barack Obama deferred consideration of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, designed to ship Alberta petroleum to the Gulf Coast, until after next year’s U.S. elections. Obama’s move immediately sparked vows in Canada to redirect crude exports to Asian markets less angst-ridden by the environmental impacts associated with tapping Alberta’s tough, tarry petroleum. A smarter strategy would be to reduce those impacts, starting with the black mark that brought Keystone XL to national attention: oil sands crude’s bloated carbon footprint. Continue reading “How Canada Should Return Obama’s Oil Pipeline Punt”

Democracy and Climate Change

Here’s some elegant prose on the hopes that rest on the Obama Administration to come from R.K. Pachauri, director general of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Dehli and Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the UN body that seeks and sells scientific consensus on climate science and policy. In a statement released yesterday Pachauri elegantly explains why the election is a cause for optimism:

The presidential elections in the US have vindicated the power of democracy as the most responsive form of government of the people, by the people and for the people. In respect of policies related to climate change, there was obviously a major divergence between the position of the Federal Government and that of the people at large, state governments and the cities in the US.

President-elect Barack Obama has not only been very clear in emphasizing the need for the US to engage in global solutions to meet the challenge of climate change but also in respect of bringing about a major shift in US energy policy.

The US now has a unique opportunity to assume leadership in meeting the threat of climate change, and it would help greatly if the new President were to announce a coherent and forward looking policy soon after he takes office. There is every reason to believe that President Obama will actually do so. This should please people across the globe, because US leadership is critical for mounting global efforts to meet this threat effectively. For this reason itself, apart from several others, the election of Mr Obama is a development that should generate optimism all-round.

Pachauri’s statement was forwarded to members of the Society of Environmental Journalists by Arul Louis, a fellow at the International Center for Journalists in Washington, DC.

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This post was created for EnergywiseIEEE Spectrum’s blog on green power, cars and climate

China ‘Gets It’ On Green Jobs

Threatened American jobs and higher gas prices were the points of attack that deep-sixed the latest effort to put a price on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions — a cap-and-trade bill that died in the Senate on Friday. This defensive posture, seeking to preserve energy-intensive transportation and industries, is short-sighted in light of the transition to alternative forms of energy underway worldwide.

China gets it. Not only is it racing to implement renewable energy (ie setting a nationwide renewable portfolio standard for utilities, installing enough wind power in just the last two years to edge out wind-energy pioneer Denmark for fifth place in the Global Wind Energy Council’s annual capacity rankings, and building a photovoltaics export business essentially overnight). China designs these initiatives to favor the development of domestic industries.

In a recent article for Spectrum magazine I show how China’s dramatic installation of wind power parks is occuring despite rock-bottom pricing — a situation that analysts say favors local players. See China Doubles Wind Watts in Spectrum’s May 2008 issue.

Note that while John McCain and Barack Obama both claim to get it on both green jobs and climate change, neither bothered to show up for Friday’s vote.

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