Coaland and the Colossal Fossil

A true consensus government, the COP leaves the most progressive at the mercy of the most obstinate. In this system, science deniers and climate activists battle it out, yielding ground, gaining concessions, and, often, feeling like they’ve gotten nowhere. As the world burns and our chances to halt the irreversible slip through our fingers, every small victory reminds us that winning slowly is still losing. So what do you do when a coal-loving country holds the gavel? Can observers only wring their hands as an understaffed Polish Presidency sets regressive agendas and embraces corporate polluters?

The answer, of course, is to mock them.

A hero of satire has emerged to hold the worst members of the COP accountable: Climate Action Network and their “Fossil of the Day” awards.

Each day of negotiations, CAN has chosen a deserving winner. Those who, through obstinacy, ignorance, or plain greed, continue to obstruct global climate action, all earn a place on the podium.

The list of daily finalists includes:

A Polish victory has been brewing all COP. President Andrzej Duda opened his remarks by stating: “There is no plan to fully give up on coal. Experts point out that our supplies run for another 200 years, and it would be hard not to use them.” They’ve followed this up by cozying up to large polluters, filling the venue with single-use plastics, and holding events advertising “clean coal.”

However, most disturbing has been Poland’s battle against climate activism at the COP. At least twelve members of civil society groups and one COP Party delegate were turned away at the Polish border, including CAN Europe’s Zanna Vanrenterghem.

These activities appear to be the product of a new law banning unplanned protesters from Katowice, the COP venue. This barrier to a free and involved public directly belies Poland’s professed commitment “to providing access to information, access to participation, and remedy on environmental matters.” This has had a chilling effect on participants. Coupled with an unambitious conference agenda, the activities of the Polish government have cast a pall over the proceedings that match the one in the air.


Energy Justice: Mitigation, Adaptation, AND Sustainable Development Goals in the IPCC Special Report

Cooking in MyanmarOver three billion people rely on wood, charcoal or dung for cooking, with primarily women spending 15-30 hours per week collecting these resources. Household Air Pollution (HAP) results in over 4 million deaths a year. The second most impactful climate change pollutant is black carbon and HAP contributes 25% of black carbon. Clearly, we can integrate mitigation, adaptation, AND sustainable development.

The first sentence of the Global Warming of 1.5°C IPCC Special Report references the Paris Agreement’s enhanced objective “to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.” (Article 2) The IPCC report references and builds on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approved and adopted by national leaders in September 2015. The SDGs consist of 17 goals and 169 targetsSustainable Goals developed as a sustainability framework. Top goals include the elimination of poverty and hunger; an increase in health, education, and gender equality; and access to clean water, sanitation and affordable energy. Additional goals address economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, sustainable cities and responsible consumption, life below water and on land, climate action, peace, justice and strong institutions, and partnerships for the goals.

Screen Shot 2018-09-30 at 1.29.54 PMThe IPCC report highlights one of the largest differences between 1.5°C and 2°C as the disproportionate impact on poor and vulnerable populations, furthering inequities. However, addressing these inequities through sustainable development can also become a positive. One bright spot in an otherwise dire report is the potential for significant synergies between sustainable development with mitigation and adaptation strategies. But ONLY IF we think about the issues holistically and find mechanisms to cooperate internationally. Article 6 of the Paris Agreement recognizes “the importance of integrated, holistic and balanced non-market approaches” and mentions supporting and promoting sustainable development in Paragraphs 1,2,4, and 9. A failure to consider mitigation and adaptation strategies in the context of sustainable development and the SDGScreen Shot 2018-09-30 at 1.28.58 PMs could result in the opposite effect of creating long term negative impacts on the health and survival of those populations that contributed the least to the problem and have extremely limited resources to weather the consequences.

Let’s strengthen our sustainable development goals through enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions and provide some accountability with some teeth in Katowice.


China’s Effort to Limit GHGs

china-five-year-plan-infographicChina produces more carbon dioxide than any other country in the world: 10.357 million metric tons per year. To limit their impact on climate change, China includes environmental protection in their Five Year Plan (FYP). The FYP is the country’s blueprint that outlines the policy framework, priorities, economic, and social development goals for the 2016-2020 period.

In 2016, China released the 13th FYP which includes lofty goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and increase green manufacturing. Innovation is the crux of this FYP. Innovation builds on improving manufacturing and emphasizing a cleaner, green economy. A State Council executive meeting in 2015 discussed implementing an Internet Plus Circulation program. The program expands broadband connection to more rural areas so there is more efficiency in transporting items, like new agricultural products and equipment. The program will also allow rural populations to access health care. Air pollution is a key target for the FYP. Chapter 38, Section 4, ensures that the concentration of fine particulate matter is reduced by at least 25%. The current status of smog and air pollution affects public health. China is increasing regulations for coal-fired plants while requiring low-emission technologies and eliminating outdated industrial equipment and processes.

The carbon dioxide emissions reduction targets in the FYP contribute to China’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) 2030 target. The 13th FYP even put a first nation-wide total energy cap on all energy sources: it is set at less than the equivalent of five billion tons of coal over the next five years. These goals are reflected in the INDC filed on June 30, 2015. Article 4 of the Paris Agreement, provides that “[e]ach Party shall prepare…nationally determined contributions…with the aim of achieving the objectives…” of reaching a global peak of GHG emissions as soon as possible. During COP24 in December, China may include details about innovation and policy from the 13th FYP into the NDC because it is on track to meet the 2020.

China is fully embracing their 2020 goals by implementing green community projects. On September 28, 2018, Green Climate Fund announced that the board will consider projects, including China’s Green Cities program,targeting Central Asia and Eastern Europe. This project is among 20 other proposals totaling $1.1 billion to be heard during the next board meeting this month. It will be interesting to see how these project proposals will factor into each countries’ NDC during COP24.


Combatting HFCs with the Most-Effective MEA

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are greenhouse gases commonly used in a variety of applications, including refrigeration, air conditioning, building insulation, fire extinguishing systems, and aerosols. HFCs are a synthetic gas and have a high global warming potential, with some estimates putting their global warming impact at up to 10,000 times that of carbon dioxide. This global warming potential is especially troubling because HFC emissions are projected to increase nearly twentyfold in the coming decades. Without a reduction in emissions, HFCs could contribute the equivalent of 100 billion tons of carbon dioxide and lead to more than 0.5°C of warming. This increase in HFC emissions would offset many of the climate benefits that the Montreal Protocol has achieved.

The Montreal Protocol, which is an implementing instrument of the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, was adopted in 1987 and is widely accepted in the international community as one of the most successful multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). The purpose of the Protocol is to reduce the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances in order to reduce their abundance in the atmosphere, and thereby protect the earth’s fragile ozone layer. Since adoption, nearly 100 ozone-depleting substances have been phased out world-wide. The Protocol is estimated to have averted greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to more than 135 billion tons of carbon dioxide. The Protocol is most well-known for its success in eliminating emissions of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a common component in refrigerators. CFCs emissions contributed to the hole in the ozone layer, and their phasing out will allow the ozone layer to recover by the middle of the century. Now, the Parties are using it to combat HFC emissions.

From November 1-5, 2015, the Parties to the Vienna Convention debated whether to address HFCs through an amendment to the convention or to try and combat the problem through the UNFCCC. The Parties ultimately agreed to a “Dubai Pathway” for negotiations on an amendment to phase out HFC emissions. “After seven years of efforts, we have at last agreed to amend the Montreal Protocol next year to phase down HFCs,” Jeem Lippwe, a negotiator for Micronesia, told reporters on the conclusion of the talks. This Pathway helped the Parties agree to an amendment, which was adopted at the Conference of the Parties to the Vienna Convention this year.

On October 14, the nearly 200 Parties to the Vienna Convention agreed to the Kigali Amendment. This Amendment outlines a plan in which developed countries, including the US and the EU, will start phasing out HFC emissions by 2019. A group of developing countries including China, Brazil, and most of Africa will follow with a freeze of HFCs consumption levels in 2024. All Parties will significantly reduce consumption of HFCs by the late 2040s. The Parties also agreed to provide financing for HFCs reduction, with an exact amount to be determined at their next meeting in 2017. The ambitious Kigali Amendment sends a clear statement by world leaders that the transformation started in Paris is irreversible and unstoppable.

 


Cleaning up India’s energy mix

dehli pollution2015 marked the first time that the average Indian was exposed to more air pollution from fine particulate matter than the average Chinese, reports Greenpeace. In response, India has introduced new taxes aimed at cutting pollution and reducing emissions.  The country’s finance minister announced this week a tax of up to 4% on new passenger vehicles.  It’s estimated that almost 40% of Dehli’s air pollution comes from vehicle emissions alone.

India is also taking aim at cleaning up its energy mix, both for local pollution abatement gains and for global GHG mitigation.  When announcing the car tax, the finance ministry also announced a doubling of its tax on coal, which comprises 70% percent of India’s energy mix. With an eye toward low carbon energy sources, the government plans to allocate $430 million for nuclear power development.

It also continues to emphasize solar energy development. The BRICS development bank, along with the World Bank and the Asian Development india solar missionBank, recently announced that they will each provide $500 million in financing for rooftop solar in India. These loans will be used to provide a 30% subsidy to public institutions that set up rooftop solar power systems. India aims to have 100 GW of solar power capacity operational by April 2022, with 40% of it coming from rooftop solar. Currently rooftop solar contributes only 10% of the total 5 GW solar power capacity.  To spur development, the Indian Cabinet recently approved a rooftop solar subsidy of $770 million by 2022 for public institutions, to complement the international development bank loan pledges.

 


Peeking into China’s Peak

2014-09-10-ChinablogpicUPDATE: China’s National Bureau of Statistics (analyzed by Greenpeace) just confirmed that the country’s CO2 emissions fell by 1-2% in 2015 while 2-4% less coal was used and 32.5 gigawatts of wind and 18.3 gigawatts of solar were used in 2015.

China’s imports of coal fell to the lowest in four years in 2015, dropping 30% as a combination of air pollution laws and economic slow downs have decreased demand. Overall coal consumption was down more than 5% last year. Beijing has already announced that it will end coal usage in the capital city and its surrounding areas by 2020, using natural gas instead to meet electricity needs.

Looking ahead, China’s peak promises, made in its INDC filed in June 2015, are gaining more traction.

The decline in CO2 emissions from coal burning in China may accelerate after the head of China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) announced this week that the government would restrain the construction of new coal-fired power plants.  This policy shift includes withdrawing some approvals already given in regions with the biggest capacity surpluses.  In addition, China will close more than 1000 coal mines this year, which lowers total production capacity by 60 million tons. China has a total of 10,760 mines, and 5,600 of them will eventually be shuttered under a policy to close those with an annual output lower than 90,000 tons, the China National Coal Association has estimated. The country produced 3.7 million tons of coal last year and has an estimated capacity of 2 billion tons per year. The NEA announcement on Monday confirmed that these closures were part of a plan to shut down as much as 500 million tons of surplus production capacity within the next three to five years.

Interesting, this same NEA statement also spoke of renewable energy, urging parties to solve the alleged problem of limiting renewable energy in regional grids, where local governments tend to favor major coal companies over renewable generators.

 

 

 

 


California Leads Subnationals in Setting a High Bar for COP21 Negotiators

Mary Nichols, Chair of the CA Air Resources Board presents to UCLA & Vermont Law Students (Photo courtesy of Tracy Bach)

Mary Nichols, Chair of the CA Air Resources Board presents to UCLA & Vermont Law Students (Photo courtesy of Tracy Bach)

The VLS delegation had the privilege yesterday to attend an intimate presentation given by Mary Nichols, Chair of the California Air Resources Board, and Ken Alex, the Director of the Governor Jerry Brown’s Office of Planning and Research. Mary and Ken candidly addressed a group of professional students and professors from UCLA and Vermont Law School while a documentary crew followed Mary’s every move and captured the group’s reaction.

These representatives of the California state government offer a surprisingly powerful presence at COP21. The commitments and strategies of subnational groups have been a major topic of conversation this week since these groups, including U.S. states, represent key stakeholders in the movement to address climate change. According to some sources, “in order to keep global temperatures from rising 2˚C by 2050, the world needs to cut 8 to 10 gigatonnes of carbon emissions by 2020.” Our mitigation goal will be even higher if the negotiators ultimately agree on maintaining temperature rise at or below 1.5˚C. Yet, the U.N. Environmental Program reports that agreements between subnational governments to reduce emissions could prevent 3 gigatonnes of carbon from entering the atmosphere by 2020. Cooperation and ambition amongst subnationals is therefore crucial to reaching our COP21 goals.

Governor Brown speaks for subnationals (From: the Office of Governor Brown)

Governor Brown speaks for subnationals (From: the Office of Governor Brown)

California is a particularly important piece of the puzzle. According to Ken Alex, the state represents 1.3% of global emissions and has a larger economy than 188 of the 195 countries that have ratified the UNFCCC. The state therefore has a large role to play, and so far, it has exceeded expectations. California is leading a group of more than 123 subnational jurisdictions (including Vermont), which represent $9.9 trillion in GDP and 720 million people, in pursuing more ambitious goals than those identified in the anticipated Paris Outcome. This group of signatories to the Under 2 MOU is aiming to reduce emissions 80 to 95% below 1990 levels by 2050, or to achieve a two tons per capita CO2 emissions limit.

Under Governor Brown and Mary Nichols’ leadership, California is making progress toward addressing these goals. The California cap and trade scheme is gaining traction, partnering with Quebec and, hopefully soon, with other states. The state is also the only one in the country allowed to implement its own, more rigorous, mobile air emissions standards. These standards have subsequently been adopted in other international cities, including in Beijing.

From: LA Times & Christophe Petit Tesson (EPA)

Governor Brown and former Governor Schwarzenegger meet to discuss climate change. (From: LA Times & Christophe Petit Tesson / EPA)

To promote California’s progress and inspire other global leaders, several California representatives have presented at COP21 over the last several days. Governor Jerry Brown welcomed new signatories to the Under 2 MOU in the German Pavilion at Le Bourget. Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke on behalf of Austria at the beginning of the week, and later conducted meetings with the current governor of California. Other state representatives, like Mary Nichols, are also participating in discussions throughout the event, including in a session dedicated entirely to California at the U.S. Pavilion.

We will continue to track the inspiring action of subnationals throughout the event, particularly those of U.S. states like California and Vermont.


Fracking: COP21 as “the scoreboard, not the game”

Panel for Side Event on Keeping Fossil Fuels in the Ground: the International Movement to Ban Fracking

Panel for Today’s Side Event on Keeping Fossil Fuels in the Ground: the International Movement to Ban Fracking

“If you’re looking for good way to heat up the earth fast, poke holes in the earth and let methane pour out.” This is how Bill McKibben of 350.org described hydraulic fracturing (fracking) at today’s side event on the international movement to ban fracking. Sandra Steingraber of EcoWatch pointed out how both methane and CO2 have to be considered in the fight against climate change. The side event’s moderator asked McKibben how to use what is going on at COP21 to put pressure on the United States and other countries to get a better outcome on fracking. McKibben said that COP21 is “the scoreboard, not the game. The main thing to do is come out of here ready to take on the next set of fights and next set of activism.”

In September, the Center for Biological Diversity released a report on fracking in the United States entitled “Grounded: The President’s Power to Fight Climate Change, Protect Public Lands by Keeping Publicly Owned Fossil Fuels in the Ground.” The report addresses the president’s authority to stop new leasing of federally managed and publicly owned fossil fuels from extraction, start withdrawing lands and oceans from availability, and keep carbon reserves in the ground. Panelists focused on fracking in California, mentioning the Los Angeles Times article on California farmers using water recycled from oil fields to irrigate crops. The article highlights concerns about toxins in the recycled water contaminating crops. At the conclusion of the side event, panelists urged participants to reach out to elected officials regarding the impact of fracking on climate, water, air, food, and public health.


Quick boost from short-lived climate pollutants

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) says that “due to their short lifetimes, compared to CO2 which remains in the atmosphere forSLCPs approximately a century, actions to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants will quickly lower their atmospheric concentrations, yielding a relatively rapid climate response. Fast action to reduce short-lived climate pollutants, especially methane and black carbon, has the potential to slow down the warming expected by 2050 by as much as 0.5 Celsius degrees.”  While the UNFCCC negotiations have focused on C02, CCAC doesn’t want us to lose sight of these short-lived contributors to atmospheric warming.

Not only does their mitigation have an impact on climate change, but it also bodes well for human health Time%20To%20Act%20Web%202_7_0and food security.  It is estimated that adoption of advanced cookstoves and clean fuels alone has the potential to prevent over 2 million of premature deaths each year.   Tropospheric (the closest part of the atmosphere to earth) ozone exposure – what we usually call ground-level ozone or O3 – and black carbon’s effect on cloud formation are estimated to decrease wheat, soybean, rice, and maize crop yields significantly.  By collecting landfill gas and recovering methane from coal mines, CCAC sees the potential to avoid the annual loss of more than 50 million tons of crops.  Read here for more short-lived climate pollutant facts and graphics illustrating them.


China’s cities surpass 2030 carbon peak promise

In the run up to COP21’s opening plenary on Monday, November 30, 2015, countries have been pledging their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). These public announcements submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat describe how each Party will mitigate its GHG emissions, obama and chinaas well as implement adaptation strategies, help developing country Parties finance these kinds of actions, and participate in capacity building and technology transfer programs. Submitted INDCs number 35 as of today, which represents 63 Parties, given that the EU’s INDC covers the EU-28 or the 28 member states of that regional economic integration organization. China filed its INDC at the end of June, a detailed statement about the country’s past, present, and future climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. Its overall objectives comport with the November 2014 joint announcement with the United States in which both countries described their individual mitigation targets and joint programming. Notably China pledge to peak its carbon emissions by 2030, if not sooner.

That’s why yesterday’s announcement at a joint US-China meeting that 11 Chinese cities and provinces will see their emissions drop sooner than the national target year caught my eye. Beijing and Guangzhou, two of China’s largest cities, committed to peak their carbon dioxide emissions by 2020, while Shenzhen pledged to do so by 2022. These three cities are part of the China’s Alliance of Peaking Pioneer Cities. This Alliance represents 25% of the country’s urban carbon emissions — the equivalent of Japan’s or Brazil’s national emissions. Wow!

The focus on the potential for cities and other subnational governments to implement mitigation and adaptation in a big way has been in the forefrontCHina air quality of the Paris negotiations on a new international climate change agreement. Nongovernmental organizations like C40 and ICLEI have built strong partnerships among the world’s largest cities. These partnerships have shared successful mitigation strategies, policies, and programs. This announcement yesterday by China’s major cities and provinces, and today’s anticipated joint declaration by municipal and regional leaders from both countries (including from more than a dozen U.S. states and cities) at a meeting on low-carbon cities in Los Angeles reinforces the message to UNFCCC State Parties: subnational governments have a major role to play in keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

And one more unexpected benefit of this city-centered work on climate change: it keeps the two largest GHG emitting countries focused on climate change, away from the distractions of other geopolitical tensions between them. Presidents Xi and Obama are expected to challenge each other on cybersecurity when the Chinese president comes to the United States next week. As a Reuters journalist observes, “Climate change is one area where the two countries largely see eye to eye, a fact the White House is happy to highlight.”


Flat lining of GHG emissions in 2014: trend or one off?

smokestacksThe International Energy IEA recently released data showing that the global CO2 emissions associated with the energy sector remained stable in 2014, not increasing from the 2013 output even though the world economy grew.  E&E reported that “researchers said the early numbers showing that CO2 emissions remained steady at 32.3 billion metric tons in 2014 mark[s] the first time in 40 years that a dip in energy-sector emissions has not been linked to an economic downturn.”

IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol said that “this gives me even more hope that humankind will be able to work together to combat climate change, the most important threat facing us today.  It provides much-needed momentum to negotiators preparing to forge a global climate deal in Paris in December: for the first time, greenhouse gas emissions are decoupling from economic growth.”  Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, noted that if this data is correct, “you can actually start to see the climate policies as they start to work. At the global level, this is very exciting.”  For more specifics about why (including China’s impact on the 2014 data), read here.


Spotlight on India at COP20

“We have forgotten to live with nature,”  India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, told a group of school india modikids in September.  Urging them to conserve electricity by switching off fans and lights when not in use and turning off tap water when brushing teeth, he connected energy use with climate change impacts.  Modi wrote a 2011 e-book, Convenient Action (a play on words on Gore’s more well known An Inconvenient Truth), which chronicled his climate change mitigation work as chief minister of the western state of Gujarat.

As the world’s fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the U.S., India’s approach to the climate change negotiations that will start next Monday at COP20/CMP10  is under a particularly glaring spotlight after the US-China climate change announcement two weeks ago.  In India, coal use is rising,India nationa-emissions-and-projected leading to a carbon dioxide emissions increase last year (5.1%) that surpassed China’s (4.2%) and the United States’ (2.9%).

Yet India has a very large number of poor people, with national income levels several times lower than those of China.  According to World Bank, 25% of India’s population lived at the poverty level of $1.25 a day or less in 2011, compared to 6% of China’s population.  Unsurprisingly, Prime Minister Modi faces huge pressure to develop economically; he already promised on the campaign trail to provide around-the-clock electricity for all citizens by 2022, given the current prevalence of power blackouts.

Modi’s approach domestically is called “Development Without Destruction,” with an emphasis on windIndia RE energy (doubling capacity over the next five years) and energy efficiency of cars, appliances, and buildings. His government has also recently called for a fivefold increase in solar power usage, targeting total renewable energy use at 100 gigawatts by 2022.  This internal stance is in line with its voluntary pledge at COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009 to cut the “intensity” of its carbon emissions and thereby reducing CO2 emissions from economic output by 20-25% from 2005 levels by 2020.  Nonetheless, coal now accounts for 59% of India’s electric capacity and the country seeks to lower coal imports and double domestic production to one billion tons during the next five years.

According to Alyssa Ayres, senior fellow and India expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, “India’s willing to make commitments to its own people” but not to the world. “I would not expect any big shift in India’s climate policy in the next year or two … It’s not ready to make binding international commitments.”

Perhaps India’s growing miindia killer airddle class, suffering under the same degree of illness-inducing air pollution as its Chinese peers, will provide a new internal push for clean energy production and energy efficiency? The  World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 13 of the top 20 cities worldwide with the dirtiest air are in India – not China, as many believe.

 


Looking at the sky

gale37885Current news about climate change reveals that outer space offers key tools for addressing global warming. Through the lens of satellites, scientists collect essential data to monitor the Earth’s temperature. In particular, the U.S. National Air and Space Agency (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) use satellite data to fill in the gaps of climate change science.

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) has recognized the contribution of space science and space applications in the fight against climate change since 1999. Through this technology, scientist are able to analyze sea level, ocean color, land ice and greenhouse gases. The data provided is helping policy-makers, at both the local and state levels, to become better equipped to understand carbon dioxide’s role in climate change. Now that scientists know the importance of space and climate change, we can focus our attention on achieving more mitigation and adaptation measures.

Recently, research presented at the Fifth Annual Colloquium on Environmental Scholarship at Vermont Law School about the development of international space pollution law opened my eyes to the sky. Irene Ekweozoh, from the University of Ottawa, spoke of international environmental space law, specifically the lack of clarity about the precise form and nature of the duties imposed on states for environmentally responsible use of outer space. At the same time that states use satellites as essential tools for climate change analysis, they also produce outer space pollution when these satellites remain in space after serving their mission. Following this logic, when states try to address climate change mitigation and adaptation by using the information captured by satellites, they are also polluting the atmosphere free of responsibility.

At  COP20, we will see the role of international space law as a protagonist in the discussion of climate change’s physical effects, providing a framework for international cooperation in targeting environmental monitoring and disaster management. We may have to wait until long after COP20 to know if states are concerned that while they are looking for solutions to global warming, they may be polluting outer space.


Africa on track to contribute to majority of global particulate matter

A study co-authored by researchers from France and Cote d’Ivoire concludes that Africa will contribute as much as 55% of the world’s particle pollutants by 2030.  In 2005, the continent accounted for 5% of suAfrica_Climatelphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions and 20% of organic carbon emissions.  These particles come from petrol and diesel fuel combustion for transportation, and coal, fuel wood, charcoal, and animal waste incineration for heating and cooking.   By 2100, Africa will represent 40% of the world population, with its urban population doubling from 2000 to 2030.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than two million people die every year from breathing in tiny particles in indoor and outdoor air pollution.  These particles can cause asthma and allergies, respiratory and cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

What to do?  The study recommends two strategies to fit the continent’s geography and development:  Increased use of biofuels to decrease domestic emissions in west and east Africa, and decreased reliance on coal as a source of industrial and power plant emissions in southern Africa.


Chinese citizen suit on air pollution

When looking at the local factors that can shape a UNFCCC state party’s “nationally determined” contribution or commitment, litigation looms large in the U.S.  Exhibit A: President Obama’s decision to use his executive branch authority to implement his Climate Action Plan.  Although he intends to deliver SCOTUSon the U.S. promise to reduce its GHG emissions 17% below the 2005 baseline, the President still can’t move any faster than legal challenges to his rulemaking permit.  While the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA led to the EPA making an endangerment finding on carbon dioxide and then regulating it under the Clean Air Act’s mobile source authority, the agency’s decision to expand regulation to stationary sources like factories and electricity generation facilities has been challenged in court by industry.  Yesterday, the USSC heard oral argument on Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, where the specific question presented on certiorari is “whether EPA permissibly determined that its regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles triggered permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act for stationary sources that emit greenhouse gases.”  This Christian Science Monitor article tees up the case and this one predicts that the stationary souce rule will be struck down based on the oral arguments.

Litigation in China, however, isn’t as frequent – or at least, as well known.  That’s why a report today on a suit filed by a person in smog-ridden Hebei Province north of Beijing merits attention.  Many recent news china air pollutionarticles from Chinese state media have indicated increased Environment Ministry efforts to curb China’s well-known air pollution.  But there have been few reports of individual litigants challenging government action or inaction.  Li Guixin, a resident of Shijiazhuang, capital of the northern province of Hebei, submitted his complaint to a district court asking the city’s Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau to “perform its duty to control air pollution according to the law.”  He also asked for compensation.  Li claims money spent on face masks, an air purifier, and a treadmill to get indoor exercise in December are due to him:  “Besides the threat to our health, we’ve also suffered economic losses, and these losses should be borne by the government and the environmental departments because the government is the recipient of corporate taxes.”  For more on the suit and the government’s response, read here.