Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Solve Climate blog highlights absurd fossil fuel subsidies

Solar Could Generate 15% of Power by 2020, If US Ends Fossil Fuel Subsidies

The Result: 882,000 New Jobs, 10% Drop in Emissions

Solar power technologies could generate 15 percent of America's power in 10 years, but only if Washington levels the playing field on subsidies, a report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) says.

That means either rolling back fossil fuel subsidies, as President Obamaproposed earlier this year, or increasing subsidies for clean energy, the association says.

Fossil fuels received $72 billion in total federal subsidies from 2002 to 2008, keeping prices artificially low, according to figures from the Environmental Law Institute (ELI). About 98 percent of that went to conventional energy sources, namely coal and oil, leading to more emissions. The rest, $2.3 billion, was pumped into a new technology to trap and store carbon dioxide spewed by coal plants.

During that same period, solar got less than $1 billion, according to the SEIA, a trade group representing 1,100 solar companies across the nation...Read the rest at Solve Climate...

Stay going.


GFN, COP 15, and Enlightened Self-Interest

Below is an update from Mathis Wackernagel in Global Footprint Network's latest newsletter (subscribe) about the COP 15 climate meetings in Copenhagen.

I'll let his words speak for themselves, but they do a great job of highlighting the importance of "enlightened self-interest" when it comes to sustainability, and showing how sustainability is not a nice thing to do when we have the time and money, but it is the strategic imperative of our time - whether you are an individual, company, community, or nation.

Dear Friends of Global Footprint Network,

I have just come back from Copenhagen COP15. While it was a thrill and privilege to participate, it also made evident how far we still have to go to meaningfully address climate change and resource degradation.

I was touched to see the buzz and interest of 40,000 participants engaging at the official conference, and of many more participating in side events and demonstrations. Most paid their own way to Copenhagen, showing incredible commitment to making this world work for all, now and later. There is tremendous public will to make a difference, beyond the 193 country delegations, and possibly over 130 heads of state.

But much about the Climate Talks was quiet puzzling as well:

  • Most delegations seem to be unaware of the link between climate change and resource constraints. Why would Europe propose to reduce emissions by X, and to reduce even more if everybody participates? If they fully realized resource constraints, and recognized that without a strong Copenhagen regime the world will get volatile more quickly, their proposition would look differently: They would suggest to reduce emissions by X, and if NOBODY participates,would propose to reduce European resource use even more to get Europe ready for a wild and rapidly resource-constrained future.

  • Informed negotiators would arrive to Copenhagen with the mind-frame of “we have a big incentive to make this deal work, because without the deal, we will have to work harder," rather than “I will not reduce if you don’t”.

  • Perhaps these Climate Talks should not be called negotiations (which connote: “How much am I willing to give?”). A better name would reflect designing a new framework for cooperation (“How do we need to work with each other in order not to sink the planet?”). It was particularly stunning to see how addicted we still are to outdated terms like “developing and developed countries”. These terms embody the linear development that is not only becoming physically impossible, but is also the one that got us into the climate problem in the first place. What we need is green prosperity, or green development, that works with, rather than against the budget of nature.

  • The obvious was missing: If we are to meet the G-20 intention of keeping climate change within 2 °C, we’d need to follow the IPCC reduction path of at least minus 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. This essentially means moving out of fossil fuel. But hardly anybody admits this mathematical truth. If we accept the G-20 intention and its mathematical consequences, then consider this: Why is it that we haggle so much about access rights to emissions? It would essentially mean negotiating access to zero emissions (after 2050). Why are we putting so much effort into trying to negotiate access rights to zero carbon?

  • Perhaps most striking is that the great majority of leaders ignore their nation’s self-interest. Possibly the most notable exceptions were Arnold Schwarzenegger and many of our partner countries like UAE or Ecuador. Others ignore that preparing aggressively for a resource-constrained future is in their most immediate national self-interest. After all, it takes decades to prepare countries, cities and economies for a resource-constrained future. For most countries it is in their self-interest to go beyond the most hopeful Copenhagen targets. Waiting for a global consensus would hurt their own ability to operate in the future.

But there were also quite a few achievements:

  • Many local initiatives – cities, pro-active businesses, regions - are already moving ahead even without global agreements. The United Arab Emirates’ Masdar City is a prominent example

  • REDD+ (United Nations' collaborative programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) represents a solid recognition, that land-use and biocapacity are keys to the global carbon cycle. Many solutions to climate change will come from carefully managing our use of ecosystem services.

  • Delegations showed their level of commitment, negotiating through the night and working tirelessly towards solutions – all encouraging signs that we are at a historical crossroads. Sustainability is certainly no longer a sideshow.

In January, we will be sending a more detailed newsletter on how we will help shape climate action, and how this can go hand in hand with securing wellbeing for all.

With growing interest in resource degradation and climate change, Global Footprint Network will play an even more significant role in 2010. We are both excited about this prospect, and immensely thankful. We are grateful to you, our partners, and for your ongoing trust and interest.


Stay going.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Write an Airline CEO

I never do this... although I probably should - it's so easy, and it definitely has an impact.

So the Air Transport Association (ATA) along with Continental, United, and American have sued the UK government for taking the first steps to figure out how to cover emissions from air travel under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Read the story here.

The ATA and most airlines - particularly Continental - talk a big game about taking action to improve efficiency and develop safe, viable, carbon-neutral alternative fuels for airplanes. This move is clearly in contradiction to the kinds of policies needed to help achieve these stated goals.

Take 5 minutes to drop a letter in the mail the heads of these organizations, below are a couple of templates - just cut and paste and customize for each recipient:


Gerard J. Arpey, AMR Corporation/American Airlines, Inc, P.O. Box 619616, DFW Airport, TX 75261-9616

Dear Mr. Arpey,

I am deeply disappointed in American’s decision to join the suit against the U.K. government challenging the first stage of the country's implementation of European Union emission-trading regulations.

I fly often for work and occasionally for pleasure, and have frequently chosen American Airlines.

I strongly urge you to withdraw your participation in this suit and implement strong policies for proactively supporting industry-wide caps on emissions in the EU and around the world. I will not remain a customer of American Airlines otherwise.



James C. May, Air Transport Association of America, Inc., 1301 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20004

Dear Mr. May,

I am deeply disappointed in Air Transport Association’s decision to initiate a suit against the U.K. government challenging the first stage of the country's implementation of European Union emission-trading regulations.

I fly often for work and occasionally for pleasure, and this activity far and away represents the largest component of my carbon footprint. I choose airlines based more on commitment to efficiency and demonstrated commitment to developing safe, viable, carbon neutral alternative fuels than I do on price per ticket.

I commend the ATA’s stated commitment to efficiency, alternative fuels, and progress towards carbon neutrality.

I strongly urge you to act in accordance with that stated commitment and withdraw your participation in this suit and implement strong policies for proactively supporting industry-wide caps on emissions in the EU and around the world.



Other CEOs:
  • Glenn F. Tilton, UAL Corporation / United Air Lines, World Headquarters, P.O. Box 66100, Chicago, IL 60666
  • Jeffery A. Smisek, Continental Airlines Inc., P.O. Box 4607, Houston, Texas 77210-4607

Stay going.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Vigil for Survival - Dec. 11th

Come out and show your support for strong climate action during the Copenhagen negotiations by participating in a "Vigil for Survival" at the Lobster Trap Tree on Main St. in Gloucester - 4:30 pm Friday, December 11th, 2009.

(yes, lobster trap trees are awesome).

Stay going!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Sustainable and Desirable

It may seem kind of obvious, and I'm certainly not the first to express the sentiment, but needs to be said:

a sustainable future is not necessarily desirable, a desirable future is necessarily sustainable.

As interest in 'sustainability' continues to grow exponentially, so inevitably does confusion and misunderstandings of terminology. Sustainability is the bare-minimum we're shooting for, it's not the end-all, be-all by any means. It's the eye of the needle where we stop contributing to unsustainability, get restorative, and start opening up the "funnel walls".

"Sustainable development" is the process of moving towards sustainability, and 'beyond' (and "development" shouldn't be confused with "growth", the former is the growth of value, the latter is just the growth of stuff). Of course, none of this will be a smooth, linear process. We'll move step by step, more and more people and organizations will continually increase their awareness and create more and more solutions, and new, fresh ways of being that don't systematically undermine the social and ecological systems upon which we depend.

In order to do this of course, we need to break away from some deeply engrained habits of thought and action, and backcasting from a compelling vision is really necessary to do that - to move from incremental steps of 'less bad' to transformative, exciting steps of 'creating a sustainable and desirable society'. And that vision needs to be more compelling than just "sustainable," no one is really looking for a "sustainable life" or a "sustainable community" - we are looking for meaningful, interesting, exciting, fulfilling lives, communities, relationships, careers, etc.

The Sustainability Principles are just the basic constraints, derived from basic laws of thermodynamics and social systems... they set a frame for "free creativity within constraints," empowering the creative process of sustainable development, or 'creating sustainability' - they are not prescriptive in terms of how we get there or what it will look like.

So yes, it's sustainable and desirable, and also just, healthy, fecund, and caring ... sometimes I'll just say "sustainable" to catch all that.

Stay going.