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Which Countries Won't Be Signing The Paris Climate Deal On Its Opening Day?

An unprecedented number of countries will be gathering in New York City tomorrow to sign the Paris climate deal.

After significant progress was made this past December in agreeing the landmark deal, more than 167 countries – including past climate villains Iran, Canada and Australia and polluting giants China, the US, and the EU – are set to sign the Paris Agreement on its opening day.
 
But despite this, there are still some countries that remain absent from the UN’s official list of attendees – and this includes some pretty big emitters and fossil fuel producers.

Senate Passed Bill Expediting Fossil Fuel Extraction on Native American Land Two Days Before Paris Agreement

Indigenous peoples' rights nearly did not make it into the global deal signed at the United Nations COP21 climate summit in Paris, serving as one of the more controversial sticking points in the road toward the signing of the Paris Agreement. Eventually, though, the Paris Agreement came to include five mentions of the importance of protecting indigenous rights with regards to climate change.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate has decided to grant indigenous people a different set of rights altogether: the right to have oil and coal extracted from their ancestral lands in a streamlined manner. The rights to do so would be granted in a bill that passed unanimously in the Senate two days before the Paris Agreement.

Sponsored by U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2015's (S.209) passage in the Senate received no media coverage besides a press release disseminated by Barrasso's office and by the office of co-sponsor U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT).

In Midst of ExxonMobil Climate Denial Scandal, Company Hiring Climate Change Researcher

Caught in the crosshairs of an ongoing New York Attorney General investigation exploring its role in studying the damage climate change could cause since the 1970's and then proceeding to fund climate science denial campaigns, ExxonMobil has announced an interesting job opening. 

No, not the new lawyer who will soon send the “private empire” billable hours for his defense work in the New York AG probe, though that's a story for another day. Exxon is hiring for a climate change researcher to work in its Annandale, New Jersey research park facility.   

“We are seeking a candidate to advance research and assessment providing fundamental understanding on global climate change issues,” reads the job description.

Meet The Paris Climate Summit's ‘Big Energy’ Sponsor Engie

BY KYLA MANDEL AND BRENDAN MONTAGUE IN PARIS

French energy giant Engie is perhaps the most prominent and most promoted corporate sponsor of the COP21 climate talks in Paris.

Engie, formerly known as GDF Suez, can be seen everywhere from the launch of India’s Solar Alliance on Monday to a ‘wind tree’ outside the COP21 venue at Le Bourget and the white lock-boxes spread throughout the halls where attendees can charge their devices.

And today the company will lead the charge at the opening of Solutions COP21 where corporates are gathering in central Paris to promote their various climate solutions. Here, Engie will be discussing opportunities for start-ups as well as showcasing a solar-powered race car and an air purifying robot.

Divestment Movement Hits Major Milestone As World Leaders Debate Climate Action In Paris

More than 500 institutions that manage $3.4 trillion in assets have now committed to divesting holdings in fossil fuels, divestment campaign groups announced today in Paris.

As recently as September 2014, just 181 institutions managing $50 billion in assets had made some sort of divestment commitment.

350.org and Divest-Invest, two of the key groups organizing the divestment movement, announced the new additions to the growing list of divestors this morning in Paris at the UN COP21 climate negotiations.

New Obama State Dept Top Energy Diplomat Amos Hochstein A Former Marathon Oil Lobbyist

The U.S. State Department recently announced that Amos Hochstein, currently the special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs, will take over as the State Department's top international energy diplomat.

Hochstein will likely serve as a key point man for the U.S. in its negotiations to cut a climate change deal as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), both at the ongoing COP20 summit in Lima, Peru and next year's summit in Paris, France. Some conclude the Lima and Paris negotiations are a “last chance” to do something meaningful on climate change.

But before getting a job at the State Department, where Hochstein has worked since 2011, he worked as a lobbyist for the firm Cassidy & Associates. Cassidy's current lobbying client portfolio consists of several fossil fuel industry players, including Noble Energy, Powder River Energy and Transwest Express. 

Back when Hochstein worked for Cassidy, one of his clients was Marathon Oil, which he lobbied for in quarter two and quarter three of 2008, according to lobbying disclosure forms reviewed by DeSmogBlog.

Hochstein earned his firm $20,000 each quarter lobbying the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate on behalf of Marathon. 


Image Credit: Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives

New Report Highlights Fracking's Global Hazards

A new report, issued the same day the latest round of global climate negotiations opened in Peru, highlights the fracking industry's slow expansion into nearly every continent, drawing attention not only to the potential harm from toxic pollution, dried-up water supplies and earthquakes, but also to the threat the shale industry poses to the world's climate.

The report, issued by Friends of the Earth Europe, focuses on the prospects for fracking in 11 countries in Africa, Asia, North and South America and Europe, warning of unique hazards in each location along with the climate change risk posed in countries where the rule of law is relatively weak.

“Around the world people and communities are already paying the price of the climate crisis with their livelihoods and lives,” said Susann Scherbarth, climate justice and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. “Fracking will only make things worse and has no place in a clean energy future.”

The 80-page document describes plans for fracking in Brazil's Amazon rainforest (and the deforestation that would go along with that drilling), highlights the hazards the water-intensive process poses to already-disappearing aquifers in arid regions of northern Africa, and notes that licenses for shale gas drilling have been issued in the earthquake-prone zone at the foot of the Himalaya mountains in India.

It comes as representatives from 195 countries gathered Monday in Lima, with the goal of negotiating new limits on greenhouse gasses and staving off catastrophic climate change. Prospects for those talks seemed grim, with The New York Times reporting that it would be all but impossible to prevent the globe from warming 2 degrees.

The EU’s New Climate Commitments Make Canada and the U.S. Look Ridiculous

connie hedegaard, climate change, EU

The European Union has reached a new legally-binding climate change agreement that would see greenhouse gas emissions drop by at least 40 per cent of 1990 levels by 2030.

The agreement, signed off in Brussels two weeks ago by the EU’s 28 member nations, is designed to ensure Europe meets its objective of cutting emissions by at least 80 per cent by mid-century.

It also puts Europe in the lead position to help persuade other nations trailing far behind the EU’s emissions-reduction goals to reach a long-sought global climate change accord next year in Paris.

The 2030 climate and energy plan also calls for the share of renewable energy to increase to 27 per cent of 1990 levels while seeing a 27 per cent increase in energy efficiency.

In an official statement, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said the 2030 package is very good news for the fight against climate change.

Climate Change Could Force Thousands From Small Islands in Less Than a Decade: UN

In less than a decade, climate change-induced sea level rise could force thousands of people to migrate from some small island developing states (SIDS), according to the executive director of the United Nations Environment Program.

The world’s 52 small island developing states (SIDS) increasingly share sea level rise and other escalating environmental threats that are further aggravated by economic insecurities, Achim Steiner added.

What makes this situation even more grievous is that the climate change threats facing many SIDS are by-and-large not of their own making,” Steiner wrote in The Guardian. “Their total combined annual carbon dioxide output, although rising, accounts for less than 1% of global emissions.”

Legal Case: White House Argues Against Considering Climate Change on Energy Projects

Just over a month before the United Nations convenes on September 23 in New York City to discuss climate change and activists gather for a week of action, the Obama White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) argued it does not have to offer guidance to federal agencies it coordinates with to consider climate change impacts for energy decisions.

It came just a few weeks before a leaked draft copy of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) latest assessment said climate disruption could cause “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”

Initially filed as a February 2008 petition to CEQ by the International Center for Technology Assessment, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) when George W. Bush still served as President, it had been stalled for years. 

Six and a half years later and another term into the Obama Administration, however, things have finally moved forward. Or backwards, depending on who you ask. 

NEPA and CEQ

The initial February 2008 legal petition issued by the plaintiffs was rather simple: the White House's Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ) should provide guidance to federal agencies it coordinates with to weigh climate change impacts when utilizing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on energy policy decisions. 

A legal process completely skirted in recent prominent tar sands pipeline cases by both TransCanada and Enbridge, NEPA is referred to by legal scholars as the “Magna Carta” of environmental law.

Magna Carta; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

CEQ oversees major tenets of environmental, energy and climate policy. It often serves as the final arbiter on many major legislative pushes proposed by Congress and federal agencies much in the same way the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) does for regulatory policy. 

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