Getting Past the Politics of Climate ChangeNigeria
Austin, Tx— The failure to reach a meaningful resolution on global climate change talks in Copenhagen last December left many advocates of climate action badly disheartened.
But international negotiators have hardly given up. This week, U.N. climate talks are taking place in Tianjin, China, which could help prepare for climate discussions in Cancun, Mexico, at the end of the year. Another round of negotiations is scheduled for South Africa next year.
Individual countries and regions, meanwhile, are continuing to reassert their commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions — though the road to progress remains long and difficult.
One of the notable global holdouts, the United States, is quietly poised to act. Efforts to enact a “cap-and-trade” policy in Congress to control greenhouse gas emissions have thus far failed. But come January, an alternative system is set to begin: The Environmental Protection Agency, a U.S. government body, is due to start regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
Some of the country’s largest polluters will be required to include carbon dioxide and other gases linked to climate change on their permit applications. Additional rules will come into force over time. The regulatory efforts, though modest at least initially, are politically incendiary, and they could very well get held up.
Coal and other business groups, and even a few disgruntled states, have filed sternly worded motions challenging the E.P.A.’s actions and the science behind them, which draws from the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, much vilified by the American right after the 2009 “Climategate” debacle, in which thousands of hacked e-mails and documents reflected poorly on climate researchers’ conduct.
The lawsuits are awaiting action from a three-judge panel at a U.S. District Court in Washington, which will make a ruling about whether or not to stay the E.P.A.’s hand.
Europe, for its part, is also adjusting its climate strategy. European nations are deliberating about whether to strengthen their emissions-reduction target to 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
The current target is a reduction of 20 percent; E.U. leaders would like any 30 percent target to be contingent on serious climate action by other nations around the world.
The other big debate in Europe concerns how to allocate free trading allowances to “exposed sectors,” like steel, which tend to suffer particularly from carbon pricing, according to Michael Grubb, the chair of climate strategies and a senior research associate at Cambridge University.
Of course, efforts to reduce greenhouse gases have been made easier by the global economic doldrums of recent years. Emissions from businesses in the E.U. carbon-trading program were down 11.6 percent last year compared with 2008, due in part to the economy, as well as low prices for relatively clean natural gas — and, presumably, the trading system itself.
In the United States, energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions fell 7 percent in 2009 compared with 2008, according to the Energy Information Administration. That was the largest such drop, in absolute or percentage terms, since record-keeping began more than 60 years ago.
President Barack Obama says he remains committed to climate action, but he acknowledges that fixing the U.S. economy has taken priority.
“During the past two years, we’ve not made as much progress as I wanted to make when I was sworn into office,” Mr. Obama told Rolling Stone magazine, in a lengthy interview last week that was posted online.
“It is very hard to make progress on these issues in the midst of a huge economic crisis, because the natural inclination around the world is to say, ‘You know what? That may be a huge problem, but right now what’s a really big problem is 10 percent unemployment,’ or ‘What’s a really big problem is that our businesses can’t get loans.”’
Mr. Obama added: “One of my top priorities next year is to have an energy policy that begins to address all facets of our over-reliance on fossil fuels.”
The action by the Environmental Protection Agency has been fiercely contested, not only by business groups but also by lawmakers. Some senators have pushed for legislation that would stop or delay the E.P.A.’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. That fight, while currently at a lull, is not over.
Most U.S. states are ready for the onset of climate regulations, according to the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, which represents air-pollution control officials around the country. But there will still be significant obstacles. For example, Texas, the biggest greenhouse gas emitter in the United States, is prepared to defy the regulations by refusing to ensure that companies operating there comply.
In a letter this summer to the E.P.A., two top state officials wrote: “We write to inform you that Texas has neither the authority nor the intention of interpreting, ignoring or amending its laws in order to compel the permitting of greenhouse-gas emissions.”
As the back-and-forth plays out in the United States, Mr. Grubb of Cambridge University predicted that other countries would stop counting on the United States to act decisively on climate change.
“There has been a certain amount of hanging back, pending the hope of U.S. action,” he said in an e-mail. “I think that as countries slowly come to the terms with the apparent inability of the U.S. to take serious action, they will be able to take a fresh look at how to move forward in ways that work without the U.S.”
El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.
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