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Island Nations Plead for Their Lives as World Dawdles at Climate Talks

Tuvalu wants to close emissions from a logging loophole; Micronesia wants to cut HFCs - super greenhouse gases - "to buy time"

By Stacy Feldman

Dec 9, 2010

Leaders of the world's tiny island states, which are already swamped by rising seas from global warming, have come to the Cancun climate talks to plead for their lives, they said on Wednesday night.

"We're talking about survival," said Marcus Stephen, president of Nauru and head of the group of 14 Pacific Small Island Developing States at the UN negotiations.

The scattered low-lying Pacific islands are most at risk of being wiped off the map from runaway climate change. Their heads of state have led the charge to give voice to island nations in the UN talks.

Cancún: From Mangrove Paradise to Polluted Megasprawl

At risk is the whole Mesoamerican reef system, which stretches 625 miles down the Yucatan pensinsula towards Honduras

by John Vidal, Guardian

Dec 9, 2010

Just over three weeks ago when . Investigations are not complete, but it is likely that it followed a build-up of gases from the rotting mangrove forest buried below the hotel. If so, most of the booming holiday city where the climate talks are taking place is in danger, having been built on hastily cleared mangrove forest and sand dunes.

But the biggest explosion in Cancún has been the city itself.

New figures from the Mexican government show that the fastest-growing major resort in the world now gets more than 7 million visitors a year and has possibly 1 million permanent inhabitants. Yet in 1974 when the World Bank kick-started it, Cancún was a collection of huts and a small fishing village. It now has 80,000 hotel beds and more than 500 major hotels and resorts, including the Moon Palace hotel and the Cancúnmesse, where UN talks to agree action on climate change are under way.

Technology Transfer Deal Likely in Cancun, but Nitty Gritty Missing

Still up in the air are critical elements: how financing will flow, who will govern the scheme and intellectual property rights

By Stacy Feldman

Dec 9, 2010

CANCUN, MEXICO -- A global agreement on technology that would pass cleantech solutions from rich nations to poor is possible in Cancun, according to officials and observers in the negotiations. But some of the most crucial and contentious details of the program are being left for another time.

Still up in the air are critical elements like how technology financing will flow, who will govern the scheme and the extent of global intellectual property rights (IPR).  

Despite the holes, "tech transfer" is seen as one of the furthest along and least controversial aspects of a potential Cancun package at the Nov. 29 to Dec. 10 talks.

With the summit less than 48 hours from its scheduled end, UN officials appear eager to wrap up a tech deal in talks that may otherwise produce little progress.

Obama Tax Deal Leaving Out Clean Energy, Putting Jobs at Risk

Thus far, 1,179 solar projects with total investments of $1.3 billion in 42 states have been built with support from an expiring program

By Elizabeth McGowan

Dec 8, 2010

WASHINGTON—If President Obama’s final tax package doesn’t include grants for renewable energy projects, the industry expects hundreds or perhaps thousands of solar and wind workers to add to already-lengthy unemployment lines.

What’s known as the renewable energy convertible tax credit program—or the Treasury grant program—is set to expire by year’s end. And a plan submitted by Senate Finance Committee Max Baucus, D-Mont., to extend the program for a year died over the weekend.

Now leaders from all renewable energy fields are hoping legislators can reach some sort of compromise to keep jobs and projects from being jeopardized. Ideally, they are seeking a two-year extension of the grant program.

“This is not a program that has just benefited blue states,” Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, told reporters in a conference call Wednesday. “It’s a program that has benefited all states. They need to put their partisan bickering aside … to ensure that these industries continue to grow.”

Is China on a Path to Redemption in Cancún?

Cast as wrecker of Copenhagen, China is taking more constructive approach, say observers, and may compromise on US demand

by Suzanne Goldenberg,

Dec 8, 2010

China, cast as the wrecker of UN climate negotiations last year, went some way towards rehabilitation at Cancún summit today, amid reports it was prepared to compromise on a core US demand.

In an apparent effort to make up for last year's debacle at Copenhagen – where China fired up developing countries into opposing a deal and delivering diplomatic snubs to Barack Obama – officials this time have opted for a constructive, low-key approach, say negotiators and observers.

"There is more camaraderie here than I saw in Copenhagen. I see more dialogue and much more intense engagement between the US and China and less shadow boxing," said India's environment minister, Jairam Ramesh. "China has moved."

Some reports have even suggested that China, now the biggest producer of greenhouse gases, was prepared to adopt legally binding emissions targets and subject its voluntary C02 reductions to international monitoring and verification.

Outgoing Rep. Bob Inglis Still Touting Revenue Neutral Carbon Tax

He’s trying to convince bona fide conservative Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., to reintroduce the carbon tax measure they co-sponsored

By Elizabeth McGowan

Dec 8, 2010

WASHINGTON—It is tempting to label six-term Rep. Bob Inglis as an equal opportunity annoyer.

But in the nuanced halls of Congress, that would be far too simplistic.

The outgoing South Carolinian is a burr in the GOP’s rigid saddle because he discomfits dominant House Republican groupthink: he admits he trusts the science that says human activities are causing the planet to warm.

He simultaneously perplexes the Democratic co-authors of the American Clean Energy and Security Act by rejecting their cap-and-trade effort at reining in heat-trapping gas emissions.

“I can understand why Ed Markey would be frustrated by somebody like me,” the Republican said about the Democratic Massachusetts representative in an interview with SolveClimate News. After all, “cap and trade is a market-based, conservative concept.” 

“But over the years, I’ve committed various heresies against Republicans. The one that’s most enduring is saying that climate change is real and let’s do something about it.”

Ideological Foes Assail UN Forest Scheme from Two Sides

Still, REDD maintains broad support from rich and poor nations and could be one of few agreements to emerge from the climate talks

By Stacy Feldman

Dec 7, 2010

CANCUN, MEXICO -- The prospect of a deal on forest protection at the Cancun climate talks has galvanized pressure groups at either end of the ideological axis to take common aim at keeping the UN out of the rainforests.

On the one side are indigenous groups, who say the pact would add up to a privatization of their natural resources.

On the other side is an industry-backed think tank named (WGI) that is fighting to protect logging interests, even though WGI likes to frame its arguments inside leftist rhetoric of concern for the poor. Slowing deforestation stifles economic growth in forest-dependent communities, they say, and will increase poverty.

Derailing REDD, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, is a rare issue around which these strange bedfellows are seeing eye-to-eye.

"The ideological spectrum is more of a circle than a line," said Rolf Skar, a campaigner for environmental group .

Study Charts How Underground CO2 Can Leach Metals into Water

Study is the first to observe, for at least a year, the effects of a CO2 leak on groundwater

by Catherine M. Cooney

Dec 7, 2010

It’s not common for a solution to carbon emissions to also pose a contamination danger for drinking water supplies, but new research indicates that if CO2 stored deep underground were to leak in even small amounts, it could cause metals to be released in shallow groundwater aquifers at concentrations that would pose a health risk.

published in Environmental Science & Technology, authors Mark Little and Robert B. Jackson studied samples of sand and rock taken from four freshwater aquifers located around the country that overlie potential carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) sites.

The scientists found that tiny amounts of CO2 drove up levels of metals including manganese, cobalt, nickel, and iron in the water tenfold or more in some places. Some of these metals moved into the water quickly, within one week or two. They also observed potentially dangerous uranium and barium steadily moving into the water over the entire year-long experiment.

Lord Stern Charts A 'Green' Industrial Revolution

On the sidelines of UN climate talks, leaders deliver big vision on how to beat climate change and poverty together

By Stacy Feldman

Dec 6, 2010

CANCUN, MEXICO -- At the Cancun climate talks, climate change expert Nicholas Stern presented a vision of a new era in "green" economic growth comparable to the industrial revolution, in which the reduction of both poverty and planet-warming emissions are top priorities.

"The two defining challenges of our century are managing climate change and overcoming poverty," said Stern, a former chief economist of the World Bank. "If we fail on one, we will fail on the other."

"We should not see them as separate ambitions," he said.

Speaking at a side event of the South Korea-based (GGGI), where he is vice-chair of the board, Stern said that the "central issue" in the Nov. 29 to Dec. 10 UN talks is how to "do green growth."

But the actual negotiations say otherwise.

WikiLeaks: More U.S. Climate Shenanigans

Rajendra Pachauri denies helping Washington block Iranian scientist from senior post on intergovernmental climate body

by Damian Carrington,

Dec 6, 2010

The US used backstage diplomatic maneuvers to help block the appointment of a scientist from Iran to a key position on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a leaked diplomatic cable reveals.

The US privately lobbied IPCC chair Dr Rajendra Pachauri, as well as the UK, EU, Argentina and Mali representatives, and had put its embassies to work from Brazil to Uzbekistan. It wanted to prevent the election of Dr Mostafa Jafari as one of two co-chairmen of a key working group.

The other co-chair was to be an American scientist, . The US state department noted that sharing the IPCC position with an Iranian would be "problematic" and "potentially at odds with overall US policy towards Iran".

The jobs often involved travel to and extended residencies in each other's countries, the cable said. The appointment of an Iranian would also "significantly complicate" US funding for the IPCC secretariat for that working group. US diplomats recognized Jafari as "a highly-qualified scientist ... but he is also a senior Iranian government employee".