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EPA Sets Timetable on Carbon-Cutting Regs for Coal and Oil

By Stacy Feldman

Dec 23, 2010

The U.S. EPA unveiled a new approach on Thursday for how it plans to slash greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants and oil refineries as part of its mandate to control climate pollution under the .

China's Ability to Feed Its People Questioned by UN Expert

37% of its soils are already degraded and climate change is expected to increase price volatility and cut agricultural productivity by 5% to 10% by 2030

by Jonathan Watts,

Dec 23, 2010

China's ability to feed a fifth of the world's population will become tougher because of land degradation, urbanization and over-reliance on fossil-fuels and fertilizer, a United Nations envoy warned today as grain and meat prices surged on global markets.

With memories still fresh of the famines that killed tens of millions of people in the early 1960s, the Chinese government has gone to great lengths to ensure the world's biggest population has enough to eat, but its long-term self-sufficiency was questioned by UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter.

"The shrinking of arable land and the massive land degradation threatens the ability of the country to maintain current levels of agricultural production, while the widening gap between rural and urban is an important challenge to the right to food of the Chinese population," said De Schutter at the end of a trip to China.

Thwarted Bingaman Still Eyeing Clean Energy Standard in Next Congress

“The renewable electricity standard has been around for many Congresses,” his spokesman said. “We’ll certainly revisit it.”

By Elizabeth McGowan

Dec 23, 2010

WASHINGTON— Clearly, the mammoth tax-slicing package that President Obama signed into law Friday has its share of boosters and detractors on Capitol Hill.

Count Sen. Jeff Bingaman among the latter.

Before voting against the $858 billion measure, the New Mexico Democrat criticized his colleagues for allowing the wealthiest Americans to keep more of their money instead of maximizing incentives for energy efficiency.

That squandered opportunity means the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will redouble his efforts in the 112th Congress to collaborate with Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe to advance fuel-saving provisions, Bingaman spokesman Bill Wicker told SolveClimate News in an interview.

U.S. Pushed to Reopen Bangladesh Coal Mine Closed by Violent Protests

With U.S. investors on the hook, U.S. ambassador urged Bangladesh's energy adviser to reopen a mine closed in 2006 after violent protests

by Fariha Karim,

Dec 22, 2010

US diplomats privately pressured the Bangladeshi government into reinstating a controversial coal mine which had been closed following violent protests, a leaked diplomatic cable shows.

The US ambassador to Dhaka, James Moriarty, last year held talks with the country's chief energy adviser, urging him to approve plans by the British company Global Coal Management (GCM) to begin open-cast coal mining in the country's Phulbari area, in the west of Bangladesh.

GCM were forced to shut down operations in the country in 2006 after a grassroots demonstration turned violent. Three people were killed as soldiers fired at protesters, and several hundred were injured.

But the company has continued to maintain a strong presence in the country and has continued to lobby for rights to operate the coal mine ever since. Earlier this month, Steve Bywater, GCM's chairman, said that a Bangladeshi parliamentary standing committee had recommended that the country moves towards extracting coal reserves using open-cut mining methods.

Environmental Justice Knocks Loudly at the White House

Veteran activists rearrange the agenda by explaining they wanted government officials in the lineup to do more listening and less talking

By Elizabeth McGowan

Dec 22, 2010

WASHINGTON—It might have been the inaugural environmental justice forum at the White House. But that doesn’t mean there were a bunch of rookies in the room.

The all-day gathering was barely under way when veteran activists of the movement partially rearranged the Wednesday agenda after they explained emphatically that they wanted federal government officials in the lineup to do more listening and less talking.

Once that was settled, much of the “us vs. them” tension in the room dissipated but didn’t disappear. Advocates from some of America’s most impoverished neighborhoods—where the underbelly of the country’s industrial grind has turned the simple acts of breathing the air or drinking a glass of water into risky and deadly propositions—pleaded passionately and poignantly for substance over symbolism.

Out of Cancun Climate Talks, A Breakthrough for Preserving Wetlands Globally

Peat soils are carbon sinks, absorbing about twice the carbon as all the planet's forests

By Stacy Feldman

Dec 21, 2010

Climate negotiators at UN talks agreed to consider letting rich countries cut their climate-changing emissions by "rewetting" degraded peatlands, in the first official sign of global action on the issue.

It was a victory for conservationists who long fought for incentives in UN forestry and land-use proposals to entice governments to stop draining carbon-rich swamps.

"It is really a big achievement," Susanna Tol of the Netherlands-based environmental group said in a telephone interview. 

For years, those negotiations focused on slowing deforestation, which contributes 17 percent of annual global warming emissions. Ignoring peat is a big mistake, advocates like Tol say. Draining and burning bogs is responsible for 5.5 percent of CO2 pollution and rising, according to an from Wetlands International.

California Approves Cap and Trade, But Toughest Decisions Lie Ahead

What was left to do later is almost as revealing – and important – as what was done.

By Robert Collier

Dec 21, 2010

California’s environmental bureaucracy took a series of huge, grinding steps forward last week, approving several measures that make the state an unquestioned world leader on climate policy. Exactly where that path is leading, however, remains unclear.

The state Air Resources Board and the Public Utilities Commission voted last Thursday and Friday to adopt a cap-and-trade system, approve a subsidy program for energy efficiency by major utilities and finalize regulations against diesel soot from trucks. In all these steps, what was left to do later is almost as revealing – and important – as what was done.

Federal Cap on Water Pollution Is Chesapeake Bay's Road to Remedy

Nutrient trading in some states is similar to the carbon cap and trade Congress failed to pass to address global warming pollution

By Lisa Song

Dec 20, 2010

When Dawn Stoltzfus looks at the Chesapeake Bay, she sees a body of water on life support. "It's barely hanging on," Stoltzfus, a spokeswoman from the Maryland Department of the Environment, told SolveClimate News.

The Chesapeake Bay is the country's largest estuary, with a watershed that's home to 17 million people. Despite decades of cleanup efforts, the estuary remains plagued by invasive species, harmful algal blooms and loss of wetland habitat.

Excessive nutrients pose the biggest challenge to water quality, and for the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency is setting mandatory limits on Bay-wide nutrient loads.

The final numbers—called Total Maximum Daily Loads—will be released later in December and are supported by executive orders from May and September 2010, when President Obama called for better restoration of the Bay's ecosystem health.

In draft targets released in September, the EPA aimed to reduce the Bay's nitrogen and phosphorous by 25% from current levels, with all reduction measures in place by 2025.

If that sounds like the federal government is putting a cap on the water pollution flowing into the Chesapeake, that’s because that’s exactly what it is. Further, in order to meet and possibly go beyond those pollution limits, several states in the watershed have initiated nutrient trading programs.

Mexico Hailed for Making Climate Talks a Global Triumph

Mexico's decision to put its foreign ministry in charge of the grueling talks was crucial to its success. Can South Africa pick up where Mexico left off?

By Stacy Feldman

Dec 20, 2010

Even advocates of the climate deal brokered in Cancun among 193 nations admit that it is a modest document. The "," as it is called, mostly adds flesh to the bare bones of last year's Copenhagen Accord.

No big polluters raised their carbon-cutting offers, which means the world is on track to warm by by the end of the century. Overall, it shouldn't be the stuff of global elation on the climate issue.

Yet the mediocre deal received an extraordinary outpouring of support from the poorest and richest nations alike. Many countries from the Maldives to Bangladesh and Australia heralded it as a ringing manifesto for multilateralism.  

Why? In short, because Mexico skillfully shepherded the critically panned negotiations and came up with a compromise that allowed key states and negotiating blocs to claim partial victory.

Kansas Permit for Embattled Coal Plant Faces EPA Review, Legal Scrutiny

The permit for the Sunflower plant is issued to beat the start date of new federal greenhouse rules in January, and critics claim foul play

By Elizabeth McGowan

Dec 17, 2010

WASHINGTON—Environmental organizations will join the EPA in carefully reviewing—and perhaps challenging—a controversial building permit that Kansas authorities granted Thursday to build a 895 megawatt coal-fired power plant in the southwestern part of the state.

Approval of the permit to Sunflower Electric Power Corp. comes just a few weeks before the Environmental Protection Agency’s “tailoring rule” takes effect Jan. 2. That rule is designed to employ the Clean Air Act to control heat-trapping gases from large emitters that are new or undergo significant modifications.

Issuing the permit before that deadline means the new plant can avoid that EPA rule designed to rein in greenhouse gases.