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In Seattle, Real Estate Sector to 'Green' Its Buildings as Economic Fix-It

The city's real estate industry is spearheading a first-of-its-kind green building initiative to help boost property values and lure businesses

By Maria Gallucci, SolveClimate News

Jul 22, 2011

Seattle is greening its cityscape in a bid to boost its sluggish real estate market — all while cutting global warming emissions and slashing energy costs.

Industry leaders have banded together to spearhead a high-performance building initiative — the first of its kind nationwide — that sets ambitious sustainability and efficiency goals for privately owned buildings in the heart of the city.

The aims to drive up property values, reduce vacancy rates, lower operating costs and create ongoing employment in retrofitted and newly constructed buildings downtown.

The idea is to rebrand the city as a hub for environmentally conscious businesses and residents and inspire similar urban development efforts across the country.

"Building owners and operators see it as a competitive advantage for the city," Brian Geller, the initiative's executive director, told SolveClimate News.

"Architects and engineers see it as an economic opportunity just to drive initial work. All of the stakeholders are excited about what it can do for the city as a whole," he said.

U.S. State Department to Assess Keystone XL Pipeline Next Month

State Dept. said Friday it will issue its final environmental review in August on TransCanada's controversial oil sands pipeline

By Timothy Gardner,

Jul 22, 2011

The U.S. State Department will issue a final environmental report next month on TransCanada Corp's pipeline that would ship Canadian oil sands crude to Texas refineries, keeping the project on track for a final decision by the end of this year.

The $7 billion line has faced opposition from many lawmakers and environmentalists for greenhouse gas emissions associated with oil sands production, and because the line would run across the one of the world's largest freshwater resources, the Ogallala Aquifer.

Toothlessness of Alberta's Final Oil Sands Plan Worries Conservationists in U.S. & Canada

U.S. watchdogs fear the plan could tilt the State Department to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline

By Elizabeth McGowan, SolveClimate News

Jul 21, 2011
Ed Stelmach, the Premier of Alberta

WASHINGTON—Any day now, the Alberta government is expected to release its final version of a long-awaited, overarching proposal designed to protect natural resources in the northeastern corner of the province laden with intensive oil sands mining.

But if it's anything like the draft first made public April 5, conservationists are prepared to be unimpressed. Yet again.

Their top-of-the list concern is that government officials will continue to favor industry's needs instead of laying out science-based specifics to preserve air, land, water and at-risk species such as the woodland caribou. They also suspect that authorities will continue to refuse to submit what's known as the to outside independent experts for review.

"It's widely acknowledged that Alberta needs a plan," Jennifer Grant of Canada's told SolveClimate News in an interview. "That plan is supposed to have three pillars — social, economic and environmental. But it's clear economics have overridden some of the environmental goals."

Grant directs the oil sands program out of the nonprofit organization's Calgary office.

U.S. environmental watchdogs are on the same page as Pembina. Their topmost fear is that the U.S. State Department will cite the plan as a sign that Alberta is executing an about-face by holding the feet of the oil sands industry to the fire. They are afraid that conclusion will tilt Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's team toward greenlighting a $7 billion proposed controversial oil sands pipeline.

Bloomberg, Sierra Club Make $50 Million Anti-Coal Move

The $50 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies will pay for a significant part of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign


Jul 21, 2011

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined with the Sierra Club on Thursday in a $50 million, four-year plan to campaign for replacing one-third of aging U.S. coal-fired power plants with clean energy.

"If we are going to get serious about reducing our carbon footprint in the United States, we have to get serious about coal," Bloomberg, founder of the news service that bears his name, said in a statement.

"Coal is a self-inflicted public health risk, polluting the air we breathe, adding mercury to our water, and the leading cause of climate disruption," he said. The partnership with Sierra Club was announced outside a coal-fired power plant in Alexandria, Virginia.

The $50 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies will pay for a significant part of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, which is budgeted at $150 million for four years.

Rich-Poor Rift Stalls World Bank's Anticipated Energy Lending Policy

Countries remain at odds over the bank's approach to coal loans and greenhouse gas accounting rules

By Matthew Berger, SolveClimate News

Jul 21, 2011
 Tata Mundra project

Ambitious efforts to reform the World Bank's energy lending policy — expected to be completed in mid-July — have stalled. The main sticking points are centered on loans for coal-fired plants and the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions, observers say.

Two years ago the World Bank launched a review process of its "Energy Sector Strategy" in the face of pressure from the United States, Europe and advocacy organizations over the bank's coal lending in developing countries.

The goal was to create a blueprint for a cleaner energy future that would bring electricity to the estimated 1.4 billion people who have no power without aggravating climate change.

The impact was expected to be profound, due to the influence the World Bank wields in developing countries, and in financial and political circles worldwide.

Though the bank is not the only financing option for energy projects in poorer nations, its adoption of a policy that favors clean power over coal could persuade other powerful institutions to do the same, observers say, perhaps changing the course of the global energy future.

Rise of Energy-Saving LEDs in Lighting Market Seen as Unstoppable

Analysts say GOP-led efforts to strip funding for federal lighting efficiency standards won't stop the rapid growth of new technologies

By Maria Gallucci, SolveClimate News

Jul 20, 2011
Digital Lumens

The switch to energy-efficient lighting will proceed rapidly this decade, no matter the results of a Republican campaign to keep older energy-guzzling light bulbs on the market, industry executives and experts say.

The reason is simple: The new technologies promise brighter days for the bottom line.

Light-emitting diodes or LEDS, in particular, are driving the lighting market as commercial, industrial and outdoor sectors — which make up 96 percent of the world's lighting energy use — continue to realize massive savings from the emerging technology.

"The adoption rate of LED is so profound ... and is happening at a clip that is surprising even for us in the marketplace," Tom Pincince, CEO of , told SolveClimate News.

The Boston-based start-up builds "intelligent" systems with next-generation LED bulbs and software that can cut lighting energy by as much as 90 percent in grocery store-sized warehouses and manufacturing centers, saving thousands of dollars, according to the company.

Climate Change Peacekeeping on Agenda of UN Security Council

A special meeting of the Security Council this week will consider adding a 'green helmets' force to intervene in climate change-related conflicts

By Suzanne Goldenberg,

Jul 20, 2011
A UN peacekeeper helps hurricane victims in 2008

A special meeting of the United Nations Security Council is due to consider whether to expand its mission to keep the peace in an era of climate change.

Small island states, which could disappear beneath rising seas, are pushing the Security Council to intervene to combat the threat to their existence.

There has been talk, meanwhile, of a new environmental peacekeeping force — green helmets — which could step into conflicts caused by shrinking resources.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, is expected to address the meeting on Wednesday.

But Germany, which called the meeting, has warned it is premature to expect the council to take the plunge into green peacemaking or even adopt climate change as one of its key areas of concern.

"It is too early to seriously think about council action on climate change. This is clearly not on the agenda," Germany's ambassador to the UN, Peter Wittig, wrote in the Huffington Post.

"A good first step would be to acknowledge the realities of climate change and its inherent implications to international peace and security," he wrote.

Fracking at Drinking Water Source for 80,000 Pennsylvanians Raises Alarms

Documents and interviews reveal that one Pa. water utility has already leased its watershed to gas drillers — and many others are being courted

By Anthony Brino, SolveClimate News

Jul 19, 2011

Cynthia Walter, an ecologist at St. Vincent College outside Pittsburgh, gets a lot of emails from local wildlife enthusiasts asking about "this bird" or "that amphibian."

But one day last year she got an uncommon request to inspect the forest cover around the Beaver Run Reservoir via Google Earth. The 1,300-acre lake is the main source of drinking water for 80,000 residents in southwestern Pennsylvania. It also rests atop the enormous Marcellus Shale gas reserve.

"Are those natural gas wells on the peninsulas?" she recalls the email sender asking.

Immediately, Walter spotted a square of barren earth on the satellite map. Later she learned that a company called CNX Gas had drilled more than a dozen wells on that bald patch from two sprawling well pads, using a controversial technique known as horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, to release gas trapped in layers of shale rock deep underground.

"I was kind of shocked. I've been on Beaver Run for 27 years and had no idea," Walter said. Nor was she aware that over the past decade or so about 100 shallow natural gas wells had been drilled throughout the reservoir.

But the gas operations were hardly a secret. Besides being visible by air, records obtained by SolveClimate News in response to requests reveal that the , the local water utility, had leased the watershed in 1999 precisely to cash in on drilling opportunities.

A Bold Renewables Policy Lures Leading Solar Leasers to Maryland

The state's 20% renewable portfolio standard and various tax incentives have attracted three of the country's top solar leasing firms this year

By Maria Gallucci, SolveClimate News

Jul 18, 2011

Maryland's ambitious renewables goal and booming solar market have lured its third solar leasing firm this year, putting the state on track to substantially boost the rate of installations for rooftop systems.

, a San Francisco solar provider that owns, maintains and insures solar arrays and sells the electricity to homeowners, announced last week that it was teaming up with two Maryland installers to offer its services in the state for the first time.

The company can expect competition from other California firms eager to tap a promising new market.

SunRun's announcement came just weeks after Oakland-based said it would move into Maryland as part of an East Coast expansion that includes Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

In January, SunRun's closest competitor, San Mateo, Calif.-based , acquired Clean Currents of Silver Spring to serve as its operations center for Maryland and the District of Columbia. SolarCity also offers residential solar systems for sale and lease through Home Depot stores in Maryland and D.C., plus four other states.

"That is a testament to the impact that the industry has had in the state," Ian Hines, a spokesperson for the , said of the leading solar companies' recent moves.

World Body Approves First-Ever Measures to Cut CO2 from Ships

But environmental groups warn that the rules only apply to new ships replacing older ones — and that developing countries have a six-year waiver

By John Vidal,

Jul 18, 2011
Cargo ship

Countries have taken a first step towards reducing climate emissions from shipping with a global agreement to reduce energy use in new vessels from 2013 onwards.

The belated by 55 of the world's biggest sea-faring nations meeting at the UN's international maritime organization in London will force all ships over 400 tons built after 2013 to improve their efficiency by 10 percent, rising to 20 percent between 2020 and 2024, and 30 percent for ships delivered after 2024.

The first ever regulation of emissions in shipping is expected to lead to greenhouse gas emission reductions of 45-50 million tons a year by 2020.

But China, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and South Africa have secured a six-and-a-half-year delay for new ships registered in developing countries, which could mean the first guaranteed effective date of the reform will be in 2019.

Shipping accounts for 3-4 percent of man-made CO2 emissions worldwide, and this figure is expected to rise to 6 percent by 2020, with emissions doubling by 2050 if no action is taken. Shipowners, who traditionally do not pay for the fuel that their ships use, have long resisted any regulation despite increasing pressure from environmental groups and reformers within the industry.

Environmental NGOs welcomed the tightening of the energy efficiency design index (EEDI) standard but cautioned that because it only applies to new ships replacing older ones at the end of their long lives, the full effects of today's decision will take a long time to have any major impact. There is a significant danger, said some, that many shipowners will elect to have their new ships flagged in developing countries that provide a waiver.