Jan 11 2011

Climate Science: Addressing the Major Skeptic Arguments

Published by under Climate Change,Science

For those of you interested in learning about the details and merits of the various arguments skeptics have raised about climate change science should read the whitepaper commissioned by DB Climate Change Advisors, Climate Change: Addressing the  Major Skeptic Arguments  (September 2010).  It was written by Mary-Elana Carr and others from Columbia University Earth Institute Climate Center and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

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Jan 11 2011

EPA Summer 2010 Regulatory Initiatives

Published by under Uncategorized

The EPA kept busy over the summer months, spearheading various regulatory initiatives in an effort to curb the detrimental effects of climate change.

In early May, the EPA issued its final rule setting GHG emission thresholds for stationary sources regulated under the Clean Air Act permitting programs. (Click to view Final GHG Tailoring Rule) The new emission thresholds define when permits under the New Source Review Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and title V Operating Permit programs are required for new and existing industrial facilities. (Click to view Fact Sheet on Rule) The rule seeks to streamline the permitting requirements and requires all facilities responsible for nearly 70% of the national GHG emissions(such as power plants, refineries, and cement production facilities) to obtain both PSD and Title V permits. Essentially, the rule is an attempt to “tailor” the CAA permit programs to avoid an enormous increase in the volume of facilities applying for permits – flooding State, local, and tribal permitting authorities with paperwork and subsequently detracting from the programs focus of regulating air pollution. The new requirements will be introduced in two steps, with the first beginning January 2, 2011. Step 1 will run from January 2011 until June 30, 2011 and the new GHG emission thresholds will only apply to existing stationary sources that are currently subject to CAA permit requirements. Step 2 will begin in July 2011 and end on June 30, 2013. The significance of Step 2 is that for the first time ever, operating permit requirements will apply to sources based on their GHG emissions even if they would not apply based on emissions of any other pollutant.

Next, on July 9th, the EPA made a call for public comment and information on approaches to accounting for GHG emissions from bioenergy and other biogenic sources to supplement its final GHG tailoring rule. (Click to view Call for Information) Facilities using forest or agricultural products for energy production, wastewater treatment, livestock management, and landfills all involve the decomposition of biological material. With decomposition comes generation of large amounts of GHGs with the potential to affect emission thresholds under the recent final rule addressing CAA permitting programs. Data and recommendations gathered from this Call for Information will be beneficial in EPA’s attempt to track emissions and regulate accordingly.

In August, the EPA proposed two rules to ensure that businesses planning to build new, large facilities or make major expansions to existing ones will be able to obtain New Source Review Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permits that address greenhouse gases (GHG). (Click for August Proposed Rules Fact Sheet) The two proposals are limited to providing assistance to states that develop their own programs for issuing PSD permits by permitting the EPA to gap fill State Implementation Plans when it comes to regulating sources under the new GHG tailoring rule until the State is able to make necessary changes to its permitting program. The 1st proposal addresses a SIP call to ensure that all states with permitting authority will begin to include the new GHG thresholds. The 2nd rule proposes that a federal implementation plan (FIP) that would apply in any state that is unable to submit, by its specified deadline, a SIP revision to ensure that the state has authority to issue permits under the PSD program for GHG sources. By applying an interim FIP, the EPA attempts to avoid any delay in the construction of new business, which may result in the possible economic growth in that state.

Lastly, EPA made a proposal to addresses issues related to when pre-construction permitting requirements under the New Source Review (NSR) permitting program would transition from the 1-hour to the 8-hour National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone. (Click to view Proposed Pre-Construction Rule) EPA attempts to assure that air quality improvements under EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for 1-hour ground-level ozone are retained as areas work to meet the more health protective 8-hour ozone standards set in 1997.  In addition, EPA addresses its CAA interpretation that areas attaining the 8-hour ozone standards should implement the NSR Prevention of Significant Deterioration permitting programs regardless of their status relative to the revoked 1-hour ozone standards. (Click to view Fact Sheet)

This overview of EPA’s proactive initiative to address climate change is in no way an exhaustive list. In addition to final and proposed rules, the EPA recently held a public hearing on the Federal Implementation Plan for permitting under the CAA for GHG emissions on September 14th, 2010. In the coming months, as more information and data addressing GHG’s and their effect on our climate becomes available, we can expect the EPA to continue their push to address this problem at the federal level.

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Mar 13 2010

China and India Agree to Copenhagen Accord

Published by under Copenhagen Accord,UNFCCC

On March 8, 2009 India submitted a letter to the UNFCC Secretariat in which India agreed to be formally listed as a party on the Copenhagen Accord.  On March 9, 2009, China agreed to be listed as a party.  With China and India agreeing to be listed, the Copenhagen Accord now includes all of the world’s leading emitters.  Importantly, the all agree (in the political, non-binding) Accord’s goal of  limiting global temperature rise since industrialization to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).  However, that China and India agreed only to be “listed” as parties to the accord, and did not declare full “association” with the accord.

Although the United States proposed replacing some of the existing U.N. texts with passages from the Copenhagen Accord, India and China have both strongly backed the twin-track (UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol).  According to a March 9, 2009 Guardian article, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao takes the position that ”‘It is neither viable nor acceptable to start a new negotiation process outside the [UNFCCC] and the [Kyoto] protocol,’  Similarly, Rajani Ranjan Rashmi, India’s environment and forests minister, states in his letter, ‘The accord is not a new track of negotiations or a template for outcomes’ … The US now appears isolated as China, India and many other countries, firmly support the idea of continuing with the two existing UN negotiating tracks to try to achieve a consensus. The battle of the texts was fought for much of last year with the US backed by Britain and the rest of Europe. Today, the European Commission’s first formal statement since Copenhagen offered some support for the US: ‘The political guidance in the Copenhagen Accord – which was not formally adopted as a UN decision – needs to be integrated into the UN negotiating texts that contain the basis of the future global climate agreement.’ But some rich country governments now accept privately that they had ‘crossed a red line’ and failed to recognise that developing countries had not been prepared to abandon the Kyoto protocol without a new legal agreement in place to ensure developed countries reduced emissions.”

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Feb 01 2010

SEC Announces Interpretive Guidance on Climate Change Disclosure

SEC Issues Interpretive Guidance on Disclosure Related to Business or Legal Developments Regarding Climate Change

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
2010-15

Text of Chairman’s Statement

Washington, D.C., Jan. 27, 2010 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today voted to provide public companies with interpretive guidance on existing SEC disclosure requirements as they apply to business or legal developments relating to the issue of climate change.

Federal securities laws and SEC regulations require certain disclosures by public companies for the benefit of investors. Occasionally, to assist those who provide such disclosures, the Commission provides guidance on how to interpret the disclosure rules on topics of interest to the business and investment communities. The Commission’s interpretive releases do not create new legal requirements nor modify existing ones, but are intended to provide clarity and enhance consistency for public companies and their investors.

The interpretive release approved today provides guidance on certain existing disclosure rules that may require a company to disclose the impact that business or legal developments related to climate change may have on its business. The relevant rules cover a company’s risk factors, business description, legal proceedings, and management discussion and analysis.

“We are not opining on whether the world’s climate is changing, at what pace it might be changing, or due to what causes. Nothing that the Commission does today should be construed as weighing in on those topics,” said SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro. “Today’s guidance will help to ensure that our disclosure rules are consistently applied.”

Specifically, the SEC’s interpretative guidance highlights the following areas as examples of where climate change may trigger disclosure requirements:

  • Impact of Legislation and Regulation: When assessing potential disclosure obligations, a company should consider whether the impact of certain existing laws and regulations regarding climate change is material. In certain circumstances, a company should also evaluate the potential impact of pending legislation and regulation related to this topic.
  • Impact of International Accords: A company should consider, and disclose when material, the risks or effects on its business of international accords and treaties relating to climate change.
  • Indirect Consequences of Regulation or Business Trends: Legal, technological, political and scientific developments regarding climate change may create new opportunities or risks for companies. For instance, a company may face decreased demand for goods that produce significant greenhouse gas emissions or increased demand for goods that result in lower emissions than competing products. As such, a company should consider, for disclosure purposes, the actual or potential indirect consequences it may face due to climate change related regulatory or business trends.
  • Physical Impacts of Climate Change: Companies should also evaluate for disclosure purposes the actual and potential material impacts of environmental matters on their business.

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The SEC’s interpretive release will be posted on the SEC Web site as soon as possible.

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Dec 15 2009

Climate Change Law: Mitigation and Adaptation

bookAnnounce2

This site will support the coursebook by providing relevant international treaties and documents, links to reports and articles, statutes and regulations. It will also grow over time to reflect the evolving nature of climate change law.

We are looking to launch the site in January 2010.

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Sep 17 2009

About the Authors

bookAnnounce

The book authors will be contributing to this site on a regular basis: Richard G. Hildreth, David R. Hodas, Nicholas A. Robinson and James Gustave Speth. For further information, please contact David R. Hodas drhodas@widener.edu.

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