Friday, December 10, 2010

Cancun Climate Talks Slow, but Steady

For the past week, I’ve been at the UN Climate Negotiations in Cancun, as part of the Sierra Club delegation. Today is the last official day of the conference, so I’m taking the time to reflect on my experiences and discuss how the negotiations were progressing.
Before I left, I already understood a tragic irony of holding the 16th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change here in Cancun. A well-known impact of global climate change is sea level rise, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finding a rise in sea level of 1-2 feet within the next 100 years, and recent evidence finding an accelerating rate of glacier melt that could cause sea level rise of over 6 feet. As I looked out east into the Gulf of Mexico from my shuttle bus, I was surrounded by the beauty of the coast and the waves flowing into the sand on the beach, hoping that there would be a commitment among world countries to protect our climate.

Over 600 million people live in coastal areas that are less than 10 meters above sea-level, and two thirds of the world’s cities with populations over five million are located in these at-risk areas. The EPA estimates 26,000 square kilometers of land lost if sea level rises by 2/3 of a meter, and 33% of coastal land and wetland habitats are likely to be under water.

That’s why the Sierra Club staged an event featuring founder Bill McKibben to pull the world’s heads from the sand. I’m glad to say this image carried in dozens of media outlets at the end of the first week of the conference. 

The Road from Copenhagen

The Copenhagen Accord, while not the binding global climate deal hoped for, achieved several political agreements.  It:

* Set a long-term goal of limiting global temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees C
* Set forth a process for States to report their greenhouse gas reduction targets of both developed and developing countries
* Included financing plans including "fast start" money for 2010-2012 "approaching" 30 billion, and a goal of $100 billion per year by 2020.
* Provided for developed country monitoring, reporting, and verification, and developing countries to monitor emissions and report through national communications, with "international consultation and analysis."

However, the Copenhagen Accord didn't accomplish:

- A long term emissions reduction target.  Early drafts included the 50 percent global reduction by 2050 (including 80 percent from developed countries) agreed to by the G-8. 
- Pledges that add up to a path to the goal of limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees C.  Rather, they may add up to a 3-4 degree rise in temperatures, requiring more ambitious pledges. 
- Mitigation pledges that are legally binding, since the Copenhagen Accord is a political agreement, and the Conference of the Parties (COP) merely "took note of" it and did not "adopt" it as a decision. 

Over the past two weeks, member groups of the Climate Action Network (CAN International) have been urging a fair, ambitious, and binding deal, including (1) stronger developed country emision reductions, (2) clear monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) and compliance system for developed country emissions, (3) agreeing to minimize loopholes that may remain in land use and forestry rules, and preventing double-counting in market mechanisms, (4) nationally appropriate mitigation actions for developing countries including MRV, (5) a Climate Fund to finance clean energy efforts, capacity building, technology development, and adaptation for the most vulnerable countries, and (6) clarity on the legal framework and path forward. 

While the talks are progressing and a draft agreement moves many of these issues forward, the ambitious goal of binding targets from developed countries on the order of 25-40% is unlikely until the United States is ready to take action.  The head of the U.S. delegation, Jonathan Pershing, has explained to environmental organizations that ratification by the U.S. Senate, and passage of climate and energy legislation are constraints of what the U.S. can agree to.    

State and Local Actions Critical

Coming from California, it is clear that our Global Warming Solutions Act, which requires a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, is a bright spot of climate action in the United States, and therefore a ray of hope in the world. 

We don't have time to wait for Congress to adopt climate legislation.  At best, renewable energy incentives that started in the stimulus may stay alive for an additional year, but they were nearly removed.  California is developing clean energy and energy efficiency programs that will reduce air pollution, protect public health, and create half a million jobs.  California is developing new standards for cars and fuel that are key to the United States meeting its 17% by 2020 reduction target. 

California voters strongly support climate protection, defeating Proposition 23 by 63% in the November 2010 election, and electing Governor-elect Jerry Brown, running on a clean energy jobs platform to get California working again. 

Obama EPA Taking Action

The Obama Administration isn't waiting for Congress either, and has implemented the Clean Air Act to get started on achieving greenhouse gas pollution reductions.  EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy outlined United States efforts since Copenhagen, including the first greenhouse gas standards for passenger vehicles, the first proposed greenhouse gas standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks, and the first year of collecting greenhouse gas emissions data under the mandatory reporting program. 

The clean cars standards first adopted in California set an average emissions level of 250 grams of CO2 per mile in model year 2016, equivalent to 35.5 mpg, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 950 million tons.  A second phase to be proposed in Fall 2011 is evaluating more than 30 technologies to further reduce emissions during 2017-2025 to the equivalent  of 47-62 mpg.  The renewable fuel standard sets a goal of increasing renewable, low-carbon fuel to 36 billion gallons by 2022, reducing 138 million tons of CO2, replacing about 7 percent of expected annual gasoline.  Additionally, new or modified stationary sources and power plants will need to adopt the most efficient technologies available to minimize emissions.  This can help reduce unhealthy emissions from coal-fired power plants throughout the United States, preventing tens of thousands of premature deaths. 

The Obama Administration's EPA actions are promosing, but cannot be taken for granted.  Sierra Club's Bruce Niles wrote earlier this year about the importance of stopping the Murkowski Amendment, which would have eliminated the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases, and rejected the science supporting the EPA's endangerment finding that greenhouse gases endanger our health.  Defending the EPA must remain a priority in addition to pushing for stronger action at the state and federal levels. 

National Security Risks of Climate Change
USMC Brigadeer General Ayaha

The Department of Defense presented at the U.S. Center at the Conference on DOD's analysis of risks expeced due to Climate Change. R. Admiral David Titley noted that many coastal military installations will be vulnerable from sea level rise, melting ice in cold areas such as Alaska, and hotter weather in the southwest. Lt. Colonel Paul Schimpf and Marines Brigadeer General Juan Ayala also commented on the impacts of climate change and how destabilizing societies posing long-term security risks due to food and water shortages and mass migration.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Re-Elect Andy Katz for EBMUD Board

As an East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) Director, Andy Katz is leading efforts for sustainability and green jobs at EBMUD. He is focused on protecting our natural resources by increasing water conservation, protecting water quality, and increasing renewable energy projects.

Andy Katz won Board approval to expand water conservation programs and to double recycled water projects.

His leadership led to the development of the first food waste-to-energy digester in the United States, which composts our food scraps into renewable energy.

As Chair of Sierra Club California, Andy Katz has led efforts to support green jobs and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As your representative on the EBMUD Board, Andy will continue to:

• Protect water quality
• Expand green jobs and renewable energy
• Protect the Mokelumne River by ensuring water conservation
• Expand affordable lifeline rates for low income people
• End water shutoffs for tenants in foreclosed buildings Andy Katz rafting on the Mokelumne River


• Sierra Club
• League of Conservation Voters of the East Bay
• Alameda County Democratic Party
• Berkeley Democratic Club
• East Bay Young Democrats
• El Cerrito Democratic Club
• Metropolitan Greater Oakland Democratic Club
• Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club
• Green Party of Alameda County
• Berkeley Citizens Action
• AFSCME, Locals 2019 & 444
• International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Locals 302 & 595
• Laborers, Local 304
• Plumbers Union, Local 342

Elected Officials

• State Senator Loni Hancock
• Assemblymember Nancy Skinner
• Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson
• Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia
• Albany Mayor Joanne Wile
• Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates
• El Cerrito Mayor Janet Abelson
• Emeryville Mayor Ruth Atkin
• Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan
Vote November 2nd!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

East Bay Municipal Utility District
Director Andy Katz

Re-Election Campaign Kickoff
Tuesday July 27, 2010 6pm – 8pm
Revival Bar & Kitchen
2002 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley

Please join special guests Senator Loni Hancock, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia, and Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates for a reception to re-elect EBMUD Director Andy Katz.

Andy Katz is leading efforts for sustainability and green jobs at EBMUD, protecting our natural resources and water quality, increasing water conservation, recycling, and renewable energy projects, and fighting to help working families by expanding access to affordable lifeline rates and preventing foreclosure evictions-by-shutoff.

To sponsor, volunteer, or questions, please e-mail or visit
Contributions: sliding scale $30 - $300
Online donation system by ClickandPledge

Contributions may be mailed to: "Andy Katz 2010"
2150 Allston Way Suite 400, Berkeley, CA 94704

Most blog posts here are daily updates from observing the 2009 international climate negotiations in Copenhagen.  You can skip to posts on EBMUD issues here:

Water Supply Management Plan 2040
Drought Management in 2008-2009
Protecting Tenants in Foreclosed Buildings