Thursday 13 November 2014
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Top Stories - Reaction to US-China climate deal
US-China climate deal boosts global talks but Republicans vow to resist
A secretly negotiated agreement between the US and China to lower greenhouse-gas output faced a wall of opposition on Wednesday from Republicans in Washington, who threatened to use their control of both houses of Congress to thwart the plan. Under the deal, unveiled unexpectedly in Beijing early on Wednesday, China committed for the first time to cap its output of carbon pollution by 2030. Beijing also promised to increase its use of zero-emission energy sources, such as wind and solar power, to 20% by 2030. The United States agreed to double the pace of the cuts in its emissions, reducing them to between 26% and 28% below 2005 levels by 2025.
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The Republican poised to take over the Senate’s top environment job attacked the carbon emissions deal struck between US and China on Wednesday as a “non-binding charade” and said he will use his new powers to fight against regulation of the energy sector. Jim Inhofe, who is set to become chairman of the Senate environment and public works committee, warned that China could not be trusted to see through its side of the deal and said he would do everything in his own power to undermine a White House plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants. The incoming Senate majority leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, struck a similar tone, describing the agreement as an example of Barack Obama’s “ideological war on coal”.
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A ten point summary by Bill McKibben, author, environmentalist and founder of 350.org.
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The historic deal between China and the United States is both bad and good news for an Australian prime minister on the eve of the most important gathering ever of world leaders in this country. Bad, because it puts the spotlight on Tony Abbott’s lack of ambition on climate change and Australia’s far more modest goals on the scale and timing of emission reductions. And bad, because it serves to highlight the topic’s absence from the main agenda for the G20 leaders’ meeting this weekend. But it is good news, too, because it shows that the two superpowers, who happen to be the globe’s No.1 and No. 2 carbon polluters, are capable of negotiating an ambitious joint approach on such a critical issue.
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Ross Garnaut, a China expert and compiler of two emissions trading reviews for governments, said the US-China deal represents a bigger shift for the Americans. “For the United States, it’s a significant acceleration of the healthy rate of emissions reductions that the US has been achieving under its 2009 commitments to 2020,” Professor Garnaut said. Under the present pace of carbon reductions, the US has been on a course to curb emissions at the rate of 1.2 per cent a year between 2005 and 2020, and this rate will now double to 2.3 – 2.8 per cent a year for the five years up to 2025. On the face of it, China’s commitment to cap emissions before 2030 appears less ambitious, not least because the country has already begun to limit coal use in some regions and the roll-out of renewable energy is happening faster than Beijing had planned. The 20 per cent share of the energy mix from low-carbon sources should also be achievable.
Energy and Climate Change
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China and the US have agreed a historic deal to cut carbon emissions – but both countries are still huge consumers and producers of coal, the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel. Drag the slider below to see how coal use has changed in the past few decades – and click the ‘future’ button to see what’s to come.
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Global energy demand growth will halve by 2025 but fossil fuels will continue to dominate, leaving the planet on a warming trajectory of 3.6 degrees, according to the International Energy Agency. Australia, though, stands to benefit from rising anguish over energy security, with buyers of gas and coal vying to lock in supplies from an established democracy amid rising tensions in the Middle East and between Russia and Ukraine, the IEA said in its influential World Energy Outlook 2014 report.
Environment and Biodiversity
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The creation of a new national park in New South Wales is being hailed as a great result for the environment. More than 1500 hectares of wetlands bordering the cane fields of Maclean on the far north coast will form the Everlasting Swamp National Park. Kevin Evans, from the National Parks Association of New South Wales, said the decision will expand an existing state conservation area. Mr Evans said it will also offer better habitat protection for rare birds. “One of the most impressive animals found there would be the Jabiru… the largest stork in this country, but because wetlands have been drained and they’re located over long distances, they are increasingly rare,” he said.
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A dire picture for kiwi in the wild has been painted for new Conservation Minister Maggie Barry, with predictions they face extinction from mainland New Zealand within two generations. “Without intervention, New Zealand’s national symbol, the kiwi, could die out within 50 years,” the Department of Conservation briefing to the incoming minister says. Possums, rats and stoats were wreaking havoc on forests, plants and native species. “These introduced predators are the greatest threat to the continued survival of many of our native birds. Without active management, many of New Zealand’s iconic species cannot survive in the wild and are in danger of extinction.”
Economy and Business
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Within the US Small Business Administration, one office is tasked with representing the needs of small businesses – typically defined as firms with 100 or fewer employees – to other agencies that make rules affecting environmental health and worker safety. But instead of carrying out its mandated mission, this Office of Advocacy has for over a dozen years, dating back to the Clinton administration, been taking positions that favor large industry trade associations. The results include weakened environmental and occupational health protections that affect millions of Americans, according to a report released today by the Center for Effective Government, a non-partisan government watchdog.
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Business must be willing to explore investing in nature to protect its bottom lines. Whether it is the ecosystem services that support the conditions for life, the natural resources necessary for the creation of products, or the business costs resulting from droughts, floods, reduced air, water quality or climate-related threats. This begins by protecting and investing in valuable areas, such as national parks and wilderness areas. Protected areas can present a plethora of business opportunities. They can have both intrinsic and commercial value, and not protecting them can carry an economic cost — either resulting from the downstream effects of biodiversity loss or, more directly, from investing in practices that destroy these areas.
Politics and Society
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In 1996, Michele Raffin, author of The Birds of Pandemonium: Life Among the Exotic and the Endangered, opened a bird rescue center. Today, Pandemonium is one of the largest non-companion bird sanctuaries in the United States, providing lifelong care for more than 350 birds, representing 34 species, some of them critically endangered. Talking from her bird-filled office in Los Altos, California, she introduces us to a two-inch-tall avian architect named Oscar and explains why birds prefer listening to Jingle Bells over Leonard Cohen, how you can break a parrot’s heart, and why birds have made her a better person.
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The only certainty the clean energy industry has now is uncertainty, after Labor broke off talks with the Abbott government over cutting the renewable energy target that no one but the most-hardened pro-coal backers would want. Put simply, investors basically stopped investing in new large-scale wind, solar or other renewable energy projects for the past year once it became clear the Coalition had ended bipartisan support for the 2020 goal.
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New South Wales’ Environment Minister Rob Stokes has welcomed Pacific Island leaders into Sydney Harbour, as the World Parks Congress begins with more than 5,000 delegates gathering in the city to participate in this once-in-a-decade event. A flotilla of canoes from the Pacific Islands has reached Darling Harbour marking the end of a voyage to highlight the need for more action to tackle climate change, with their final destination being the International Union for Conservation of Nature Sixth World Parks Congress (IUCN).
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To celebrate the launch of Guardian Sustainable Business’ leadership hub, we’ve compiled a list of ten top tweeters who are sharing examples of sustainable leadership in action and are helping drive forward the sustainability agenda.