November 12, 2014

President Obama & President Jinping in discussion. Photo by Pete Souza, White House

U.S. & China agree to historic climate change goals

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a surprising declaration this morning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their respective countries. The announcement, made during Obama’s last day in China, was the first time that China has agreed to cap domestic emissions. It pledged to institute such a cap by 2030. The U.S. disclosed its intention to reduce its emissions of heat-trapping gases by 26 per cent to 28 per cent by 2025, compared to 2005 levels. While China did not commit to a specific cap, it was hailed by Obama as a breakthrough for global climate negotiations and a major milestone for the U.S.-China relationship. “As the world’s largest economies and greatest emitters of greenhouse gases we have special responsibility to lead the global effort against climate change,” said Obama at the joint press conference. Environmentalists were both surprised and encouraged by the announcement. Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute, hoped that this would create strong momentum for action leading up to next year’s climate summit in Paris. The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, pointed out that environmental laggards, Canada and Australia, are likely to feel increasingly isolated in upcoming international negotiations.


Obama to take executive action on climate

The U.S. president is still preparing to unveil a sweeping list of climate and pollution regulations in the year ahead, despite the “shellacking” that Congressional Democrats took in the midterm elections last week. While EPA regulations like those restricting greenhouse gas emissions from future power plants are likely to generate the most controversy, other departments are also racing to roll out regulations during the president’s last two years in office. The Interior Department is expected to release regulations in the spring that strengthen limitations on mountaintop-removal coal mining, a topic that is likely to anger incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.


Fossil fuel subsidies continue to break the bank

One important target of reform involves existing fossil fuel subsidies provided by both the Chinese and American governments. A new report from the International Energy Agency estimates that fossil fuels are receiving over $550 billion a year in subsidies worldwide. “The huge subsidies fossil fuels enjoy worldwide gives incentives to their consumption, which means that I’m paying you to pollute the world and use energy inefficiently,” Fatih Birol, chief economist at the IEA, said at a news conference Wednesday morning. The report points out that global fossil fuel incentives are still more than four times greater than those enjoyed by renewable energy.


Pallet talk

Corporate Knights’ Tyler Hamilton takes a look at Axios Mobile Assets, a Vaughan, Ont.-based company looking to reform the shipping pallet industry. Co-founded by a former Magna International auto parts executive, the company has applied automotive manufacturing techniques to re-engineer the skids that carry our goods around the world. While 90 per cent of skids worldwide are made of wood, they are often criticized for their fragility and other shortcoming. Axios Mobile Assets believes that the company’s calcium carbonate-based pallets strike the best balance between cost and environmental benefits.


Wild, wild west

As drought conditions in California continue to deplete precious water resources, more municipalities are struggling to combat water theft with one fire station’s water tank being emptied late at night. Fines for stealing water are increasing, while some jurisdictions have resorted to hiring individuals tasked with walking around residential neighbourhoods looking for evidence of thievery. Grassroots neighbourhood associations and forums have been created to mobilize community vigilance, but the problem continues to persist.

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