If you've no account register here first time
User Name :
User Email :
Password :

Login Now

November Climate Summit Will Create a Rule Book. What Will be the US Role?

The global community will start meeting on November 6 in Bonn, Germany to hammer out the details of a climate agreement reached in Paris in December 2015 — one that the United States had once been a part but one that it now “rejects.” Nevertheless, the US is still bound by the agreement until 2020 and thus the question is to what extent will this country participate?

About 195 nations will be present to discuss a “rule book” by which the aims of the Paris agreement will be kept, which seeks to limit temperature increases to no more than 2 degrees Celsius by mid century. The key method will be to limit the use of fossil fuels and especially coal for electric-fired generation. And that is where the current White House deviates from much of the developed world — an administration that has promised to reduce regulations and to increase coal-fired power.

To be clear, 18 of the warmest years on record have occurred in the last 19 years, says NOAA. 2016 was the hottest ever and 2017 might very well be the second hottest since such records have been kept. But the US has reduced its CO2 emissions by 758 metric tons since 2005, says BP’s annual energy review. Only the EU has done better at 770 metric tons. Still, the US and China remain the biggest emitters of CO2. 

The US, along with Nicaragua and Syria, are the only nations to have opted out of the voluntary agreement. Beyond the Trump administration’s advocacy of coal, it has also said that allowing the developing world more latitude to comply with the agreement would put the US at an economic disadvantage.

“It is quite likely that the U.S. will be sidelined … unless they play a constructive role,” said Elisa de Wit, head of climate change at global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, in a Reuters story. 

What now? We Are Still In will pick up where the Obama administration left — a collection of cities and states along with several major companies like Amazon, Bloomberg, Google, Ingersoll Rand, Target, WalMart and L’Oreal.

The web site says that its membership represents $6.2 trillion of the U.S. economy and is comprised of 9 states, 252 cities and counties, 1,780 businesses and investors, and 339 colleges and universities. We Are Still In now represents, it adds, more than 130 million Americans or roughly 40 percent of the US population.

“It’s critical for the world to know that the U.S. will continue to lead on climate change–and that we can fulfill our Paris commitments even without help from Washington,” Michael Bloomberg said in a release issued by We are Still In. 

“By pitching a big tent in Bonn, we are providing space for American mayors, governors and business leaders to collaborate with their counterparts around the world. In the U.S., progress on climate change has always been driven from the ground up, not the top down–and that’s what we’ll emphasize in Bonn,” he added, who is also the UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change.

Beside pulling out of the Paris deal in June, the Trump administration has said it would try to repeal the Clean Power Plan that seeks to cut CO2 by 32% by 2030. To that end, several Democratic US senators have written EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to say that the math he is using to support his argument for repeal is non-sensical.

Compliance costs of the Clean Power Plan are expected to be between $5.1 and $8.4 billion by 2030, the Democrats say. But Pruitt maintains the cost to be $33.3 billion by 2030, an almost four-fold increase.  Meantime, Democrats say the plan will yield $20 billion in climate benefits by 2030 while Pruitt projects only $0.5-$2.7 billion.

“At seemingly every turn, the 2017 Repeal proposal uses mathematical sleights of hand to over-state the costs of industry compliance with the 2015 Rule and under-state the benefits that will be lost if the 2017 Repeal is finalized,” the Democrats write. “Denying the science and fabricating the math may satisfy the agency’s paperwork requirements, but doing so will not satisfy the requirements of the law, nor will it slow the increase in frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, the inexorable rise in sea levels, or the other dire effects of global warming that our planet is already experiencing. It will also not improve our standing in the international community or bring certainty to power markets as states plan for their future energy needs.

“Your rejection of the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas pollution causes global warming is well-known,” the letter continues. “Additionally, we continue to await your response to the April 7, 2017 letter requesting more details about your views related to the cause of global warming and the agency’s plan to repeal and replace the 2015 Clean Power Plan Rule. Our review of the 2017 Repeal proposal only heightens our concerns.”

Given that context, what might the Trump administration propose in Bonn? It is expected to advocate for more investment in advanced coal technologies given that much of the developed world will continue to use coal and that this country still has plenty of coal to mine.

At the Group of 20 meeting in Hamburg this summer, leaders acknowledged the need to find cleaner ways to burn fossil fuels. To that end, the major coal companies in this country — Peabody Energy, Cloud Peak Energy and Arch Coal — have said that their survival depends on new technologies that increase the efficiencies of coal burning, which thereby make it cleaner. 

The climate summit about to occur in Bonn will no doubt be an uncomfortable setting for negotiators. The US, which has said it is withdrawing, will likely push for advanced for coal technologies at a time when Europe will be placing constraints on fossil fuels and advocating more for greener energy. The irony here is that Trump’s thinking would get a wider and more attentive audience had he chosen to remain part of the Paris agreement.

Related Stories

Sign up for our newsletter

Receive Environment + Energy Leader's top news stories two times each week

© Copyright 2023 C-Suite Compass LLC. Environmental Leader ® is a registered trademark of C-Suite Compass LLC. Privacy Policy.