Today at the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Singapore, President Obama agreed to a proposal by Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the prime minister of Denmark, to postpone seeking a new, legally-binding global treaty to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) at the Copenhagen climate conference next month. The decision reflects the reality that insufficient progress has been made in preliminary negotiating sessions, including one earlier this month in Barcelona, to prepare the way for a global consensus on a new treaty. Instead the participants in the Copenhagen summit will try to save face by announcing a “politically binding” consensus on GHG controls that will leave many difficult issues to be resolved in subsequent negotiations. Optimists are maintaining that this delay will enable the 192 nations participating in the negotiations to “get it right” rather than being pressured into hasty compromises at Copenhagen, which will be the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP-15) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The focus of efforts to negotiate a binding global agreement will now shift either to Mexico City, where COP-16 will be held in December 2010, or to an interim summit that may be scheduled for spring 2010.
Earlier in the week the International Energy Agency (IEA) had warned that carbon allowance prices must double from current levels in Europe by the year 2020 in order to facilitate a true transition to renewable energy alternatives. The IEA projected that allowance prices would have to reach $50 per ton by 2020 and $110/ton by 2030 in industrialized countries, and in developing countries $30/ton by 2020 and $50/on by 2030. On Friday Brazil pledged to cut its contribution to global warming and climate change by 36 percent below levels previously projected for 2020.
On Thursday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced that the steady decline in the percentage of U.S. adults who smoked had been slightly reversed in 2008. In the mid-1960s, 40% of U.S. adults smoked, a percentage that has been steadily declining since then and that CDC had hoped to reduce to 12% by the year 2010. However, in 2008, 20.6% of U.S. adults smoked, an increase from 19.8% in 2007. It is hoped that the April 2009 increase in the federal excise tax on cigarettes from 39 cents to $1.01 per pack coupled with eventual FDA regulations will help reverse this temporary setback. CDC noted that while states have received more than $200 billion in revenue from cigarette taxes and the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement since 2000, they spend less than 3% of this revenue on preventing tobacco use.
On Friday the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) reported that it could no longer be confident that environmental contamination at the former Naval training ground on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico posed no risk to human health. Residents of the island, who formerly protested the Navy’s use of it for target practice prior to it being declared a Superfund site in 2004, have been found by Puerto Rico’s Health Department to have elevated rates of cancer, hypertension and liver disease. Mireya Navarro, Navy’s Vieques Training May Be Tied to Health Risks, N.Y. Times, Nov. 14, 2009, at A14.
On Friday November 13, the University of Maryland Environmental Law Program held its 17th annual Environmental Law Winetasting. More than 150 faculty, alumni, and students attended the event, which featured more than 70 different wines from around the globe, including many from my wine cellar. Among the wines included in the tasting were a 1982 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, a 1978 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape, a 1984 Chateau Martgaux, and a 1970 Graham’s vintage port. The Environmental Law Program began the annual winetasting event in 1992, coining the slogan “Wine - Nature’s Thanks for Preserving the Earth.” Participants blind tasted a “mystery wine,” which this year turned out to be a 2007 Gran Hazana garnacha from Spain.