On October 29 the U.S. Treasury Department announced that the U.S. government no longer will support coal-fired powerplant projects funded by the World Bank and other international development banks. Michael D. Shear, U.S. Says It Won’t Back New International Coal-Fired Power Plants, N.Y. Times Oct. 30, 2013, at A18. While the U.S. does not have veto power over such projects, the World Bank announced in July that it would significantly restrict future funding for them. In his new book published by Island Press Foreclosing the Future: The World Bank and the Politics of Environmental Destruction, my friend Bruce Rich estimates that of the $10 billion in energy lending by the Bank in 2010 nearly two-thirds went to support fossil fuel projects and only one-third for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Bruce’s book has been the subject of some favorable reviews recently. See Pilita Clark, Foreclosing the Future, Financial Times, Nov. 1, 2013, and Mimi Dwyer, Where Did the Anti-Globalization Movement Go? The New Republic, Oct. 25, 2013. Bruce will be doing a book event at Busboys & Poets (14th & V Streets) in Washington, D.C. on Monday November 11 at 6:30pm.
On October 28 a new agreement to coordinate efforts to control greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions was signed in San Francisco by the governors of California, Oregon and Washington and the environment minister of British Columbia. The pact pledges that the three U.S. states and the one Canadian province will adopt controls on GHG emissions, standardize energy efficiency standards, and promote greater use of zero emissions vehicles. More than 53 million people live in the three states and British Columbia, which together account for $2.3 trillion in gross domestic product that would represent the fifth largest economy in the world. The state legislatures of Oregon and Washington previously have balked at adopting the kind of aggressive laws to control GHG emissions that California has adopted. Michael Wines, Climate Pact Is Signed by 3 States and Partner, N.Y. Times, Oct. 30, 2013, at A18.
Last month in Montreal delegates to the general assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) agreed in principle to develop a market-based mechanism to neutralize greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from aviation by the year 2020. In the meantime the EU is proposing a scaled-back version of its controversial emission charges for aviation that between 2014 and 2020 would apply only to emissions made over EU airspace instead of to emissions from the entire flight to or from the EU. While this represents a narrowing of the previous EU regulations that were suspended for one year to give the ICAO time to negotiate an agreement, it has been denounced by non-EU countries as inconsistent with the spirit of the Montreal agreement, indicating that the controversy may resume in the future.
The government of Canada has announced amendments to its environmental impact assessment regulations that will exclude from assessment certain types of projects and those that fall below certain size thresholds. Excluded projects reportedly will include “groundwater extraction facilities; heavy oil and oil sands processing facilities; pipelines, other than offshore pipelines, and electrical facilities not regulated by the National Energy Board; potash and other industrial mineral mines; and a range of industrial facilities, including pulp mills, pulp and paper mills, steel mills, metal smelters, leather tanneries and textile mills, as well as manufacturing facilities for chemicals, pharmaceuticals, pressure-treated wood, particle board, plywood, chemical explosives, lead-acid batteries and respirable mineral fibers.” Peter Menyasz, Canada Amends Regulations for Assessments to Focus on Projects that Pose Most Risks, BNA Daily Environment Report, Oct. 29, 2013. The regulations also designate other projects for assessment including the first offshore exploratory oil wells in an area licensed for exploration and expansions in oil sands mines.
On October 28 scientists announced that four Asian grass carp had successfully reproduced in the Great Lakes watershed. Great Lakes states have been struggling to prevent invasive species of Asian carp that have plagued the Mississippi River watershed from reaching Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes watershed. The carp were found in Ohio’s Sandusky River, a tributary of Lake Erie. The Army Corps of Engineers, which has employed an electronic barrier in an effort to stop the spread of the carp, is working on a long-term plan to combat the invasive carp.