Thursday, May 31st

• June 6, 2012

Welcome to this edition of the Fresh Air Brief, a weekly overview of trending climate news, and upcoming meetings, events and issues that our tcktcktck partners & peers are tracking. Fresh right now:

  • US & China drive up solar costs in clean energy subsidies dispute
  • Japan shifts from nuclear to fossil fuels and increasing emissions
  • Brazilian President issues partial veto of controversial Forest Code
  • New resources from our editorial desk


The wrong subsidy fight – US & China challenge government support for solar in trade dispute
While we wish governments were challenging each other’s subsidization of fossile fuels, clean energy technologies are the target instead.  China has appealed to the WTO after China’s Commerce Ministry issued a ruling that U.S. government support for six renewable energy projects violated free-trade rules. This is the latest volley in a widening conflict over clean power after the US Commerce Department announced an antidumping probe of Chinese solar power equipment and applied steep import tariffs. The effects on emerging solar markets in both countries could be profound: driving prices up at a time when solar is approaching costs competitive with fossil fuels and possibly lifting solar power back out of economic reach for many companies and consumers.

India threatens European airlines over EU airline emissions regulations
India is threatening to ban European airlines from its airspace if Brussels sanctions Indian carriers for not complying with the EU’s airline emissions rules. Dozens of countries, including the US and Russia, have attacked Brussels for subjecting their airlines to the EU’s carbon emissions trading scheme; but only 10 airlines, from China and India, have chosen not to comply at the risk of EU action against them.

Japan shifts from nuclear to fossil fuels and increasing emissions
As Japan phases out Nuclear, our hopes that the country would shift toward cleaner and safer fuels falter as Japanese companies binge on natural gas assets around the world. Spending  plans and closures doubled gas’s share of the Japanese power mix to about 50 percent, tying the country to a single fuel more than any other major energy-consumer. The move leaves Japan vulnerable to rising gas prices, align’s the country’s national interest with trade of the fastest-growing fossil fuel for electricity, and has contributed to a 2.4% emissions increase for Japan in 2011. Read more here.

Natural gas prices driving down down US emissions
While natural gas is driving emissions up in Japan, a boom in North America is fueling a move away from coal and driving emissions down in the United States. Widespread concerns about groundwater pollution from fracking notwithstanding, low natural gas prices combined with stringent new rules on coal-powered electricity plants are making gas the new fuel of choice for the US power sector. According to the US Department of Energy, coal generation has slumped by 19% while gas generation has increased by 38% in the last 12 months. That shift was a key driver for US emissions decreasing 1.7% in 2011. Meanwhile, in Europe, relatively high natural gas prices combined with a low carbon cost seems to have created an environment where the economics of energy have moved in coal’s favor, rather than away from it.

Asian cities develop new indicators for ‘climate resilience’
Ten Asian cities prone to floods, droughts or soaring temperatures are developing a set of key indicators to assess their vulnerability to the effects of climate change and improve urban planning to boost resilience.  The project – which will include municipalities and environmental groups in India, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam – aims to mainstream such indicators into the cities’ overall development strategy, putting climate change impact at the forefront of urban planning as rapid urbanisation takes effect. Alertnet has more on the story. Or check out the June 5th webinar, lower on this page.


Frustrating pace of progress in Bonn leads to questions about prospects for Doha
These are difficult days for international efforts to fight climate change. The release of two major reports – from the Climate Action Tracker and the International Energy Agency – confirmed that global emissions continue to rise at an alarming rate, while the sum of national climate policies have us on a course for catastrophic climate change.  Add to that, the most recent round of UN climate talks (UNFCCC), which took place in Bonn, were marred by mistrust and unabashed posturing by countries’ negotiators. Our partners (see herehere, and here) and the media (see here, here and here) alike, were dismayed by the tone and slow pace of progress; raising questions about what can be accomplished by the end of the year conference in Doha (COP18). For an in depth look back on the last two weeks of talks, including some analysis of what was actually accomplished, check out our coverage on the Adopt a Negotiator website as well as the extremely detailed coverage in IISD and TWN.

The road to Rio+20
Before we get to COP18 at the end of this year, countries’ leaders will gather in June to discuss broader sustainable development issues in Rio de Janeiro at the Rio+20 Earth Summit. Some of our partners and government negotiators went straight from Bonn to the UN Headquarters in New York for negotiations on a draft Rio+20 outcome document taking place throughout this week.

While slow progress has left little opportunity for Rio to deliver breakthroughs on many of the difficult underlying issues holding up progress in the UNFCCC and elsewhere, our partners are still working for some concrete outcomes to help us address climate change and move toward a more sustainable path.  For instance, twenty clean energy entrepreneurs and nearly thirty civil society organizations’ leaders sent a letter to the World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick urging him use Rio+20 to commit to $500 million for off-grid renewable energy investments; there’s a big push for time-bound commitments to shift government subsidies away from fossil fuels; there is a big push for commitments to invest more in the green economy; and much more.

Perhaps most important of all, Rio+20 is an opportunity for us to come together as individuals, organizations, businesses, communities and as countries to lay out our vision for how we’ll wrestle with global challenges like climate change and create the future we want.

Brazilian President issues partial veto of controversial Forest Code
After intense pressure from our parters and peers in Brazil and around the world, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff partially vetoed a bill that would have weakened her country’s efforts to protect the Amazon and other forests. Despite the massive national and international mobilization in favour of a full veto, the president opted to reject 12 of 84 articles in the bill. According to EDF spokesperson,  Jennifer Haverkamp, “What these vetoes really mean for the future of the forest – and whether the law can be effectively enforced – will depend on the specifics of the executive order that the president will issue on Monday.” The bill now goes back to Congress, and legislators have 30 days to override Rousseff’s changes with a simple majority, which is considered unlikely.

As special interests chip away at Jakarta tree-cutting ban, Indonesia slides backwards on climate change mitigation
A year ago last week, Indonesia kick-started plans to radically reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by preventing the issue of new forest-clearing permits for two years. Today, the moratorium which originally covered 71 million hectares of forest is at risk because of special interest disputes.  Environmentalists estimate that 4.9 million hectares of primary forests and peatland will be lost to palm-oil industries, coal mines and other forest conversions by the end of May. The release of greenhouse gases due to deforestation make Indonesia the 3rd largest producer of greenhouse gas after China and the United States. Greenpeace and other environmental groups say the forest-clearing ban is being undermined by weak legislation and weak enforcement. Read more here.


Resources from our editorial desk
The TckTckTck team is pleased to offer ready-made, creative-commons licensed editorial content for you to republish, remix and reuse. A few weeks ago, we published the first in a series of embeddable Rio+20 Issue Slideshows, Water Access and Energy Access. This week, we’ve completed and publishing two more: check out Food Security & an Introduction to Rio+20. Feel free to embed these issue slideshows in your blog or website by clicking the “Embed” button in the lower right of the slideshow player.

Tuesday, June 5th @ 5:00 GMT
Webinar – Building Climate Resilience: A Simpler Way to Approach Adaptation Practice?
This presentation will introduce the Climate Resilience Framework being developed for ten Asian cities prone to floods, droughts or soaring temperatures; to assess their vulnerability to the effects of climate change and improve urban planning to boost resilience. Join the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN; funded by Rockefeller Foundation) to discuss the new framework and how it’s being applied. Learn more here and here. Click here to register.

Other upcoming moments on our calendar:


Connect you with our partners in the trenches
As always, if you’re looking to dig into any of these issues and want to connect with our partners in the trenches, Fresh Air is here to help. Email me and I’ll try to make it happen: [email protected]

That’s all for this week’s Fresh Air Brief. We’re eager to learn how to make this as useful as possible, so all feedback is welcome. We’re also eager to accept suggestions for leads, content and opportunities you’d like to promote. Get in touch.

If you haven’t already, apply to join our Fresh Air Network.

Til next time.

By Joshua Wiese

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About the Author

Joshua Wiese is a project director at the Global Campaign for Climate Action. He runs the Adopt a Negotiator project and publishes our weekly Fresh Air Brief

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