Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Ben Jervey's Posts

Comments

Proud moment: The U.S. is no longer the world’s biggest jerk on climate change

american flag guy
Shutterstock

What stood out most about the United States’ role in the United Nations climate talks that just wrapped in Warsaw, Poland, was how little the United States stood out.

While the U.S. is used to being the bad guy -- or at least one of them -- in the international climate arena, this year the Americans seemed perfectly happy to keep their heads down, quietly do their business, and let other big polluters take the punches.

It doesn’t usually work this way. For the nearly two decades that the U.N.’s annual climate talks have been held -- and especially for the past 12 years, since the U.S. backed out of the Kyoto Protocol that it had helped design -- the world's largest historical greenhouse gas polluter has taken most of the blame from environmental groups and poor countries for essentially causing the problem and doing squat to solve it.

This year, though, American negotiators are heading home relatively unscathed, if severely sleep deprived from the marathon, 36-hour session that was needed to wrap up the talks with something resembling an agreement. (You can read all about the outcomes in John Upton’s somewhat-less-than-disheartening wrap-up.)

It’s impossible to know if this was a guiding strategy going into the talks, but the U.S. managed to offer just enough to avoid smelling as bad as a host of other countries whose behavior was downright putrid.

Consider this comment by Tim Gore of Oxfam, who was talking specifically about some positions on climate finance (or how rich countries will help poor ones deal with climate change), but who might as well have been talking about the whole UNFCCC process: “Ironically, this is even making the U.S. look good. Not because they’ve actually done anything here, but because other countries are going backwards.”

Comments

Warsaw walkout: Big green groups bail on U.N. climate talks

WARSAW, Poland -- For the first time ever, environmental groups have staged a mass walkout of a U.N. climate summit. Citing immense frustration with the lack of productive action in the COP19 climate talks, which have been dogged by a persistent rift between rich and poor countries on the responsibility of paying for climate damages, hundreds of people from dozens of environmental groups and movements from all corners of the Earth have voluntarily withdrawn from the talks. According to a spokesperson for Oxfam, around 800 civil society members (which is the label applied to all advocate and activist types at these meetings) have walked out. In a joint statement, group leaders offered that “the best use of their time” was to now focus “on mobilizing people to push our governments to take leadership for serious climate action.”

"Polluters talk, civil society walks."
"Polluters talk, civil society walks."

Participants in the walkout -- which included members and organizers from Oxfam, Greenpeace International, 350.org, WWF International, the International Trade Union Confederation, ActionAid International, Friends of the Earth Europe, and dozens of other groups large and small from around the world -- assembled just after lunchtime outside the main food court in the National Stadium that is hosting the meetings. After statements from the heads of a handful of international orgs, including Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, members of civil society headed for the exits.

"The real hooligans are the CEOs of fossil fuel companies," Naidoo told the crowd.

Comments

Warsaw warning: World on pace to miss already awful climate targets

Since putting some emissions reduction pledges (don’t call them commitments!) down on paper after the climate conference in Copenhagen, countries have had nearly four years to start building policies to meet the goals. Would it surprise you terribly to find out that those pledges -- paltry though they were -- aren’t being met? This morning, scientists with the indispensable Climate Action Tracker (CAT) injected some sober reality into the climate talks in Warsaw, reminding gathered delegates and environment ministers that, so far, the only thing getting done in the UNFCCC is a lot of talk and a hell of a …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

Coal industry tries to crash Warsaw climate talks, gets spanked

coal trucks
Shutterstock

WARSAW, Poland -- The masters of the black-rock industry gathered at the International Coal & Climate Summit in Warsaw this week -- strategically hosted just a stone’s throw from the U.N. climate conference (COP19) — and they would like you to believe that coal has a place in a climate-friendly future.

At the summit, hosted by the World Coal Association (WCA), industry reps are promoting “high-efficiency” coal plants, carbon capture and storage (CCS), and other, wacky tech “breakthroughs” (gasification, anyone?).

The overall theme of the coal summit is that countries can keep burning coal and meet climate targets. They can have their cake and eat it, too.

Probably because CCS and other breakthroughs are still entirely unproven commercially, there’s been particular hype around so-called “high-efficiency coal.” In its Warsaw Communique that preceded the summit, the WCA called for “the immediate use of high-efficiency low-emissions coal combustion technologies as an immediate step in lowering greenhouse gas emissions.”

It’s a claim oft-repeated this week in Warsaw: High-efficiency coal is a climate solution.

Except it isn’t, says a group of 27 scientists from around the world who together released a report on Monday on how coal is absolutely incompatible with current internationally agreed-upon climate goals.

Comments

Cold justice: Alaska Supreme Court hears college kid’s climate case

Should the atmosphere be considered part of the public trust, a resource essential for our collective survival? That’s one question currently being considered by the Alaska Supreme Court, which earlier this month traveled to the northernmost town in the United States to hear arguments for a climate change lawsuit brought by six youth plaintiffs. On behalf of the youth, attorney Brad De Noble argued that the atmosphere itself should be considered a legally-protected resource under the state’s constitution. The plaintiffs, who live throughout the state, initially sued the Alaska Department of Natural Resources last year, and that lawsuit was dismissed by …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

Norway’s massive oil wealth could be invested in renewables, “change the world”

Norway has more money than it knows what to do with. And while leaders figure out how they want to manage the nation's roughly $790 billion public pension fund going forward, there's real potential for an "unprecedented shift" in renewable energy investment. Norway's enormous pension coffers, fat off the country's offshore oil wealth, could ironically prove a total game changer for development of renewables and global action on climate change. The fortunes are locked up in the nation's massive Government Pension Fund, formerly the "Petroleum Fund of Norway" and the world's largest such sovereign fund, which owns over 1-percent of the world's …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

Money talks: Climate change is going to be really bad for business

Over the past couple of weeks, a group of cold, calculating experts have been spouting warning after warning about the severity of the climate threat. No, I’m not talking about climate scientists (though they've just had something to say on the topic too). I’m talking about the capitalists. You know, the bankers, the insurers, the service firms, and the economists who are worried that there’s a lot less money to be made on a boiling planet. And who recognize that taking steps to shift to clean energy sources and solve climate change can be darn good for the economy and …

Read more: Uncategorized