Top Stories

November 20, 2015


Senate votes to block Obama’s climate change rules

The United States Senate voted to block President Obama’s tough new climate change regulations, hoping to undermine his negotiating authority before a major international climate summit meeting in Paris this month. The Senate resolution, which passed 52 to 46, would scuttle a rule that would significantly cut heat-trapping carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule, released in August, is the centrepiece of Mr. Obama’s efforts to address climate change. A second resolution, which also passed 52 to 46, would strike a related EPA rule intended to freeze construction of future coal-fired power plants. Three Democrats from states in which coal plays a major role in the economy, broke party ranks to vote in favour of the resolutions, whilst three moderate Republicans also broke from their party to vote in favour of the environmental regulations. If the resolutions reach the president’s desk, Mr. Obama has promised a veto. “The resolution would impede efforts to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants … when the need to act, and to act quickly, to mitigate climate change impacts on American communities has never been more clear,” officials at White House said in a statement. (NY Times)

Responsible Investment

South Pole Group helps launch world’s first climate neutral super fund

Australian super fund Future Super has become the world’s first climate neutral pension fund with the help of South Pole Group, a global sustainability solutions provider. Spurred by global initiatives, such as the UN PRI Montreal Carbon Pledge, the Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition and the Divestment Movement, the pension fund industry is now in full transition. Like their global peers, Australian pension funds are under increasing pressure to consider climate change impacts within their portfolios in order to safeguard their members’ savings. The measurement of the fund’s carbon intensity and the compensating offsets for its remaining emissions have both been managed by South Pole Group. Future Super has specifically chosen offsets from the Group’s premium emission reduction projects located in China and Thailand that help to create renewable energy and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. These projects include proven and certified economic, social and environmental benefits for local communities. Simon Sheikh, Managing Director of Future Super underlines: “We strongly believe in protecting the interests of our members. Future Super aims to be a true innovator in the industry. We believe the fossil fuel industry has far too many risks associated with it to be a responsible investment for the long term.” (Eco-Business)

Sustainable Development

Brazilian cities aligning growth with sustainable urban development

A new research report, released today by COPPE Federal University of Rio de Janeiro with the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Stockholm Environment Institute, explores the opportunities for urban GHG emissions reductions in Brazilian cities, and highlights how these efforts can support broader national development goals as the urban population continues to grow. The report outlines specific opportunities for further action, including increasing mitigation ambition in the buildings, transportation and waste sectors. It also notes the importance of ensuring that climate policies in Brazil support urban development efforts, which will address poverty and equality issues. The report, found that Brazil has a rapidly growing urban population, and demonstrates that infrastructure choices made to support this urban growth could significantly affect GHG emissions. Although Brazil has already made strides in reducing emissions from deforestation and integrating renewables in the power supply, there is room for its cities to take action and enhance mitigation ambition, particularly in the buildings, transportation and waste sectors. The report highlights that the cities could achieve energy savings of 50 percent in new buildings and 30 percent in retrofits. (Blue & Green Tomorrow)

Sustainable Consumption

US approves genetically modified salmon for food

US regulators have given the go-ahead to produce genetically modified salmon, making it the first genetically modified animal destined for human consumption. The transgenic salmon is a type of Atlantic salmon injected with a gene from Pacific Chinook salmon to make it grow faster. The biotech company behind the fish, AquaBounty, finally got the approval, after submitting its application almost 20 years ago. Dr Ron Stotish, chief executive of AquaBounty, said the salmon was “a game-changer that brings healthy and nutritious food to consumers in an environmentally responsible manner without damaging the ocean and other marine habitats”. Opponents have expressed concern that the salmon could pose risks to other fish if it were to escape into the environment, and defend that consumers do not want to eat genetically engineered seafood. Nevertheless the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it had given approval on the grounds that “food from the fish is safe to eat”. (BBC)

Climate Change

UK reversing and undoing climate change policies, say doctors and nurses

An alliance of health professionals from the British Medical Association, eight Royal Colleges, the British Medical Journal and leading health journal, The Lancet, warn UK is opposing the positive trend of global action on climate change. From their perspective, the UK is reversing its policies on climate change “without offering credible alternatives”. Writing in the British Medical Journal, they say that natural disasters, food and water insecurity, the spread of infectious diseases and forced migration “are already affecting human health and provide a glimpse of the near future”. After being elected in May, the Conservative government has cut energy efficiency policies, closed or cut subsidy schemes for wind and solar power, and put a carbon tax on carbon-free renewable energy. This alliance calls for the UK government to end the use of unabated coal by 2023 to “improve air quality, protect the health of our population, and reclaim the UK’s leadership position in tackling climate change”. (Guardian)

Image Source: Sashimi salmon trout by [Puamelia] / CC BY SA 2.0