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December 15, 2015


Coal lobby chief: COP21 means ‘we will be hated like slave traders’

The coal industry’s European lobbying association has said that the landmark deal to cap global warming at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris means the sector “will be hated and vilified, in the same way that slave traders were once hated and vilified”. Brian Ricketts, Secretary-General of the European Association for Coal and Lignite (Euracoal), wrote to his members, “The fossil fuel industry will spend the coming years and decades in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.” Euracoal styles itself as “the voice of coal” and says it works closely with the EU institutions on policy. “You might be relieved that the agreement is weak. Don’t be. The words and legal basis no longer matter,” Ricketts told his members. “Fossil fuels are portrayed by the UN as public enemy number one.” “’Keep it in the ground’ campaigns will morph into campaigns to ‘Put it back in the ground’, watched with growing incredulity,” he predicted. (Euractiv)


India says Paris climate deal won’t affect plans to double coal output

India, the world’s third-largest carbon emitter, is dependent on coal for about two-thirds of its energy needs and has pledged to mine more of the fuel to power its resource-hungry economy while also promising to increase clean energy generation. “The environment is non-negotiable and we are extremely careful about it,” Anil Swarup, the top bureaucrat in the coal ministry, said. “(But) our dependence on coal will continue. There are no other alternatives available.” While India has plans to add 30 times more solar-powered generation capacity by 2022, Swarup said there were limitations to clean energy and coal would remain the most efficient energy source for decades. Even though many international lenders are turning their backs on financing new coal projects in favour of gas and renewable energy, India should have few difficulties in financing dozens more new mines. Environmentalists worry that India’s rising use of coal at a time when many Western nations are rejecting the fuel will hamper the world’s fight against climate change. (Guardian)


Seattle council allows Uber drivers to join a union

Seattle has passed a measure allowing drivers of smartphone-based taxi services such as Uber to join a union. The move – a first in the US – is a setback for the companies, which have sought to avoid regulations that apply to traditional taxi services. Companies such as Uber say their drivers are independent contractors and do not pay for their health benefits, fuel or vehicle upkeep. The companies have vowed to challenge the legislation in court. “My intent is to make sure that the people, the drivers, the workers in our community continue to have access to good wage jobs,” said Seattle council member Mike O’Brien. Saad Melouchi, 30, who drives for Uber, said: “This is amazing. I’m so happy for myself and for other drivers.” However, Uber, Lyft and others argue that federal labour law prohibits cities from regulating collective bargaining. The ordinance could also allow drivers to set rates, violating federal antitrust laws, the companies said. (BBC)


Twitter warns over potential state-sponsored hack

Twitter has issued its first ever warning about a possible hack by state-sponsored actors, as the social media site steps up its scrutiny of possible security breaches. The alert highlights growing concern over hacking activity backed by foreign governments after a year in which high-profile cyber-attacks included the breach of 22 million personnel profiles at the US Department of Homeland Security. Other companies such as Google and Facebook already have warning systems to alert users who may be targeted by state-sponsored hackers. Twitter sent a warning email to users who may have been affected, stating that the hackers may have been trying to obtain phone numbers, email addresses, and IP addresses. Most Twitter posts are public, suggesting the hackers may have been more interested in obtaining personal data such phone numbers, or finding a way to tweet through hijacked accounts. (CNBC)


EU parliament panel rejects car pollution rules as too lax           

The European parliament’s environmental committee has voted against new car pollution rules they say are too lenient in the light of the Volkswagen scandal which exposed loopholes in existing emissions tests. The new rules agreed in a closed-door committee would allow vehicles to carry on emitting more than twice official pollution limits, after many of the 28 member states demanded leeway to protect their car industries. The committee’s vote of 40 to 9 against them sets the stage for a plenary ballot next month that could send the legislation back to the drawing board, but where cross-party support would be more difficult to achieve. If the January vote confirms the environment committee’s opposition to the EU’s emissions testing deal, it could mean a delay of up to two years while the European Commission drafts a new proposal. (Reuters)

Image Source: An UBER application is shown by Mark Warner / CC BY 2.0