Climate Change Feed

COP21 and Green Bond Market Developments

GraysonBy E. Lynn GraysonImage result for cop21 logo

HSBC Holdings PLC, the fourth largest bank by assets in the world, has issued its first green bonds this month. HSBC France raised $500M, offering instruments at an annual coupon rate of 0.625% for a period of five years. Proceeds of the green bond issue will be used to finance renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy conservation, and climate adaptation projects, among others. Green bonds and the financing of climate-related improvement projects have been a key topic during the ongoing COP21 discussions.

HSBC announced its own internal guidelines for green bonds earlier this year. Eligible projects also may include renewables, sustainable waste and water management, sustainable land use and clean buildings and transportation. The issue will prioritize activities in the Middle East and Africa as well as Europe, particularly France. The bank also has announced plans to invest $1B in a green bond portfolio and already has allocated $350M purchasing climate bonds from development banks.

Earlier this year, the World Bank sold $91 million in green bonds tied to an index of “ethical” companies—its largest offering of green bonds linked to an equity index and the first offered to individual investors. See Corporate Environmental Lawyer blog post dated January 16, 2015, "World Bank Sells Record $91M of Green Bonds Tied to 'Ethical' Companies."

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COP21 Delegates Agree on Draft Climate Change Agreement

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 By Allison A. Torrence

Delegates from almost 200 nations worked through the night on Friday and into Saturday, working to create the 48-page “Draft Paris Agreement,” made public on Saturday, December 5th. The draft agreement will be the subject of continued negotiations this week in Paris, with the goal of finalizing a long-term climate change agreement among all parties by the end of the week.

The draft agreement lays out three broad goals:

  • "To hold the increase in the global average temperature [below 1.5 °C] [or] [well below 2 °C] above preindustrial levels by ensuring deep reductions in global greenhouse gas [net] emissions;
  • "To Increase their ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change [and to effectively respond to the impacts of the implementation of response measures and to loss and damage];
  • "To pursue a transformation towards sustainable development that fosters climate resilient and low greenhouse gas emission societies and economies, and that does not threaten food production and distribution."

The draft agreement contains many options that will need to be agreed on by negotiators, including:

  • The precise goal of the agreement;
  • How countries are divided into developed verses developing nations; and
  • Whether the agreement’s GHG emissions reductions should be legally binding.

The last point represents a current difference between China and U.S. negotiators. China is pushing for an agreement that is legally binding in its entirety. The U.S. has argued that GHG emissions cuts should not be legally binding; perhaps a pragmatic position due to the fact that legally binding emissions cuts could require the U.S. submit the agreement for approval by the U.S. Senate, which would likely reject any such proposal.

The Corporate Environmental Lawyer blog will continue to track developments from Paris and provide insight and analysis over the week ahead.


Will Congress Disrupt President Obama’s Efforts at COP21?

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 By Allison A. Torrence

Seal_of_the_United_States_Congress.svgAs the President and other top officials participate in climate change negotiations at the COP21 in Paris, lawmakers back home are pushing to maintain a role in determining U.S. climate policy. Specifically, House Republicans have proposed a resolution regarding the President’s authority in the COP21 negotiations. House Concurrent Resolution 97, introduced on Nov. 19th by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), expresses the view that “the President should submit to the Senate for advice and consent the climate change agreement proposed for adoption at [COP21].” The resolution expresses concerns that the agreement coming out of COP21 will contain enforceable targets and timetables for GHG emissions reductions and that the U.S. will be expected to “commit billions of dollars in taxpayer money to fund the Green Climate Fund and other financial mechanisms to fund mitigation and adaptation projects in developing countries.” Thus, the resolution would establish that Congress believes that  any commitments made by the U.S. at COP21 will have no effect until submitted to the Senate for advice and comment. The resolutions goes further to suggest that Congress would refuse to consider any funding for the Green Climate Fund until all agreements are submitted to the Senate for advice and consent. The resolution has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

In a related action, on Dec. 1st, the House passed two resolutions (S.J.Res. 23 and S.J.Res. 24) disapproving of the Administration’s GHG regulations applicable to existing and new power plants. The Senate voted last month to approve identical motions. The President is expected to veto these resolutions.

Meanwhile, the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), a group of 200,000 businesses and 325,000 business executives, owners, and investors, has drafted a letter to Congress expressing the group’s support for climate negotiations in Paris and calling on Congress to not interfere. They urge Congress to “allow the climate experts, business and civic leaders and negotiators to craft an effective agreement in Paris.” ASBC is encouraging members of the public to sign on in support of their letter.


CERES Confirms Business Supports Climate Change Action

GraysonBy E. Lynn Grayson Paris 2015

CERES is urging world governments meeting now at the COP21 this week in Paris to produce a strong climate agreement. CERES believes that recent actions confirm that the business and financial communities support clean energy and a low-carbon transition. The actions cited by CERES include: 

  1. More than 1600 companies in the U.S. have signed the CERES Climate Declaration calling action on climate change one of the greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century;
  2. Six major banks including Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo have issued statements calling for cooperation of governments in reaching a global climate agreement;
  3. 14 major food and beverage company CEOs including Coca-Cola, General Mills, Unilever, Mars and Nestle USA sent a joint letter to U.S. and world leaders pledging to accelerate their own business action on climate change and urging governments to forge a robust international climate agreement in Paris this month;
  4. 365 companies and investors support EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the biggest carbon reducing measure in the history of the U.S.;
  5. Nearly 350 global institutional investors managing $24 trillion have called on government leaders to establish a meaningful price on carbon and phase out subsidies for fossil fuels; and
  6. Nearly 100 Fortune 500 companies have joined the White House-led American Business Act on Climate Pledge, committing them to reduce their own GHG emissions and boosting their investments in low-carbon energy and technologies.

According to CERES, the business community message to world governments in Paris is clear: As the business and financial communities are stepping up on climate, policymakers should do the same. Learn more about the work of CERES and the efforts undertaken by business and financial entities in its November 2015 newsletter.

The real work of the 150 world leaders meeting in Paris starts today in an effort to produce a landmark agreement to limit rising global temperatures to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels this century. While many expect this important decision will be worked out over the next two weeks, there is much work, negotiation and compromise that must take place to achieve the anticipated successful outcome.

We will continue our special series on important developments at the COP21 Paris climate change discussions over the next two weeks.


COP21 Commences in Paris

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By Steven M. Siros

World leaders and delegates from over 150 nations have converged in Paris, France for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (also referred to as COP21).  The conference, which is scheduled to run from November 30th through December 11th, has as its goal achieving a legally binding agreement intended to limit greenhouse gas emissions in order to ensure that global average temperatures do not increase in excess of two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial global temperatures. 

Leaders of both the United States and China addressed the conference attendees.  President Obama noted that recent economic growth in the United States has come despite a lack of growth in carbon emissions, proving that climate advancements need not come at the expense of the economy or individual livelihoods.  Chinese President Xi Jinping struck a somewhat different tone, saying that the conference "is not a finish line, but a new starting point" and that "any agreement must take into account the differences among nations” and that “countries should be allowed to seek their own solutions, according to their national interest."

Prior to the conference, countries had voluntarily submitted climate action plans referred to as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (“INDCs”) that are intended to form the basis for any agreement that might be reached over the next two weeks.  According to the United Nations Secretary General, more than 180 countries have submitted their INDCs which covers almost 100% of global greenhouse gas emissions.  However, in order to reach the above-referenced goal of less than a two degree temperature increase, the Secretary General noted that developed countries would need to be prepared to expend $100 billion dollars by 2020. What if anything the developing countries would need to contribute is much more nebulous but is a topic that is certain to be discussed at the conference. 

We will continue to blog on COP21 over the next several weeks while the conference is in session.

 


2-Week Blog Series on Climate Change for COP21 Climate Talks in Paris

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 By Allison A. Torrence

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21, will be held in Paris, from November 30th to December 11th. It will be the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.  

Facebook-1President Obama will be in attendance for the initial few days of the talks and Secretary of State John F. Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and others will continue negotiations after the President leaves.

The advanced agenda for the talks is available here

In recognition of the Paris Climate talks, The Corporate Environmental Lawyer blog will feature a series of blogs over the next two weeks focused on climate change and developments from the negotiations. Please follow our blog to learn more about these issues and developments.


Help Yourself To Some Thanksgiving Turkey With A Side Of Renewable Energy

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 By Allison A. Torrence

Turkeys

Here is some food for thought as we get ready to gobble down some turkey this Thanksgiving: A new $25 million plant under construction in North Carolina will convert turkey waste into energy. Prestage AgEnergy will use 55,000 tons of turkey litter a year to produce the equivalent of 95 million kilowatt hours of electricity and feed that renewable electricity back to the grid.

North Carolina has a lot of turkey waste on hand – it ranks second in the nation behind Minnesota in turkey production. In light of its prolific turkey farming, in 2007, the state passed an energy policy mandate that requires utilities to use a small amount of poultry waste-generated power. This will not be the first turkey-waste energy plant – Minnesota currently has a 55-megawat power plant designed to burn poultry waste as its primary fuel. However, the new North Carolina plant will reportedly be the first facility designed to run on 100-percent turkey waste.


Local reporting on the Prestage AgEnergy plant can be found here and here.


Study Purports to Find Carbon Nanotubes in Children's Lungs

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By Steven M. Siros

 

A recent study conducted by the University of Paris-Saclay identified the presence of carbon nanotubes in children’s lungs in France.  Researchers examined 69 randomly selected lung fluid samples and found evidence of carbon nanotubes in all 69 of the samples.  The samples were collected from the lungs of children between the ages of 2 and 17 years suffering from severe asthma.  Carbon nanotubes are often used in the manufacture of computers, clothing and healthcare technology.  Carbon nanotubes are also found in automobile exhaust.  Although the source of the nanotubes identified in the children’s lung fluid was not identified, the study found that the particulate matter was mostly composed of anthropogenic multi-walled carbon nanotubes ranging from 10 to 60 nanometers in diameter and several hundred nanometers long. 

According to the study authors, this study was the first study demonstrating that carbon nanotubes from anthropogenic sources reach human lung cells. However, others have been critical of the study, noting that previous studies have not found evidence of carbon nanotubes accumulating in the lungs.  Please click here to view the study. 


California Bans Microbeads

GraysonBy E. Lynn Grayson

Microbeads

California is the ninth state to ban microbeads with passage of an aggressive new law prohibiting the tiny plastics beads by 2020. As the largest state to ban microbeads, this new California legislation appears to make it a virtual certainty that microbeads will be phased out across the country and possibly even through federal legislation.

Unlike bans enacted in Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, and Wisconsin, A.B. 888 provides no exemptions for biodegradable plastic or a process to win approval for such an exemption. Both Michigan and Washington also are considering microbead bans.

Many personal care product manufacturers already have agreed to phase out the use of microbeads in their products over the next few years. Industry representatives agree there are alternatives and other options to replace the sector’s reliance upon microbeads. A new study concludes that 8 trillion bits of plastic enter oceans and lakes from the U.S. every day. The study also provides further support for the ban on microbeads to improve marine, environmental and public health.


Companies Support Paris Climate Agreement

GraysonBy E. Lynn Grayson 

UN Conference on Climate Change

Fourteen major corporations based or operating in the U.S. have voiced strong support for the adoption of a new global settlement agreement. The companies endorsed a statement organized by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) calling for negotiators at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris to adopt “a more balanced and durable multilateral framework guiding and strengthening national efforts to address climate change.” The corporations supporting the C2ES statement include Alcoa, Alstrom, BHP Billiton, BP, Calpine, HP, Intel, Lafargeholcim, National Grid, PG&E, Rio Tinto, Schneider Electric, Shell, and Siemens Corporation.

The statement speaks to how a meaningful agreement could strengthen the role of and minimize risks to the private sector in the following ways:

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