On April 22, more than one billion people every year celebrate Earth Day in more than 190 countries. According to the Earth Day Network, it is the largest civic observance in the world. Here are some interesting insights about Earth Day this year:
- It’s going to be more important than ever because at last count 155 countries, including the U.S., have agreed to sign the Paris agreement on climate change during a special ceremony at the United Nations in New York.
- This year’s celebration is a lead up to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020, and the Earth Day Network has pledged to plant 7.8 billion trees worldwide to account for every single person living on Earth.
- Learn more about Earth Day by viewing Google’s latest Doodle with fascinating paintings and pictures from around the world.
The United Nations has announced that up to 155 countries, including the United States, are planning to sign the Paris Climate Agreement at the Ceremony for Opening Signature, on Earth Day, April 22, 2016. The ceremony will take place at UN headquarters in New York. With over 150 world leaders set to sign the Paris Climate Agreement, the signing is expected to be the largest single signing of an international agreement in world history.
For more information about the signing ceremony and the Paris Climate Agreement, visit the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change website.
As part of our ongoing focus on Earth Day 2016, I found an interesting tool that allows one to measure one’s global footprint. The Earth Day Network has put together a Ecological Footprint Calculator that allows one to input specific parameters and determine how much of an impact each one of us has on the planet as a whole. At least for me, the results were somewhat sobering. Please click here to use the calculator to measure your impact.
One of the most significant environmental and energy policy issues today is climate change. One of the biggest events of the past year in environmental and energy policy was the Paris COP21 talks. More countries than ever have pledged to significant carbon cuts, yet in many people’s views, those pledges fall short of what a lot of scientists say is necessary. A recent interview of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with Kimberly Strassel, a member of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) editorial board, highlights some of the challenges.
The WSJ found that attitudes toward climate change differ markedly by region of the world and by political affiliation:
The U.S. has a plan to reduce emissions by 28% but the proposal is the subject of ongoing litigation. In his interview, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern over the impact internationally if the U.S. cannot obtain approval to meet its commitments to reduce GHG. President Obama has said that climate change is a bigger threat than terrorism and when asked if he agreed, the Secretary-General noted that “….longer term, it is a much, much more serious issue....concluding that climate change does not respect any borders. It affects a whole humanity, it affects our planet Earth.”
In celebration of Earth Day 2016, the Corporate Environmental Lawyer blog will host a special campaign April 18-22 featuring unique news and stories about Earth Day events and activities taking place around the world, in addition to important developments in environmental law. As environmental lawyers, this is a good day for us to remember the contributions our clients and friends make to improving the environment in the communities where we live and work.
The theme for Earth Day 2016 is Trees for Earth. In anticipation of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020, planting trees is the first of five major goals that will highlighted in each of the next five years. The Earth Day Network challenges the world to plant 7.8 billion trees by 2020.
If you have any questions about our Corporate Environmental Lawyer blog or this special series, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-923-2717.
Can A Smartphone Be Used To Verify Compliance With My Air Permit—Surprisingly, the Answer Soon May Be Yes—and Other New Enforcement Initiatives
In an effort to capitalize on what U.S. EPA characterizes as the successful integration of its Next Generation Compliance strategy into its enforcement arsenal, U.S. EPA recently confirmed that it intends to incorporate Next Generation Compliance into future environmental settlements. For those unfamiliar with the strategy, U.S. EPA’s Next Generation Compliance strategy is intended to achieve a higher rate of compliance and reduce pollution through the use of advanced monitoring and information technologies. For example, through the use of Electronic Discharge Monitoring Reports to monitor compliance with Clean Water Act NPDES permits, U.S. EPA is able to more readily identify and prosecute permit violations. Moreover, since much of this information is then publicly available, environmental organizations and citizen groups are more readily able to identify violators, which could result in an increased frequency of citizen suits and/or increased pressure being brought to bear on the regulators to enforce against repeated violators.
On Thursday, April 7, 2016, Young Professionals in Energy (Chicago) is hosting an event titled “Hydraulic Fracturing in Illinois: What Has The National Frenzy Meant For Our State?” at Jenner & Block’s Chicago office. The event will be moderated by Jenner & Block attorney and YPE Board Member, Alexander Bandza, and will feature presentations from Jenny Cassel, Staff Attorney at Environmental Law and Policy Center, and Nancy Loeb, Director of the Environmental Advocacy Center, Northwestern University School of Law.
For more information and to RSVP click here.
On Wednesday, March 16, 2016, Jenner & Block partners E. Lynn Grayson and Allison Torrence will be speaking at a Chicago Bar Association CLE Seminar titled "Major Cases and Regulatory Changes in Environmental Law." Lynn Grayson will be presenting on proposed RCRA generator and pharmaceutical rules, and Allison Torrence, who is Chair of the CBA Environmental Law Committee, will be presenting on the U.S. v. Volkswagen Clean Air Act litigation.
The seminar is on Wednesday March 16, 2014 from 3–5 pm at the Chicago Bar Association, 321 S. Plymouth Court. A networking reception will be held at the CBA immediately following the seminar, from 5–6 pm.
For more information and to register for the seminar click here.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia undoubtedly had a significant impact on environmental law during his 30 years on the High Court. Known for his strong opinions and quotable prose, he often showcased both in opinions on environmental issues. One of my personal favorite quotes from Justice Scalia came in his strident dissent in the landmark GHG ruling of Massachusetts v. EPA. In his critique of the majority opinion, he argued that the majority’s reasoning would lead to the conclusion “that everything airborne, from Frisbees to flatulence, qualifies as an ‘air pollutant.’” Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497, 558 (2007).
Jenner & Block Webinar: The Top Environmental, Health and Safety Issues for 2016 - What You Need to Know
On Tuesday, February 23rd, from 12:00– 1:15 pm CT, Jenner & Block Partners Lynn Grayson and Steven Siros will present a CLE webinar on The Top Environmental, Health and Safety Issues for 2016 - What You Need to Know. The webinar will provide an overview of key environmental, health and safety issues in 2016 including the following topics:
- Issues relating to the Corps’ jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act;
- Fallout under the Safe Drinking Water Act after Flint;
- U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan regulations, UNFCCC COP 21, and the potential regulation of aircraft GHG emissions;
- Status of TSCA reform efforts;
- Litigation relating to GMOs under FIFRA;
- RCRA waste regulation amendments;
- OSHA penalty updates;
- U.S. EPA challenges;
- Water scarcity and sustainability; and
- Technological innovation and its impact on environmental practitioners.
To register for this free Webinar click here.
In an unusual step, on Tuesday, February 9, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay of EPA’s “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units,” 80 Fed. Reg. 64,662 (October 23, 2015) (a/k/a “the Clean Power Plan”). The stay is unusual because the challenges to the Clean Power Plan are still before the D.C. Circuit Court, which denied a request for a stay in January.
President Obama addressed the nation last night in his final State of the Union speech. While the President covered a wide range of topics, he spent time to discuss the often politicized and controversial topics of climate change and alternative energy. When outlining the “four big questions” he believes the nation has to address, Obama asked “how do we make technology work for us, and not against us, especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?”
Later, Obama dismissed anyone who disputes the science of climate change, and framed the challenge of climate change as an opportunity for American businesses to invest in alternative energy. He claimed that the solar energy industry employs more Americans than the coal industry and pushed for giving homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy. Obama stated that he wants to accelerate the transition from “old, dirtier energy sources” by pushing to “change the way we manage our oil and coal resources so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet.”
The United States Environmental Protection Agency ("U.S. EPA") recently announced its 2015 enforcement statistics, noting that for fiscal year 2015, U.S. EPA initiated enforcement actions resulted in $404 million in penalties and fines. In addition, companies were required to invest more than $7 billion to control pollution and remediate contaminated sites; convictions for environmental crimes resulted in 129 years of combined incarceration for convicted defendants; and there was a total of $39 million committed to environmental mitigation projects that benefited communities throughout the United States.
The largest single penalty was the result of a Clean Air Act settlement with two automobile manufacturers that resulted in a $100 million penalty, forfeiture of emissions credits and more than $50 million being invested in pollution control and abatement measures. U.S. EPA's 2015 enforcement numbers were up from 2014 ($100 million in fines and penalties collected in 2014).
Please click here to go to U.S. EPA's 2015 enforcement statistics website.
The Hong Kong Stock Exchange announced this week it will require listed companies to strengthen reporting on environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters, responding to investor demand for greater transparency in these areas. Many changes will take effect January 1, 2016. A transition to mandatory reporting for key performance indicators such as greenhouse gas emissions will phase in by January 1, 2017.
On Saturday, December 12th, the 195 parties to the COP21 in Paris agreed to a historic agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from both developed and developing nations. The Paris Agreement aims to keep global temperatures to "well below 2 °C above preindustrial levels."
The agreement is an ambitious accomplishment, more than nine years in the making. However, many climate change activists are claiming it does not go far enough to prevent significant harms from climate change. For example, due to pressure from the United States, the agreement does not say that developed nations "shall" commit to reducing GHG emissions. Instead, the agreement states that developed nations "should" commit to reducing GHG emissions. In addition, the agreement discusses the need for $100 billion a year from developed nations to help developing nations mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts. However, in the final agreement, the $100 billion figure is only mentioned in the non-binding preamble. Many of these changes were pushed by the United States in an attempt to craft an agreement that will not need to be approved by the republican-lead Congress.
President Obama commented after the Paris Agreement was finalized, stating that “[t]his agreement sends a powerful signal that the world is fully committed to a low-carbon future. We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge.” On the other side of the political spectrum, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that President Obama was "making promises he can't keep" and that the agreement was "subject to being shredded in 13 months."
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."
Not only are countless businesses publicly supporting a global climate agreement from COP21 as we previously reported, several businesses and business coalitions are pledging to take operational and strategic actions in advance of such an agreement. As reported by Ceres, set out below here are a few of the business coalitions and their pledges:
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.
As 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 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:
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.
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.
President 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.
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:
Today Thomson Reuters’ published my blog, Executive Perspective: UN Sustainable Development Summit: Sustainable Energy Developments. The blog details the new 2030 UN Sustainability Development Agenda and how the recently adopted sustainable developments goals (SDGs) will influence sustainable energy growth around the world in the coming years.
Thomson Reuters’ Sustainability blog provides a wealth of information and resources on this important topic. I like to review the Editors’ Picks to get see the latest and most interesting sustainability developments.
EPA’s Safer Choice program (formerly Design for the Environment) recognizes products that meet stringent ingredient and product level criteria. Safer Choice products do not contain carcinogens or reproductive or developmental toxins. The program helps consumers and commercial buyers identify and select products with safer chemical ingredients without sacrificing quality or performance.
According to EPA, there are over 2,000 products that currently qualify for the Safer Choice label. This summer, EPA’s new Safer Choice labels began appearing on consumer products such as household soaps and cleaners. To qualify for the Safer Choice label, a product must meet stringent human and environmental health criteria.
In the first year of the Safer Choice Partner of the Year awards, the Chicago/Region V area has more winners than any other part of the country. Local award winners include: AkzoNobel/Chicago; ISSA, The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association/Northbrook; Jelmar, LLC/Skokie; Loyola University Chicago, Institute of Environmental Sustainability/Chicago; and Stepan Company/Northfield. Nationwide, 21 entities won EPA Safer Choice Partner of the Year awards. EPA confirms there are nearly 500 formulator-manufacturer partners that make more than 2,000 products for retail and institutional customers.
More information about the Safer Choice program is available at http://www2.epa.gov/saferchoice.