Carbon Capture Journal issue available

The latest issue of the Carbon Capture Journal is available as an open access issue. The issue has several excellent articles on the current status of Carbon Capture & Sequestration. The piece by the International Energy Agency assessing what needs to be done to make CCS a viable climate change strategy could be a good brief reading for students at any level.

Climate Change Policy in the U.S. panel

Comprehensive U.S. climate legislation passed the House of Representatives in June 2009 but has stalled in the Senate.  What does this mean for U.S. companies, for EPA, for the states, and for the international negotiations?  Join us for a frank and lively discussion on how the U.S. and the states should (and likely will) move forward in the face of on-going Congressional paralysis.

Monday, October 11, 2010, 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Columbia Law School, 435 W. 116th St. (corner of Amsterdam Ave.)
New York, New York

Nick Akins, Executive Vice President, American Electric Power
Laurie Burt, Commissioner, Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection
Michael Levi, Council on Foreign Relations
Gina McCarthy, Assistant Administrator, U.S. EPA


Prof. Albert Bressand, Executive Director, CEMTPP
Prof. Michael Gerrard, Director, Center for Climate Change Law

Co-Sponsored by:
Center for Energy, Marine Transportation and Public Policy, Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs
Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School

Further information and reservations:

This event will also be webcast live, and a video will be posted on the Center for Climate Change Law web site.  To RSVP for the live webcast and receive login instructions, e-mail .
Michael B. Gerrard

Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice
Director, Center for  Climate Change Law
Columbia Law School
435 West 116th Street
New York, New York 10027
Tel: 212-854-3287
Fax: 212-854-7946

The contours of climate politics

Interesting commentary below on the optimal way to proceed on addressing climate change, good grist for class discussion.

Monbiot and Climate Politics

andrewpendleton | September 21, 2010 at 8:11 pm | Categories: Uncategorized | URL:

In Today’s Guardian newspaper in the UK, environmental columnist George Monbiot has seemingly woken up to the politics of climate change – almost. He finishes a lengthy soliloquy to the global climate change negotiations and climate campaigning more generally with the following:

‘All I know is that we must stop dreaming about an institutional response that will never materialise and start facing a political reality we’ve sought to avoid. The conversation starts here.’

The conversation in fact began a while ago, notably over at the Breakthrough Institute in the US and in Anthony Giddens book. Here at Political Climate we’ve been trying to bring some of the thinking on climate politics together and to present some of the evidence to support a climate politics focus in addition to science and economics.

Monbiot falls short of naming precisely which politics he means, although mentions in passing the activities of corporate lobbyists, the customary bête noir of environmentalists, and the failure of leadership:

‘Greens are a puny force by comparison to industrial lobby groups, the cowardice of governments and the natural human tendency to deny what we don’t want to see.’

He also confuses the failure of an intergovernmental agreement, whose crime was to try and move ahead of national politics based on the assumption that leadership would win through, with government action in general. We still need governments and institutions to take climate change seriously, but not necessarily or primarily within the frame of a global agreement.

It’s hardly a revelation to say this, but climate change is a long-term problem that requires short-term responses; this paradox is shot through with politics. And so while polls suggest two-thirds or more of people accept the role of humans in changing the climate, they do not tend to prioritise it in the decisions they take at the checkout or, critically, at the ballot box. Thus while political and corporate rhetoric on the issue has become more shrill in recent years, costly investments to stem still-rising emissions have on the whole not been forthcoming.

Pushing for a grand, global agreement was a bold endeavour, but Monbiot is correct to observe that, at least for now, it is also a fruitless one as politicians justifiably feel that the space for high ambition is not yet available to them. That’s why we’ve been trying to identify the politics and championing the concept of learning by doing (see the previous post). It may not satisfy the carbon accountants and scenario geeks as much as top-down targets, but at least it’s concrete progress.

Papers from Yale/UNITAR Conference on Environmental Governance and Democracy

Papers from the 2nd UNITAR-Yale Conference on Environmental Governance and Democracy: Strengthening Institutions to Address Climate Change and Advance a Green Economy are available for download. The conference brought together practitioners, scholars and policy-makers from countries and organizations all over the world and the papers contain many useful insights.

OECD has released three papers exploring new issues in carbon markets, including linking emission trading systems and voluntary markets:

Towards Global Carbon Pricing: Direct and Indirect Linking to Carbon Markets (July 2010)
By R.B. Dellink, S. Jamet, J. Chateau and R. Duval
Emissions trading systems (ETS) can play a major role in a cost-effective climate policy framework. Both direct linking of ETSs and indirect linking through a common crediting mechanism can reduce costs of action. This paper analyses the impact of linking emission trading schemes directly and through the use of offsets. Using a global recursive-dynamic computable general equilibrium model, the effects of direct and indirect linking of ETS systems across world regions are assessed. The analysis in this paper shows, however, that the potential gains to be reaped are so large, that substantial efforts in this domain are warranted.

Voluntary Carbon Markets: How can they serve climate policies?
By Pierre Guigon, BlueNext
This paper aims to examine how voluntary carbon markets can provide a valuable contribution to strengthening domestic and international climate policies. The research shows that the several carbon project certification schemes that have emerged in the voluntary carbon market have developed potential innovative solutions to deal with some of the issues faced by compliance markets.

Buying and Cancelling Allowances as an Alternative to Offsets for the Voluntary Market: A Preliminary Review of Issues and Options
By Anja Kollmuss and Michael Lazarus, Stockholm Environment Institute
In recent years, businesses, local governments and individuals have set goals for reducing their emissions of greenhouse gases. In addition to directly reducing their own emissions, many of these entities have purchased carbon offsets to help achieve their mitigation goals. Yet establishing offset quality can be difficult, due to issues such as additionality, measurement, leakage, permanence, and verification. This paper explores scenarios under which, as an alternative to offsets, voluntary buyers could instead buy and cancel allowances from compliance markets.

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Low Emissions Webinar

Dear Colleagues,

The Coordinated Low Emissions Assistance Network (CLEAN) will be offering a free webinar to share experiences on low emissions development planning, approaches, and methodologies. We invite all officials and experts interested in preparation of low emission development plans to attend. It will be held on September 29, 2010 from 15:30-17:00 Central European Time and will feature the following presenters:

·      Ms. Jane Ebinger, Sr. Energy Specialist, World Bank; Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP)
·      Dr. Juan Mata, Mexico’s Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT)
·      Ms. Sadie Cox, International Analyst, US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Presenters will provide an overview of their respective low emissions planning activities including ESMAP’s Knowledge Products for Low-Carbon Development, Mexico’s Special Program on Climate Change (PECC) and NREL’s DOE supported generalized methodology and toolkit for low emission development strategies. Following the presentations, a discussion and Q&A session will be held. We hope that participants will be able to provide insightful feedback on low emissions planning needs in developing countries during this discussion.

This webinar is the first in a series of CLEAN webinars that will be provided on low emissions planning topics. The recorded webinar archive and information on future webinars will be posted online to the OpenEI CLEAN wiki site at If you are interested in attending the webinar or participating in future webinars as either a participant or speaker please contact Samuel Tobin at [email protected].

Access Information
Web Access
1. Go to
2. Enter your name and email address.
3. Enter the meeting password: clean
4. Click “Join Now”.
5. Follow the instructions that appear on your screen.

Teleconference Audio Access

Provide your phone number when you join the meeting to receive a call back. Alternatively, you can call:
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Participants can join the event directly at:
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ARGENTINA                                                                                              0800-777-0515
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NETHERLANDS                                                   31-20-718-8596                           0800-023-1812
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NORWAY                                                        47-21-590-072                            800-15308
PANAMA                                                                                                 011-001-800-5072111
PERU                                                                                                         0800-53721
PHILIPPINES                                                   63-2-858-3753
POLAND                                                                                                 00-800-1212569
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SWITZERLAND                                                   41-44-580-6402                           0800-120-039
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VENEZUELA                                                                                              0800-1-00-3782

The impacts of existing energy infrastructure

There’s an interesting new article in Science assessing the climatic implications of current energy infrastructure that could be an excellent student reading in a class section on solutions and future scenarios, Davis, et al., Future CO2 Emissions and Climate Change from Existing Energy Infrastructure, 329 Science 1330-1333 (2010).

Among the key take-aways of the piece:

  1. Barring the widespread use of carbon capture and sequestration or early de-commissioning of energy and transportation infrastructure, the “committed emissions represent infrastructural inertia,” translating into a projected mean warming of 1.3C above the pre-industrial era. Scenarios that assume continued expansion of fossil-fuel-based infrastructure lead to projections of warming of 2.4-4.6C, with atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide greater than 600ppm;
  2. Of energy generating capacity built worldwide since 2000, 31.4% was generated from coal, 33.9% from oil, 17.4% from carbon-free sources, and the remainder from sources e.g. oil and nuclear power;
  3. Nearly one quarter of electrical generating capacity since 2000 is from coal-fired power plants in China; China’s cumulative emissions by the end of this century could exceed 300 Gt of carbon dioxide assuming continued expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in China;
  4. Satisfying growing energy demand without producing carbon dioxide emissions will require a “truly extraordinary” development and deployment of carbon-free sources of energy, perhaps as much as 30 terrawatts by 2050

Geoengineering: Planning for Plan B

An excellent brief reading on climate change geoengineering governance issues, deemed to be “the most serious governance concern that we’re going to be facing in the next couple of decades” according to Maria Ivanova, director of Yale’s Global Environmental Governance Project, has recently been published in Nature Climate Reports: Inman, Planning for Plan B, 4 Nature Reports Climate Change 7-9 (2010).

Among the take-aways from the article:

  1. The emergence of the private sector’s involvement in geoengineering schemes, including companies e.g. Climos and Planktos seeking to ultimately obtain credits for ocean iron fertilization, has raised the specter of “unregulated commercial scale-up;” a concern highlighted by a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of the Pennsylvania-based Mantria Corporation, which the SEC has charged with operating a $30 million Ponzi scheme in inducing people to invest in biochar sequestration;
  2. Deployment of geoengineering might be justified if the climate system crossed a tipping point, e.g. massive releases of methane from Arctic  permafrost. Moreover, another rationale for engaging in research in this context is that if a major State decided to deploy a geoengineering scheme out of desperation or out of cost considerations, the international community would be compelled to “fall back on a moral argument” if such research had not been conducted;
  3. While the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change may be the logical regime to regulate geoengineering, negotiations could be extremely protracted; which could result in unregulated activities for a long time, or a moratorium until the regime could be set in place, both potentially undesirable scenarios;
  4. There are a number of other regimes that might play a regulatory role,including the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, the Montreal Protocol, the UN Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution and the Environmental Modification Convention. However, since none of these treaties were designed to regulate geoengineering, there is a threat of a “governance trap,” i.e. lock in into a less than ideal regulatory approach.

The article also does a good job of summarizing current regulatory efforts under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the London Convention, as well as self-governance efforts.

Among the discussion questions that this article might generate:

  1. Would it be problematic to have a number of regimes potentially exerting regulatory control over geoengineering? If yes, are there international legal constructs that could limit jurisdiction to one or more regimes?;
  2. Do certain geoengineering schemes invoke more concern in terms of potential transboundary effects or unchecked commercial activities?
  3. What components should be included in an international regulatory framework for geoengineering?

Opportunities at Hong Kong Institute of Education

Dear Colleagues,

If you know of students or graduates who would might like to do a PhD (or MPhil) in China, please encourage them to consider the Hong Kong Institute of Education. I would welcome the opportunity to work with candidates interested in global environmental politics and related areas. Students interested in GEP with some kind of education focus, such as climate change education, sustainability education and similar fields, especially if there is some connection to China or East Asia, would find find our resources, facilities and access extremely beneficial.

For more details, please visit the Graduate School website,, or see the information below. Note that we have generous funding support for qualified candidates.

I would welcome hearing from potential candidates to discuss ideas for doctoral research in particular.

Many thanks, and all the best,


P.G. Harris
Chair Professor of Global and Environmental Studies
Department of Social Sciences
Hong Kong Institute of Education
10 Lo Ping Road
General Office Tel.: +852 2948 7707
Direct Tel.: +852 2948 6763
Fax: +852 2948 8047
Email: pharris @

Responding to the Skeptics: Schneider TV Special

For instructors looking for new materials to address the arguments of climate skeptics, the late Stephen Schneider recorded a television program in June in Australia in which he answered the questions of more than 50 members of an audience skeptical about climate claims. The program is available online, and while a bit painful to watch for those of us who knew and admired Steve, it would be an excellent assignment for an undergraduate or law school course.