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Canada, China, EU and partners push forward on Paris climate accord
Montreal (AFP) Sept 15, 2017

Brexit a step away from pollution commitments, U.N. envoy says
Washington (UPI) Sep 14, 2017 - The British government risks sliding backwards on air quality to the detriment of human health through plans to leave the EU, a special U.N. envoy said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said Tuesday that Parliament made the "historic decision" to vote for a bill that gives clarity for the path out of the European Union. Separate from the Article 50 process that breaks the formal relationship with the EU, the bill removes a measure that gave EU law supremacy, but includes provisions that provide ministers with ways to address problems that would arise after the so-called Brexit takes effect.

Buskut Tuncak, a U.N. special envoy on hazardous substances, told the U.N. Human Rights Council that London risks stepping away from some of the highest environmental standards in the world as it leaves the EU.

"Should the government fail to equal the EU on air quality controls, chemical restrictions or product manufacturing standards, the British market could risk becoming a haven for 'dirty' industries and a dumping ground for products failing to meet EU regulations," he said in a statement.

When it leaves, Tuncak, appointed in 2014, said the British government needs to adopt its own measures on emissions and air quality because what it has on the books now isn't doing enough to protect the most vulnerable members of the population from risk. As a member of the EU, he added, the country had significantly lowered emissions of sulfur dioxide, a precursor to acid rain, after it was previously the highest emitter in the bloc.

On the energy front, shippers have moved to liquefied natural gas as a marine fuel to address European and Asian concerns about sulfur dioxide emissions from conventional marine fuels. Elsewhere, government data show road traffic, measured by miles traveled, was up 1.4 percent last year and the transportation sector is typically categorized as the sector with the largest emissions. In July, however, the British government unveiled plans to ban all new gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles from its roads beginning in 2040.

For power on the British grid, data show the share of electricity generated by renewable resources was 26.6 percent in the first quarter, up 1 percent from the same period last year.

EU measures obligate member states to reach certain benchmarks for pollution and renewable energy by 2030. In the annual State of the Union address, delivered Wednesday, EU President Jean-Claude Junker said it be Europe that will "we make our planet great again."

Some 30 environment ministers will push forward on the Paris climate accord at a meeting Saturday requested by Canada, China and the European Union.

With more than half of G20 members attending -- representing most of the world's largest economies -- "this first gathering of its kind aims to further galvanize global momentum for the implementation of the Paris Agreement," the European Commission said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, who will make a brief appearance at the Montreal talks, will again stand apart from US President Donald Trump on this issue and resolutely commit Canada to reduce its carbon footprint, Canadian officials have said.

When Trump chose to withdraw the United States from the Paris accord, Canada, China and the European Union immediately reaffirmed their respective commitments to the climate pact, and in July the G20 called the accord "irreversible."

Nearly 200 countries agreed in Paris at the end of 2015 to limit or reduce carbon dioxide emissions with the aim of keeping the rise in average global temperatures to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, compared to preindustrial levels.

On the eve of the Montreal conference, Europe's top climate official Miguel Arias Canete said the EU continues to press for "full and swift implementation" of the accord, noting that progress has been made toward finalizing details of its plan to reduce European emissions by 40 percent by 2030.

Despite being the world's sixth-largest oil producer, Canada is "committed to its international climate obligations," said the environment ministry.

It hopes to reach its climate goal by massively investing in "clean energy" technologies, a spokeswoman added.

- US stance a setback -

Key player China and its special representative Xie Zhenhua will bring to the table a potentially major advancement in transportation. China, along with Britain and France, has announced its intentions to ban petrol and diesel cars starting in 2040. This would bring a huge drop in air pollution in the world's largest car market.

And in a speech in Strasbourg on Thursday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reaffirmed the EU's aim of being "at the forefront of the fight against climate change."

The US dealt that fight a major setback when Trump pulled the world's biggest economy out of the Paris accord in June.

To bolster the EU position, Juncker promised to soon put forth a proposal to reduce carbon emissions in the transportation sector.

Catherine McKenna, Canada's environment minister, will meantime press her counterparts and multinationals chief executives to develop solutions for "a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy."

Holding the meeting in Montreal is not coincidence. It is here that negotiations led to the first international agreement on the environment 30 years ago, with a ban on ozone-depleting gases.

In addition to Canada, the EU countries and China, nations including Russia, India, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, South Korea and Turkey will be represented by senior ministers.

With only 50 days before the next United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP23), some of the low-lying nations hardest hit by the effects of climate change (the Marshall Islands, Fiji, Maldives) and some of the poorest (Mali and Ethiopia) will also be present.

New York unveils plan to cut building CO2 emissions
New York (AFP) Sept 14, 2017 - New York on Thursday revealed an initiative that would mandate thousands of buildings throughout the city become more energy efficient, the latest step in the city's push to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

The plan would require that landlords of some 14,500 buildings with a surface area of over 25,000 square feet (2,300 square meters) modernize boilers, water heaters, roofs and windows -- or face annual fines according to the extent of the breach and size of the building, the mayor's office said in a statement.

A skyscraper of over 1.7 million square feet, such as the iconic Chrysler Building, could incur an annual fine of some $2 million if its energy use significantly exceeds efficiency targets.

Under the new rules, landlords would need to meet those standards by 2030.

"We must shed our buildings' reliance on fossil fuels here and now," said New York's Democratic mayor Bill de Blasio in the statement, adding that the initiative was a bid to "honor the goals of the Paris Agreement."

The 14,500 buildings in question -- the city's worst in terms of energy efficiency -- account for 24 percent of the city's greenhouse gas emissions, according to the mayor's office.

Meanwhile fossil fuel consumption via boilers and water heaters is the primary cause of greenhouse gas emissions in the city, responsible for 42 percent of the total.

In October 2012 Hurricane Sandy unleashed fury on New York. In the devastating storm's aftermath the city has implemented efforts to tackle climate change -- which it has vowed to continue despite Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the global Paris climate pact in June.

The new measures are expected to reduce total emissions by seven percent by 2035 and create 17,000 jobs in carrying out the retrofits.

Pope slams climate change deniers as 'stupid'
On Board The Papal Plane (AFP) Sept 11, 2017
Pope Francis on Monday slammed climate change doubters as "stupid" in the wake of a spate of hurricanes that have thrashed the US, Mexico and the Caribbean. "Those who deny it (climate change) should go to the scientists and ask them. They are very clear, very precise," the pontiff said Monday during a press conference on the return leg of a five-day Colombia trip. "A phrase from the Old ... read more

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