Environment Forum

New world wines: now from the north

global_post_logo This article by Paul Ames originally appeared in GlobalPost.

The terrace of the elegant 18th-century chateau offers views over the formal French garden and fields filled with neat rows of vines.

This idyllic scene could be reminiscent of Bordeaux or the Cotes du Rhone … were it not for all the snow.

Wijnkasteel Genoels-Elderen is the biggest and best-known vineyard in Belgium. It is one of a growing number of wineries taking root in parts of northern Europe once considered too chilly to produce drinkable wine.

“We can compare this region with the Champagne region or Burgundy, or the Chablis,” said Belgian winemaker Joyce Kekko-van Rennes. “If you are in period of warming, we are in a fantastic place for winemaking.”

The extent to which global warming has encouraged the expansion of winemaking in northern lands better known for their beer is up for debate.

Clean tech nuclear seduces White House

NUCLEAR TMI

We’re told that President Obama is getting ready to propose a tripling of government loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors to the tune of more than $54 billion.

The move is likely to win over Republicans who want to see nuclear power playing a larger role in a climate bill for the country. Another group of Senators earlier this week said they would support a comprehensive climate bill based on Obama’s State of the Union speech that opened the possibilities of nuclear expansion.

Certainly, the Nuclear Energy Institute would agree the technology is the United States’ largest source of clean-air, carbon-free electricity, producing no greenhouse gases or air pollutants.

Climate bill treads on thin ice

USA/

Supporters of a climate bill to cap and price greenhouse gases are losing hope that it will make it into law. But for many, the fight is far from over.

Topping the list of supporters of some form of the bill is President Obama. In his first State of the Union address, he focused on the bill’s potential to fuel a domestic clean tech industry lush with jobs, and said he still supported the bipartisan effort on the climate and energy bill, which would incorporate energy policies favored by Republicans.

(See also: Obama sticks to climate before divided Congress and Obama supports climate bill, but how clean will it be? )

from Davos Notebook:

Africa feels the heat on climate change

kilimaIt may have contributed less than any other continent to CO2 emissions, but Africa is on the front line when it comes to the impact of climate change.

Just ask Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.

"It is a threat for us," he told a panel at the World Economic Forum.  "On Kilimanjaro the snow is fast disappearing, sea levels are rising -- we have one island that has already been submerged -- and we've towns around the coast where we have to incur huge costs of adaptation to erect walls."

In theory, Africa is also in a strong position, given its virgin forests that represent one of the world's great carbon sinks. But setting up workable offset-trading schemes is easier said than done.  "I can assure you, it is so difficult to access these facilities," Kikwete said.

from Tales from the Trail:

“Heroism fatigue”: another hurdle for U.S. climate change action?

GERMANY/Could "heroism fatigue" be yet another bump in the road for any U.S. law to curb climate change? And what is "heroism fatigue" anyway?

To Paul Bledsoe of the bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy, heroism fatigue is what happens when the Congress has spent most of the year doing something heroic, like trying to hammer out an agreement on healthcare reform, when what lawmakers might rather be doing is naming a new post office. Following one big, gnarly piece of legislation with another -- like a bill to limit climate-warming carbon dioxide -- can seem daunting.

"Especially Democrats want to get  back to some meat-and-potatoes job-creation stuff," Bledsoe says. "They're going to need a little time after healthcare."

Obama gets high marks for green record: environmental group

obama_solarPresident Barack Obama came into office with climate change and the environment on his list of top priorities.

Nearly a year later, one of the top environmental groups in the United States says that Obama has made the grade so far.

In a review of his green record, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) highlighted dozens of moves by Obama at home and abroad. They cited the $50 billion the president put in the stimulus package for cleaner energy and energy efficiency; an executive order for federal agencies to set targets to cut emissions by 2020; and the adoption of strict auto emissions standards, modeled after environmental trendsetter California.

from Global News Journal:

“Earth to Ban Ki-moon” or how a deal was sealed in Copenhagen

cop15Sweden complained that the recent Copenhagen climate change summit was a "disaster." British Prime Minister Gordon Brown described it as "at best flawed and at worst chaotic." Sudan's U.N. ambassador, Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem, dubbed the outcome confirmation of a "climate apartheid." For South Africa it was simply "not acceptable."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who for over a year had been urging the 192 members of the United Nations to "seal the deal" in Copenhagen, saw things differently. In a statement issued by his press office, Ban said the two-week meeting had a "successful conclusion with substantive outcomes." Speaking to reporters, the secretary-general expanded on that: "Finally we sealed the deal. And it is a real deal. Bringing world leaders to the table paid off." However, he tempered his praise for the participating delegations by noting that the outcome "may not be everything that everyone hoped for."

In fact, the outcome fell far short of what Ban had been calling for over the last year. He had originally hoped the meeting would produce a legally binding agreement with ambitious targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions and funding to help developing nations cope with global warming. Instead it "noted" an accord struck by the United States, China and other emerging powers that was widely criticized as unambitious and unspecific.

from The Great Debate UK:

Beyond Copenhagen: sub-national solutions are now key

Julian Hunt.jpg- Julian Hunt is visiting professor at Delft University and formerly director general of the UK meteorological office. Charles Kennel is distinguished professor of atmospheric science, emeritus and senior advisor to the sustainability solutions institute, UCSD. The opinions expressed are their own. -

The non-legally binding "deal" agreed at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen among the U.S., China, Brazil, South Africa and India, has brought to a conclusion what has proved an extraordinarily complex set of negotiations.

The outcome has been criticised on numerous grounds and, in U.S. President Barack Obama’s own words, “We have much further to go”.

Packing while Copenhagen burns

Bella1The talks were supposed to be over, “family photo” taken, and slaps on the back given all round.

So all the 193 countries and many RINGOS, BINGOS, YOUNGOS, banks and others who had set up temporary Copenhagen offices had been told to have them packed up by Friday evening.

The rest of the plan has fallen apart, with world leaders crammed into conference rooms desperately trying to salvage something from two weeks of fruitless talks.

Elections shape Brazil delegation at Copenhagen

 

BRAZIL-OIL/By Ray Colitt

Copenhagen summit attendees may be wondering why Brazil’s delegation to the U.N. climate meeting is being led not by its environment minister but by the president’s chief of staff. The answer is: elections next year in Brazil.

Chief of Staff Dilma Rousseff is the government’s likely candidate in next October’s general election and wants to boost her environmental credentials. She was nudged into action after internationally-renowned Amazon defender Marina Silva joined the presidential race and pledged to put the environment on the campaign agenda.

Ironically, it was Environment Minister Carlos Minc who saw the chance for Brazil to take a leadership position in global climate talks and Rousseff who was one of the more reticent members of government to accept aggressive emissions targets.

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