Monday, July 29, 2013

US and China Announce Further Collaboration on CCS

The US-China Climate Change Working Group recently announced a set of cooperative mitigation initiatives, including a new joint CCUS program.  Specifically, the US and China will work to set up multiple integrated CCUS demonstration projects in both countries.  According to a new report from the Working Group, "The United States and China will undertake a three-tiered effort to identify integrated project sites; develop joint scientific and technical monitoring programs to manage information and lessons learned from the projects; and explore business-to-business joint cooperation for scaling up CCUS deployment."  In addition, a "regular high-level policy dialogue" will be held to exchange relevant information and ideas.  The Working Group also announced other "action initiatives" on vehicle emissions, smart grid, emissions data collection and management, and energy efficiency.

The bilateral Working Group was established in April of this year, and is scheduled to release detailed implementation plans for each new initiative by October.  The Obama Administration recently renewed its regulatory push to require CCS for all new coal plants (see EPA Advancing CCS Rule for New Power Plants, 7/5).  China's powerful National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) also recently published formal guidance on mandatory promotion of CCUS by all government entities (see China Issues CCUS Policy Statement, 7/11).

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The CIA and Geoengineering?

The internet is abuzz with stories about CIA involvement in geoengineering research, following a new Mother Jones article titled "CIA Backs $630,000 Scientific Study on Controlling Global Climate."  Despite cries of vindication from some conspiracy theorists, the actual facts behind the headlines are rather mundane.  The CIA, along with NOAA and NASA, is supporting a National Academies of Science (NAS)-led 21-month project called "Geoengineering Climate: Technical Evaluation and Discussion of Impacts."  The purpose of the project is to "conduct a technical evaluation of a limited number of proposed geoengineering techniques, ... and comment generally on the potential impacts of deploying these technologies, including possible environmental, economic, and national security concerns."  Asked to explain, a CIA spokesman replied, "It's natural that on a subject like climate change the Agency would work with scientists to better understand the phenomenon and its implications on national security."

In truth, this is a relatively small-scale, fairly unremarkable research project that has been openly discussed in the public domain for some time now.  The outcome is likely to be indistinguishable from many other assessments and reports previously published on geoengineering.  Indeed, the CIA arguably would be negligent in its duties if it failed to keep abreast of current developments in this field.  But facts, or the absence thereof, too often lose out in competition with uninformed speculation and unrestrained flights of fancy.  Chemtrails, anyone?

Monday, July 15, 2013

EU-Funded IMPLICC Project Releases Synthesis Report

The Implications and Risks of Engineering Solar Radiation to Limit Climate Change (IMPLICC) modeling project, funded by the EU under Framework Programme 7 (FP7) (for background, see Update on EU-Funded Research, 7/19/12) has released its interim synthesis report for policymakers.  Key findings of the research include:

  • Model runs simulating space mirrors show that global temperature increases can be offset, but at the cost of suppressed precipitation relative to preindustrial conditions.
  • Stratospheric aerosol and marine cloud brightening models both show more muted climate responses, but termination effects are significant when either method is stopped abruptly.
  • The world economic effects of SRM are unclear, although they could be negative partially due to altered precipitation patterns.
The report concludes, "the potentially strong climate responses discussed here suggest that climate engineering cannot be seen as a substitute for a policy pathway of mitigating climate change through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions" (p. 10).  Sadly, it bears repeating that no serious proposals to substitute geoengineering for mitigation exist, a fact which the authors of the IMPLICC report are most assuredly aware.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

China Issues CCUS Policy Statement

China's central National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has published an official Notice on promoting CCUS, designed to serve as guidance for all government ministries and agencies at national, regional, and local levels as well as major state-owned enterprises.  In its statement, the NDRC instructs these bodies to promote CCUS pilot and demonstration projects, and in doing so to "proceed from the national conditions in China, think and plan for the long-term, provide positive and active guidance, and progress development in an orderly manner" (p. 3).  The Commission outlines six key tasks:

  1. Cover the entire CCUS value chain
  2. Develop specific demonstration projects
  3. Set up financial incentive mechanisms
  4. Intensify research and planning efforts
  5. Formulate CCUS standards and regulations
  6. Improve capacity building and international collaboration
The NDRC will lead this national effort based on the program and principles laid out in the Notice.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Reforestation and Biochar in Haiti

As Haiti continues to rebuild in the aftermath of its devastating 2010 earthquake, multiple carbon management projects are now being implemented on the ground in an effort to promote long-term sustainability.  The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is actively supporting two reforestation projects in Haiti.  The first project has entailed the planting of 1.5 million seedlings to reforest 1,000 ha of previously deforested land in the Aquin and Saint-Louis watershed areas.  This project is being carried out as part of UNDP's broader Reducing the Vulnerability of People and Infrastructure in the South program. The second reforestation effort forms one component of the joint Haiti-Dominican Republic Green Border project, and has resulted in 514 ha of land being reforested.  Biochar is also gaining increased prominence in Haiti, as exemplified by the agricultural outreach activities conducted by Carbon Roots International.

Proponents point to a wide variety of benefits resulting from these projects: job creation, ecosystem recovery, enhanced resilience, improved agriculture, sustainable economic development.  But carbon sequestration is almost never among them.  The likely explanation is that project supporters are anxious to be seen helping locals meet real, immediate needs, rather than being portrayed as taking advantage of a desperate situation to cheaply "offset" historic misdeeds.  One way to resolve this is to give all carbon credits resulting from these types of projects to local stakeholders.  Unfortunately, the global carbon market is in such dire straits at the moment that such gestures are virtually meaningless.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Insights Into European Commission Views on Geoengineering

Comments made at the recent "International Governance of Climate Engineering" forum held in Brussels in June shed interesting light on official thinking about geoengineering within the European Commission.  One of the featured speakers at the event was Jacob Werksman,  who serves as Principal Advisor to the Commission's Directorate-General (DG) for Climate Action.  Werksman noted that the Commission itself has no explicit position on geoengineering, and cited two important reasons why.  First, the Commission does not want to undermine or destabilize ongoing negotiations within the UNFCCC by injecting such a charged issue into climate talks.  Second, the Commission is keen to emphasize non-climate benefits of mitigation actions such as improvements in public health and economic competitiveness, and does not want to jeopardize this message with potentially controversial statements or policies on geoengineering.

Werksman also offered his opinion on the preferred institutional setting for international deliberations on climate engineering.  In his view, the CBD has become excessively politicized due to the actions of certain NGOs and developing country members, and in the process has alienated key governments such as the US.  The UNFCCC, rather than the CBD, should coordinate discussions on geoengineering since it has a nearly global membership and a history of constructive institutional flexibility.  The extent to which Werksman's preference is shared by other staff at DG Climate Action is unknown.

Friday, July 5, 2013

EPA Advancing CCS Rule for New Power Plants

Following President Obama's high-profile climate speech last week, the EPA is quickly pushing forward with its 2012 draft New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) effectively requiring CCS for all new coal-fired power plants (for more, see Calls Intensify for More Global Action on CCS, 5/16/12).  A revised NSPS rule reflecting public feedback collected over a year-long comment period was originally due to be released in April, but publication was delayed in response to strong push back by the coal industry, which argued that the draft standard was too stringent.  Last week, however, Obama indicated that a revised standard would be released to the public no later than September 20, with final issuance planned for June 2014.  Obama also instructed EPA to present a draft performance standard for existing power plants by next June, with final release set for 2015.

To comply with this accelerated timeline, EPA reportedly delivered its revised NSPS draft to the White House on Monday, for further consideration by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and other agencies.  The contents of the revised draft are confidential and unknown, although subject to intense speculation regarding what concessions Big Coal may have managed to extract from the administration.  OMB will communicate its findings to EPA in the next several weeks.