Ratification Of The Paris Agreement Delayed

Michael Gove on a school visit

It’s now nine months since the COP21 climate treaty was agreed in Paris. At the time,I met the agreement with both celebration and condemnation: it marked an important global moment for collective action on climate change but lacked the ambition and detail on how even a 2ºC target could be met. Many observers recognised that the proof of its success would be in the national policy commitments made by governments and ministers in the months and years that followed.

Other Than That Everything's Perfect

Other Than That Everything’s Perfect

Importantly, the Paris agreement will not enter into force until 55 countries representing 55% of total global emissions have ratified it. As it stands, 26 states have completed this, totalling 39.06 % of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Notably, this includes China and the United States, who last week jointly announced their ratification of the Paris Agreement, marking a very important step in the treaty’s journey.

Sadly, the UK has dawdled on Paris ratification and has not yet made any announcement of when it intends to do so. Since December, the stock response of both the Prime Minister and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (and formerly the Department for Energy and Climate Change) has been that the government will do so ‘as soon as possible’.

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In Parliament today, I asked the Prime Minister if she will commit to ratifying the agreement before the follow up negotiations in November of this year. She sidestepped the question and refused to give a firm date. With 2016 set to be the hottest year on record, this casual approach is at odds with ever more serious warnings about the severity of the climate crisis.

At the national level, it has been a terrible year for climate and energy policy. With the ongoing reckless obsession with fracking, the failure to embrace energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority, and the delay in new subsidy announcements for offshore wind, it should come as no surprise that the Committee on Climate Change announced in June that the government lacks half the policies it needs to meet its 2030 emissions targets.

Indeed, it is clear that UK energy and infrastructure policy is going in completely the wrong direction – cutting support for renewables and efficiency, locking in high-carbon gas for decades to come, and squandering taxpayers’ money on new nuclear and runways.

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In a further sign of government neglect, yesterday, the new Minster for Climate Change, announced a probable delay in the publication of the vital Carbon Plan. The plan will detail how the UK will meet its targets under the Climate Change Act. This delay comes at a time when the UK’s attractiveness as a destination for investment in renewable energy has reached an all-time low. The responsibility for this lies solely with chaotic and unpredictable government policy. The dismal failure of the Treasury and the Energy Department to halt the potentially catastrophic Business Rate rises to schools, businesses and community organisations with solar panels on their rooftops is a further example of that.

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Without a global step change in ambition, global temperatures will likely rise by 3.7°C and beyond. The consequences of this kind of change are unimaginable – indeed, we do not know the full implications of breaching planetary boundaries in this way. As a nation with an historic responsibility for carbon emissions, as well as the skills, expertise and resources to help create the solutions, the UK must take responsibility.

Delaying the ratification of the Paris Agreement – never mind dodging the ongoing questions about how we meet our own carbon reduction targets – demonstrates a dangerous and reckless approach to the most important issue of our time.

With much of the real detail of the Paris agreement being discussed at the follow-up COP22 negotiations in Marrakech in November, it would send all the wrong signals for the UK to turn up without having ratified it.

(This is an excerpt from Caroline Lucas MP’s blog)

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The Syrian Tragedy Versus Oil & Petroleum

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The Syrian oil industry took off in 1968, when the Karatchok oil field began production after a pipeline connecting it to the Homs refinery was completed, although Syria did not begin exporting oil until the mid-1980s. Although Syria is not a major oil exporter by Middle Eastern standards, according to the International Monetary Fund, oil sales for 2010 were projected to generate $3.2 billion for the Syrian government and account for 25.1% of the state’s revenue. 

Before the civil war the two main pillars of the economy were agriculture and oil, but since the civil war? Syria is heavily dependent upon the revenue it gets from its oil which is a pity. Particularly given the fact that ISIS now controls a third of Syrian territory, and as a consequence most of its oil and gas production. 

The Syrian government used to have business links to Anglo-Dutch Shell, the French oil and gas company Total, and the British oil and petroleum company Gulf Sands Petroleum. It also did oil and petroleum business with the American and Egyptian co-owned company Improved Petroleum Recovery (IPR).

Alas, President Assad’s brutal mistreatment of his people has put paid to these links for the time being.

Though not  to his business ties with Russia’s Stroytransgas and Soyuzneftegaz. 

In fact in July 2014 Tass, the Russian news agency reported that Stroytransgas had signed a $264 million deal with a Syrian state company for the first stage of a $2 billion project to irrigate farmland in the country’s north-east. The first stage of the project to comprise the construction of a pumping station near the country’s border with Turkey and Iraq. All this whilst President Assad battles ISIS and sundry other opposition groups for control of the country. impressive. 

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Now you may have noticed that although the focus of this post appears to be oil and petroleum production, the only images so far are of the same dead body. But I digress, so let the blog post continue! The Syrian Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Wealth and Russian energy company Soyuzneftegaz signed an deal on oil and gas offshore exploration in the Syrian capital of Damascus on December 25, 2013. So, Soyuzneftegaz became the first foreign and Russian company which was granted the right for oil exploration, development and production at Block-2 in Syrian territorial waters.

The company believes that oil exploration in Block-2 will take no less than five years, Shafranik said in an interview with British news agency Reuters. Upon results of oil exploration the company will make a conclusion whether commercial oil production is expedient there.

“If there is no possibility of normalising the situation throughout the country at once, the situation should be stabilised gradually in regions where it is possible to conclude an agreement,” Reuters quoted Shafranik as saying.And once the situation in ‘patches’ of Syria has been achieved?

“Then humanitarian aid should be provided, and then we should move on to energy projects, removing obstacles to them including any sanctions slowing down the country’s economic recovery,” he added. Shafranik also dwelt on plans to build an oil pipeline between Iraq and Syria. Shafranik sounds all heart to me (for a businessman) for once he’s accessed the oil he & his company are prepared to contemplate salving the wounds of Syria’s remaining populace. 

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Don’t you get the impression that although France, the United Kingdom, Egypt & America have lost out on oil and petroleum profits, as a consequence of the Syrian conflict, the Russians as ever, are sitting pretty? That state of affairs must really grate with the Americans, the French and the British. Particularly when one considers the situation in the Ukraine, with Russia’s Gazprom supplying over half of the Ukraine’s gas and 30% of Europe’s gas each year.There’s Chevron, Shell and Exxon Mobil all set to go shale gas exploring (that’s fracking to me and you) in Western Ukraine, when Russia invades the Crimea thereby throwing a spanner in the works. And now it would seem that Russia intends to further consolidate its presence in Syria.

Last week the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth cited Western diplomatic sources saying that Russia was on the verge of deploying “thousands” of troops to Syria to establish an airbase from which the Russian air force would fly combat sorties against Isil.

Those details appear to be backed by satellite images of a Russian base under construction near Latakia, according to anonymous intelligence officials quoted by several American newspapers. Moscow increasingly justifies its support for the Assad regime by pointing to the rise of violent jihadists in Syria. That’s right, just like the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister David Cameron, Vladimir Putin is mightily concerned about the rise of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. So much so that he has ‘put boots on the ground’ to protect the well-being of President Basher Al-Assad and the Syrian people, naturally.

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And whilst I’m at it, for the sake of decency I should include the Syrian casualty stats; 191,369,000 Syrians are estimated by the UN to have died up to and including August 2014, at least 5,000 of those deaths will have been children. Those who have so far drowned in the Mediterranean? They number 2,600 but the talk amongst nations is not truly about these casualties and it should be.

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Instead, the conversation is all about the oil and petroleum centred, geopolitical manoeuvrings of the self-same nations (America, the United Kingdom, France) who are supposed to be enthusiastically embracing sustainable energy and the impending Paris World Climate Summit. Cold war politics are firmly back on the menu, and next to that nothing, not the Syrian people, not even the eventual fate of the world counts.

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Conor Burns responds to article in Private Eye about Navitus Bay ‘bias’

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MP Conor Burns has responded to an article implying he has opposed the Navitus Bay wind farm for personal gain.

The article, which appeared in fortnightly journal Private Eye, notes that the Bournemouth West MP “receives regular payments” from Trant Construction Ltd, an engineering firm connected with the oil and gas industry – including Wytch Farm oil field in Poole Harbour.

The company is listed in Mr Burns’ register of interests.

The article says Navitus is proposed for beds “thought suitable for oil and gas drilling”, and that despite opposing the wind farm partly on the grounds of its potential impact on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, Mr Burns has not “spoken up” against plans by Infrastrata to drill for oil and gas in Swanage.

Responding to the article, Mr Burns said: “I have seen a mischievous article related to my position on Navitus.

“Any financial interest any Member of Parliament has is openly registered and made public. The only interest I have to declare on Navitus is the interest of my constituents who are overwhelmingly opposed to it.

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All About The Benjamins: Coal, Pollution & Mine Inspectors In Appalachia

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In June 2013, mine operator and Kentucky state representative Keith Hall went to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet with a complaint.

Kelly Shortridge, a mine inspector with the Division of Mine Enforcement and Reclamation in Pikeville, had been soliciting Hall for bribes to ignore violations on Hall’s Pike County surface mines.

Hall told two cabinet officials that he had already paid Shortridge “a small fortune,” and that the mine inspector “liked the Benjamins.” A report was drawn up, forwarded to the cabinet’s investigator general and Secretary Len Peters, and went nowhere.

The FBI began investigating the matter when the Lexington Herald-Leader published Hall’s complaint report through an open records request. In June, Hall was found guilty of bribing Shortridge to ignore Hall’s safety and environmental violations.

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During the trial, the bureau submitted evidence that strongly suggests Keith Hall was not the only operator paying Kelly Shortridge. Shortridge himself has admitted to taking bribes from other Pike County operators.

So how deep does the conspiracy go? That’s the question many are asking in the wake of Hall’s trial. The Herald-Leader published a recent editorial that pointed out the familiar territory here:

This is not the first time questions have arisen about the Pikeville office of the Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement where Shortridge, an inspector for 24 years, worked.

Other Pikeville-based inspectors allowed a surface mine (not owned by Hall) to operate without a permit for 18 months, until July 2010, when rain dislodged the unreclaimed mountain and flooded out about 80 families. One of the inspectors retired a month later.

Remember, too, that the division went years without penalizing coal companies for filing bogus water pollution reports by copying and pasting the same data, month after month.

This falsified water pollution data was only discovered after a coalition of environmental and citizen groups including Appalachian Voices discovered water monitoring reports that the department had neglected to review for over three years. The fact that the FBI had to find out about Hall’s allegations by reading the newspaper – and not through the cabinet itself – reveals a similar pattern of negligence.

How committed is the cabinet to enforcing Kentucky’s environmental and safety regulations around mining? The answer may lie in the phenomenally small salary that the state was paying Shortridge at the time of his 2014 resignation: $45,160 a year.

This may seem like an insignificant detail, but it speaks volumes about how our regulatory systems function, what they prioritize, and what motivates the individuals who operate within them. Shortridge was using his small salary, in addition to the bribes he was taking from Hall and others, to pay for his wife’s medical bills. It’s impossible to speculate about his personal character, but it does seem clear that he was responding to a specific set of material conditions in a way that most individuals on that kind of salary – and in that kind of position – very likely would.

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Without much incentive to enforce existing regulations, and knowing that it pays more to cozy up to the industry than to fight it, we really must ask: how many other Kelly Shortridges are out there? This doesn’t seem like an unreasonable question to ask of a regulatory system that, at best, lacks the political capital and material resources to enforce violations, and, at worst, is overseen by the very mine operators it’s supposed to be regulating. (Before being voted out of office in 2014, Keith Hall was the vice chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.)

Finally, Keith Hall’s remark that Kelly Shortridge “liked the Benjamins” – an incredibly condescending statement from a man who once appropriated his own county’s coal severance tax to the benefit of one of his companies – is revelatory. It hints that there are boundaries to what is and what isn’t acceptable within relationships between the coal industry and the state: Shortridge was getting ambitious; his greed was somehow different than Hall’s. Keep in mind that this was confessed to two cabinet officials, mob-style, as if Shortridge was breaking a set of established rules. Hall needed Shortridge until he didn’t, and then sold him down the river when he became an annoyance.

Now that they’re both paying for breaking the rules, will Governor Steve Beshear’s administration adequately investigate further possible corruption? It unfortunately doesn’t look likely.

As the Herald-Leader editorial notes, “This should be a moment of truth, but history tells us not to expect an aggressive self-examination of the state agency’s love affair with the coal industry.”

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– See more at: http://appvoices.org/2015/07/30/a-moment-of-truth-for-kentuckys-coal-regulators/#sthash.oVZYbSbu.dpuf

Worms found in neighbourhood’s drinking water in Texas

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HOUSTON – If there’s one thing that can get a whole neighbourhood in the street in 100 degree heat, it’s this: “That’s worms! That is so worms!” said neighbour Tammy Early. “That’s just gross. Oh my God, I’m freaking out right now.”

Tiny worms clogged Early’s sprinkler and it was even worse for Tara Miles.

“This water was coming out of the bathroom faucet,” said Miles, holding up a bottle of water with several worms floating inside.

About 30 neighbours in the Woodland Acres subdivision of Old River-Winfree came out to the water facility Wednesday afternoon with their own samples to show. They all said the worms are flowing out with their tap water.

“There’s these red ones, there’s these black ones, almost look like tad poles,” said Andrea Devault. “Which is the grossest?” asked KHOU 11 News Reporter Alice Barr. Devault answered, “All of them. I do not like bugs in my water.”

It’s been going on for a couple of days now. The private company, J&S Water, says it did have a power outage this weekend and some equipment broke, so it flushed the system and on Tuesday asked folks to start boiling their water.

But the company says it’s tested the water multiple times with the state environmental agency and found no sign of worms. They’re blaming some other source, like the pipes.

“For the record, we have replaced our pipes over and over again and it is PVC pipe. There’s nothing coming from our pipes,” said Miles.

Neighbors came to the water facility hoping to talk to someone from the company but the spokesman is out of town.

The mayor came out and offered free bottled water and showers at a city facility. He says state environmental crews won’t make it out until Friday to take a look.

“It’s not good enough but what can you do,” said Old River-Winfree Mayor Joe Landry.

For now, neighbours plan to do their washing somewhere else and keep their eyes out for any slimy intruders.

A J&S Water spokesman says the company is following every step of protocol and working with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to address the problem.

These Beautiful, Translucent Barriers Quiet Traffic—And Generate Power At The Same Time

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Where could this be? The Netherlands of course, where it seems like all such clever plans start (solar bike path, anyone?).

And this has to be one of the best Dutch ideas yet—roadside noise barriers that also generate solar power. Not only that, they work on cloudy days, and one kilometer (0.62 miles) provides enough electricity to power 50 homes.

The plan seems so obvious, you wonder why it hasn’t been done before. But the key is a new kind of solar panel. They’re cheap, they’re transparent, and they use a different light-gathering tech that works under the gray skies of Northern Europe. They’re called luminescent solar concentrators (LSC), and they’re translucent sheets which bounce light internally to the edges of the panels, where it is beamed onto regular solar panels “in concentrated form.”

The LSC panels can be made in different colors, so the result is something like an oversized stained-glass window. Because light can shine through them, they could be used in urban areas, shielding noise without making either pedestrians or motorists feel cut off.

The test, which launched on June 18, along the A2 highway near Den Bosch, includes regular solar panels as a control, and also to see how both kinds of barrier fare in the outside world, when subjected to real life and real vandalism.

The project is being run by researcher Michael Debije, at the Eindhoven University of Technology. Debije’s breakthrough is this new kind of LSC panel. Regular LSC panels reabsorb light as they channel it to the solar arrays at their edges. Debije’s panels fix this. Added bonus: they also look good.

Seven remaining residents: The town of Centralia the real inspiration for Silent Hill….

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The Centralia area has grown to be a tourist attraction. Visitors come to see the smoke on Centralia’s empty streets and the abandoned portion of PA Route 61 where it detours around the former site of Byrnesville. But this was not always the case, once upon a time Centralia was a functioning town with a population of 2,761 nowadays it’s population numbers seven. The rest of the town was compulsorily purchased by the state as a means of obliging people to move out of a town that had become subject to dangerously high levels of Carbon Monoxide.

Well, you may say, what type of disaster could possibly have forced all the residents of Centralia to pack up their bags and leave? The answer to that appears to be incredibly simple and yet incredibly complex. Joan Quigley argues in her 2007 book The Day the Earth Caved In that the fire had in fact started the previous day, when a trash hauler dumped hot ash discarded from coal burners into the open trash pit.

She noted that borough council minutes from June 4, 1962, referred to two fires at the dump, and that five firefighters had submitted bills for “fighting the fire at the landfill area”. The borough, by law, was responsible for installing a fire-resistant clay barrier between each layer,but fell behind schedule, leaving the barrier incomplete.

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This allowed the hot coals to penetrate the vein of coal underneath the pit and light the subsequent subterranean fire. In addition to the council minutes, Quigley cites “interviews with volunteer firemen, the former fire chief, borough officials, and several eyewitnesses” as her sources.

In short, negligence in fireproofing two landfill sites led to hot coal ash being tipped onto a coal seam, and this triggered off a subterranean coal-mine fire that has continued to burn from 27 May 1962 until the present day.

One would have thought that the residents could have sued Centralia Borough for its negligence. But the minute disaster hit, it became apparent that the borough had covered its own ass, minutes were produced proving that the council had voted to close down the landfill site, although the minutes did not describe the proposed procedure. Nonetheless, the Centralia council had set a date and hired five members of the volunteer firefighter company to clean up the landfill, according to the minutes.

Subsequent action that was taken to put out the mine fire was insufficient because to all intents & purposes officials were far too concerned with covering up the extent of the problem.

Until that is 1984, when, with the help of congress, families still residing in this carbon-monoxide-bound hell where able to accept a buyout offer and move to the nearby communities of Mount Carmel and Ashland. 

So there the town of Centralia, with its seven residents, abides, along with the town of Byrnesville, a few miles to the south, which has also had to be abandoned and levelled due to the spread of the subterranean mine fire.

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Two whole towns have lain deserted for decades, just because of gaping holes in the sides and base of a landfill site that could easily have been filled in and safely lined at very little cost. When you have examples like this to hand, you have to wonder why mountain- top removals have been permitted, and why Shale Oil Fracking has been given pride of place in Pennsylvania.