Tag Archives: european union

EU-Britain Divorce Will Get Started… Someday

Mother Jones

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Prime Minister Theresa May submitted an official notice today the Great Britain will be exiting the European Union:

Now that Prime Minister May has officially given notice to Tusk, the next step is to begin negotiations about the negotiations. In about a month, the UK and EU will formally sit down to come to terms on how the negotiations will work.

“Most of the formal stuff that will be agreed upon in the big meetings has already been penciled in,” Tim Oliver, an expert on the EU at the London School of Economics, tells me….Ultimately, Oliver believes, “nothing substantive” will be agreed upon until after the French presidential election in April and the German parliamentary election in late September. That’s because the French and Germans are, by far, the two most important EU member states. Without a firm sense of who their leaders will be in the coming years, it will be impossible to know what terms the EU might agree to.

In other words, nothing really happens for the next six months. And that’s totally OK because, hey, that still leaves 18 months to negotiate the biggest, messiest divorce in treaty history. Plenty of time. No need for any sense of urgency here.

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EU-Britain Divorce Will Get Started… Someday

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Two Cheers For the Nanny State

Mother Jones

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The nanny-staters at the EU are at it again:

E.U. regulations adopted in 2012 require that all newly manufactured trucks heavier than 3,500 kilograms (3.9 tons) be fitted with an advanced emergency braking system. The systems use radar and cameras to detect obstacles and warn the driver. In the event of a crash, the brakes may stop the vehicle entirely. Although the driver can override the brakes, an inexperienced user may not know how.

They just can’t get enough, can they? This raises the cost of trucks, raises the cost of goods carried in trucks, and probably has only a minuscule—

Wait. What?

The truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin last week may have been cut short when the truck automatically deployed its brakes, the result of European Union regulations that require automatic braking systems on large trucks.

The new detail, revealed jointly by Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and broadcasters NDR and WDR on Tuesday, may explain why the truck came to a stop after a few hundred feet. In the end, twelve people were killed in the attack, but there are indications that the E.U.-mandated advanced emergency braking system may have prevented more deaths.

How about that? The regulatory state FTW.

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Two Cheers For the Nanny State

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With or without the U.S., the world’s going to move forward on climate change

The last time Marrakech, Morocco, hosted an international climate conference in 2001, negotiators were coming together to discuss how to carry out a climate change treaty, the U.S. had a Republican president, and the new administration had “no interest” in implementing a deal that had been signed by a Democrat.

Sound familiar?

Negotiators, back in Marrakech for COP22, faced a similar crisis the last two weeks: They began work on the eve of the U.S. election to discuss implementing the climate change agreement reached last year in Paris. Then the election results came in and sent shock waves through the proceedings, as Donald Trump has vowed to yank the United States from the agreement.

But the Marrakech conference’s outcome serves as a reminder that the world isn’t exactly where it was 15 years ago. Working early into the morning Saturday, international delegates aimed to send an unambiguous signal with the final text: countries will push forward.

“Country after country here in Marrakech made it crystal clear over the last week,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “They intend to implement and strengthen the Paris Agreement.”

Negotiators agreed on a time frame to map out a rulebook that moves forward on Paris. There were more pledges to remain committed to climate action — the usual fanfare — and some signs that countries, cities, and private companies will stay the course on climate action.

Still, negotiators pushed off essential decisions on finance and transparency until their 2018 meeting in Poland, when Trump administration officials may or may not be there to derail talks.

For the time being, global progress on climate change seems like it’s best measured by diplomats’ plans to make plans.

Reaffirming Paris

The conference in Morocco technically included the first Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement, because the agreement entered into force in early November, years earlier than expected. For climate negotiators that was reason enough to celebrate in Marrakech.

“This COP is first and foremost about a celebration of the entry into force and convening of the first meeting of the parties,” said Elina Bardram, head of the European Union delegation. That excitement yielded the Marrakech Proclamation, a document that basically says countries will follow through on promises, and the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action, an alliance of private and public parties to drive action in the years leading up to 2020. Both passionately reiterate the global commitment to the Paris Agreement.

After delegates quit popping champagne and quaking over the U.S. election, they agreed on a few preliminary commitments to work on for the next two years.

New leaders

If the U.S. quits the Paris climate deal, or even the United Nations climate change body at large, it will leave a leadership vacuum. At COP22, there were already signs other countries are prepared to fill the void. Notably, China has stepped forward. Last week a Chinese foreign minister in Marrakech rebuked Trump’s claim that China invented the climate change hoax, pointing to leadership from Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush on international climate talks before China was even involved. The head of the E.U. delegation also said at the conference that European nations would rise to the occasion, as they did when the U.S. dropped out of the Kyoto Protocol.

Cities and and the private sector will also continue to play a major role in global climate efforts. In the last days of the conference, 365 companies promised climate action even if the U.S bows out. Separately, more than 100 companies met at COP22 to discuss steps like making low-carbon investments and reducing emissions from manufacturing to market. The number of businesses making commitments has more than doubled since Paris last year. More than 7,000 mayors — governing over 8 percent of the world population — also announced efforts to drastically cut emissions.

“[We’ve] had a set of truly impressive activities taking place in and around the COP to mobilize business, the finance sector, subnational governments, and other climate leaders,” said U.S. climate envoy Jonathan Pershing in Marrakech. “This COP is about much more than negotiations; it’s an important signpost on the pathway to a low-emission, climate-resilient economy, and the world is accelerating on that pathway.”


Countries agreed to consider transferring a pot of money meant for small projects that’s tied to the Kyoto Protocol to help implement the Paris Agreement. Over the past two weeks, four countries promised to fill the fund’s coffers with $81 million. A fund that helps poorer countries access climate technologies brought in another $23 million. According to Joe Thwaites of the World Resources Institute, that “sends a really strong signal” about the future of climate finance.

But the biggest monetary decisions have been punted until 2018. The United Nations has promised to mobilize climate adaptation funds to the tune of $100 billion a year beginning in 2020, and they’re still a long ways from that goal.

A plan spearheaded by Australia and the U.K., released ahead of the COP, details how rich countries could raise the $100 billion a year. But analysis from organizations like WRI and Oxfam suggest that even if countries meet those pledges, they’ll still need to be scaled up in the future.

“Developed countries are resisting any decision which really compels them to step up,” says Tracy Carty, Oxfam’s COP22 climate policy lead. “This needed to be the COP that turned a corner, but instead it looks like the issue is going to be kicked along the road to the next COP.”

Trust and transparency

Firm details on transparency, like how countries will monitor and report their progress on climate goals, may also have to wait for 2018. While countries such as Germany and Canada pledged $50 million to a transparency initiative to help countries report progress, the parties are still working on a program for sharing information.

As the Paris rulebook comes together, countries have vowed that transparency will be baked into measuring, reporting, climate finance, and technology development.


Countries agreed to hash out a system before 2018 to increase emissions cuts in future years. The United States, Germany, Mexico, and Canada released mid-century decarbonization strategies — a goal set in the Paris Agreement.

On the last day of the COP, a group of nearly 50 of the world’s most vulnerable countries also announced plans to convert to 100 percent renewable energy as soon as possible.

What’s next?

More incremental progress is expected at COP23 in Fiji next year, but 2018 will be the “year to watch for,” said WRI’s Yamide Dagnet. The meeting in Poland could be as significant as last year’s in Paris. It’s the deadline for parties to set all the implementation strategies for making good on their Paris promises. It’s also the year when countries will reevaluate their commitments and hopefully increase their ambition.

But the swift entry into force of the Paris Agreement has diplomats negotiating a slippery balance. “They want to make sure they don’t rush decisions,” said Thwaites, “that they allow as many countries as possible to join the agreement and be part of that decision-making process.” At the same time, many of the most vulnerable nations want to see action as soon as possible, with no backsliding.

In the end, parties seemed satisfied with the Marrakech negotiations. “COP22 has been what it needed to be,” said U.N. climate chief Patricia Espinosa, “a COP of action that has accelerated progress under the Paris Agreement across finance, new initiatives, ambition, and solidarity.”

Though U.N. officials may be encouraged by their progress, they’ve got a lot more hard work to come if there’s to be any chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees C — let alone 1.5 degrees — above pre-industrial levels. Neither the Paris nor Marrakech negotiations get us remotely close to that goal, so now the focus turns to the the 2018 conference. Over the next two years, it will become clearer whether the 2016 Marrakech meeting was the point at which climate action swelled to meet and exceed the ambition of Paris — or another year in which U.S. politics stalled progress, again.

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With or without the U.S., the world’s going to move forward on climate change

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Why a Donald Trump Victory Could Make Climate Catastrophe Inevitable

Mother Jones

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This story first appeared at TomDispatch.com.

In a year of record-setting heat on a blistered globe, with fast-warming oceans, fast-melting ice caps, and fast-rising sea levels, ratification of the December 2015 Paris climate summit agreement—already endorsed by most nations—should be a complete no-brainer. That it isn’t tells you a great deal about our world. Global geopolitics and the possible rightward lurch of many countries (including a potential deal-breaking election in the United States that could put a climate denier in the White House) spell bad news for the fate of the Earth. It’s worth exploring how this might come to be.

The delegates to that 2015 climate summit were in general accord about the science of climate change and the need to cap global warming at 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius (or 2.6 to 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit) before a planetary catastrophe ensues. They disagreed, however, about much else. Some key countries were in outright conflict with other states (Russia with Ukraine, for example) or deeply hostile to each other (as with India and Pakistan or the United States and Iran). In recognition of such tensions and schisms, the assembled countries crafted a final document that replaced legally binding commitments with the obligation of each signatory state to adopt its own unique plan, or “nationally determined contribution,” for curbing climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions.

As a result, the fate of the planet rests on the questionable willingness of each of those countries to abide by that obligation, however sour or bellicose its relations with other signatories may be. As it happens, that part of the agreement has already been buffeted by geopolitical headwinds and is likely to face increasing turbulence in the years to come.

That geopolitics will play a decisive role in determining the success or failure of the Paris Agreement has become self-evident in the short time since its promulgation. While some progress has been made toward its formal adoption—the agreement will enter into force only after no fewer than 55 countries, accounting for at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, have ratified it—it has also encountered unexpected political hurdles, signaling trouble to come.

On the bright side, in a stunning diplomatic coup, President Barack Obama persuaded Chinese President Xi Jinping to sign the accord with him during a recent meeting of the G-20 group of leading economies in Hangzhou. Together, the two countries are responsible for a striking 40 percent of global emissions. “Despite our differences on other issues,” Obama noted during the signing ceremony, “we hope our willingness to work together on this issue will inspire further ambition and further action around the world.”

Brazil, the planet’s seventh-largest emitter, just signed on as well, and a number of states, including Japan and New Zealand, have announced their intention to ratify the agreement soon. Many others are expected to do so before the next major UN climate summit in Marrakesh, Morocco, this November.

On the dark side, however, Great Britain’s astonishing Brexit vote has complicated the task of ensuring the European Union’s approval of the agreement, as European solidarity on the climate issue—a major factor in the success of the Paris negotiations—can no longer be assured. “There is a risk that this could kick EU ratification of the Paris Agreement into the long grass,” suggests Jonathan Grant, director of sustainability at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The Brexit campaign itself was spearheaded by politicians who were also major critics of climate science and strong opponents of efforts to promote a transition from carbon-based fuels to green sources of energy. For example, the chair of the Vote Leave campaign, former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson, is also chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think tank devoted to sabotaging government efforts to speed the transition to green energy. Many other top Leave campaigners, including former Conservative ministers John Redwood and Owen Paterson, were also vigorous climate deniers.

In explaining the strong link between these two camps, analysts at the Economist noted that both oppose British submission to international laws and norms: “Brexiteers dislike EU regulations and know that any effective action to tackle climate change will require some kind of global cooperation: carbon taxes or binding targets on emissions. The latter would be the EU writ large and Britain would have even less say in any global agreement, involving some 200 nations, than in an EU regime involving 28.”

Keep in mind as well that Angela Merkel and François Hollande, the leaders of the other two anchors of the European Union, Germany and France, are both embattled by right-wing anti-immigrant parties likely to be similarly unfriendly to such an agreement. And in what could be the deal-breaker of history, this same strain of thought, combining unbridled nationalism, climate denialism, fierce hostility to immigration, and unwavering support for domestic fossil fuel production, also animates Donald Trump’s campaign for the American presidency.

In his first major speech on energy, delivered in May, Trump—who has called global warming a Chinese hoax—pledged to “cancel the Paris climate agreement” and scrap the various measures announced by President Obama to ensure US compliance with its provisions. Echoing the views of his Brexit counterparts, he complained that “this agreement gives foreign bureaucrats control over how much energy we use on our land, in our country. No way.” He also vowed to revive construction of the Keystone XL pipeline (which would bring carbon-heavy Canadian tar sands oil to refineries on the Gulf Coast), to reverse any climate-friendly Obama administration acts, and to promote the coal industry. “Regulations that shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants and block the construction of new ones—how stupid is that?” he said, mockingly.

In Europe, ultranationalist parties on the right are riding a wave of Islamophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, and disgust with the European Union. In France, for instance, former President Nicolas Sarkozy announced his intention to run for that post again, promising even more stringent controls on migrants and Muslims and a greater focus on French “identity.”

Even further to the right, the rabidly anti-Muslim Marine Le Pen is also in the race at the head of her National Front Party. Like-minded candidates have already made gains in national elections in Austria and most recently in a state election in Germany that stunned Merkel’s ruling party. In each case, they surged by disavowing relatively timid efforts by the European Union to resettle refugees from Syria and other war-torn countries. Although climate change is not a defining issue in these contests as it is in the United States and Britain, the growing opposition to anything associated with the European Union and its regulatory system poses an obvious threat to future continent-wide efforts to cap greenhouse gas emissions.

Elsewhere in the world, similar strands of thinking are spreading, raising serious questions about the ability of governments to ratify the Paris Agreement or, more importantly, to implement its provisions. Take India, for example.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has voiced support for the Paris accord and promised a vast expansion of solar power. He has also made no secret of his determination to promote economic growth at any cost, including greatly increased reliance on coal-powered electricity. That spells trouble. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), India is likely to double its coal consumption over the next 25 years, making it the world’s second-largest coal consumer after China. Combined with an increase in oil and natural gas consumption, such a surge in coal use could result in a tripling of India’s carbon dioxide emissions at a time when most countries (including the United States and China) are expected to experience a peak or decline in theirs.

Prime Minister Modi is well aware that his devotion to coal has generated resentment among environmentalists in India and elsewhere who seek to slow the growth of carbon emissions. He nonetheless insists that, as a major developing nation, India should enjoy a special right to achieve economic growth in any way it can, even if this means endangering the environment. “The desire to improve one’s lot has been the primary driving force behind human progress,” his government affirmed in its emissions-reduction pledge to the Paris climate summit. “Nations that are now striving to fulfill this ‘right to grow’ of their teeming millions cannot be made to feel guilty about their development agenda as they attempt to fulfill this legitimate aspiration.”

Russia is similarly likely to put domestic economic needs (and the desire to remain a great power, militarily and otherwise) ahead of its global climate obligations. Although President Vladimir Putin attended the Paris summit and assured the gathered nations of Russian compliance with its outcome, he has also made it crystal clear that his country has no intention of giving up its reliance on oil and natural gas exports for a large share of its national income. According to the EIA, Russia’s government relies on such exports for a staggering 50 percent of its operating revenue, a share it dare not jeopardize at a time when its economy—already buffeted by EU and US sanctions—is in deep recession. To ensure the continued flow of hydrocarbon income, in fact, Moscow has announced multibillion-dollar plans to develop new oil and gas fields in Siberia and the Arctic, even if such efforts fly in the face of commitments to reduce future carbon emissions.

Such nationalistic exceptionalism could become something of the norm if Donald Trump wins in November, or other nations join those already eager to put the needs of a fossil-fuel-based domestic growth agenda ahead of global climate commitments. With that in mind, consider the assessment of future energy trends that the Norwegian energy giant Statoil recently produced. In it is a chilling scenario focused on just this sort of dystopian future.

The second-biggest producer of natural gas in Europe after Russia’s Gazprom, Statoil annually issues “Energy Perspectives,” a report that explores possible future energy trends. Previous editions included scenarios labeled “reform” (predicated on coordinated but gradual international efforts to shift from carbon fuels to green energy technology) and “renewal” (positing a more rapid transition). The 2016 edition, however, added a grim new twist: “rivalry.” It depicts a realistically downbeat future in which international strife and geopolitical competition discourage significant cooperation in the climate field.

According to the document, the new section is “driven” by real-world developments—by, that is, “a series of political crises, growing protectionism, and a general fragmentation of the state system, resulting in a multipolar world developing in different directions. In this scenario, there is growing disagreement about the rules of the game and a decreasing ability to manage crises in the political, economic, and environmental arenas.”

In such a future, Statoil suggests, the major powers would prove to be far more concerned with satisfying their own economic and energy requirements than pursuing collaborative efforts aimed at slowing the pace of climate change. For many of them, this would mean maximizing the cheapest and most accessible fuel options available—often domestic supplies of fossil fuels. Under such circumstances, the report suggests, the use of coal would rise, not fall, and its share of global energy consumption would actually increase from 29 percent to 32 percent.

In such a world, forget about those “nationally determined contributions” agreed to in Paris and think instead about a planet whose environment will grow ever less friendly to life as we know it. In its rivalry scenario, writes Statoil, “the climate issue has low priority on the regulatory agenda. While local pollution issues are attended to, large-scale international climate agreements are not the chosen way forward. As a consequence, the current NDCs are only partly implemented. Climate finance ambitions are not met, and carbon pricing to stimulate cost-efficient reductions in countries and across national borders are limited.”

Coming from a major fossil fuel company, this vision of how events might play out on an increasingly tumultuous planet makes for peculiar reading: more akin to Eaarth—Bill McKibben’s dystopian portrait of a climate-ravaged world—than the usual industry-generated visions of future world health and prosperity. And while “rivalry” is only one of several scenarios Statoil’s authors considered, they clearly found it unnervingly convincing. Hence, in a briefing on the report, the company’s chief economist, Eirik Wærness, indicated that Great Britain’s looming exit from the European Union was exactly the sort of event that would fit the proposed model and might multiply in the future.

Indeed, the future pace of climate change will be determined as much by geopolitical factors as technological developments in the energy sector. While it is evident that immense progress is being made in bringing down the price of wind and solar power in particular—far more so than all but a few analysts anticipated until recently—the political will to turn such developments into meaningful global change and so bring carbon emissions to heel before the planet is unalterably transformed may, as the Statoil authors suggest, be dematerializing before our eyes. If so, make no mistake about it: We will be condemning Earth’s future inhabitants, our own children and grandchildren, to unmitigated disaster.

As Obama’s largely unheralded success in Hangzhou indicates, such a fate is not etched in stone. If he could persuade the fiercely nationalistic leader of a country worried about its economic future to join him in signing the climate agreement, more such successes are possible. His ability to achieve such outcomes is, however, diminishing by the week, and few other leaders of his stature and determination appear to be waiting in the wings.

To avoid an Eaarth (as both Bill McKibben and the Statoil authors imagine it) and preserve the welcoming planet in which humanity grew and thrived, climate activists will have to devote at least as much of their energy and attention to the international political arena as to the technology sector. At this point, electing green-minded leaders, stopping climate deniers (or ignorers) from capturing high office, and opposing fossil-fueled ultranationalism is the only realistic path to a habitable planet.

Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left.

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Why a Donald Trump Victory Could Make Climate Catastrophe Inevitable

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The right now wants a “Clexit,” because Brexit went so well


The right now wants a “Clexit,” because Brexit went so well

By on Aug 4, 2016Share

Inspired by Brexit, Britain’s regrettable decision to leave the European Union, Australian climate-change denier Viv Forbes and pals like Marc Morano have a new project: Clexit. Get it? Like Brexit but with a C, and a new slogan: “Leading the great escape.”

The group’s mission, according to their founding statement, is to stop the landmark global climate treaty designed to slow carbon emissions.

“If the Paris climate accord is ratified, or enforced locally by compliant governments, it will strangle the leading economies of the world with pointless carbon taxes and costly climate and energy policies, all with no sound basis in evidence or science,” Clexit’s website states. “These destructive policies are already killing real industry while enriching the huge artificial and parasitical climate-change industry.”

If economics are their concern, the founders of Clexit may well remember that Brexit has been hardly good for the economy — UK leaders resigned, markets dived, bank lending fell, and British industries contracted.

Nixing the Paris accord would be even more costly in the long-run: Doing nothing about climate change could cost the global economy anywhere between $2.5 to $24 trillion.

Then again, reality was never a strong suit for Brexit campaigners and climate deniers. But, hey, at least the name is cute.

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The right now wants a “Clexit,” because Brexit went so well

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Top architect of climate deal warns against Brexit

Top architect of climate deal warns against Brexit

By on Jun 23, 2016Share

Britons vote Thursday on whether they’ll withdraw from the European Union. The latest polls show a virtual tie between the staying-in and the getting-out camps.

The effects of a possible British exit, or Brexit, on the world’s brand-new global climate-change agreement are complicated, but most advocates want to remain in the EU. (For more on why, read our explainer on what’s at stake for the climate.)

Former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg and outgoing U.N. climate head Christiana Figueres are in that camp, having argued that a Brexit would hamper global efforts to fight global warming, which rely on international collaboration.

“One lesson in 21 years of U.N. negotiations is this has to be done together; it cannot be done individually,” said Figueres, according to the website Climate Home. Bloomberg says a Leave vote will “leave the U.K., America and the rest of the world in a weaker position to combat terrorism, promote trade, and confront other global challenges including climate change.”

The rest of the world is waiting to hear the verdict. The United States won’t know the results until late Thursday night.

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Top architect of climate deal warns against Brexit

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How to Make Sure What You’re Buying is Cruelty-Free

Its unfortunate that cosmetic animal testing is still legal in the United States. Some countries banned the practice long ago (in fact, in 2013, the entire European Union made it illegal to sell any products whose manufacture had included cosmetic animal testing), but the U.S. is still trailing behind.

If you are passionate about reducing and preventing animal cruelty, chances are you do your best to avoid purchasing products from companies that perform animal testing. Theres more to shopping cruelty-free than simply relying on a label, though. Heres what you need to know in order to shop cruelty-free:

Look for the Leaping Bunny

The most reliable and well-known way to find cruelty-free products is to select items that feature the characteristic Leaping Bunny symbol (bonus tip: You can download the Leaping Bunny app, which allows you to quickly check whether or not a product is cruelty-free). Created and bestowed by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, this symbol shows that the product is distributed by a company you can feel good about supporting.

In order to earn the certification, companies must pledge not only to preclude animal testing internally, but also to only purchase their ingredients from other cruelty-free companies. They must promise not to sell to countries that make animal testing compulsory (Ill get to that in a minute), and must do thorough screenings and upkeep to ensure that none of their partners have begun animal testing practices. They must also commit to renewing their certification every year.

Shopping for products that have this certification is a really good way to avoid accidentally supporting companies that test on animals, becauseas I’m about to explainthings can get complicated.

Do Your Research on Parent Companies and Affiliates

Many, many companies that arent cruelty-free own all-natural product lines that claim to be. For example, while the popular toothpaste and personal care line Toms of Maine might not test on animals, it’s owned by Colgate-Palmolive, which is decidedly not cruelty-free. The same can be said of Clinique, which is owned by EsteLauder.

Some people believe that purchasing a cruelty-free brand from a large conglomerate can help shift the parent company toward better values, while others decide not to support the company or its affiliates at all. That decision is yours to make.

Get to Know Countries’Individual Animal Testing Requirements

The Chinese government requires that many cosmetic products be tested on animals before they can be sold to the general public. This means that if a cosmetic product is available in China, it’s most likely being tested on animals.

By contrast, no cosmetic products sold in the European Union can ever have been tested on animals. Buying a European-made product is a great way to know that your cosmetics are cruelty-free.

It takes a lot of time to sift through the information out there about animal testing. There are definitely signs that things are getting betterthe EU law and recent changes to Chinese laws are big victories for animal rights activists. But were not done yet! Make your voice heard by supporting companies that consider animals well-being. Be choosy about your cosmetic purchases, ask your favorite companies to take the cruelty-free pledge, and do your research about animal testing laws and issues.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.


How to Make Sure What You’re Buying is Cruelty-Free

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Here’s How Countries All Over the World Are Making Polluters Pay

Mother Jones

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Solving climate change is essentially an economic problem: How do you force companies and consumers to pay for the damage caused by the fossil fuels they consume?

Let me explain: Without a price on carbon emissions, big polluters don’t pay for the greenhouse gases that they release into the atmosphere. The real cost of that pollution is borne by the planet in the form of global warming. So one of the most common strategies for reducing emissions is “cap-and-trade”: Polluters purchase or bid on a limited number of permits, which allow them to emit a certain amount of CO2. A regulated market is then created in which permits can be bought and sold. The cost of the permits—in other words, the carbon price—creates an incentive to reduce carbon pollution.

A new report out this week from the Berlin-based International Carbon Action Partnership shows that in the decade since the first major carbon trading program was adopted by the European Union, cap-and-trade systems have enjoyed remarkable popularity around the world—becoming the mechanism of choice for governments who want to act on climate change. The graphic below gives you a sense of just how widespread these markets have become:

What’s also remarkable is the economic clout that these jurisdictions carry, something that will continue to increase:

China’s national carbon program will start in 2016, but it already has several test programs up and running, together representing the world’s second largest carbon market, after the European Union:

Asia is fast becoming a global hub for carbon trading, as you can see from the maps below, which show the total number of programs around the world either in place, under consideration, or currently in development:

Each cap-and-trade program is different—there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, say the authors of the report. All of the programs cover CO2, but some take on other greenhouse gases, such as refrigerants. The programs also differ in the number of industries covered. Nearly all cover heavy industry, but only three cover aviation, for example. Here’s a snapshot of that diversity:

The report’s authors say that the fact that each country can tailor solutions to its own economy is one of the great strengths of cap-and-trade. “Flexibility is certainly one reason why emissions trading has become such an appealing tool for policy-makers,” said ICAP’s Co-Chairs—Jean-Yves Benoit, head of carbon markets at the Québec Environmental Ministry, and Marc Allessie, head of the Dutch Emissions Authority—in a statement.

But that means “harmonizing”—that is, joining the disparate trading systems into a global market—is now a big challenge. Quebec and California have already linked their systems, as have Tokyo and Saitama in Japan.

In the United States, President Barack Obama proposed a cap-and-trade system in 2009, but the plan died in the Senate. Efforts to develop a federal program have all but been abandoned in favor of regulations dished out by the EPA. There’s no sign of that changing any time soon. Still, some US states have adopted their own systems. In addition to California’s program, a group of northeastern states participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. And Washington state is actively considering a cap-and-trade program, as well.

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Here’s How Countries All Over the World Are Making Polluters Pay

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What you should know about this week’s U.N. climate talks

The road to Paris

What you should know about this week’s U.N. climate talks

By on 9 Feb 2015commentsShare

There’s another U.N. climate confab this week in Geneva. Maybe you have some questions about it. Maybe they are the questions below. If they are, good, because we’ve answered them.

We just had a climate conference in December. Now we’re having another?

Yes we sure are. In December 2014, world leaders met in Lima and agreed on a rough outline of what a global climate deal should look. But there’s a long way to go before next December, when the leaders are supposed to meet up in Paris to sign that agreement. The ideas expressed in Lima — summed up in a 40-page document detailing “elements for a draft negotiating text” — have to be turned into an actual draft negotiating text, which countries with varying interests will then use to come up with a final agreement. There will be at least four major meetings to work on this document before the Paris meeting in December.

The last time the U.N. tried to hammer out a big agreement like this one — back in 2009, in Copenhagen — the effort more or less fell apart. Bitter rifts between developed and developing countries kept anything much from happening. Things look (slightly) more promising this time around, although the U.N. diplomats in charge aren’t encouraging us to set our hopes too high.

What will diplomats talk about at these meetings?

The agreement that leaders will sign next December will let each country set its own target for emission reductions. Ideally, the U.N. will review each of these targets ahead of time. The hope is that countries will submit their plans by March. The European Union is pushing major economies to at least get their plans in by June. But the actual deadline from the U.N. is Oct. 1 (and some countries may not even meet that).

That leaves a lot still to be worked out. How will the U.N. decide if a country’s target is ambitious enough? What will it do if key countries (like, perhaps, India) refuse to submit a target by the deadline? And because the agreement won’t be legally binding, what recourse will the U.N. have if countries don’t meet their targets? These are a few of the big questions.

Another is climate financing. Poorer countries will need a lot of money to green their developing energy economies, and rich countries have not been forthcoming. Diplomats are increasingly expecting a large part of those funds to come from the private sector. But companies and investors aren’t part of the negotiating process — diplomats will have to figure out the best way to facilitate the flow of money to poor countries, responsibly and with oversight, on their own.

How effective will the deal be? Will we stay within 2 degrees C?

The U.N. has used a number of targets for limiting climate change, but the most common one is to keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius, a somewhat arbitrary temperature at which many scientists hope the worst effects can be avoided.

But the chances of staying below that target are looking increasingly slim, as continued research shows just how dramatically we would have to alter our economies to do so. Meanwhile, our economies continue to chug forward, changing very, very gradually.

In December, in Lima, U.N. chief climate diplomat Christiana Figueres said that a plan to hit the 2-degree target won’t come out of the current negotiating process leading up to Paris. “We already know, because we have a pretty good sense of what countries will be able to do in the short run, that the sum total of efforts [in Paris] will not be able to put us on the path for two degrees,” she said. “We are not going to get there with the Paris agreement … We will get there over time.”

And on a conference call with reporters last week, Figueres reiterated those thoughts. She said she backed eventually hitting carbon neutrality — that means no emissions by a set year, maybe 2050 or 2100. But she also said that a deal to do so wouldn’t be coming this year. “What we are doing this year — the role of Paris — is actually to set the pathway for an orderly planned transition over time to a low-carbon society,” she said.

So is there any point to this process?

That’s up for debate. Even U.N. officials aren’t enthusiastic, as 20 years of very slow-moving negotiations haven’t produced much so far. “We are also not convinced it’s the most effective and efficient way,” Figueres said last week. Eric Holthaus of Slate recently argued that “when it comes to the climate, the U.N. process is irreparably broken. If we at last write off the U.N. process, it may help the world finally make progress on climate by instead turning to local, tangible actions that could energize people and bring about real change.”

Maybe. But even if the U.N. process won’t keep us below 2 degrees, it could aim for a less-ambitious target, like 3 degrees. That’s worse than 2 but better than the 4, 5, 6 degrees of warming we could see if governments do nothing and allow climate change to keep intensifying.

Furthermore, there are many poor countries that see the U.N. process as their best hope to get developed nations, and big developing polluters like China, to pay attention to the threats they face. Throwing out the U.N. process throws out what is currently a key forum for those voices.

The U.S. and China, which together account for about 40 percent of the world’s emissions, have already sketched out their goals, and the European Union has outlined its aims and intends to formally submit its plan to the U.N. by March. Now it’s up to developing countries, from giants like India to small countries responsible for much less pollution, to make their own ambitious commitments. And they’re more likely to do that at the request of the U.N. than at the request of any specific country or world leader.

It would be nice if we had the revolution that some have called for, tossing out the broken diplomatic process entirely as citizens pressure their governments to take dramatic action. And we may have it, someday. But, for better or worse, today we have a few hundred diplomats in a room in Geneva.



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What you should know about this week’s U.N. climate talks

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These Simple Charts Show Why the US-China Climate Pact Is Such a Big Deal

Mother Jones

This story originally appeared in Slate and is republished here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The big climate news of last week, indeed maybe of the past several years, was the surprise announcement of a bilateral US-China agreement setting targets for CO2 emissions out to the year 2030. Is this really such a big deal, or are climate protection advocates just grasping for any good news to offset the grim implications of a Republican takeover of the US Senate? The answer is: Yes, it is a very big deal, at least if both parties fulfill their commitments. Today, I will be an optimist and assume that somehow they pull it off.

There are no obvious technical barriers but considerable political ones. Some parties are already rumbling that the United States is giving away the store for nothing much in return. We’ll see, however, that if anything it is China that is getting the short end of the stick—and a good thing, too, because the climate cares about CO2, not fairness, and if we are to have any hope of keeping warming from much exceeding 2 degrees Celsius, China will need to do more than its fair share.

Is it really such a big deal?
The United States, European Union, and China together produce more than half of the world’s annual CO2 emissions, and with the new agreement, all three have made a public undertaking limiting future emissions. (Europe has been doing its part for decades, having made its first binding commitments at the time of the Kyoto Protocol.) That by itself makes the deal a big deal, but we need to look at the nature of the commitment to see whether it is big enough to significantly improve our chances of keeping global warming below 2 C, which has been adopted as a general guideline for avoiding extremely dangerous climate change. This guideline does not mean that climate change is harmless below 2 C, or that it suddenly becomes so catastrophic above 2 C that further efforts at limiting warming are pointless, but like a highway speed limit, it serves as a useful benchmark for where you start to worry about things being really bad. By what yardstick should the “bigness” of the deal be measured? This brings us to the concept of carbon budgets.

The excess CO2 we put into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, or natural gas is removed very slowly by ocean uptake and other geological processes. As a result, a significant portion of the CO2 we emit each year will still be in the atmosphere 10,000 years from now. As long as human activities are transferring long-buried carbon into the atmosphere in the form of CO2, the atmospheric CO2 levels will continue to rise, and they will drive ever-greater warming. CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere like mercury accumulates in the fat of a fish swimming in polluted waters. The impact of fossil-fuel burning (and deforestation) on climate depends not just on the current year’s emission but on the cumulative emissions of CO2 over all past times. The cumulative CO2 emissions are typically quoted in terms of the amount of carbon in the CO2 (which contains 27 percent carbon by weight), measured in gigatons, or billions of metric tons. (A metric ton is 1,000 kilograms, or just a bit more than an English ton.) In thinking about the human imprint on future climate, the cumulative carbon is the only number you really need to pay attention to.

It turns out that 1,000 gigatons of carbon—1 trillion tons—is roughly what it takes to warm the globe by 2 C. If we release that much carbon into the atmosphere in the form of CO2, the warming will stick around for at least 1,000 years before the globe begins to recover, even if we go cold-turkey on fossil fuels when we release our first trillion. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, we have gotten about halfway there. It took several hundred years to emit our first half-trillion tons, but worldwide CO2 emissions are growing exponentially at a compound rate of about 2.8 percent per year (since 1950) and so it will only take another 25 years at the current rate of growth to hit a trillion tons, at which point it’s game over for the 2-degree target (though of course not too late to try to keep warming under 3 degrees). We need to eventually get CO2 emissions down to zero, but in the meantime it’s the exponential growth that’s our main enemy, since that boxes us in and leaves little time for decarbonizing the economy. The first order of business is to get off the exponential curve, otherwise we are doomed to be on the Impossible Hamster track.

It is against this goal that the US-China agreement should be measured. US emissions have not grown since 2005, and indeed have declined moderately despite aggregate gross domestic product growth of more than 14 percent since that time. Part of that decline has been due to substitution of natural gas for coal, and we can continue to play that game for a while longer, but to sustain the decline over a longer time will ultimately require additional measures. Obama’s agreement with China commits the United States to reducing its CO2 emissions to between 26 percent and 28 percent below the 2005 levels by 2025. The EU has committed to a 40 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2030 and has already gotten halfway there. Accelerating the reduction of both EU and US emissions helps to offset exponential growth elsewhere in the world, and we’ll soon see how that adds up. But what about China?

China is currently the black swan on the horizon when it comes to fighting exponential growth. Based on data since 1940, China’s emissions have been growing at a compounded annual rate of more than 7 percent, and at that rate it will not be many more decades before Chinese exponential growth would dominate world emissions, at a time when we need to be reducing the world exponential growth rate below its currently alarming 2.8 percent value. Under the US-China bilateral agreement, the Chinese emission target is phrased very differently from the US target, but with regard to slaying the exponential dragon, it is probably the most important part of the deal. The Chinese commitment is not a commitment to any specific value of emissions but rather a commitment that the country’s emissions will peak by 2030, and thereafter will not increase. The deal does not specify whether and by how much emissions will decrease after 2030, but the significance is that China is committed to get off its exponential emissions track by 2030.

Translating this commitment into quantitative implications for cumulative carbon involves a lot of guesswork as to how China will go about fulfilling its commitment, because the agreement does not spell out the value at which emissions will peak. A cynic would say that China could just increase its growth rate to, say, 10 percent and peak at an enormous value in 2030, giving itself plenty of wiggle room to hold emissions constant or decrease them thereafter. If this is really China’s intent, then the new agreement is largely meaningless. But let us suppose instead that China’s commitment was taken in good faith. A minimum good-faith fulfillment would be to continue growing at 7 percent up to 2030 and then hold emissions constant thereafter. This scenario is shown in the middle (black) curve of Figure 1. In terms of cumulative carbon, that would mean that China emits another roughly 70 gigatons out to 2030, and holding emissions constant thereafter, emits a further 86 gigatons between 2030 and 2060. Without the agreement, China’s emissions scenario would look like the upper (red) curve, and China would emit a further 790 gigatons in the latter period, which would be more than enough to bring the world over the trillion-ton limit regardless of what anybody else did. So yes, getting China off the exponential curve is a very, very big deal indeed.

Raymond T. Pierrehumbert

But the scenario where Chinese emissions growth continues unabated until 2030 may be pessimistic. If China is serious about peaking in 2030, it is unlikely that it would do nothing to reduce its growth rate and then put in a crash program in 2030 to bring growth to a halt all at once. More likely, the measures would be phased in gradually over the next 15 years, bringing the growth smoothly to zero by 2030. If the growth rate is brought to zero linearly over the next 15 years, the Chinese emission rate curve looks like the lower (blue) curve and would have lower cumulative emissions than the abrupt scenario even if there are no reductions in emission rate beyond 2030.

Now let’s add in the contribution of the United States and European Union to cumulative emissions under the stated commitments. The aggregate cumulative emissions for the US, EU, and China are shown in Figure 2, subject to the further (pessimistic) assumption that there are no further reductions in US and EU emissions past 2030. The projection from China is taken from Scenario 2 (a linear decrease in growth rate with emissions leveling off in 2030). From this graph we can see that if the commitments are all fulfilled, then cumulative carbon for the countries involved would be just about held to 250 gigatons even without further reductions in emission rates past 2030, leaving 250 gigatons of cumulative carbon that the rest of the world can emit. In this sense, the new US-China agreement brings the 2 C target within reach, though it will not by itself prevent the trillion-ton threshold from being breached.

Raymond T. Pierrehumbert

The figure also makes clear, however, that barring an unforeseen reversion of the US or EU to exponential emissions growth, the future fate of the climate is largely determined by what China does.

But is it fair?
Although Chinese cumulative emissions will dominate US and EU emissions going forward, this is not because China has used an unfair share of the Earth’s ability to act as a waste dump for CO2. Unless one thinks that a person in China has intrinsically less right to the net allowable carbon emissions than a person in the United States or European Union , the appropriate measure of fairness would have to be based on some kind of cumulative carbon emission per person. I have argued a number of fairness principles based on this idea in this article in the Chicago Journal of International Law. If one takes historical emissions into account, one could argue that an EU or US individual exceeded a fair allocation of carbon emissions long ago, whereas Chinese individuals have not yet come close to using up their fair share (because their high emissions rates began relatively recently and because China is supporting a larger population). However, even if one were to write off the carbon debt from the past and only allocate carbon from 2015 onward, under Obama’s bilateral agreement, China is committing to do something pretty close to its fair share. The future cumulative Chinese emissions of 200 gigatons work out to 146 metric tons per person (based on current population). The US allocation in Figure 2 works out to 125 tons per person, which is only slightly below the Chinese allocation. Making any significant allowance for past emissions would result in a judgment that China is doing far more than its fair share of the job of keeping cumulative emissions below a trillion tons.

Who’s Next?
While the European Union, United States, and China account for just over half of the world’s CO2emissions, there is still the other half of the world to worry about. The next three big emitters are India, Russia, and Japan, with a total of 14 percent of world emissions among them. Of these three, the only one exhibiting clear exponential growth is India, which is growing at about 5 percent per year and is also the highest current emitter of the three. In the next round of negotiations, it would be highly desirable for India to sign on to an agreement similar to China’s commitment under the US-China bilateral agreement, perhaps with Russia and Japan committing to emission reduction targets somewhere between the EU and US targets. One can hope that something like that might happen at the Conference of the Parties negotiations to be held in Paris in 2015. If the US-China deal is perceived to be real, it could well be just what is needed to break the logjam that stymied negotiations in Copenhagen last time around.

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These Simple Charts Show Why the US-China Climate Pact Is Such a Big Deal

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