Why the clean growth plan will be important to young voters — Inside track

Climate and the environment have been steadily making their way up the political agenda of the British public, and younger voters are leading the march. In 2012, when the then Department for Energy and Climate Change carried out the first wave of its energy and climate change public opinion tracker, only two per cent of […]

via Why the clean growth plan will be important to young voters — Inside track


‘Extraordinary’ month for Scottish renewable energy

Scotland had “another extraordinary month” for renewable energy in May, according to environmental groups.


Wind turbines generated enough output to supply 100% or more of Scottish homes on 11 of 31 days in May


Wind turbines alone provided enough electricity to supply 95% of Scottish homes.

WWF Scotland analysed renewables data provided by WeatherEnergy.

It also found that in several parts of Scotland, homes fitted with solar PV panels had enough sunshine to generate more than 100% of the electricity needs of an average household.

Wind turbines provided 863,495 MWh of electricity to the National Grid during May, an increase of almost 20% compared to May 2016 when wind energy provided 692,896 MWh.

Overall the data showed that wind generated enough output to supply 100% or more of Scottish homes on 11 of the 31 days in May.

‘Energy revolution’

Scotland’s total electricity consumption, including homes, business and industry, last month was 1,857,566 MWh. Wind power generated the equivalent of 46% of Scotland’s entire electricity needs for the month.

Dr Sam Gardner, acting director of WWF Scotland, said: “Despite the disappointment of last week’s announcement that President Trump is to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement, the global energy revolution is unstoppable and continues at pace here in Scotland.

“May proved to be another great month for renewables with the wind sector meeting 95% of the electricity needs of Scotland’s households.

“On one day in particular, 15 May, output from turbines generated enough electricity to power 190% of homes or 99% of Scotland’s total electricity demand. Month after month, renewables play a vital role in cutting carbon emissions and powering the Scottish economy.”

‘Super sunny’

Homes with solar PV (photovoltaic) panels generated over 100% of average household electricity needs in Aberdeen, Dumfries, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Lerwick.

The sunniest place was Lerwick on the Shetland Islands, which generated 114% of an average household electricity demand. It was followed closely by Dundee with 112%.

Dr Gardner added: “Thanks to a super sunny month, solar was on sizzling form and could have met more than 100% of household electricity demand in towns and cities across Scotland.”

There was also enough sunshine to generate more than 90% of an average household’s hot water needs with solar hot water panels in Aberdeen, Dumfries, Dundee, Lerwick, Perth, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Stirling.

Karen Robinson, of WeatherEnergy, said: “Scotland again managed to pump out clean power by the bucket load during May.

“While people might not be too surprised to learn solar power output was up in May, they might be surprised to discover that wind power output was also pretty impressive.”

Across the UK, solar panels provided a record amount of power on 26 May, when the National Grid reported a 8.5 GWh peak over a half-hour from midday, almost a quarter of total demand.

Published in BBC.com, 5 June 2017

Defying Trump, Hawaii Becomes First State to Pass Law Committing to Paris Climate Accord

Kauai Island Utility Cooperative’s Anahola solar array in Hawaii in 2015. Hawaii passed legislation on Tuesday to align the state’s goals to the Paris climate accord. Credit: Kent Nishimura for The New York Times


Hawaii on Tuesday became the first state to pass a law committing to the goals and limits of the Paris climate accord, defying President Trump, who announced last week that he would withdraw the United States from the historic agreement.

The state’s governor, David Y. Ige, signed two bills at a ceremony at the state’s capitol rotunda in Honolulu. One of the bills was explicitly geared toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the landmark goals adopted by world leaders with the Paris Agreement in 2015. The other will establish a task force to help the state improve soil health and remove carbon from the atmosphere.

He was joined by mayors from around the state, who signed an agreement to commit to the goals of the accord.

“Many of the greatest challenges of our day hit us first, and that means that we also need to be first when it comes to creating solutions,” Mr. Ige, a Democrat in his first term as governor, said in remarks before the signing. “We are the testing grounds — as an island state, we are especially aware of the limits of our natural environment.”

Climate change is real, regardless of what others may say,” he added.

Mike Gabbard, the chairman of the state senate’s agriculture and environment committee was more blunt.

“I don’t think it’s a surprise for any of us to be here, when the president of the United States had climate change removed from the White House website,” he said.

Many references to climate change were removed from the White House site in January, as part of the routine digital turnover from one administration to the next. In April, the Environmental Protection Agency removed much of the climate change information from its website, saying in a news release that the updates were made to “reflect the approach of new leadership.”

Hawaii is one of more than 10 states that have joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition committed to upholding the Paris accord despite the federal government’s withdrawal from it. The alliance, announced by the Democratic governors of California, Washington and New York last week, also includes Minnesota, Virginia, Massachusetts and Vermont.

Those states are working parallel to a broader effort being coordinated by Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, of cities, corporations and universities that together will submit a plan to the United Nations pledging to meet the targets for the United States specified by the accord. It is unclear how exactly that submission will take place.

On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown of California met in Beijing with President Xi Jinping of China, upstaging the White House and further suggesting the determination of some states to hew to the climate accord.

Hawaii is on the front lines of climate change, so much so that in September, President Barack Obama used it as the base from which to discuss his legacy on the issue, as well as the continued threat from rising seas, extreme weather and other byproducts of a warming planet. A report published by the Environmental Protection Agency last August named a shortage of fresh water, ocean acidification and shoreline loss as threats that the state faces as a result of climate change.

The Paris accord, which required that each country submit an individual plan for reducing its carbon emissions, was agreed to by 195 countries in 2015. Though the plan was nonbinding, supporters saw it as an important framework for holding countries accountable in the fight against climate change.

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China and California sign deal to work on climate change without Trump

Governor Jerry Brown says president’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris agreement will be only a temporary setback

China and California have signed an agreement to work together on reducing emissions, as the state’s governor warned that “disaster still looms” without urgent action on climate change.

The governor of California, Jerry Brown, spoke to reporters at an international clean energy conference in Beijing about Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris agreement, saying it would ultimately prove to be only a temporary setback.

For now, he said, China, European countries and individual US states would fill the gap left by the federal government’s decision to abdicate leadership on the issue.

“Nobody can stay on the sidelines. We can’t afford any dropouts in the tremendous human challenge to make the transition to a sustainable future,” Brown said. “Disaster still looms and we’ve got to make the turn.”

Brown later held a closed-door meeting with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, during which the two pledged to expand trade between California and China with an emphasis on so-called green technologies that could help address climate change, Brown said. Trump’s announcement last week that he wanted to pull out of the Paris accord did not come up, according to the governor.

“Xi spoke in very positive terms,” Brown told reporters after the meeting. “I don’t think there’s any desire to get into verbal battles with President Trump.”

Trump’s decision drew heavy criticism within the US and internationally, including in China, which swiftly recommitted itself to the agreement forged with the administration of the former US president Barack Obama. Trump argued that the Paris agreement favoured emerging economies such as China’s and India’s at the expense of US workers.

Chinese president Xi Jinping meets visiting California governor Jerry Brown to discuss a climate deal. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock


Tuesday’s agreement between California and China’s Ministry of Science and Technology effectively sidestepped Trump’s move, bringing about alignment on an issue of rising global importance between the world’s second-largest economy — China — and California, whose economy is the largest of any U.S. state and the sixth largest in the world.

Brown signed similar collaboration agreements over the past several days with leaders in two Chinese provinces, Jiangsu and Sichuan.

Like the Paris accord, the deals are all non-binding. They call for investments in low-carbon energy sources, cooperation on climate research and the commercialisation of cleaner technologies. The agreements do not establish new emission reduction goals.

The US has long been a major player in the clean energy arena, driving innovations in electric cars, renewable power and other sectors of the industry. California, with some of the strictest climate controls in the nation, has been at the forefront of the sector.

China in recent years overtook the US as the world leader in renewable power development. But it has also struggled to integrate its sprawling wind and solar facilities into an electricity grid still dominated by coal-fuelled power plants.

At the same time, Chinese leaders face growing public pressure at home to reduce the health-damaging smog that blankets many urban areas.

China is by far the world’s largest user of coal, which accounts for almost two-thirds of its energy use and has made it the No 1 emitter of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

Communist party leaders pledged that greenhouse gas emissions would peak no later than 2030 under the Paris pact, and start to fall after that. They have cancelled the planned construction of more than 100 new coal-fired power plants and plan to invest at least $360bn in green energy projects by the end of the decade.

The nation’s consumption of coal fell in 2016 for a third consecutive year, but rebounded slightly in 2017. It could meet its 2030 target a decade early.

Published in The Guardian 7 June 2017

Terrorism and the De-Gentrification of Istanbul

A devastating string of attacks and woeful city planning have driven away locals and tourists alike, prompting a swift process of decline.

Backstreets along Istiklal Avenue had become host to dozens of new hotels that seemed to spring up overnight. But since a March 2016 terrorist attack, many have become plagued by extremely low occupancy rates. (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)


Istanbul’s central Beyoğlu district experienced sweeping gentrification throughout the 2000s, as its popularity increased among locals and a boom in tourism brought more and more visitors. But a devastating string of terror attacks and woeful city planning have driven away locals and tourists alike, prompting a swift process of decline.

“Everything goes well for a couple years. Then, out of a blue moon, something happens that one can hardly anticipate in advance,” says Dr. Murat Güvenç, who heads the Istanbul Studies Center at the city’s Kadir Has University. “There are bombs exploding, the country adopts a totally different future path or diplomatic standing, and the tourists are no longer coming.”

The effect has been instant even in some of the city’s most chic neighborhoods. Cihangir is home to dozens of popular cafes, bars, and a gorgeous collection of historic buildings—many of which gaze serenely out over the Bosphorus.

Long known for its intellectual and bohemian character, Cihangir of the early ‘90s was home to one of the city’s first punk venues, which occupied the top floor of a building that looked out at the iconic strait that divides Europe and Asia. The neighborhood was also a hub for the city’s transgender community until a wave of new cafes and bars swept through in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, leading to higher rents. Until recently, Cihangir was among the most coveted spots in the city but “for rent” signs are increasingly common now. Rental prices have dropped 20 percent since last year, according to Yalçın Bayazıtlı, a real estate agent who has lived and worked in Cihangir his entire life. Bayazıtlı said that most homeowners won’t go any lower, though some properties have managed to depreciate in value even further. “One apartment that was going for TL 5,000 ($1,400) a month is now listed at TL 3,500 ($980),” says Bayazıtlı.

The nearby Asmalımescit area was perhaps the most lively nightlife destination in Istanbul until around 2011, when a municipal decision to ban outdoor seating dealt a disastrous blow to its vitality. Rumor has it that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan once tried to pass through the area in his car but became stuck in the narrow streets. When a drinker raised their glass to him, he became enraged and subsequently ordered the tables and chairs to be rounded up. Though Asmalımescit managed to weather the storm for a few years, venues closed down one by one and today the winding backstreets are a dismal sight with numerous shuttered bars and restaurants. Known as a dodgy area in the 1990s where glue-huffers would take refuge in the narrow alleyways, Asmalımescit is now at risk of resembling its former self.

A Turkish police officer secures central Istanbul’s Istiklal Avenue, the main shopping road of Istanbul. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Between these two neighborhoods is the pedestrian-only Istiklal Avenue, a once-majestic thoroughfare of European architecture, foreign consulates, cinemas, pastry shops, and historic arcades. In recent years, the street’s beloved and storied small business culture became suffocated by the openings of dozens of chain stores, which helped send property values skyrocketing.

But on a Saturday morning in March of last year, a suicide bomber linked to ISIS blew himself up on Istiklal, killing four people—all tourists. Traffic on the street—formerly a constant, swelling stream of people that was challenging to navigate through—plummeted, and name-brand stores started leaving the neighborhood as fast as they first appeared. Before the attack, adjacent backstreets had become host to dozens of impressive new hotels that seemed to spring up overnight, but many have become plagued by extremely low occupancy rates—about 20 percent as of last August.

For Güvenç, the city planning decisions made in Istanbul during its boom were oriented toward affluent globetrotters. Though they don’t live in the city, urban areas are often restructured to suit their tastes, Güvenç says. “These are the people that can travel the world, stay 10 days in New York, 10 days in Los Angeles, and then fly to Tokyo,” he says. “Their wishes and desires dictate what is to be done and what is to be put aside,” says Güvenç of the weight they carry in the planning of a typical 21st century global city. And as Turkish Airlines, the country’s flagship airline, expanded its routes to connect Istanbul to cities throughout the world, cruise ships also docked in the city with more frequency. The long-neglected Istanbul, and its breathtaking views, had become a must-see for this coveted demographic.

After more attacks struck Istanbul, including a particularly shocking shooting spree at the city’s main airport in June 2016, tourism revenues declined sharply—nearly 30 percent in 2016 compared to the prior year—and well before anyone could have previously anticipated any sort of tourism or real estate bust. While the occupancy rate for Istanbul in general increased 27.9 percent from April 2016 to April of this year, the average price per room decreased 29.8 percent, the worst performance in Europe.

Galataport, a $1.1 billion construction project on the coast just down the hill from Cihangir, sought to cater to the previously growing demographic of luxurytourists by creating a groomed waterfront with even more room for the cruise ships that were docking nearby, along with shopping promenades and hotels. “They started to restructure the entire waterfront area in the anticipation that more cruise ships would come, organizing the area in a such a way that these cruise ship travelers will be higher in number and spend more money in the vicinity,” says Güvenç.

The heavily-contested project has been a source of outrage for urban activists in Istanbul, and boiled over after two historic buildings were demolished within the scope of Galataport’s construction. The project was promptly halted by the city municipality in April, though Güvenç believes that the contractors welcomed this decision as they faced to lose a considerable sum of money for an endeavor that is sure to fail if the current tourism figures remain.

“I wasn’t sad at all when House Cafe closed down… That type of culture does not suit Istiklal.”

Erdem Dilbaz, an electronic arts producer that has lived in Beyoğlu for 20 years, started documenting the closures on Istiklal Avenue in a Facebook photo album. The album now features more than 50 photos. “There was never a point in time where there were vacancies on Istiklal,” Dilbaz said of his motivation to keep tabs on the startling trend.

Making matters worse is the disgraceful condition of the street itself, which has been paved over repeatedly. Following major efforts to repair the trolley line that the runs the length of the avenue (which involved stripping the entire track) Istiklal is now a patchy blend of faux-cobblestone, asphalt, and piles of rocks. I tweeted a photo of the street taken in 2000, when it was lined with trees and in much better shape. It has been retweeted more than 3,000 times, as the visual triggers shock from residents who had never seen the street in that condition and nostalgia from those who had.

Dilbaz sees a silver lining in the series of closures, and harbors no small semblance of schadenfreude for the expensive restaurants and chain stores that have recently departed. “I wasn’t sad at all when House Cafe closed down,” he says, referring to a branch of an overpriced local cafe chain where people went to be seen. “That type of culture does not suit Istiklal.”

Bayazıtlı, the Cihangir real estate agent, doesn’t believe that rental prices in his neighborhood will drop any further than the 20 percent figure he shares. “Owners will prefer to keep their homes empty with the hope that things will return to how they were before.” he says. Bayazıtlı admits, however, that he cannot be certain of this. “If another bomb explodes, perhaps they will continue to fall.”

Written by PAUL BENJAMIN OSTERLUND, published in CityLab 7 June 2017

Britain: For the Love of God, Please Stop Theresa May

Benjamin Studebaker

On June 8 (this Thursday), Britain has a general election. I care deeply about British politics–I’m doing my PhD at Cambridge. But more importantly, Theresa May’s government has managed the country’s economy and public services with stunning fecklessness, and I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do my part to point this out.

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By blocking these common sense standards, the administration is reversing progress in cleaning the air we breathe and fighting climate change

On Thursday, President Trump made international headlines by announcing his intent to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement—a landmark decision that was met with outrage and dismay from climate activists and environmentalists. But while the gesture carries great symbolic significance, signaling the president’s disinterest in international climate efforts, any hope of actually achieving our domestic climate goals pledged under the agreement had already long since vanished.

Since January, the Trump administration has taken swift steps to dismantle numerous climate and environmental priorities established under the Obama administration, including the repeal of multiple environmental regulations. And environmentalists are fighting back—by way of the courts, that is. Just about every environment-related action the Trump administration has taken has been met with a legal challenge.

Trump is no stranger to litigation—reports suggest he was sued thousands of times as part of his career in real estate before ever becoming president. But since assuming office, he’s also been met with record-setting numbers of legal challenges. In his first two weeks as president alone, his administration was sued more than 50 times, mostly over the travel ban he implemented shortly after his inauguration. By March, reports suggest the number of lawsuits had risen above 100.

A major reason for the high rate of litigation has to do with the president’s generous use of executive orders, often in ways that environmental and social groups feel oversteps his authority, according to Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School. The travel ban is perhaps the most high-profile example of these.

What we’ve seen with Trump is an attempt to really use the executive order to create whole new policies.

“Executive orders tend to be directives from the president to administrative agencies to carry out internal tasks,” he said. “On occasion, they’re used to set broader policy agendas. But what we’ve seen with Trump is an attempt to really use the executive order to create whole new policies. And some of the policies that these executive orders are seeking to create are at direct odds with the statutes that provide the executive branch with its authority to take any action at all.”

To date, several dozen of the lawsuits currently filed against the Trump administration are directly related to climate and environmental issues. A number of them, although certainly not all, are related to executive orders.

In regard to Paris, White House advisers had actually cited potential lawsuits as an extra reason the president should withdraw from the treaty. Prior to Thursday’s announcement, they’d suggested that if the U.S. remained in the treaty while failing to enforce greenhouse gas-reducing regulations—namely, the Clean Power Plan, which the Trump administration has been actively working to unravel—environmental groups could pin new lawsuits advocating for climate regulations on the commitments laid out in the Paris agreement.

But as The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips recently pointed out, Trump’s getting sued for his environmental policies either way. He’s already facing a handful of cases over major policy points—and now that the Paris announcement has dashed hopes that the administration will make climate action a U.S. priority, more may be coming in the future.

We’ve put together some of the major examples of recent federal actions and the lawsuits they’ve inspired so far.


What we’ve seen with Trump is an attempt to really use the executive order to create whole new policies

The promised border wall

A cornerstone of President Trump’s campaign, from its earliest days, was the promise of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. And a January executive order on the topic of immigration sealed his intent, calling for the immediate construction of a wall along the Mexican border.

The idea has been met with resistance from a wide array of social communities and organizations, but it’s also been challenged by environmentalists concerned about its effect on the natural landscape. In April, conservation group Center for Biological Diversity and Arizona Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration that would block the project’s construction, claiming that the government failed to adequately assess the wall’s potential environmental impact. The plaintiffs express concern that the wall could have a negative impact on water systems and native species, particularly endangered ones like jaguars.

The revival of the coal industry

Another key Trump campaign promise involved the reinvigoration of the declining coal industry. And in March, the Trump administration took a step in that direction by lifting an Obama-era moratorium on new coal leases on public lands. This directive was also issued in an executive order.

Almost immediately, the Northern Cheyenne tribe in Montana, along with a group of environmental organizations, sued the Trump administration for lifting the ban without completing an environmental review of the coal-leasing program. The plaintiffs suggest that the government should have first evaluated the program’s “significant environmental, health, and economic impacts—including impacts from climate disruption caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, and socioeconomic and environmental impacts to local communities.”

Another chance for Keystone XL

Among the most controversial environmental issues that arose during the Obama administration was that of the Keystone XL pipeline. This proposal called for a new pipeline branch between Alberta and Nebraska, running through parts of Montana and South Dakota in the process. The idea was met with fierce protests from Native American, social justice and environmental groups, and it was ultimately rejected by President Obama.

But in January, Trump signed an executive order aimed at advancing the project, and in March the administration officially approved the pipeline’s construction. In response, multiple environmental organizations sued the administration, arguing that the approval of the project relied on an outdated environmental assessment and ignored new information about the pipeline’s potential impact. A separate lawsuit was also filed by conservationists and representatives of indigenous groups.

Tough breaks for wildlife

In yet another reversal of an Obama-era rule, Congress voted in February to undo a regulation aimed at protecting certain Alaskan wildlife from predator control operations on public lands, prohibiting the shooting of denning mother bears and wolves as well as certain types of trapping and aerial hunting. President Trump signed the reversal into effect.

In April, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the strategy Congress used to repeal the regulation—a little-known law that allows Congress to overturn federal regulations within a limited amount of time after they’re finalized. The case challenges an aspect of this law that stipulates that after a rule has been repealed in this manner, no substantially similar regulation may be enacted again without congressional approval. The case argues that “this constraint on future rulemaking violates the separation of powers that must be maintained between the legislative and executive branches under the U.S. Constitution.”

At the time it was filed, Reuters reported that the lawsuit—the first of its kind to make such a challenge—stood little likelihood of success.

The expansion of offshore drilling

Last month, President Trump signed an executive order that could expand offshore oil and gas drilling, directing Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to review an Obama ban on drilling in certain parts of the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. In May, a group of environmental groups responded with a lawsuitchallenging the president’s authority to make such a move.

The plaintiffs point out that President Obama initiated the ban in the first place under a law called the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which provides guidelines for oil and gas development leasing. They argue that this act allows presidents to withdraw certain areas from consideration for leasing—but that “neither OCSLA nor any other provision of law authorizes Presidents to undo such withdrawals.”

Attacks on energy efficiency programs

It’s not just environmental groups that are pushing back against the Trump administration’s environmental policies—states are jumping on the bandwagon now as well.

By blocking these common sense standards, the administration is reversing progress in cleaning the air we breathe and fighting climate change.

In January, the White House directed federal agencies to place new or pending regulations on hold until they could be reviewed by incoming Trump administration agency heads. Among the regulations delayed as a result were a series of energy efficiency appliance standards introduced by the Obama administration. Energy efficiency standards are widely regarded by environmentalists as an important way to cut down on the energy consumption of individual households, businesses and other buildings, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the process.

As a result, in April a coalition of state attorneys general filed a notice of intent with the Department of Energy to sue within 60 days. The states were joined in their protest by the city of New York and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

In a statement at the time, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman decried the delays as harmful to both public health and the environment. “By blocking these common sense standards, the administration is reversing progress in cleaning the air we breathe and fighting climate change – and denying consumers and businesses some $24 billion in savings,” he said.

Written by CHELSEA HARVEY, published in FUSION 5 June 2017.