In lieu of today's first meeting of Governor Perdue's offshore energy panel, News14 has posted a poll, asking folks whether or not they support offshore drilling off the coast of North Carolina. Check it out and take the poll (scroll down on the page and it will be on the right next to the Features section). Wanted to share this since I took the poll and was interested in the results!
These days, the term "green jobs" has become common rhetoric in the environmental community. And while the concept of "green jobs" may be easy to explain, how do they work? Where do they come from? How can we make new ones? Here is an article from our friends at 1Sky who give us a clearer picture of the green jobs landscape:
[The following blog post was cross-posted from our friend's Southern Alliance for Clean Energy's (SACE) blog and was co-authored by Stephen Smith and Jennifer Rennicks. SACE will be among the attendees in Copenhagen starting on December 12 and will follow the action in Copenhagen from a uniquely southeastern clean energy perspective. The NC Conservation Network will be posting many of the entries from their Copenhagen series.]
Well, it depends on who you ask? While the United Nations climate talks are officially over, the world does not have the fair, ambitious, and binding treaty that science demands of us to protect all global citizens, rich and poor, from the perils of accelerating climate change. This is a fact, and there is no way to spin or greenwash the fact that world leaders failed to deliver what we need. But if that is the only narrative to come out of Copenhagen, then I think it does not tell the whole story. Some very significant tectonic shifts happened leading up to and during the meetings.
First, world expectation and awareness of the need for action continues to expand. You could see this very clearly from the thousands of youth who observed the talks and from the high level of international participation both by nations and businesses. It would be wrong to underestimate the significance of having the world’s top emitters - China, the United States, India and Brazil - now engaged on this issue in new ways.
The failure of the U.S. to play a constructive role during the past decade will be an infamous page in our country’s historic record. It was obvious the U.S. negotiators came to the talks hamstrung by the partisan gridlock in our Congress that has thus far failed to pass comprehensive climate legislation. Fortunately, President Obama’s intense discussion with China in the 11th hour did play a key role in salvaging the talks and set the stage for what could lead to a comprehensive agreement in 2010. The very fact that the leaders of two superpowers engaged and have made commitments of their counties, albeit ones that need strengthening, represents significant movement.
The Obama Administration fell short of what was needed to move the climate talks forward to produce an ambitious and legally binding climate treaty, but when compared to past efforts, these actions were like night and day. See Obama’s closing statement here. If we want more ambitious actions, then we must turn the political heat up at home, so that our elected representatives will understand they must turn down the heat of our planet or risk being replaced by those who will.
In the end, after two weeks of intense - and at times contentious - climate negotiations, delegates from more than 185 nations ‘noted the existence’ of the Copenhagen Accord as the talks wrapped up on Saturday, December 19th. While the Accord includes a global agreement to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius, it does fail to include concrete measures to reach that target, leading scientists to say the world may be on a path to 3.5 degrees of warming by 2100. For the first time, the U.S., China and India each offered a national reduction target. While the targets are not ambitious enough, they are evidence of movement from where we were six months ago.
A critical piece of this Accord was the financial commitment from developed nations to provide at least $100 billion per year in assistance to developing nations by 2020. Had such an important component been on the table earlier so that the details could have been worked out ahead of time, more progress may have been made.
We're Not Done Yet
More ambitious reductions, greater financial assistance and legally binding agreements are needed to secure the collective future of the planet, so the Copenhagen Accord will be viewed as a step along the path but not the end of the journey.
Meanwhile, China and India are already moving ahead of the U.S. in the development and production of clean energy technology. Unless the U.S. can pass a comprehensive climate and clean energy bill that will significantly boost U.S. investment in clean energy technology, we risk losing our competitive edge worldwide in the newly emerging low-carbon marketplace. More importantly, we risk losing our standing in the world as a functioning society capable of responding to the challenges of our world. If we continue to allow the corrupting influence of fossil fuel dollars pouring into Washington from the carbon-intensive companies that desperately want to hold on to the status quo, our beacon of democracy will be dimmed at home and around the world.
[The following blog post was cross-posted from our friend's 1Sky's blog where it was originally posted by Gillian Caldwell. 1Sky will be among the attendees in Copenhagen starting on December 12 and will follow the action in Copenhagen.]
President Obama reportedly got off Air Force One and moved immediately into a Heads of State meeting. From there, he moved to address the plenary in what appeared to be a serious, determined and frustrated mood (read full text of his speech here or watch the video). He said he did not come to talk - that he came to act. And that we have to come together to address a common threat.
Obama identified three prerequisites to a successful global accord today:
"First, all major economies must put forward decisive national actions that will reduce their emissions, and begin to turn the corner on climate change. I'm pleased that many of us have already done so, and I'm confident that America will fulfill the commitments that we have made: cutting our emissions in the range of 17 percent by 2020, and by more than 80 percent by 2050 in line with final legislation.
Second, we must have a mechanism to review whether we are keeping our commitments, and to exchange this information in a transparent manner. These measures need not be intrusive, or infringe upon sovereignty. They must, however, ensure that an accord is credible, and that we are living up to our obligations. For without such accountability, any agreement would be empty words on a page.
Third, we must have financing that helps developing countries adapt, particularly the least-developed and most vulnerable to climate change. America will be a part of fast-start funding that will ramp up to $10 billion in 2012. And, yesterday, Secretary Clinton made it clear that we will engage in a global effort to mobilize $100 billion in financing by 2020, if - and only if - it is part of the broader accord that I have just described.
Mitigation. Transparency. And financing. It is a clear formula - one that embraces the principle of common but differentiated responses and respective capabilities. And it adds up to a significant accord - one that takes us farther than we have ever gone before as an international community."
The biggest disappointment was that he didn't bring anything new to the table - he reiterated the same position that has been outlined by U.S. negotiators all week, including continuing to propose a U.S. target "in the range of 17%" from 2005 levels by 2020. It is particularly maddening that President Obama and others in the administration continually refuse to specify their baseline -- which is to their strategic advantage since everyone else is using the 1990 baseline and the only industrialized country proposing a lower target than the United States is Canada, whose performance has earned them repeated Fossils of the Day throughout the negotiations. His speech was not well received in the plenary, or in the NGO forum where I am watching it. Indeed, he was booed by the global community.
Meanwhile, a draft of the text of the agreement was leaked and picked up by the press. More on that as soon as I have had a chance to analyze it. The New York Times reports the United Nations Secretariat has "reportedly advised negotiators to extend their stays through Sunday night." So we are unlikely to see a conclusion to this today as originally planned.
Here's the video:
[The following blog post was cross-posted from our friend's Southern Alliance for Clean Energy's (SACE) blog and was co-authored by Stephen Smith, Rita Kilpatrick and Brandon Blevins. SACE will be among the attendees in Copenhagen starting on December 12 and will follow the action in Copenhagen from a uniquely southeastern clean energy perspective. The NC Conservation Network will be posting many of the entries from their Copenhagen series.]
Imagine a society that draws on the power of the wind to generate a significant portion of its electricity. I’m seeing firsthand how Denmark is just such a place. For the past two decades the Danes have committed themselves to developing wind farms on land and offshore. They hold the world record in the amount of renewable energy in electricity production with 26.7% of their consumption coming from renewable energy generation. At the climate talks here, wind power is seen as a major tool to combat climate change. This well-done report gives you a great view of the Danes approach addressing global warming pollution.
Just as impressive, Denmark gets nearly 20% of its electricity from wind power with a goal to get 30% from renewable energy by 2020. Even more impressive is the Danish Wind Industry Association projects that Denmark could obtain an unprecedented 50% of its electricity from wind energy by 2025, largely through the expansion of offshore wind projects, like the one I visited today.
Today I had the honor of joining a group of journalists, policy leaders and environmental advocates on a tour of the Middelgrunden wind farm – just a couple of miles off the coast of Copenhagen. It was within view of the popular tourist attraction, the “Little Mermaid.”Most notable was that this wind farm was designed by a cooperative of more than 8,500 people (mostly residents of Copenhagen) who bought small “shares” of the wind farm to help make the project happen. It reminded me of the “shares” offered by community gardens back home, but instead of food, people supported the construction of a wind project.
In Copenhagen, the wind farm cooperative teamed up with their local utility and went in together on sharing the profit and the liability tied to the wind farm. It’s a great success story. Locals take pride in knowing they had a role in providing some of their city’s energy and get to visually witness this every day. Now the large power company see wind as a major part of its energy portfolio.
The Dane’s creative vision for wind energy doesn’t stop here. Spurred by local wind companies like Vestas, now among the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturers employing over 20,000 people worldwide, Denmark has gone the extra mile to build a top-rate wind infrastructure by developing research, manufacturing, offshore siting, and policy priorities. Check out the impressive environmental-impact studies done on two of their largest offshore wind farms.
Other European countries have stepped up too. Experiencing the work of these visionaries and doers overseas made me appreciate the vast potential we have in the Southeastern U.S. all the more - not only to build large wind turbines, but to install and operate them offshore for our region. We’ve got strong, consistent winds that blow along the shallow, vast Outer Continental Shelf that span the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida – they represent a mind boggling potential of 486,666 GWh of clean, sustainable energy for the Southeast region.
In North and South Carolina and Georgia, offshore wind farms are in various stages of planning. These are all significant beginnings of offshore wind development in our region. Just in the last month, we learned that Clemson University was successful in teaming up with the South Carolina Ports Authority and other state agencies to receive a $45 million grant from the U.S. Dept of Energy for large wind turbine drive-train testing in Charleston. This is in addition to Santee Cooper, the state of South Carolina Energy Office, and Coastal Carolina University’s ongoing efforts to measure the wind and wave conditions, iron out the regulatory requirements, and study the transmission needs to make an 80-MW offshore wind project a reality in state owned waters.
Not to be outdone, the state of North Carolina is working with UNC Chapel Hill and Duke Energy to research, plan, design, and construct a pilot project in the large sounds that exist between the coast of North Carolina and the infamous North Carolina Outer Banks. Further South, Southern Company continues to move forward with its plans to apply to the Mineral Management Services for interim siting permit to test feasibility for a wind farm off the Georgia coast.
What’s so appealing about offshore wind energy? It gives a hedge against rising fuel cost and it can help stabilize and reduce electricity prices by displacing the need for more expensive power plants. Once developed, offshore wind power will supply affordable, inexhaustible energy to our region’s economy. It’ll bring jobs and other income as has been the case elsewhere in the world where offshore wind energy has been developed. Assembly, staging, construction, and maintenance of offshore wind farms will bring a range of jobs to the Carolinas and Georgia.
Take for example, the city of Bremerhaven, Germany. In 1989, when the Berlin Wall disappeared, so too did the U.S. Army supply harbor from Bremerhaven, taking 3,500 shipyard workers and their families out of the city. This, followed by difficult years for the fishing industry, resulted in a population decrease of 150,000 to 115,000 by 2001 in the city. In 2001-02, the city decided to focus its effort on the emerging wind industry, particularly offshore. Now, Germany is projected to install 10,000 MW of offshore wind by 2020 and the town is benefiting with 700 new jobs that have already been created in the past 3 years, and 300-500 more expected, all accredited to the emerging European offshore wind market.
We’ve got the potential in the Southeast to achieve international recognition for being innovative, reliable and quality-conscious leaders within the wind energy sector, especially with offshore wind energy. We are beginning to scratch the surface in exploring this technology, but we must be bold. We need leaders who are willing to break down the barriers and develop this technology. We need utilities, politicians, citizens, and government leaders who are willing to step up to the plate and create jobs, secure our energy future, and save our environment.
The turbines I visited today - ironically juxtaposed in this photo with the coal-fire plants from the past in the background - were realized only through the full commitment of the community, the utility, and the political leaders who decided to take a challenge and turn it into an opportunity; an opportunity that is creating jobs and producing clean, homegrown electricity. The Southeast has the deep-water ports, the infrastructure, the people, and yes, the wind to make this happen. It starts with imagination followed by political smarts and diligence at all levels to make it happen. I believe on today’s tour we got a glimpse of the future for the southeast United States, developing large offshore wind projects to add significant amounts of clean energy to our power system. At the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy we are deeply committed to making offshore wind a reality in our region.
[The following blog post was cross-posted from our friend's Southern Alliance for Clean Energy's (SACE) blog and was co-authored by John Wilson and Jennifer Rennicks. SACE will be among the attendees in Copenhagen starting on December 12 and will follow the action in Copenhagen from a uniquely southeastern clean energy perspective. The NC Conservation Network will be posting many of the entries from their Copenhagen series.]
A LEGO teaching tool explains the concepts of "Changing the Game," a strategic, collaborative approach to rebuilding Europe’s energy future. Click the image to learn more.
Are LEGO bricks what we need to change our energy future? And why were people playing with them at a side event at “the biggest intergovernmental meeting in history“?
The LEGO game was just one of many exhibits at the Bright Green Expo which I attended in Copenhagen, Denmark yesterday. The dynamic clean energy economy on display at the forum was a refreshing, but somewhat overwhelming in contrast to the unfounded and persistent stereotypes of energy production back in the Southeast USA.
Two exhibits in particular were striking: the municipality of Frederickshaven, a city of 25,000 people that aims to run on 100% renewable energy by 2015, and Bornholm Island, an island in the Baltic Sea of almost 50,000 people that has embarked on a 20 year planning and development process to integrate renewable energy throughout their economy. Frederickshaven already obtains 24% of its energy from wind and waste, and Bornholm over 30% from wind alone. Meanwhile, the Southeast USA is debating whether it can “realistically” obtain 20% of our energy from renewable resources.
While the windmills and solar panels were everywhere to be seen, I was also struck by the heavy emphasis on bioenergy by Europeans. Wood is the answer to many questions here, I even took a packet of laundry detergent enhanced with enzymes enabling a lower washing temperature and a rain poncho made from plants to wear on a boat tour later today to see a near-shore wind farm (more to come on that).
One of the most interesting points is the close relationship between biomass-fueled electric generation and combined heat and power (CHP, also known as co-generation). We’ve been making this link for several years but haven’t been able to make much headway in the Southeast. Here, the efficiency of biopower is much higher than in the USA because they also generate heat for use in district heating systems.
There was also a strong emphasis on energy efficiency, both improved building practices and better technology. Ever heard of Z-Wave? Z-Wave is a business alliance creating products that can combine smart metering with home control solutions such as lighting, thermostat, appliance and window shade control. Window shades? Open them in the morning to light up the house, then close them during the day to keep the A/C bill low. You can even activate this system using your computer at work or your mobile phone while running errands. The Energy Aware House, very cool!
Towering over the rest of the exhibits was a model Vestas wind turbine beside a monitor showing how much energy had been generated, how many tons of CO2 had been saved, how many homes were being powered and how many turbines were being erected around the world during the 2 days of the forum - in the moments I stood beside the display, the numbers ticked upwards.
While there were some companies from the USA in the mix, this was very much a showcase of Danish and European leadership on clean energy. I was very inspired by this Expo (even staying so long I was more than 2 hours late to a briefing session with climate advocates) and will enthusiastically join the many people here in bringing back some great ideas and vision for our own leadership in the Southeast.
Your Place in the New Economy: Tools and Opportunities for Jobs and Economic Development (featuring Majora Carter)
This past week I had the great privilege of travelling through eastern North Carolina with Majora Carter on a series of workshops titled “Your Place in the New Economy.” This was put on by the Elizabeth City State University Center for Green Research and Evaluation, which is partnering with the Majora Carter Group to craft a plan for developing a green economy in Eastern NC. The three workshops were held in Elizabeth City, Tarboro and Henderson, NC and were an opportunity to bring a message of economic recovery through green jobs to the people who need it most.
Eastern North Carolina is one of the most impoverished areas in the country, and for years has dealt with industries packing up and taking their jobs overseas, but leaving a legacy of environmental devastation behind. Adding to that are some outrageous utility and energy costs--families have seen their rates rise 35% in the last two years and, in some cases, are forced to make decisions between paying their utility bills and feeding their families.
The tour was focused on showing this community that “green” wasn’t all about polar bears and spotted owls; instead we were talking about the green that you can put in your wallet. In fact, one area of the green economy that really caught on was energy efficiency. What many people are now calling “weatherization” is simply making your home or business more efficient so that it wastes less energy. This not only saves people money by lowering utility bills, but also puts people to work as energy auditors, weatherization technicians and crew leaders.
We also stressed the need for bold federal action on clean energy jobs legislation. While the jobs that have been created in NC through the policies of President Obama’s stimulus plan are great and necessary, what we need is a long term and far-reaching investment in clean energy and green jobs that will create hundreds of thousands of new green jobs here in NC, and up to 5 million new green jobs nationwide.
The tour was a great opportunity to take the message and the theme of the 1Sky Campaign out of the realm of the merely theoretical and into developing and implementing practical solutions for a struggling community.
I found a very helpful little column in yesterday's Salisbury Post, highlighting Rowan County's Energy Conservation Month (October). Check out the article for tips on replacing light bulbs, keeping out "phantoms" (I've also heard them called "vampires"), adjusting your water heater, and more. And while you're on the energy efficiency band-wagon, make sure to take action to oppose Duke Energy's 18% rate hike!
Having just gotten back from my annual vacation (this time to Pittsburgh, PA; Cincinnati, OH; and Lexington, KY), I'm feeling all-too-aware of the carbon footprint I left over the East Coast. While I'd love to boast that I did save some energy and fuel by combining my trips into one, let's face it: plane rides are just plain resource-intensive. Don't get me wrong--I can appreciate that often (environmentally-speaking) it makes more sense to fly than drive...I can appreciate that flying gives me the opportunity to see my friends and family much more often than I would otherwise...and I can certainly appreciate the "free" Diet Cokes and peanuts. But I did have the fleeting thought...should I have looked into purchasing carbon offsets prior to my trip?
Interestingly, when I got back into the office this week and was trudging through my pile-up of email, I came across an article about carbon offsets in Grist magazine. What's even more interesting is that the article is a response to a carbon offset question by a woman who lives right here in North Carolina. The respondent (Umbra) addresses not only his/her opinion on carbon offsets in general (as well as referencing another series Grist did on the issue), but also provides a nice plug for our very own NC GreenPower.
Umbra's bottom line, though, is well-said:
"Purchasing an individual carbon offset from a company, which then supports renewable energy development, is great. It is a wonderful chance to financially support projects that would not otherwise be able to get up and running. It does not erase whatever emissions we are emitting. So driving around in an SUV with a “My emissions are compensated for” kind of bumpersticker is ... is ... is—ooh! I’m getting agitated again. Let’s just say I think it misleads the uninformed."
So hey--if you have the resources (read: money), go for it. Carbon-offset to your heart's content. Feel warm and fuzzy inside. Just don't delude yourself into thinking you've somehow erased your carbon footprint (and I say that in the nicest way possible!)
Our friends at the Energy Action Coalition, National Wildlife Federation and Southern Energy Network are very excited to announce the Carolinas Power Shift regional conference that will take place this October 16-18 on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
This event will be packed full of inspirational speakers, educational workshops and panel discussions on a wide range of environmental and social justice issues, and opportunities to participate in community service projects. Hundreds of young people, including high school and college students from all over North and South Carolina, are expected to attend - click here to check it out and RSVP if you're interested!
Power Shift is a national, student and youth led environmental movement that has been growing quickly since the first Power Shift conference in 2007. This year’s weekend event will be part of a global push to demand a strong climate and clean energy bill from the U.S. Senate this fall- and an even stronger international treaty from the U.N. Climate Summit in Copenhagen this December.
This conference has been developed to ensure there are topics, forums and speakers to appeal to a wide array of progressive-minded young people. The trainings offered will be top notch and are sure to strengthen your skills and confidence in your respective interests. Guests and attendees are encouraged to arrive and register Friday night for socializing and welcome events.