International Climate Update Nov-Dec '13: Dominoes falling on public financing of coal, world leaders have their work cut out after Warsaw, & more

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Below is a compilation of climate change and clean energy news from around the world. This compilation includes stories from Nov-Dec 2013. You can sign-up to receive these compilations in your email inbox.


Since 2007, over $50 billion of public financing has supported coal projects through funding from development banks and international financial institutions in key countries. For these countries, the Japanese government is the mostly heavily invested, followed by the United States and Germany (see figure based upon preliminary NRDC data).

More dominoes are falling on public financing of coal projects as more institutions commit to phase-out of coal financing. The U.S. and key countries voted no on a coal power plant proposed by the Asian Development Bank that clearly failed the financing commitments of the U.S., Nordic countries, and U.K. The ADB project was ultimately approved and will now provide $900 million to a 600 MW coal plant. Will this be the last coal power plant that the ADB funds?

Following from President Obama’s commitment the U.S. Export-Import Bank adopted a new set of guidelines that will severely constrain U.S. public financing of coal plants. Since 2007 Ex-Im has financed almost $7.2 billion in coal projects so these new guidelines are very important. This is the last piece of the U.S. funding puzzle as new U.S. guidelines will shape how the U.S. votes at the multilateral development banks.

The European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD) has signaled that it will support new coal projects only in “rare and exceptional circumstances”. This is a significant reversal from their draft energy strategy which signaled no slowing down on coal financing. EBRD has funded over $660 million in coal financing since 2007.

These steps follow other important steps last month that signal that the era of public financing of coal projects may be coming to an end. Will the last dominoes fall at the German, Japanese, French, and South Korean public financing institutions? 


As the climate negotiations in Warsaw began I pointed out in an op-ed that it's important to look ahead, while acting now.  My colleague discussed how calls for action intensified in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. So as the negotiation wrapped up we took a look at the path ahead: the negotiations in Warsaw sent a clear signal to world leaders: you have your work cut out for you. Key countries must outline their proposed new emissions target for the period after 2020 before early 2015. They must come prepared to mobilize even more investment in climate action and adaptation in the developing world. And they must act aggressively now. This meeting provided the roadmap of where key countries must focus their attention in the coming months. As I said in my final statement: “World leaders better get their act together quickly. If they show up empty-handed in 2015 and don’t secure a strong international agreement, they’ll be known as the generation that clearly saw the growing threat of global climate change, and failed to try to stop it.”

The NRDC President discusses how we still need world leaders to secure international commitments, but we aren’t waiting. The effort to confront climate change continues without pause even as the official negotiations are focused on Paris 2015. And my colleague discusses how cyclone Helen in South Asia should ring the alarm bell again on the need for world leaders to act quickly on climate change.

My colleague discussed some of the action-oriented aspects that were announced in parallel to the official negotiations in Warsaw. And as Japan formally reneged on its climate target from Copenhagen, I discussed how countries respond is setting a precedent for the future of the international system.


In a lot of countries (including the U.S.) you hear the refrain: “we shouldn’t act because China isn’t acting”.  But the premise that “China is doing nothing” to address climate change is wrong. I took a look at the state of play in China and where the current debate appears headed.

More news on China’s emerging pilot carbon trading programs in Shanghai (Financial Times and Xinhua) and Guangdong (Reuters).


As air pollution in Hong Kong marred the city’s famous skyline and the pollution exceeded WHO guidelines four out of the five days, NRDC’s President discussed how to make it safer to breathe in Hong Kong and beyond.

A province in the heart of China’s rust belt has levied air pollution fines on city governments for the first time, in a sign that pressure to improve air quality in the world’s second-largest economy is trickling down to the local level (Wall Street Journal).

Emissions from coal plants in China were responsible for a quarter of a million premature deaths in 2011 and are damaging the health of hundreds of thousands of Chinese children, according to a new study (The Guardian). And this commentary discusses the new air pollution requirements in China and what it might mean for local air pollution and climate change (ChinaFAQs).


India has taken significant steps to fight climate change at the domestic level as highlighted in our updated fact sheet, India: Addressing Climate Change and Moving Toward a Low-Carbon Future.

There is a renewed sense of optimism within India’s solar market sparked by the announcement of the Phase II guidelines of the National Solar Mission. However, the general consensus from key recent stakeholder gatherings is that obtaining financing for solar projects and reducing the cost of capital pose major obstacles to scaling solar in India. This led one of NRDC’s India Representatives to outline the challenges to reducing the cost of capital for solar financing in India. And two cities in India are to become “solar cities” according to the government (Times of India).

Tata Cleantech Capital Ltd. may fund as much as $401 million of renewable and energy-efficiency projects in India as costs for coal-based power prompt companies to turn to alternatives (Bloomberg).


New analysis from NRDC shows that even bigger carbon reductions are possible in the U.S. power sector with carbon controls under the Clean Air Act. And these reductions come at an even lower cost. The analysis found that the U.S. can cut power sector emissions 30% below 2012 by 2020, with net health and environmental benefits of over $30 billion. And we unpack the coal lobby's claims about NRDC's carbon pollution standards proposal.

On January 1st more inefficient light bulbs in the U.S. will be phased out. And as my colleague points out: all systems are a go as we say goodbye to the old inefficient 60-watt bulb. The U.S. Department of Energy proposed new motor efficiency standards that will lead to big electricity savings. The motors covered by this rule consume about 50 percent of all the electricity used by industry in the U.S.

New U.S. automobiles sold in model year 2012 were more efficient than the previous year and these trends are expected to continue next year as the new official EPA statistics found. A comprehensive new analysis of U.S. government data demonstrates that Americans are driving less per person and taking transit more. And a new campaign aims to charge ahead on California’s aim to put a million electric vehicles on the road.

President Obama ordered the Federal Government to use more clean energy as he directed the federal government – the largest single energy consumer in the U.S. – to ensure that 20% of its electricity comes from renewable sources within seven years. And the U.S. military continues to move forward on clean energy. And NRDC points out that if every public school in the U.S. saved 10% on energy costs by installing solar power they could have enough money to hire 16,825 new teachers.

A new study found that methane pollution from the U.S. oil and gas industry is much larger than prior estimates. It reminds us of the need to address America’s leaky natural gas system as called for in the U.S. Climate Action Plan.


Renewable energy is gaining traction from the U.S. to Chile and from India to China as my colleague discusses with some examples from NRDC’s work with partners around the world.

As the year wrapped up key sectors reported on their installation for the year and expectations for the coming year. The PVSolar Report outlines its “top 10 solar stories for 2013” and a new assessment projects that half of the PV demand in 2014 will be in the Asia-Pacific region (CleanTechnica), with China forecast to install even more solar than previously thought.

Wind keeps popping up throughout the world. The first middle east utility-scale wind project receives financing (CleanTechnica). Offshore wind experiences its best growth in 2013 and UK offshore wind capacity grows 80% in a year (CleanTechnica).

The geothermal industry outlined that it surpassed 12,000 MW of operational power (CleanTechnica).

And one commentator outlines the 13 huge clean energy breakthroughs of 2013 (ClimateProgress).


Newly elected mayors of Veracruz, Mexico will work to develop 50 concrete Municipal Climate Action Plans in 2014, with the support of the British Embassy and ICLEI.

In Chile, the Center for Renewable Energy released its monthly assessment of the renewable energy sector in the country, highlighting growth throughout 2013. The report showed that renewable capacity installation surpassed the previous year by 22%, with 204 MW added to the main grids since January 1. In October alone, solar projects with a combined capacity of 517 MW were submitted for approval to the environmental impact review system, comprising 51% of the total. Wind followed, with 39% and then mini-hydro with 10%. My colleagues reflected on the prospect for geothermal development in Chile at the Green Power "GeoPower Conference Latin America" in Santiago, Chile.


More than 116 million air conditioning units are forecast to be in service in India by 2030—more than 20 times the current number—so addressing HFCs in India presents an immediate business and climate opportunity. NRDC and our India partners developed a Frequently Asked Questions document that answers the important questions – Cutting Through the Controversy: FAQs on Moving Forward with Phasing Down Climate Damaging HFCs.


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