How Has Germany Improved Its Air Quality?

Clean Air – Made in Germany (50 page pdf, Federal Environment Agency of Germany, Nov. 2014)

Today we review measures undertaken by the national and municipal governments of Germany over the last decade or two to reduce air pollution particularly in its cities and particularly from transportation although initiatives are also in place to deal with wood combustion and ammonia from emissions from agriculture. Specific measures include Low Emission Zones and application of road pricing, restrictions for parking and lower speed limits of 30 kph on major roads. The result is that air quality in German cities today are as high as in rural areas 20 years ago. Future challenges include reducing greenhouse gas emissions to meet EU targets and reducing NO2 and PM emissions from diesel powered vehicles.

low emission zones berlin

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What are the Costs and Benefits of Renewable Energy?

The Net Benefits of Low and No-Carbon Electricity Technologies (38 page pdf, Charles R. Frank, Jr., Global Economy and Development Working Paper 73, Brookings Institute, May 2014)

Today we review a research paper that examined the costs and benefits of various non-carbon energy sources, as opposed to oil and gas alternatives, under a number of carbon tax scenarios. Several factors are clear: the benefit of a stable base power or capacity as seen in either natural gas or nuclear outweigh the much lower carbon emissions from solar and wind- to the point that with a $100 per ton carbon tax, nuclear is the favoured option over wind and solar at #4 and #5. If the carbon tax is lower, solar and wind benefits are much much lower than from the other fuel sources. The case for a higher carbon tax is clear if any hope of reducing carbon emissions is to be satisfied.

cost of renewable energy

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UK calls for Action to Reduce Air Pollution and Its Health Impacts

Action on Air Quality – HC 212 – Sixth Report of Session 2014–15 (51 page pdf, Environmental Audit Committee, House of Commons, UK, Nov. 26, 2014)

Also discussed here: Air pollution ‘causing deadly public health crisis’ (James Gallagher, Health editor, BBC News, Dec. 7, 2014)

Today we review a report from a Committee of the British House of Commons calling for action both in the short and long term (2030) to improve air quality – its 3rd report on this issue in the last 5 years. In 92% of the Air Quality Management Areas, road transport is the main cause of that pollution, so that recommendations call for more efficient vehicles and fewer diesel powered ones and more Low Emission Zones. The Committee recognizes the powerful lobbies (such as automobile associations and oil/gas industry) against progress – as it is, if not more so in Canada and the USA – but pleads that the UK government should not wait to be ordered by the EU parliament to act.

UK deaths due air pollution

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The Future of the World’s Urban Economy and Carbon Emissions

Cities and the New Climate Economy: The Transformative Role of Global Urban Growth (68 page pdf, Graham Floater and Philipp Rode, New Climate Economy Cities Paper 01. LSE Cities, London School of Economics and Political Science, Jul. 2014)

Today we review a report on the future likely for the globe’s urban areas in terms of growth, their increasing share of the world economy, population and greenhouse gas emissions. A “Three C” model is proposed that shows the advantages of cities adopting compact urban growth, connected infrastructure and coordinated governance that already has shown itself in cities such as Stockholm which has seen a 41% economic increase while reducing carbon emissions by 35% over the last 7 years.

stockholm emissions

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Who is Liable for Damages from Climate Change Impacts?

Payback Time? What the Internationalization of Climate Litigation Could Mean for Canadian Oil and Gas Companies

(64 page pdf, Andrew Gage and Michael Byers, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Oct. 9, 2014)

Also discussed here: Climate change may create legal liability for Canadian energy firms – New report from B.C. think-tanks says elements are in place to allow for civil action (CBC News, Oct. 9, 2014)

And here: Policy Time Line

Today we review a report from a Canadian policy think-tank which examines the potential for legal action against a handful of Canadian oil and gas producers, because of their contribution to harmful impacts from global climate change, expected to reach $5B/year by 2020. The potential liability of each Canadian company is between $37.8 million and$90.8 million in 2010, rising to over $700M by 2030. Just as it took about 30 years to collect from tobacco companies for harmful impacts to health from the time a warning was given by the Surgeon General of the USA in the late 1960s, so the clock is ticking for those responsible for damages from climate change- and the clock began ticking in 1988 at the Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere, the first major international forum bringing scientists and politicians together in an effort to combat global warming, where 300 international scientists and policy makers from 46 countries issued a warning on climate change whose consequences “could be second only to a global nuclear war”.

Since then, two major factors have changed in terms of environmental liability: much more accurate estimates of financial damages and of emissions have been documented, and the law profession itself has matured and broadened to include the environment as an active and growing area of jurisprudence. In addition, as the report points out, even if the existing body of law does not explicitly identify GHG emissions as a culpable area, courts have been willing to change the law and liability in light of new information, as seen in the tobacco cases. Whether that liability starts and ends with oil and gas producers or extends to those responsible for reducing damages from climate change and the emissions that cause them- such as large municipalities which control traffic and vehicle emissions, public infrastructure and protection of private property from environmental damages, for example, remains to be seen. And then there is the growing awareness of the impacts of climate change which combines with air pollution to increase health costs.

cdn oil and gas liable

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How Cities Can Get to the Three Zeros (Congestion, Pollution and Accidents)

Implementing Transport Policies and Programmes toward Realizing “Bali Vision Three Zeros – Zero Congestion, Zero Pollution, and Zero Accidents towards Next Generation Transport Systems in Asia  (58 page pdf, Todd Litman, Eighth Regional Environmentally Sustainable Transport (Est) Forum in Asia, United Nations Centre For Regional Development, Nov. 19, 2014)

Today we review a background overview paper prepared by one of the world’s leading advocates for sustainable transportation, Todd Litman, at a United Nations conference aimed at developing best practices in Asia where major shifts to urbanization are taking place. His paper includes many tips and statistics such as better traffic congestion indicators and space requirements for various modes, the advantages of transportation demand management strategies, especially when different ones are combined.

sust transp goals

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What is China Doing about Urban Air Pollution?

China’s clean air challenge: The health impacts of transport emissions (Su Song, The City Fix, Nov. 20, 2014)

Also discussed here: In Step to Lower Carbon Emissions, China Will Place a Limit on Coal Use in 2020 (Edward Wong, New York Times, Nov. 20, 2014)

Today we review plans by the Chinese government to both monitor and reduce the extremely high levels of air pollution found in its largest cities, a large portion of which is due to vehicle emissions. Plans have been approved to achieve particulate emissions by as much as 25% by 2017 by monitoring emissions and using technology to regulate them and by managing transport demand using congestion pricing and other economic tools. Equally impressive plans are in place to cap carbon emissions from coal by 2020. Credit must be given to governments that recognize the impact of unrestricted deterioration of urban air quality on health and then proceed to establish short and longer term targets to improve this. When will Canadian and American governments (and City Councils) do likewise for their cities or do we wait until conditions get as bad as in China?

China-transport-air-pollution-car-ownership-income-growth

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