Climate change – will appropriate solutions be implemented?

By Robert and Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President
Illinois Renewable Energy Association

The EPA Clean Power Plan is seen by Jonas Monsat as having shifted the debate from whether to regulate carbon emissions from power plants to how to regulate them. While federal authority to regulate carbon exists, how it will be done is left in the hands of individual states. Illinois must produce a plan; federal guidelines suggest efficiency, renewable energy and nuclear power are likely to play major roles within it.

Protecting the earth’s climate from adverse impacts of carbon releases has been described as the world’s most pressing environmental problem but efforts to reduce them to a climate safe level have not been implemented.  The problem is well documented in the scientific literature but actions have been thwarted by selected financial interests, corporations and government officials.

A moral dimension has just been injected by Pope Francis’ encyclical calling for global solutions to climate change along with questioning the foundations of society that has created wealth for some at the expense of others and the planet. The global economy is seen as profiting at the environment’s expense. He called for replacing fossil fuels with wind, solar and energy efficiency. The rich countries must make deep cuts in carbon emissions and help finance the transition to renewable energy in poorer countries. The only way out of the problem is to stop burning oil, gas and coal.

New global trade deals are seen by some as effectively undoing many efforts which have gone into making the world cleaner, safer, and more sustainable. Of current interest is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Treaty between the United States and Europe. It is aimed at reducing trade barriers between the two blocks and is expected to have a major impact on our economy, businesses and society.

The EU has banned administering growth hormones to cattle or pigs and washing chickens and turkey meat with chlorine dioxide. They also ban growing genetically modified grain. The rules are based on the precautionary principle – that those interests seeking to sell a product must demonstrate it does not threaten consumer health.

In the US the burden of proof rests with the public – as long as it has not been proven that certain chemicals, pesticides or production methods are harmful they remain permissible. In the case of fracking for oil and gas, existing environmental laws were excluded from being applied.

Both the EU and the US have expressed interest in increasing the sale of oil and gas from fracking operations. Depending on the outcome of the negotiations, fracking bans in New York, France and other locations might be considered as interfering with free trade and potential profits.

We know little about the ongoing negotiations as they are kept secret and members of Congress have only limited, restricted access to the documents. However, the agreements are the result of global corporate interests who have been involved in their development.

Of grave concern is that these secret trade deals undermine democratic processes and can serve to override the laws enacted by our legislators. Any violations of the treaty agreements are subject to arbitration by industry representatives. If a country is found in violation of the agreements, the guilty country could be fined to compensate for the losses incurred.

So the question remains – will appropriate solutions to climate change be implemented?

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