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December 2010 Archives

December 6, 2010

Climate Change and Sustainable Development Law in a NutShell Published

Albany Law School Associate Dean Patricia Salkin and Professor John R. Nolon, the James D. Hopkins Professor of Law at Pace University School of Law, are the authors of the just-published book "Climate Change and Sustainable Development Law in a Nutshell" (West 2010), which explores international, federal, state and local laws and policies regarding sustainable development and climate change.

The book illustrates the initiatives taken by all levels of government to achieve sustainable development, showing how these initiatives provide important opportunities to manage, mitigate, and adapt to climate change. The Nutshell explains how the U.S. legal system, particularly its reliance on the land use authority of local governments, fosters greenhouse gas reduction, energy conservation, and sustainable patterns of growth, including energy-efficient and sustainable buildings, the use of renewable energy resources, the protection of sequestering open space, and the adaptation of buildings and communities to sea level rise and natural disasters.

The book provides the international and national context for this bottom up approach. It illustrates how national and state governments can motivate 40,000 local governments in the U.S. to use existing authority and to adapt effective local initiatives already in place to both mitigate and adapt to climate change. This is presented as a complement to other international and national strategies for climate change management.

As one of dozens of examples, the Nutshell explains that local governments in most states are charged with enforcing the energy construction code and that, in many states, they have the power to enhance that code to achieve at least 30% greater efficiency in newly constructed and substantially renovated buildings. The building industry will provide millions of new homes and billions of square feet of nonresidential buildings to keep pace with our increasing population. Buildings consume the lion's share of all electricity generated and are responsible for over a third of carbon dioxide emissions. Some predict that two-thirds of the buildings in existence at mid-century will be built between now and then. The new International Green Construction Code, issued by the International Codes Council, contains techniques for extending this energy saving strategy to existing buildings.

The Nutshell also explains how localities can reduce their carbon footprint through transit oriented development and promoting renewable energy strategies, both of which depend on local planning and land use regulation. While grander schemes are stuck for the time at the federal and international level, researchers struggle to keep up with the task of identifying and analyzing progress of this sort on the ground.

The Nutshell covers the Rio Accords, the Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements, the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, and the 2005 and 2010 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment reports. These illustrate that the devolution of some legal authority to attack the full range of problems that hinder sustainable development is built into international agreements and the law of other nations. The book notes that the IPCC is considering including chapters on Human Settlements and Infrastructure in the Fifth Assessment Report.

December 10, 2010

New York State Climate Action Council Announces Availability of Climate Action Plan Interim Report

On December 8, 2010, the New York State Climate Action Council announced the availability of the Climate Action Plan Interim Report for public review and comment.

On August 6, 2009, Governor David A. Paterson signed Executive Order 24, setting a goal to reduce New York State’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below levels emitted in year 1990 by year 2050. The executive order also created the New York State Climate Action Council and directed it to prepare a plan to identify actions to achieve that goal, adapt to the effects of unavoidable climate change and stimulate a clean energy economy.

The Climate Action Council brought together more than 100 technical experts and stakeholders and the broader public to identify and examine both mitigation and adaptation policy options, and to analyze the costs and benefits of adopting these policies. The preliminary results of this analysis have been summarized in an interim report. Following review of public comment received on the Interim Report and additional analyses, including further evaluation of the effects of climate policy options on economic development and job creation, the Council will present a final Climate Action Plan in 2011.

The interim report is available for comment until February 11, 2011. Public hearings on the Interim Report will be held in several locations across the state in early 2011.

DEC Releases New Solid Waste Management Plan

On December 9, 2010, DEC Acting Commissioner Peter Iwanowicz announced the finalization of a new solid waste management plan.

The plan -- referred to as “Beyond Waste: A Sustainable Materials Management Strategy for New York” --sets forth a new approach for the state, shifting from focusing on “end of pipe” waste management to reducing waste from the start. Under the plan, municipalities, businesses and the public now have a framework that can help minimize waste, increase the use of materials that can be reused or recycled, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create green jobs. The plan guides DEC, municipalities, businesses and individuals in ways to significantly reduce the amount of materials destined for landfills and municipal waste combustion.

The plan seeks a progressive reduction in the amount of waste destined for disposal from the current estimate of 4.1 pounds per person per day to the ultimate goal of 0.6 pounds per person per day by 2030. That goal can be achieved through aggressive actions to reduce waste and increase reuse, recycling and composting.

The recommendations detailed in the plan include: (1) a new broad policy with a focus on waste prevention; (2) education and incentives for consumers and businesses to help them reduce their generation of waste and recycle what cannot be reduced; (3) policies and programs to improve waste prevention, reuse and recycling and to increase the recycling of organic materials, especially food waste; and (4 )a stronger emphasis on product and packaging stewardship, to extend responsibility for end-of-life management to manufacturers and, thereby, encourage them to use more recyclable and less toxic materials.

By shifting some responsibility to the manufacturers, the plan also will aid local communities that currently shoulder the entire burden for materials management.

About December 2010

This page contains all entries posted to Envirosphere in December 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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