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Paris Negotiators Expected to Reach First Global Climate Pact

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COP21_02

Momentum for a deal is strong.

Bill McKibben 350.org Paris COP 21 climate change negotiations

Photo © J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue
Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org. ““Paris is the scoreboard more than the game,” he says. “The results will reflect how much movement pressure we’ve built since Copenhagen.” Click image to enlarge.

By Keith Schneider
Circle of Blue

French authorities issued an alert on November 18 about the upcoming COP 21 Paris global climate summit that needed almost no explanation. Two big public demonstrations planned for November 29 and December 12 would not take place, French officials declared, because of the risk they would be terrorist targets.

The Paris Climate Conference, which opens on November 30 and closes December 11, is the 21st United Nations-sponsored annual global gathering meant to “stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.” The conference is expected to attract close to 50,000 participants including 25,000 official delegates from government, intergovernmental organizations, UN agencies, and civil society. Some 140 heads of state, among them President Obama, are expected to attend. UN organizers say that the Paris conference will “for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.”

In a way the Paris terrorist attack, coming so close to the start of the summit, resembles the unexpected online hacking attack that disrupted the start of COP 15 in Copenhagen. Then, as now, there was great hope that negotiators from nearly 200 nations would reach agreement on an international accord to limit climate emissions and slow the planet’s dangerous warming.

Copenhagen COP 15 march demonstration Paris COP 21 climate change negotiations

Photo © J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue
A large march and demonstration was held in Copenhagen in 2009 at COP 15. French authorities cancelled two marches scheduled for the COP 21 climate conference in Paris. Click image to enlarge.

Different Feel From Copenhagen

Just days before the Copenhagen climate summit started in 2009, though, hackers broke into an email cache at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England, a top climate research group. The hackers uploaded the stolen emails, which included candid private conversation between scientists, to several sites. Opponents of climate action, and broadcast newsrooms, pounced on the emails and indecorously parsed them for evidence of scientific uncertainty about the authenticity of the planet’s warming, doubts that the emails never discussed.

In 2009, the global climate movement was in its infancy. The evidence of the droughts, floods, storms, wildfires, and plagues linked to the warming climate were not quite as recognizable. The hack job achieved its objective by producing an internationally televised scientific smear that rattled attendees and was a factor in the conference’s disappointing result.

What is so different in 2015 is the determination that world leaders and citizens are displaying in Paris. They are defying the blood and carnage to convene a global climate summit that achieves a breakthrough.

Copenhagen Paris climate change negotiations United Nations COP 21

Photo © J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue
The Copenhagen climate summit in 2009 achieved little despite high expectations. Click image to enlarge.

In part that is due to the French republic’s resolve to defend its way of life.

In part that is due to citizen activism and the world’s understanding that climate change is an inescapable global threat to life. International organizations are leading a global citizens campaign for climate action. Little more than a year ago, in September 2014, 400,000 people participated in the Peoples Climate March in New York to call for climate action. Two months later, as nations finally accept the responsibility to secure the planet’s safety, the United States and China reached an agreement to limit carbon emissions, a pact between the two largest sources of carbon that is the diplomatic breakthrough that could lead to a climate accord in Paris.

Global Pressure is Keen

News media attention to the links between climate change and disruption to global hydrological cycles is becoming keener. On November 18, the same day that French authorities closed down public demonstrations at the Paris conference, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted a three-day meeting in New York on the links between water management and disaster risk reduction. Ki-moon stressed that floods, droughts and cyclones have caused more than $US 1 trillion in damages and affected over 4 billion people since 1990.

fossil fuels fracking oil Weld County Colorado Paris climate change negotiations United Nations COP 21

Photo © J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue
The global fossil fuel industry’s grip on financial sectors and governments is weakening as prices drop and alternatives to fossil fuel become economically competitive. Here, an unconventional fracked oilfield in Weld County, Colorado. Click image to enlarge.

“The poor and most vulnerable have suffered first and worst,” he told the UN High-Level Water and Sanitation Days 2015 conference. “Issues of water and disaster resilience are so intimately related that it is impossible to think of one without the other. Yet too often we do, by thinking in silos and responding in fragmented ways. It is time to close these conceptual and operational gaps.”

A fourth factor that could lead to an international climate agreement in Paris is the diminished economic and political power of the global fossil fuel industry. In what may be the start of a slow-footed dance to extinction, producers of coal, natural gas, and oil are under assault from governments and from markets. Prices are low. Coal companies are going bankrupt. Oil companies are retreating from planned developments and 200,000 workers in the United States have been laid off. ExxonMobil is under investigation for securities fraud associated with its program to hide its own science on the hazards of carbon and finance groups and lawmakers who assert that climate change is a hoax. Investors have withdrawn $US 2.6 trillion dollars from fossil fuel company treasuries in a global disinvestment campaign that is growing more influential by the month.

China carbon emissions coal mine Xilinhot Inner Mongolia Paris climate change negotiations United Nations COP 21

Photo © J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue
China is making a pivot to clean up emissions from its carbon-based fuel sources like this coal mine near Xilinhot, Inner Mongolia. Click image to enlarge.

The ecological and economic momentum pushing negotiators to agree to reduce carbon emissions appears so powerful, say participants, that even the assault on safety and reason wrought by the Paris terrorist attacks is now part of the growing endowment of reasons to act. It is now widely recognized that among the 2011 ignition points of the civil war in Syria, which provided ISIS with access to territory it could invade and defend, was a four-year drought that wrecked agriculture and forced over one million rural residents into Syria’s unstable cities.

Predicting an outcome of the Paris Climate Conference is like guessing the winner of the American Superbowl. If a deal is struck, its provisions will not go into effect until 2020. And if an agreement is reached, say climate activists, it will be surprising if it is sufficiently aggressive to hold global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius, the level that scientists say is needed to prevent environmental and economic ruin.

Drought food California Central Valley irrigation groundwater farms Paris climate change negotiations United Nations COP 21

Photo © J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue
Deep droughts are causing havoc in global food baskets like California’s Central Valley. Here, sprinklers drain groundwater to irrigate huge farm fields. Click image to enlarge.

“I’m predicting a deal that will get us started,” said Durwood Zaelke, a lawyer and founder of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development in Washington, D.C. “It will be far from enough to do 2 degrees.”

Bill McKibben, the environmental journalist and co-founder of 350.org, the group that helped lead the campaign to halt the Keystone XL pipeline, added in an email message: “Paris is the scoreboard more than the game. The results will reflect how much movement pressure we’ve built since Copenhagen, when there was no movement. And the scoreboard will tell us, come December 12, how much work we still have to do to have a fighting chance at a habitable planet. I imagine it will still be considerable.”

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - November 30, 2015 at 6:00 am

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How to Speak Like a Climate Negotiator

Since global climate negotiations began in the 1990s, United Nations delegates have accumulated an idiosyncratic cache of climate diplomacy gobbledygook. Euphemisms have been adopted to mollify specific nations. Acronyms are based on tongue-twisting verbiage from formal agreements.

Here’s Climate Central’s guide to digesting the mumbo jumbo that’s being served up ahead of a key two-week round of climate talks in Paris, beginning today.
 

What it means:
At the end of every year, a session of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change is held, during which decisions that were mulled during lower-level meetings are negotiated and formalized into climate agreements. These sessions are known as conferences of the parties (COPs), and the Paris meeting will be the 21st COP.

What it means:
Unlike the Kyoto Protocol — a 1997 climate pact that sought to force specific pollution reductions on certain countries, but failed to do virtually anything to slow global warming — the hoped-for Paris agreement would see nations taking voluntary steps to stem greenhouse gas pollution. More than 100 countries have already outlined what those steps will be. The climate pledges made by those countries are called intended nationally determined contributions, or INDCs.

What it means:
Carbon cap-and-trade programs, which are popping up across the globe, limit the release of greenhouse gases and tax companies that release them. Some carbon markets already traverse national borders — the European Union trading system covers 31 countries, and California’s program is linked with Quebec’s. Many countries hope a Paris agreement will explicitly allow such international trading as a tool for reducing pollution. The codewords that negotiators have adopted for carbon trading were designed to appease anti-capitalist Latin American governments, which are wary of international markets in general.

What it means:
Land use, land-use change and forestry,” which is often abbreviated to just “land use,” is responsible for about a quarter of the climate-changing pollution that’s escaping into the atmosphere every year. It remains unclear what role LULUCF will play in a Paris agreement, but it seems certain that it will play a role of some sort.

What it means:
Island states, African nations and other vulnerable countries are pushing for a system that provides funding to help them recover from disasters made worse by climate change, such as rising seas or powerful storms. Developed countries that have done the most to cause global warming fear being asked to shell out limitless compensation for bad weather. To try to assuage the rich countries, the word “compensation” has been abandoned in favor of less-frightening words.

What it means:
This anachronistic term dates back to the Kyoto Protocol, which annexed the richest countries into a single group. Each Annex I country was supposed to achieve specific reductions in greenhouse gas pollution. Economic circumstances have changed since then. Greece is an Annex I country, for example, but its per-capita GDP is less than half that of Singapore, which is a Non-Annex I country. Further, the voluntary nature of the hoped-for Paris agreement means it makes less sense now to lump countries into binary categories based on wealth. Still, “Annex I” references remain littered throughout the text of the draft Paris agreement, because some countries, such as India, have clung to bureaucratic interpretations of equity that others regard as rigid and outdated.

What it means:
The Group of 77 was formed in the 1960s, when it comprised 77 developing countries. It is now a negotiating bloc at U.N. climate talks representing more than 130 nations. It negotiates in partnership with China, even though the Chinese economy is well developed. LDC is a negotiating bloc comprising about 50 of the planet’s least developed countries, such as Burkina Faso, Vanuatu and Myanmar.

What it means:
Small Island Developing States and the Alliance of Small Island States are negotiating groups comprising the nations that are most vulnerable to rising seas. These nations also tend to be poor, making the task of adapting to sea-level rise even more challenging for them — and potentially existential. These countries include Cuba, Haiti and Belize.

 

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Transatlantic Airlines Show Big Fuel-Efficiency Gaps

By David Morgan, Reuters

The biggest transatlantic airlines are up to 51 percent less fuel-efficient than their smaller lower-cost rivals, which offer fewer first-class seats and maintain newer fleets of aircraft, according to a new report.

A plane coming into Murcia San Javier airport in Spain.
Credit: xlibber

A 43-page study by the International Council on Clean Transportation found that Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, German-based Air Berlin and Ireland’s national flag carrier Aer Lingus had the smallest carbon footprints among 20 transatlantic carriers in 2014.

British Airways, Scandinavian airline SAS and Deutsche Lufthansa AG had the worst CO2 performance, as measured by passenger mile per quart of fuel.

The report by ICCT, the same independent group that uncovered the Volkswagen AG diesel emissions scandal, comes two weeks before world leaders are scheduled to meet in Paris to try to nail down binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

Commercial aviation each year transports more than three billion passengers and 52 million tons of freight, while generating more than $600 billion of economic activity. But aircraft also produce about 770 million tons of CO2 annually.

The ICCT’s study of nonstop transatlantic flights between Europe and North America found that the average round trip produces 1.1 ton of CO2 emissions per passenger, equal to the emissions of a Toyota Prius driven on a 22-mile commute each day for an entire work year.

Researchers were surprised by the 51 percent gap between top-rated Norwegian Air Shuttle and last-place British Airways, which is more than double that among U.S. airlines. They said the difference meant great potential for emissions reduction as the International Civil Aviation Organization works to finalize a fuel-efficiency standard for new aircraft in 2016.

Seating configuration and fuel burn were the most important factors by far, accounting for about 80 percent of the variation in fuel efficiency. First-class and business seats accounted for 14 percent of available seat miles but one-third of overall emissions.

Carriers with the worst fuel-efficiency performance also tended to maintain older fleets that included twin-aisle Boeing 747 aircraft. Low fuel prices may be providing airlines with an incentive to keep older aircraft in service to lower capital costs, researchers said.

“The fact that market forces and fuel efficiency aren’t well-aligned on these routes highlights the need for policies to reduce emissions,” said co-author Daniel Rutherford.

Editing by Bernadette Baum


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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - November 29, 2015 at 6:57 am

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The Stream, November 27: India Agriculture Needs to Conserve Water, Officials Say

The  Global Rundown

The Global Rundown

Two consecutive dry seasons are taking a toll on groundwater in India’s agricultural regions, while communities in northern India are asking the government to stop a Coca-Cola plant’s groundwater use. During a visit to Nairobi, Pope Francis called on cities to include all people in their provision of essential services like water. Most people in Tanzania do not have access to clean water sources, a survey found. South Africa may declare another province as a disaster area due to drought, while dry conditions in Southeast Asia are curbing rice production. Water scarcity in places like Chile could contribute to a global copper deficit. Arsenic was found in Brazil’s Rio Doce in the wake of a tailings disaster at an iron ore mine.

“To deny a family water, under any bureaucratic pretext whatsoever, is a great injustice, especially when one profits from this need.”–Pope Francis, during a visit to slums near Nairobi, Kenya. The Pope called for greater efforts to provide essential services to all people, especially where rapid urbanization is taking place. (Associated Press)

By the Numbers

By The Numbers

18 village councils Number in India’s Varanasi district that are calling on government authorities to prohibit a Coca-Cola bottling plant from extracting groundwater. Reuters

50 percent Potential decline in yields for some farmers in South Africa’s Western Cape province, which has requested a disaster determination from the national government due to a severe drought. Bloomberg

19 years Time since Thailand’s rice production has been as low as it is expected to be this year. Dry conditions in major rice-producing countries are creating higher demand for imports. Bloomberg

Science

Science, Studies, And Reports

Sixty-four percent of people in Tanzania get their water from unsafe sources, including surface water and wells, according to a survey released by Twaweza, a think tank based in Dar es Salaam. In addition, the survey found that 65 percent of respondents see clean water access as a major challenge for their communities. Reuters

Arsenic was found at levels above legal limits in Brazil’s Rio Doce after a tailings dam failure at an iron ore mine in Minas Gerais. The co-owner of the mine, Vale, confirmed the findings but said the toxic materials were not stored in the tailings dam. Reuters

On the Radar

On The Radar

Water conservation on India’s farms must improve in response to the second consecutive year of drought and declining groundwater reserves, government officials say. Water-intensive crops like rice, sugarcane, and wheat, however, remain popular despite calls to grow less thirsty crops. Reuters

Water scarcity remains a major concern for the global copper industry, which largely operates in arid regions like Chile. Tensions with local communities over water supplies and drought-induced shortages could contribute to a copper supply deficit by the end of the decade, according to some analysts. The Wall Street Journal

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - November 28, 2015 at 6:04 am

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What YieldCo Managers Are Saying About the Market Meltdown

In the last six months, YieldCos have fallen from stock market darlings to pariahs. 

YieldCos are companies that buy clean energy projects such as solar and wind farms, and use the majority of free cash flow from these projects to pay dividends to investors. Many are listed subsidiaries or carve-outs of large developers of clean energy projects.

Last year, investors repeatedly punished leading solar developers and manufacturer First Solar and SunPower for their reluctance to launch YieldCos. When they finally relented and formed a joint YieldCo (later called 8point3 Energy Partners), both were instantly rewarded. Their stock prices each rose 20 percent over the course of two weeks.

Now, the situation is reversed, with many YieldCos trading at half their peak prices. The Global X YieldCo ETF (YLCO) is trading around $10, down one-third from its $15 launch near the peak of the YieldCo mania in May.

Is the YieldCo model broken?

Many market observers are questioning if the YieldCo model is broken.

The YieldCo model has no official definition, but its detractors typically point to the rapid dividend growth targeted by many of the ones based in the United States when making their point. This dividend growth was achieved (as I explained at the time) by public offerings of stock at successively higher prices, which produced more capital per share to invest. More capital per share allowed dividend growth and higher share prices.

Each link in this virtuous cycle depended crucially on the last, and when share prices broke down, the ability to raise cheap capital did too. 

What managers are saying

If the YieldCo model is broken, it is only this aspect of the model that’s a problem. How YieldCo managers are confronting the new environment depends on how much they intended to rely on stock market capital before the crisis.

Below is what a selection of YieldCo managers said in their recent third-quarter conference calls. How bullish they are depended directly on how much they were relying on stock market capital for their growth plans, but all emphasized how they remain sustainable businesses even without growth.

Independent YieldCos, which often have other ways to access capital and less pressure to buy projects from their sponsors, were also generally more sanguine about the market turmoil.

Subsidiaries of clean energy developers

NextEra Energy Partners: “The YieldCo model can work and work well”

NextEra Energy is widely seen to be the strongest of YieldCo sponsors, and many investors appreciate this strength. Although NextEra Energy Partners shares have fallen significantly, Jim Robo, chairman and CEO of NEP, said, “The YieldCo model can work and work well for our partnership like NEP that has the right structure and the support of a world-class sponsor.” 

He thinks “the capital markets’ re-evaluation of the YieldCo space can play to our competitive advantage.”

But even NEP is cautious about raising new capital in the current market conditions. “We continue to evaluate the optimal capital structure for NEP. As it has some additional debt capacity that can help finance future transactions.” The YieldCo “plan[s] to issue a modest amount of NEP public equity” in 2016, but will both buy and sell NEP units based on market conditions.

Abengoa Yield: Working to “become a completely independent company”

Abengoa SA (ABGB) is in significant financial difficulty, so its YieldCo is taking steps to protect itself from any possible fallout. CEO Javier Garoz spoke about Abengoa Yield’s plans in a conference call in early November.

“ABY has all necessary [elements] in place to achieve the run rate in 2016; concentrating on the execution and delivery of the expected cash flows…must be our top priority.” He continued,  “We want to reinforce our autonomy from Abengoa to become a completely independent company. We will incorporate the necessary resources at the corporate and staff functions to avoid the current dependency.”

In addition to building its own management team, ABY is actively searching “for another sponsor, in addition to Abengoa.” Garoz reaffirmed 2016 dividend guidance of $2.10-$2.15 per share, emphasizing that it does not “depend on any additional acquisition.”

Like many other YieldCo managers, Garoz thinks his company’s assets are undervalued by the market. “[E]ven considering an hypothetical worst case scenario, where ABY have no access to growth for some time, our current portfolio of assets have a very significant value not recognized by the market at this point.”

TransAlta Corporation will continue to pursue drop-downs to YieldCo

Unlike most YieldCos listed on U.S. exchanges, TransAlta Renewables (Toronto:RNW) never promised double-digit dividend growth rates. Because of this, its share price has suffered much less than those of its U.S.-listed rivals. 

In a conference call on October 30, TransAlta Corporation (TAC) CEO Dawn Farrell emphasized that little had changed for the YieldCo. She stated that TAC will continue to “pursue asset drop-downs to TransAlta Renewables.”

She also felt it important to emphasize the YieldCo’s value proposition, stating that management believes “TransAlta Renewables is a solid investment for shareholders who want stable and secure dividends with moderate growth.”

8point3 Energy Partners: Sponsors committed to drop-downs

In a call on October 29, First Solar (FSLR) CEO James Alton Hughes said that plans for 8point3 Energy Partners were on track. “oth sponsors at this point in time are committed to the drop-downs that we would envision in the first half of 2016. We’ve also indicated that we do not have a need to raise capital at this point in time. We’ve left enough capacity in 8point3 to manage those anticipated drop-downs.”

SunPower’s CEO Tom Werner agreed, saying, “We think 8point3 can successfully buy projects without issuing equity for a period of time.”

The TerraForms: TERP and GLBL “maintaining liquidity” and “sufficient capital”

SunEdison’s (SUNE) twin YieldCos have been suffering more than any of the others, because investors had previously looked at the YieldCos as the cure for SunEdison’s over-leveraged balance sheet. With TERP’s and GLBL’s stocks in the tank, it looks less likely that the TerraForm twins will be able to access the market in order to buy more solar farms from SunEdison in exchange for much-needed cash.

Both YieldCos have been trying to soothe investors’ worries with comforting talk about sufficient resources to fund existing commitments. 

Recently replaced CEO Carlos Domenech stated that TERP has $1.5 billion in cash and an undrawn credit facility. The CFO, Alex Hernandez, pointed to a recent U.K. project financing which he said “demonstrates the company’s access to financing markets at an attractive cost of capital and ability to continue funding the growth of our business.”

He said TERP “remain[s] focused on further strengthening the company’s liquidity position and maintaining the quality of our balance sheet.”

Regarding TerraForm Global, Domenech said the company has sufficient capital to fund pending transactions, bringing the portfolio to 1.3 gigawatts. At the time, it had $1.1 billion in unrestricted cash and a $500 million credit facility.

On Monday, Domenech was replaced as CEO of both TerraForm YieldCos by SunEdison CFO Brian Wuebbels. And on Tuesday, SunEdison reversed its prior stance of not selling additional assets to the TerraForms, selling 425 megawatts of Indian solar to GLBL for $231 million. In order to buy these projects, the YieldCo canceled plans to buy other projects from third parties.

Was the deal forced, or were the Indian solar farms simply too good a deal to pass up? The timing, right after the replacement of Domenech, looks suspicious. On the other hand, $0.51 per watt for a solar farm, even in India, seems likely to be well below SunEdison’s cost to build, and a fraction of the price solar farms have recently sold for in the United States. 

In a transaction agreed on in June, NRG Yield bought 137.5 megawatts of the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm from GE Energy Financial Services for cash and the assumption of debt amounting to $4.16 per watt.

Independent YieldCos

Pattern Energy: Volatility in YieldCo sector “very healthy”

In a conference call on November 5, Pattern CEO Michael Garland said, “We believe [the recent volatility] is very healthy for Pattern and the sector, as it allows us to highlight the strength of our corporate strategy, the robustness of our cash flows and soundness of our growth strategy.”

He went on to discuss Pattern’s ability to manage without returning to the capital markets. He stated, “[C]ash available for distributions is stable and sustainable…over the next 25 years. These assets don’t require any additional equity capital.”

Pattern increased its dividend for the third quarter, but declined to give a dividend growth target for 2016, stating that growth would depend on market conditions. Garland emphasized the advantage of Pattern’s private development arm, Pattern Development, which is not subject to stock market whims. If Pattern’s stock price does not recover, Pattern Development will hold operational assets longer, rather than dropping them down to a YieldCo, which cannot finance them at attractive rates.

Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure: YieldCo pullback is an opportunity

Hannon Armstrong does not have a development arm, but its expertise in energy efficiency finance gives it access to high-quality energy-efficiency projects beyond the scope of other YieldCos. It also invests in many of the same projects as other YieldCos, but generally as a more senior creditor.

In a conference call on November 4, CEO Jeffrey Eckel stated that there has been a “pullback of buyers of projects from the YieldCo issues. … [T]he required rate of return for investors in the equity has gone up. … [T]hat gives a little air cover for the senior slices of capital to go up as well.”

Hannon Armstrong reaffirmed its 14 percent to 16 percent annual per-share earnings growth target for 2015 and 2016.

Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners: “We’re very different”

In a call on November 3, Brookfield CEO Sachin Shah emphasized that Brookfield does not have most of the characteristics that are leading investors to question the YieldCo model.

“We’re very different. We have internal operating capabilities. We have our own development. We don’t rely on a drop-down from parent. We fund our growth largely through our own existing cash flow,” said Shah.

He added, “I think the opportunity set will actually get better if we see a weaker capital market, and we’re one of the few organizations that is really well positioned to benefit from that. We saw YieldCos drive the cost of assets to levels that were really difficult for us to compete with, and this was largely off the back of them trading at a very, very low cost of capital and, really, the market believing that their growth into perpetuity could sustain itself.”

Looking ahead

While most YieldCos are responding to low stock market prices by shelving plans for new share issuance and new acquisitions, the model of connecting low-cost stock market capital with capital-intensive clean energy projects is far from dead.

Even the growth of YieldCo dividends is not dead. Many YieldCos have considerable cash on hand, borrowing capacity, or (a few) retained cash flows. These companies are likely to take advantage of the new environment to scoop up a few choice assets on the cheap.

Investors would likely do well to do likewise and scoop up YieldCo shares on the cheap. 

Listen to our conversation with Tom Konrad about the YieldCo bubble:

***

Tom Konrad is a portfolio manager and freelance writer with a focus on clean energy income investments. He manages the Green Global Equity Income Portfolio and is editor of AltEnergyStocks.com.  

DISCLOSURE: Tom Konrad, his clients, and the Green Global Equity Income Portfolio own shares of NEP, ABY, TSX:RNW, CAFD, TERP, GLBL, PEGI, HASI, and BEP.


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Global Investments in Climate Change on the Rise

By Megan Rowling, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Global investment in activities to reduce planet-warming emissions and vulnerability to climate change grew 18 percent to $391 billion in 2014, as private backing for renewable energy technologies surged, researchers said.

More money than ever before was channeled into action to curb climate change and its impacts, after funding leveled off in 2012 and declined in 2013, according to an annual report from the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI), an advisory group.

Workers walk among newly installed solar panels at a solar power plant in the Zhouquan township of Tongxiang, Zhejiang province. 
Credit: Reuters

“Two weeks out from the international climate negotiations in Paris, our analysis demonstrates that countries around the world are investing to drive their own economic growth and development,” Barbara Buchner, senior director of the CPI and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

Around three quarters of total investment and over 90 percent of private finance was raised and spent in the same country, the report noted.

Worldwide, private investors poured $243 billion into renewable energy last year, up 26 percent from 2013, leading to record installation of solar photovoltaics and onshore wind power, with especially strong growth in China, the report said.

Some renewable energy technologies are edging closer to becoming fully cost-competitive with fossil fuels, it added.

Government investment, meanwhile, reached at least $148 billion in 2014, continuing its steady rise over the past three years.

Yet, despite the 2014 increase in funding for cleaner, more resilient economies, the CPI said even greater effort and a wider geographic spread for investment are needed to keep global warming to an internationally agreed target of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit).

The report noted that around $16.5 trillion is required between 2015 and 2030 to shift the global energy system in line with the 2 degree goal.

More will be needed to curb emissions from deforestation and help societies and economies adapt to more extreme weather and rising seas, it added.

“(Climate spending) is going in the right direction but more needs to happen, and clearly on the adaptation side as well,” Buchner told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Adaptation Funding Flat

Funding for climate change adaptation – which includes protecting infrastructure from damage, switching to hardier crops and improving weather information services – stayed flat in 2014, at $25 billion or 17 percent of all public climate finance, the report showed.

But Buchner said the data was incomplete because it did not include adaptation investment by the private sector, where more transparency is needed.

The numbers will be scrutinised by officials in the run-up to the Paris climate summit, beginning on Nov. 30, where some 195 countries are due to stitch together a new deal to curb global warming.

Climate finance is a sticky topic for negotiators, with developing countries seeking firmer reassurance that rich nations will make good on a promise to mobilise $100 billion a year to combat climate change in vulnerable states by 2020.

They also want to see $100 billion fixed as a floor for increased funding from 2020, and some are also looking for a separate commitment on government money for adaptation.

A study issued in October by the CPI and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development showed donors are almost two-thirds of the way to the $100 billion goal, having spurred $62 billion in public and private climate finance in 2014.

But just 16 percent of the $114 billion in funding for developing nations over 2013 and 2014 was allocated purely for adaptation measures, with 7 percent more going to projects that support both adaptation and mitigation efforts to cut emissions.

Reporting by Megan Rowling; editing by Laurie Goering


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The Stream, November 26: 2015 Will Be Hottest Year On Record

The  Global Rundown

The Global Rundown

This year will almost certainly be the hottest on record, the World Meteorological Organization announced, and global carbon emissions slowed last year, increasing 0.5 percent. Alaska and British Columbia signed an agreement to improve water quality monitoring in transboundary waters, focusing on mine development in the wake of the Mount Polley mine disaster. The United Nations released a statement saying the mud released during Brazil’s recent mine disaster was toxic. A drought in Somaliland has threatened the food security and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people, while vandals in drought-hit California released millions of liters of water from a storage dam.

“There were significant, record heatwaves in many parts of the world [in 2015]. Can we attribute these extreme weather events to climate change? When it comes to temperature, the answer is increasingly yes for some of the big ones.”–Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, on the agency’s announcement that 2015 will be the hottest year on record. Global temperatures are now 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. (Guardian)

By the Numbers

By The Numbers

240,000 people Number who face food insecurity in Somaliland. A drought there has also decimated livestock herds. Guardian

189 million liters Amount of water released when an inflatable dam in California was damaged by vandals. The water was enough to supply 500 homes for a year, according to police. Reuters

Science

Science, Studies, And Reports

Global carbon emissions increased 0.5 percent in 2014, much slower than the 4 percent annual average over the past decade, according to figures published by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. Emissions declined in Europe, but grew dramatically in India. Guardian

The mud spilled from two tailings dam failures at an iron ore mine in Brazil “contained high levels of toxic heavy metals and other toxic chemicals,” according to a statement released by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The mine operator said the material does not pose risks to human health. Reuters

On the Radar

On The Radar

More than a year after a tailings spill at the Mount Polley mine in British Columbia, the Canadian province signed a memorandum of understanding with Alaska to jointly monitor water quality in transboundary waters. The agreement also proposes more coordination between the two governments on environmental assessments and permits for new mines. Reuters

The post The Stream, November 26: 2015 Will Be Hottest Year On Record appeared first on Circle of Blue WaterNews.

source: http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2015/the-stream/the-stream-november-26-2015-will-be-hottest-year-on-record/

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - November 27, 2015 at 6:01 am

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Paris Talks Could Improve Climate Pledges

Until recently, global climate negotiations resembled wards full of newborn babies. Everybody seemed awfully upset about something, but with little idea what to do about it.

Now the kids are growing. And they’ve been handing in their homework. What happens to that homework as countries’ climate policies mature could mean the difference between a humanity that’s afflicted by climate change, or one that’s devastated by it.

Wind energy produces nearly no greenhouse gas pollution.
Credit: NREL

The way that countries will move together to act on climate in the coming years may start to become clear during the next two weeks in Paris, which is hosting what could be the most important round of United Nations climate negotiations in history.

Following years of failed efforts to force specific climate pollution reductions on developed countries, most nations completed unprecedented climate assignments this year, which they submitted to the U.N. They drafted climate pledges, which are known as intended nationally determined contributions, or INDCs. These INDCs describe high-level, but mostly underwhelming, targets for reducing or easing the amount of climate pollution that’s being released.

“The INDCs have lots of flaws right now,” said David Victor, a University of California at San Diego international relations professor who researches climate diplomacy. “They are a start.”

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Next, governments aim to work together to build their climate pledges into a fragmented but cohesive global plan for slowing global warming and, to a lesser extent, for adapting to it.

That work begins Sunday with the start of this year’s major session of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. One of the key issues to be decided is how and when the INDCs will be reviewed. Some are proposing reviews of INDCs every three to five years, making the pledges relatively dynamic, helping them keep pace with energy industry advances. Others favor a more measured approach — perhaps with once-in-a-decade reviews for some or all pledges.

“Review needs, ideally, to look not just at the big picture but the details — what’s working and not,” Victor said. “There are countries and firms willing to do things but not sure, right now, what works and how to link different policy efforts in different jurisdictions over time. So they are trying stuff and learning.”

America’s six-page INDC promises a 26 percent reduction in annual climate pollution from 2005 to 2025, for example. The European Union has pledged to reduce its climate impacts 40 percent by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. China is pledging to halt its yearly growth in climate-changing emissions 15 years from now at latest. India’s pledge quotes Mahatma Gandhi, discusses “climate justice,” poverty and population growth, and describes how it will promote nuclear and renewable energy.

While the pledges and approaches differ substantially, a collective examination of them makes it clear they won’t be enough to avoid dangerous levels of warming.

Analysis has revealed that the targets in the pledges will set the world up for more warming than the climate negotiators’ goal of a 2°C, or 3.6°F, limit. Industrial activity has already warmed the Earth by 1°C, and island states and other countries most threatened by rising seas want a 1.5°C target adopted in Paris.

“If the current targets are locked in through 2030, then we have a major problem,” said Jake Schmidt, who monitors climate negotiations for the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council.

Countries were “conservative” in setting their targets, Schmidt said. “Technology development, implementation ability, and political will etc., will make it easier for them to do more before 2030 than they could envision at this moment.”

Most countries’ climate pledges cover a 10-year period after 2020. Those by the U.S. and Mexico, by contrast, cover 2020 to 2025.

U.S. climate negotiator Todd Stern, left, and his boss, Secretary of State John Kerry, at climate negotiations in Peru last year.
Credit: UNFCCC/flickr

“Our view was that a shorter target — a 5-year target, rather than 10 — would actually enhance ambition,” President Obama’s chief climate negotiator, Todd Stern, said during a U.S. State Department press briefing on Tuesday. “In 2020, we will be able to put forward a target for 2030 much stronger than we would be able to do if we were trying to kind of guess on what a 2030 target would look like now.”

The different approaches to INDC cycles are reflective of different ideas for how the pledges could be reviewed and updated in the years ahead. The proposed evaluation approach is being calling a “ratcheting mechanism,” because it could help ratchet up the ambitions that underpin the climate pledges.

In Paris, the U.S. will be pushing for all countries to adopt 5-year INDC and INDC review cycles. India, frustrated that it’s being called upon to curb its substantial overall climate pollution while its per-person impacts remain low, and wary of inquisitions from the West, wants to wait a decade or so before its INDC is subjected to an initial review. During the negotiations, the U.S. will be trying to allay those concerns, which it fears could stunt the development of a climate-friendly humanity.

“Nobody is thinking here of a punitive review — that wouldn’t fly,” Stern said. Instead, he said he supports the concept of “a strong facilitative review that looks at what a country has done and says, ‘That looks good, you’re on track,’ or, ‘That doesn’t look so good. How can you be helped to do better?”’

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Septic System Pollution Contributes to Disease Outbreaks

2015-10-14-15 Septic Tanks - JCGanter_G3_7296-1000px

More research and funding is needed to help understand the severity

California groundwater well Central Valley Stratford septic system pollution Circle of Blue Matt Black

Photo © Matt Black / Circle of Blue
Louis Coronado repairs his water well in Stratford, California. Domestic wells, because they are not regulated, are vulnerable to contamination. Septic system pollution is the primary cause of disease outbreaks in the United States from drinking untreated groundwater. Click image to enlarge.

By Brett Walton
Circle of Blue

Drip by drip, septic systems, both faulty units and those that pass inspection, are nurturing an undesirable gang of bacteria, parasites, viruses, nutrients, and other contaminants in groundwater, streams, and soil in the United States.

Septic pollution represents an under-the-radar threat to human health in a country in which public and regulatory attention is directed toward centralized wastewater treatment facilities, industrial complexes, and farms.

“People often think, ‘What did I eat?’ and do not think about the source of their drinking water.”

–Joan Brunkard
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Septic systems — typically an underground tank to trap toilet waste and perforated piping to let the liquid percolate into the soil — are used by nearly one in five American households and countless businesses, churches, and summer camps as a cheap, low-tech means of sewage disposal in areas not served by municipal sewers. They are most common in New England and the South.

Not all systems are a problem but an unknown number are putting human health and well-being at risk. The number is unknown because there few requirements to report the data that would help researchers understand the links between septic waste, failing septic systems, and disease, and fewer studies that trace illnesses back to the source of contamination.

“Septic systems are an under-recognized cause of disease outbreaks,” said Jonathan Yoder, who leads the domestic water, sanitation, and hygiene epidemiology team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lack of Data Leaves Officials and Researchers in the Dark

As it exits the tank and soaks into soil, septic waste can introduce pathogens and pollutants that lead to vomiting and diarrhea, such as norovirus or cryptosporidium. In some cases, the waste also increases the risk of diseases that result from long-term exposure at low concentrations, such as exposure to nitrates, which interfere with the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen and can cause brain damage in infants.

Contaminants are spread in different manners, depending on soil and geology. Soil microbes generally do a sufficient job of removing bacteria from the waste, but the soil’s treatment capacity diminishes as more septic units crowd a parcel of land. Studies in Georgia and Wisconsin have noted that fecal bacteria in streams and groundwater increases in areas with dense clusters of septic systems.

Basic septic systems are not designed to remove other pollutants. Nitrogen, converted in the soil to nitrate, passes through largely untouched. In Suffolk County, New York, where more than 1 million people are on septic systems, 10 percent of residential wells sampled between 1997 and 2013 exceeded the federal drinking water standard for nitrate. Pharmaceutical compounds are a new area of concern, especially for fish and other aquatic species. Septic tanks do not break down pharmaceuticals.

Michigan Traverse City septic system pollution Concrete Service Carl Ganter Circle of Blue

Photo © J.Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue
A stack of new septic tanks sits at Concrete Service, in Traverse City, Michigan. Click image to enlarge.

Families and businesses that use a private well for drinking water are most vulnerable to diseases spread by septic systems. More than 44 million people in the United States, roughly 14 percent of the population, use private wells, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Private well owners are generally not required to report water use, treat the water, or have it tested for contaminants. The lack of reporting requirements puts these families at greater risk than those using municipal water, which is tested dozens of times per day. It is also an obstacle for researchers who are trying to understand the scope and severity of disease outbreaks that could be linked to septic systems, according to Joan Brunkard of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There’s a huge burden of unreported disease with diarrhea, for example,” Brunkard told Circle of Blue. “A family may not put two and two together when there’s a sickness. People often think, ‘What did I eat?’ and do not think about the source of their drinking water.”

Yoder attributes the lack of data not only to the reliability of household reports but on inadequate government funding of state health agencies to investigate outbreaks.

“We ask ourselves daily how well we understand the root causes of outbreaks,” Yoder told Circle of Blue. “In some ways there are a lot of gaps. Every outbreak is investigated differently depending on state and local agency expertise. A real challenge is the decline in the budgets of state environmental health officials. That has an impact on their ability to do surveys to identify the source of an outbreak and on understanding its magnitude. It’s an ongoing challenge of resources, expertise, and guidance.”

The CDC produces a report every two years on disease outbreaks associated with drinking water. The report draws from case studies that have been logged in the CDC database. The authors note that, because of the data limitations that Yoder and Brunkard describe, the report does not reflect a true accounting of the number of outbreaks.

Families may not report a failing septic system for a host of reasons, according to a University of North Carolina study published in October in the American Journal of Public Health. Families fear that their home may be condemned if they notify authorities that their sewage is not properly treated or that they will be forced to make repairs they cannot afford. “There are a lot of [septic tanks] that are failing now that we don’t know about, and people just live with them,” one county health official told the researchers.

Circle of Blue contacted the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the organization that represents the country’s public health agencies, to ask about their capacity to link disease outbreaks to septic systems. Virgie Townsend, ASTHO spokesman, said the organization could not answer the question because septic system pollution “is not an issue [state agencies] have sought to address collectively, which are the issues that ASTHO addresses.”

More Studies Needed

Even the scientific community is lagging, according to Mark Borchardt, a U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist. Borchardt has published papers on microbial contamination of groundwater for more than a decade, and he was the lead author for one of the most rigorous investigations of a disease outbreak linked to septic system contamination. He sees a lot of interest in his previously published work, calling it a “hot topic,” but says funding for new research is scarce.

“Septic issues are a contributor in a majority of untreated groundwater disease outbreaks.”

–Jonathan Yoder
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“There is very little research on groundwater contamination by septic systems that I’m aware of, at least in the United States,” Borchardt told Circle of Blue. “There is research into the design of septic systems but there is big gap in research on the human health effects.”

Borchardt helped trace the path of a norovirus outbreak at a Wisconsin restaurant to its source. A pipe fitting on the septic tank cracked in 2007, just three weeks after the restaurant opened. Liquid from the tank leaked out, coursed through the limestone aquifer, and poisoned the restaurant’s well, located downslope from the septic tank, 188 meters away. Two hundred eleven patrons and 18 staff members fell ill with vomiting and diarrhea, and six people required hospital treatment.

Though a case of diarrhea may seem only a nuisance, an unexpected illness can generate a cascade of unwanted consequences. A sick child forces a parent to arrange last-minute care or miss work to act as nurse. An unplanned visit to the doctor, or worse a hospital trip, may strain the budget of a poor family.

Results from other disease assessments indicate that septic systems ought to be monitored and studied more carefully. In 2013, the CDC looked at nearly four decades of data on disease outbreaks linked to drinking untreated groundwater. The data was drawn from 248 outbreaks that were reported to the CDC between 1971 and 2008. Of the 172 cases in which a source of contamination was determined, 67 percent were linked to a septic tank or an improperly designed well. Unlike disease outbreaks from surface water sources, which are declining, outbreaks from untreated groundwater have remained constant.

“Septic issues are a contributor in a majority of untreated groundwater disease outbreaks,” Yoder summarized.

A 2014 study by researchers at the Public Health Agency of Canada supports the CDC’s findings that septic systems are a significant factor in contamination of drinking water wells.

The researchers analyzed data from 55 individual studies of groundwater that was contaminated by intestinal and fecal bacteria. The studies, conducted between 1990 and 2013 in Canada and the United States, showed that septic tanks were the most common cause of contamination.

Though epidemiologists and public health officials desire more data to better understand the frequency of illnesses originating from septic pollution, they say that most of the outbreaks could be prevented with greater vigilance and oversight. Local and state regulators should enforce restrictions on the number of units per acre and the distance from waterbodies and ensure that tanks are placed in the right soil conditions. Homeowners should regularly clean, maintain, and test their systems.

“The out-of-sight, out-of-mind thinking is a concern,” Brunkard said. “It’s so critical to test frequently.”

The post Septic System Pollution Contributes to Disease Outbreaks appeared first on Circle of Blue WaterNews.

source: http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2015/world/septic-system-pollution-contributes-to-disease-outbreaks/

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - November 26, 2015 at 6:02 am

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The Stream, November 25: $16 Billion Plan For Africa Climate Adaptation Proposed

The  Global Rundown

The Global Rundown

The World Bank announced a $US 16 billion plan to invest in climate adaptation projects in Africa, and a new report warned that current carbon reduction pledges are too weak and will be costly for developing countries. South Africa’s economy nearly went into recession this year as major industries declined and drought took a toll on agriculture. Traditional land owners in Australia asked the government to protect a national park and its water resources from mining and fracking, and communities in Colorado agreed to pursue a Superfund designation for the Gold King mine. Rapid development has strained groundwater in the United Arab Emirates, which is now focused on improving its desalination technology.

“In our region, water is more important than oil. We’re trying to find solutions to address that.”–Ahmad Belhoul, CEO of clean energy company Masdar, on efforts to make desalination plants in the United Arab Emirates cheaper and smaller. Development and low water prices in the country are depleting groundwater reserves. (Associated Press)

By the Numbers

By The Numbers

$16 billion Amount of the World Bank’s new Africa Climate Business Plan, which seeks to improve the continent’s resiliency to climate change. Reuters

12.6 percent Drop in South Africa’s farm output during the third quarter due to drought. The country’s economy as a whole just barely avoided a recession this year. Bloomberg

Science

Science, Studies, And Reports

The plans so far submitted by the world’s countries to cut carbon emissions would lead to a global temperature increase between 2.7 and 3 degrees Celsius. An increase of that magnitude would cost developing countries $US 270 billion more each year for adaptation measures than if temperatures only increased 2 degrees Celsius, according to a report released by Oxfam. Guardian

On the Radar

On The Radar

The traditional owners of Australia’s Watarrka national park have filed a petition with the federal government to protect the area from hydraulic fracturing and mining. The petition cites concerns about the potential negative effects of mining on the region’s water quantity and quality. Guardian

Communities near the site of Colorado’s Gold King mine voted to pursue a Superfund designation for the site and other abandoned mines. In August, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accidentally released millions of liters of wastewater from the mine into the Animas River. Associated Press

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source: http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2015/the-stream/the-stream-november-25-16-billion-plan-for-africa-climate-adaptation-proposed/

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