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One Word Change and Last-Minute Lawyering Saved Historic Climate Deal

The historic climate change deal by 196 governments to cut greenhouse gas emissions almost wasn't because of one misplaced word, Politico's Andrew Restuccia reports.

On Saturday, lawyers for President Barack Obama's administration found that the text of the agreement had been changed from saying that wealthier countries "should" set economy-wide targets for cutting greenhouse gases to "shall" set such targets. As Restuccia notes, "in the lingo of U.N. climate agreements, 'shall' implies legal obligation and 'should' does not." If the draft stayed with the "shall" obligaton, the accord would have had to go to the Republican-controlled Senate for approval--and probable, inevitable defeat. The concern was that reopening the text would swamp the entire effort, Restuccia reports, but the French hosts of the climate-change summit agreed to change the wording amid a package of technical revisions.

Climate Change Agreement Is Public Health Issue

Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, opines in the Huffington Post today that achieving an international agreement to halt climate change is a public health issue: "Climate change degrades air quality, reduces food security and compromises water supplies and sanitation. WHO estimates that, each year, more than 7 million deaths worldwide can be attributed to air pollution. Climate change is also causing tens of thousands of yearly deaths from other causes."

Currently, climate change negotiators are in Paris to try to achieve an accord that would limit emissions and thus curb global temperatures from rising no more than another two degrees Celsius.

Legal Structure of Global Climate Deal Needs to Be Formed

Climate negotiators are working to finalize the technical aspects of a climate change deal, and they must form the legal structure of the deal as part of that, Responding to Climate Change's Megan Darby reports: "The ultimate goal is a deal this December setting out how countries will cooperate to decarbonise their economies, prepare for the impacts of climate change and support the developing world in both endeavours." Interim talks are being held in Bonn this week.

UN Secretary-General: Improvement of Health Needed for Indigenous Peoples

Yesterday was the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, which was focused on the health of indigenous peoples, their access to health services and gaps in social services.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted in 2007, "'affirms the right to maintain indigenous health practices as well as to have access to all social and health services for the enjoyment of the highest standards of physical and mental health,"' Merh News Agency reports.

Inter Press Service's Aruna Dutt reports that climate change could have a disproportionate impact on the health of indigenous peoples because of their "'dependence upon and close relationship with the environment and its resources.'"

Environmental Groups Seek to Contain Fallout From Supreme Court's Mercury Ruling

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down the Environmental Protection Agency's power plant regulations, environmental groups say that the decision was narrow and temporary, The Washington Post's Steven Overly report.

The court ruled that the EPA should have considered the financial burden on power plant operators when crafting the regulations of emissions of mercury by power plants. The case has been remanded to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for further litigation. Overly notes that the D.C. Circuit could put the regulations on pause while the EPA conducts the analysis of the regulatory costs, but advocates note the regulation was not thrown out entirely.

Overly also notes that many power plants have already installed equipment to curb their emissions of mercury.


UN:$6 Billion Investment in Disaster Relief Would Save $360 Billion

Natural disasters are costing $250 billion to $300 billion annually, the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction said in a report released last week. According to the Associated Press' Edith M. Lederer, the report estimates that, if a $6 billion investment is made every year, the cost from disasters would be reduced by $360 billion over the next 15 years. Andrew Maskrey, lead author of the 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, said climate change will make the costs of disasters increase even more.

Fate of Obama's Signature Initiatives Rests with Federal Judges

The future of three of President Barack Obama's signature policies rest in the hands of federal judges: health care, immigration and climate change, the Washington Post's David Nakamura and Juliet Eilperin report. "'We’re getting used to getting sued,'” John Podesta, White House counselor, said last week.

U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen ruled Monday that the administration's deferred-deportation program should not move forward while a lawsuit brought by 26 states is pending; the judge found that the executive action on immigration doesn't comply with the rulemaking process of the Administrative Procedure Act.

On March 4, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case in which the plaintiffs argue that Obamacare does not authorize subsidies to low-income people buying healthcare insurance policies on the federally run insurance exchange. And in April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear cases challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s right to use the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants.

Nebraska Supreme Court Ships Keystone XL Decision to President Obama

The controversy of the Keystone XL oil pipeline project is now in the hands of President Barack Obama after a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling on Friday, which threw out a legal challenge to the pipeline, the Associated Press' Josh Lederman reports. The Congressional Republicans also have kicked the project over to the president with the House having passed and the Senate close to passing legislation to authorize construction of the pipeline that would carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. However, Lederman reports "Obama has said he will only allow the pipeline if it won't lead to increased carbon dioxide emissions. He also is skeptical of claims by supporters that the pipeline will create jobs or lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil."

Landmark Event On Indigenous Rights Overshadowed

The landmark World Conference of Indigenous Peoples has been far from the limelight "during a frantic week in New York when world leaders gathered to discuss climate change and the security situation in Syria and Iraq," Radio Australia reports. Kalama Oka Aina Niheu, who is from Hawaii, told Radio Australia that the conference did not provide an avenue for indigenous peoples to voice their concerns about climate change and demilitarization because those issues were kept off that UN conference's agenda. The North American Indian Peoples caucus withdrew its support from the conference, she reports. As a result, she expressed a concern that the conference would be turned into an international version of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs and "people who are going to be supported and uplifted in this process are going to be people who support extractive industries and who support mechanisms that actually disempower indigenous peoples," she said in the interview.

EPA 'Getting Almost Everything It Wanted' in Supreme Court's Climate Change Ruling

According to a report by New York Times' Adam Liptak, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said from the bench yesterday that the Environmental Protection Agency is "'getting almost everything it wanted'" when the court ruled in favor of the agency's regulation of greenhouse gases. The agency said its regulation of emissions from motor vehicle tailpipes also requires the regulation of emissions from stationary sources like power plants.


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