FarmPolicy

January 22, 2020

Climate Issues; Crop Insurance; and the Arkansas Senate Race

Categories: Climate Change

Climate Issues: Copenhagen Accord-Background, Lawmaker Perspectives

Andrew C. Revkin and John M. Broder reported in yesterday’s New York Times that, “With the swift bang of a gavel on Saturday morning, a prolonged fight between nations small and large over an international pact to limit climate risks that was forged the night before by the United States and four partners came to a somewhat murky end.

The chairman of the climate treaty talks declared that the parties would ‘take note’ of the document, named the Copenhagen Accord, leaving open the question of whether this effort to curb greenhouse gases from the world’s major emitters would gain the full support of the 193 countries bound by the original, and largely failed, 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

In more detail with respect to the Copenhagen Accord, the Times article stated that, “The plan does not firmly commit the industrialized nations or the developing nations to firm targets for midterm or long-term greenhouse gas emissions reductions. The accord is nonetheless significant in that it codifies the commitments of individual nations to act on their own to tackle global warming.

“The accord provides a system for monitoring and reporting progress toward those national pollution-reduction goals, a compromise on an issue over which China bargained hard. It calls for hundreds of billions of dollars to flow from wealthy nations to those countries most vulnerable to a changing climate. And it sets a goal of limiting the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2050, implying deep cuts in climate-altering emissions over the next four decades.

But it was an equivocal agreement that was, to many, a disappointing conclusion to a two-year process that had the goal of producing a comprehensive and enforceable action plan for addressing dangerous changes to the global climate. The messy compromise mirrored the chaotic nature of the conference, which virtually all participants said had been badly organized and run.

The accord sets no goal for concluding a binding international treaty, which leaves the implementation of its provisions uncertain. It is likely to undergo many months, perhaps years, of additional negotiations before it emerges in any internationally enforceable form.”

Reuters writers Dominic Evans and Alister Doyle reported yesterday that, “U.N. climate talks ended with a bare-minimum agreement on Saturday when delegates ‘noted’ an accord struck by the United States, China and other emerging powers that falls far short of the conference’s original goals.”

The Reuters writers explained that, “A long road lies ahead. The accord — weaker than a legally binding treaty and weaker even than the ‘political’ deal many had foreseen — left much to the imagination.

“It set a target of limiting global warming to a maximum 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times — seen as a threshold for dangerous changes such as more floods, droughts, mudslides, sandstorms and rising seas. But it failed to say how this would be achieved.

“It held out the prospect of $100 billion in annual aid from 2020 for developing nations but did not specify precisely where this money would come from. And it pushed decisions on core issues such as emissions cuts into the future.”

Jeffrey Ball reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “The global effort to combat climate change is stuck in essentially the same place after a massive United Nations summit that it was before the confab: with major emitters deadlocked over how much each of them should have to do to curb the rising output of greenhouse gases.”

“Far from resolving the issue, the Copenhagen conference set up months more of international haggling over what to do about climate change,” the Journal article said.

Mr. Ball added that, “Sen. Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.), on ABC News’s ‘This Week’ Sunday, raised questions about the pledge by rich countries. ‘Neither the president nor the secretary of state can go to Copenhagen and make [such] commitments… without Senate confirmation or ratification of such a treaty,’ he said. ‘The Senate will have to act on this, and there is not the support right now for that.’”

Roll Call writer Matthew Murray reported yesterday that, “Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) predicted that the Senate will take up contentious climate change legislation in 2010, setting the stage for intra-party squabbles for both parties in an already tough midterm election year.

“‘We’re going to move forward on it. I hope we can get it done this coming year,’ Durbin said of the cap-and-trade bill’s 2010 prospects on Sunday’s ‘This Week With George Stephanopoulos.’ ‘The fact is we have a responsibility to deal with this issue.’”

Ben Geman reported on Saturday at The Hill Online that, “The limited global warming deal that President Obama brokered at the Copenhagen climate summit Friday has raised eyebrows and expectations in the Senate, showing that it’s unclear if it will speed along slow-moving Democratic climate legislation in the upper chamber.”

More specifically, the Hill article noted that, “Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) – who noted that he had not read the accord – called China and India’s endorsement of the agreement a ‘plus’ but doubted it could help propel a Senate cap-and-trade plan.

“‘Unless India and China are bound and we know what the details are, I don’t think that their agreeing to goals or whatever it was they agreed to will have an effect on cap-and-trade,’ he said. ‘If there was a binding agreement that tied them into limits that were meaningful, then I think that would have advanced the legislation.’



“Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, noted she had not been briefed on the specific terms of the agreement, but called the limited accord progress. Murkowski is also a swing vote on climate, although she insists that any bill block EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under its existing authority.



“‘I think whenever you have developing countries, and certainly China and India, stepping forward and indicating that they have a willingness to be a participant, I think that that is a strong indicator that we will have opportunities to be working [together], and I think that that is progress,’ she said when asked about the Copenhagen outcome’s effect on the Senate debate.



“But Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), who opposes climate legislation, said the Copenhagen pact did nothing for the Senate legislation. ‘I don’t think they got anything in Copenhagen that will encourage anybody, except Jim Inhofe,’ he said. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) calls global warming a ‘hoax’ and opposes any bills to require emissions cuts.”

In other lawmaker reaction to the Copenhagen Accord, Molly K. Hooper reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “The acerbic [Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming Ranking Member Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.)], former chairman of the Science and Judiciary committees, said that the cap-and-trade bill approved in the House was going nowhere in the Senate; even if the Senate approved a watered-down version of the climate-change bill, it would look far less like the Waxman-Markey measure.

“‘The Waxman-Markey bill is not a done deal. I think it is safe to say that it will have difficulty getting the 60 votes that are needed in the Senate to pass it. If it does pass it will be in a considerably altered form from what was passed by the House of Representatives, which will necessitate a second vote in the House, and it will be very difficult for the Democratic majority in an election year to muster the votes to get it passed,’ he said.

But Pelosi pledged on CNN on Friday that the bill would be signed in 2010.

“‘I want to remove all doubt this bill will get through the United States Senate and it will pass the Congress and it will be signed by the president in this Congress, which means in the year 2010,’ the speaker said shortly following Sensenbrenner’s remarks.”

John Harwood reported in today’s New York Times that, “The White House and Congressional Democrats have settled on their climate-change message: strong action can produce energy independence and new economic vitality.

“‘What would I say to my constituents?’ asked Representative Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who is an author of the House-passed bill to reduce carbon emissions. ‘The largest tax on the American people is the one that’s imposed by the Saudi Arabians and Exxon Mobil. For a very small investment, we can make our own energy here in the United States.’

“Ms. Pelosi, the House speaker, makes the argument for action on climate change even simpler.

“‘The American people should be pleased with this for four reasons: jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs,’ Ms. Pelosi said during a break from her advocacy in Copenhagen on climate change, the issue she calls her signature one. ‘We are about investing in science to create the new technology and have a new green revolution, so that we can create a new economy.’

“It is relatively easy for Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Markey, coastal-state liberals with safe districts, to make those arguments. It is not so easy for vulnerable heartland Democrats who fear that economic disruption for the coal, oil and utility sectors will produce career-threatening political fallout among not-so-liberal voters.”

Climate Issues: Copenhagen Accord- International Perspectives

The AP reported yesterday that, “German Chancellor Angela Merkel is defending the much-criticized outcome of the Copenhagen climate summit as a first step that paves the way for action.

“Merkel was quoted Sunday as telling the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that ‘Copenhagen is a first step toward a new world climate order – no more, but also no less.’”

AP writer Gillian Wong reported yesterday that, “China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, lauded Sunday the outcome of a historic U.N. climate conference that ended with a nonbinding agreement that urges major polluters to make deeper emissions cuts – but does not require it.

“Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said the international climate talks that brought more than 110 leaders together in Copenhagen produced ‘significant and positive’ results.”

The article added that, “The Obama administration on Sunday also defended the agreement as a ‘great step forward’ – despite widespread disappointment among environmentalists that the pact does not include mandatory targets that would draw sanctions.

“‘Nobody says that this is the end of the road. The end of the road would have been the complete collapse of those talks. This is a great step forward,’ White House adviser David Axelrod told CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ show.

“Disputes between rich and poor countries and between the world’s biggest carbon polluters – China and the United States – dominated the two-week conference.”

Anthony Faiola, Juliet Eilperin and John Pomfret reported in yesterday’s Washington Post that, “If the talks that resulted in an imperfect deal to combat global warming provided anything, it was a glimpse into a new world order in which international diplomacy will increasingly be shaped by the United States and emerging powers, most notably China.

“Friday’s agreement, sources involved in the talks said, boiled down to President Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao personally hammering out a pact both could live with, even if many other leaders could not. Wen even squelched his own negotiator’s protests.

“What Obama heralded as a ‘breakthrough’ — after getting India and other rising powers to sign on — was decried by some nations as too little, too late. The leaders of Europe, Japan and other countries at the summit were largely left to rubber-stamp the deal. The Swedish prime minister’s office dubbed it ‘a disaster.’”

Climate Issues: Agricultural Perspectives

Chris Clayton reported on Friday at DTN (link requires subscription) that, “Given that there is no treaty in Copenhagen with hard emission targets and that the climate bill is stalled in the U.S. Senate, Republicans in Congress are able to return home over the holiday break and highlight questions about the science, economics and the Obama administration’s analysis of climate-change legislation, as well as point to an overall lack of international consensus on how to address climate change.”

The DTN article added that, “Meanwhile, USDA officials released a controversial analysis of the House climate bill along with a statement by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack questioning some of the conclusions of the models used in the analysis. In particular, Vilsack questioned results using the Forest and Agricultural Sector Optimization Model, or FASOM.

“‘I am aware that the results of the FASOM model have caused considerable concern within the farm and ranch community as a result of the model’s projections on afforestation over the next several decades,’ Vilsack stated in a news release. ‘If landowners plant trees to the extent the model suggests, this would be disruptive to agriculture in some regions of the country. Based on conversations with (USDA Chief Economist Joe) Glauber and my staff, I don’t believe the results related to afforestation forecast by the FASOM model are necessarily an accurate depiction of the impacts of climate legislation.’

“The Senate and House Agriculture Committee ranking members on Friday sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson pointing out that Vilsack thinks the EPA model is not ‘current’ or ‘complete.’ Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., both asked for the EPA to provide more thorough studies of the House and Senate climate bills.”

The DTN article indicated that, “In Copenhagen, Vilsack continued to highlight the potential benefits agriculture can provide in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and providing offsets for major emitting industries.

“The models show that of nearly $30 billion in projected annual income from agricultural offsets by 2050, the bulk of the benefit would go to landowners in forestry. Thus, the models show as much as 59 million acres by 2050 could convert from crops and pasture to forestry to capture the income benefits from carbon.”

In a related article from Australia, Phillip Coorey reported on Saturday at The Sydney Morning Herald Online that, “The Liberal Party has assured the Nationals that the Coalition’s greenhouse gas reduction policy would involve planting trees almost entirely on marginal land, not good farm land.

“But the Government said the sheer volume of trees needed to reduce greenhouse gases in the absence of an emissions trading scheme would require the reforestation of farm land as well.”

The article added that, “The Nationals oppose large tree plantations, known as carbon sinks, if incentives are offered to establish them and if they are planted on arable land. The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has promised a policy that relies on planting more trees, storing carbon in soil and having more energy-efficient building codes.

“But at a policy planning meeting on Tuesday, the Nationals senator Ron Boswell told Mr Abbott and his climate action spokesman, Greg Hunt, the junior Coalition partner would not accept carbon sinks on arable land.”

Crop Insurance

A news release issued last week by the American Association of Crop Insurers stated that, “Today the Board of Directors of the American Association of Crop Insurers’ (AACI) approved the application of Rural Community Insurance Services (RCIS) to become a member of the association. RCIS, a subsidiary of Wells Fargo and headquartered in Anoka, Minnesota, writes the largest share of multi-peril crop insurance offered by the Federal program, which is managed and regulated by the Risk Management Agency of USDA. RCIS writes Federal crop insurance policies in all 50 states.

“Speaking on behalf of the AACI membership, Chairman Sam Scheef, president of ARMtech Insurance Services, Inc., Lubbock, Texas, said ‘we are pleased with the RCIS decision to join AACI and we are excited about the opportunity of having RCIS participate directly in the association’s work with Congress and the administration to continually improve the risk management value of the program to our nation’s farmers, ranchers and growers.’

“President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Day said ‘RCIS is proud to become a member of the American Association of Crop Insurers and looks forward to working with AACI in the future on the political front. By joining AACI, RCIS shows a commitment toward industry unity working toward solving political issues of mutual interest.’

“AACI is a national trade association representing all segments of the Federal crop insurance program’s private sector delivery industry, including insurance companies, reinsurance companies, insurance agencies and insurance brokers.”

Arkansas Senate Race

An article posted last week at the Arkansas Democrat Gazette Online reported that, “A former Arkansas Farm Bureau President who announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate last week is withdrawing from the race because of health reasons.

“Republican Stanley Reed discontinued his campaign after undergoing medical tests related to unspecified health issues over the last two days, officials said in a statement.”

Keith Good

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