Africa’s wildlife parks managers meet to boost conservation, plus Pennsylvania appeals court order blocking climate plan, and PA Gov. Wolf vetoes bid to block all-electric building codes.
PA APPEALS COURT ORDER BLOCKING CLIMATE PLAN, AFRICA’S WILDLIFE PARKS MANAGERS MEET TO BOOST CONSERVATION, PA GOV. WOLF VETOES BID TO BLOCK ALL-ELECTRIC BUILDING CODES
AFRICA’S WILDLIFE PARKS MANAGERS MEET TO BOOST CONSERVATION
Officials met in Kigali in Rwanda last week as part of the continent’s first-ever Africa Protected Areas Congress in a bid to expand the preservation of land and marine wildlife, despite little funding and the low quality of many existing conservation areas in the region. Just 14% of Africa’s land and inland water ecosystems and 17% of coastal and marine areas are protected, according to United Nations estimates. The continent currently has 9,118 protected areas.
Ken Mwathe, policy coordinator for Birdlife International in Africa, said, “Africa’s protected and conserved areas face serious issues that need to be addressed urgently.” Kenya’s Wasini Island, where coral reefs and fish are protected by a community-managed marine park, is an example of why the work must expand. Since the community started coral restoration and watching the designated area around eight years ago, fish, octopus and even lobsters which had disappeared are returning.
It’s part of the Great Blue Wall Initiative — a project to protect marine life across Africa’s east coast. Luther Anukur, regional director of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which hosted the gathering, said local communities and Indigenous people will be at the of conservation efforts. “It is important to note that African people have not only lived alongside wildlife but have been its protectors too,” Anukur added.
Why does the Africa Protected Area Congress matter to us? The congress brings together wildlife parks and reserves managers, scientists, and Indigenous and community leaders. It’s hoped that increasing the dialogue between groups will improve the health of Africa’s biodiversity hotspots and combat worrying trends, such as the increase in poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. Biodiversity is a key component of saving the climate.
DEEPER DIVE: AP, Great Blue Wall, Wasini Island
PENNSYLVANIA APPEALS COURT ORDER BLOCKING CLIMATE PLAN
The administration of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf asked the state’s high court Monday to weigh in on a legal battle over Pennsylvania’s plan to charge power plants for their emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection appealed lower court rulings that temporarily block the Wolf administration from implementing its carbon pricing policy, under which power plants fueled by coal, oil and natural gas are required to buy one credit for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit.
The Wolf administration estimates that the initiative — the centerpiece of the governor’s plan to fight global warming — will reduce Pennsylvania’s carbon dioxide emissions by up to 225 million tons through 2030. Power plant operators say the regulation will dramatically raise their costs and consumers’ electricity bills.
Fossil-fuel interests and Republican leaders of the state Senate have been waging a legal battle against Pennsylvania’s entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate consortium that sets a price and declining limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants run by coal, oil and natural gas. Last week, Commonwealth Court granted a preliminary injunction that prohibits the state from “implementing, administering, or enforcing” the new regulation while a lawsuit by power plants, labor unions and coal mine owners is ongoing. The lower court granted a second injunction to GOP lawmakers in a related case.
The Wolf administration asked the state Supreme Court to set aside both injunctions, saying the lower court erred in concluding that plaintiffs had “raised a substantial legal question” about whether the carbon-pricing program imposes an unlawful tax. Under the cap-and-trade program, roughly four dozen power plants in Pennsylvania must buy hundreds of millions of dollars in credits annually that the state could then spend on clean-energy or energy-efficiency programs. That gives fossil fuel plants an incentive to lower their emissions, and makes non-emitting plants — such as nuclear plants, wind turbines and solar installations — more cost competitive in power markets.
DEEPER DIVE: AP, Regional GHG Initiative, Cap and Trade
PENNSYLVANIA GOV. WOLF VETOES BID TO BLOCK ALL-ELECTRIC BUILDING CODES
Citing the need to fight climate change, Pennsylvania’s Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday vetoed Republican-penned legislation to stop municipalities from adopting building codes that prohibit natural gas hookups. Wolf, in a veto message to lawmakers, said the legislation takes away “local decision-making” from municipalities that are looking to address climate change, and treads on the authority of state utility regulators.
The legislation passed the Republican-controlled House and Senate largely along party lines, with a handful of Democrats siding with nearly every Republican. Republican lawmakers had cast the legislation as protecting the energy choices of consumers, but also to protect the state’s natural gas industry. It would have prohibited municipalities from writing new building codes that restricted utility service based on the energy source. Pennsylvania is the nation’s No. 2 natural gas-producing state, behind Texas.
States, cities and counties elsewhere have begun looking at all-electric building codes that exclude gas infrastructure as a way to accelerate progress toward a carbon-free electricity grid. In December, New York City barred most new building projects submitted for approval as early as 2024 from using natural gas or oil for heating, hot water and cooking.
Why does this veto matter to us? Combustion of natural gas emits carbon dioxide, a planet-warming greenhouse gas. Natural gas also contains methane, which is far more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
DEEPER DIVE: AP, PA.Gov, GHGs