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December 13th, 2008:

California Passes Rules for Cleaner Diesel Trucks

By Peter Henderson, Reuters13 December 2008

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – California on Friday became the first state in the country to force big diesel trucks to clean up their exhaust, despite warnings from truckers the new rules will force them out of business.

About a million vehicles, from big rigs to school buses, are affected by the new rules, which will begin taking effect in 2011 and do not require further ratification.

Some vehicles will have to start retrofitting engines in 2011 and some older trucks will be forced into retirement starting in 2012. By 2023, all trucks must meet 2010 new engine emission standards.

The rules regulate smog-causing oxides of nitrogen, which are greenhouse gases, and particulate matter, which is toxic. The California Air Resources Board estimated the regulations would cost about $5.5 billion. It put the health benefits of cleaner air at $48 billion to $69 billion over the next couple of decades.

The move by California, the leading U.S. state on climate change, complements a detailed strategy to cut carbon emissions that the board passed on Thursday as part of its sweeping plan to cut carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

While the federal government has no such rules for trucks or carbon, President-elect Barack Obama has said that climate change will be a priority when he takes office in January.

Individual truckers and companies told the board, which is the agency charged with carrying out the state’s landmark global warming law, that the new rules requiring retrofitting of recently purchased trucks and the replacing of older vehicles would prove too financially onerous during a global economic slowdown.

Board members recognized that the buckling U.S. economy could change the impact of the regulation, requiring changes.

But Chairman Mary Nichols said before two unanimous votes ratifying the changes that history showed such rules were not economically onerous.

“While this one is big and expensive and is being adopted in difficult times, we’ve never adopted a rule that I’m aware of that didn’t have severe opposition,” she said. “The reality has been that the cost of compliance has turned out to have been less than we estimated.”

(Reporting by Peter Henderson; Editing by Peter Cooney)

EU Agrees to Cut Greenhouse Gases 20pc by 2020

Agence France-Presse in Brussels, SCMP – Updated on Dec 13, 2008

EU leaders reached agreement on an ambitious package to slash greenhouse-gas emissions yesterday, urging US president-elect Barack Obama to follow their lead in the fight against global warming.

But environmentalists promptly panned the agreement, saying too many concessions had been made to industry and to poorer eastern European nations with their highly polluting coal-fired power plants.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said at the end of the two-day European Union summit in Brussels: “No continent has given itself such binding rules that we have adopted with unanimity.” Mr Sarkozy chaired the gathering as head of the French EU presidency.

The EU’s climate-energy package, the “20-20-20” deal, seeks to decrease greenhouse-gas emissions 20 per cent by 2020, make 20 per cent energy savings and bring renewable energy sources up to 20 per cent of total energy use.

Mr Sarkozy denied the targets had been watered down with leaders fearing the package would hit energy and jobs as recession bites.

But Greenpeace, WWF and other groups denounced the deal as “a dark day for European climate policy”.

“European heads of state and government have reneged on their promises and turned their backs on global efforts to fight climate change,” they said.

One of their gripes was that the French concessions allowed more “polluting rights” to be given out for free rather than be paid for.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the election of Mr Obama offered a chance for a joint effort between Europe and the US to combat global warming.