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Westlake Legal Group > Carbon Dioxide

Climate Protesters and World Leaders: Same Planet, Different Worlds

UNITED NATIONS — This is the world we live in: Punishing heat waves, catastrophic floods, huge fires and climate conditions so uncertain that children took to the streets en masse in global protests to demand action.

But this is also the world we live in: A pantheon of world leaders who have deep ties to the industries that are the biggest sources of planet-warming emissions, are hostile to protests, or use climate science denial to score political points.

That stark contrast comes at a time when governments face a challenge of a kind they have not seen since the beginning of the industrial era. In order to avert the worst effects of climate change, they must rebuild the engine of the global economy — to quickly get out of fossil fuels, the energy source that the system is based upon — because they failed to take steps decades ago when scientists warned they should.

On Monday, at the United Nations Climate Action Summit, comes a glimpse of how far presidents and prime ministers are willing to go. The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, expects around 60 countries to announce what he called new “concrete” plans to reduce emissions and help the world’s most vulnerable cope with the fallout from global warming.

The problem is, the protesters in the streets and some of the diplomats in the General Assembly hall are living in separate worlds.

“Our political climate is not friendly to this discussion at this moment,” said Alice Hill, who specializes in climate policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Multilateralism is under attack. We have seen the rise of authoritarian governments.”

“We see these pressures as working against us,” she said. “We don’t have leadership in the United States to help guide the process.”

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President Trump, in fact, has rolled back dozens of environmental regulations, most recently reversing rules on auto emissions, saying that they were an unnecessary burden on the American economy. In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro wants to open the Amazon to new commercial activity. In Russia, Vladimir Putin presides over a vast, powerful petro-state. China’s state-owned companies are pushing for coal projects at home and abroad, even as the country tries in other ways to tamp down emissions. Narendra Modi of India is set on expanding coal too, even as he champions solar power.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_161161272_a3828ce0-78d7-425a-bbae-a6f4b6e7a125-articleLarge Climate Protesters and World Leaders: Same Planet, Different Worlds United Nations Guterres, Antonio Greenhouse Gas Emissions Global Warming environment Carbon Dioxide

Protesters in Manhattan on Friday. CreditMark Abramson for The New York Times

At a press briefing ahead of the Monday summit, Mr. Guterres was bullish on what he described as a new willingness by governments and companies to address climate change seriously. He said he hoped “a very meaningful number of countries” would declare their aim to reduce carbon emissions significantly and aim to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

“All of a sudden I started to feel there was momentum that was gaining, and this was largely due to the youth movement that started a fantastic, very dynamic impulse around the world,” Mr. Guterres said on Saturday as a United Nations Youth Climate Summit began.

There will be some important no-shows at the Monday meeting though. The United States, the largest economy in the world, has not even asked to take the podium. Nor has Brazil, home to most of the Amazon rainforest, often referred to as the lungs of the planet. Nor Japan, an economic powerhouse and the world’s seventh largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

So, Mr. Guterres also tempered expectations. He told reporters at a briefing on Friday that he did not expect announcements at the summit to yield emissions reductions that would measurably keep temperatures from rising to dangerous levels. At the current pace, global temperatures are set to rise beyond 3 degrees Celsius from preindustrial levels by the end of the century even if every country on Earth meets its goals under the 2015 Paris pact, which calls on nearly 200 nations to set voluntarily targets to reduce their emissions. Many big countries, including the United States, are not on track to meet their commitments.

At United Nations climate talks next year, countries face their next deadline to set more ambitious targets to reduce emissions. “The summit needs to be seen in a continuum,” Mr. Guterres said.

If anything, the Monday summit meeting, coming on the heels of huge youth protests worldwide, showed the vast distance between the urgency of climate action and the limits of diplomacy.

Organizers estimated the turnout at the Friday protests to be around four million across thousands of cities and towns worldwide. Never has the modern world witnessed a climate protest so large and wide, spanning societies rich and poor, tied together by a sense of rage. “Climate emergency now,” read banners in several countries.

Protesting Climate Change, Young People Take to Streets in a Global Strike

Sept. 20, 2019

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Whether the youth protests can goad many world leaders into changing their policies is a big question mark at best, said Michael B. Gerrard, a law professor at Columbia University. Some of them are closely linked to fossil fuel and extractive industries, he noted. Others have a record of crushing protests. And so the outcry, Mr. Gerrard said, may well fall on “intentionally closed ears.”

Mr. Guterres said he was offering time to speak Monday only to those countries that are taking “positive steps,” of varying kinds. Russia is expected to say it will ratify the 2015 Paris Agreement. India is expected to promise more ambitious renewable energy targets. All eyes will be on China — currently the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, but on track to meet its Paris agreement pledges — to see if it will announce that its emissions will begin falling sooner than it had originally predicted.

Several dozen countries are expected to promise to reduce emissions to the point at which they will be carbon-neutral by 2050; Britain is the largest economy to have set that target. Some of the most ambitious announcements could come not from nations at all, but from banks, fund managers and other businesses.

Still, the protesters and the diplomats have radically different expectations, and even a different sense of time.

On Saturday, at the youth summit, Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist whose solo student strike has helped ignite a global youth movement, signaled that pressure would continue.

Sitting next to Mr. Guterres, Ms. Thunberg took the microphone and said the millions of young people who protested around the world Friday had made an impact. “We showed them we are united and that we young people are unstoppable,” she said.

From Mr. Guterres came a hat tip. “I encourage you to go on. I encourage you to keep your initiative, keep your mobilization and more and more to hold my generation accountable.”

A climate rally in San Francisco on Friday. CreditJames Tensuan for The New York Times

Those protests have buoyed the efforts of United Nations officials to push for more ambitious climate action, but they haven’t necessarily made the job easy.

“The time window is closing and it’s dramatically short for what we have to do,” said Achim Steiner, the head of the United Nations Development Program. “The protests are helpful because they show national leaders in their societies, in their countries, that the politics of climate change is changing and it is adding momentum and pressure to act.”

The United Nations is itself under pressure to do more to curb its own carbon footprint. A letter signed by more than 1,700 staff members urged Mr. Guterres to adopt greener travel policies, like encouraging the use of trains whenever possible. The letter also urged the United Nations Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels.

Whatever comes out of the Monday summit meeting may well seem lackluster to those out on the streets — the generation that will feel the intensifying impacts of climate change. That’s the challenge facing Mr. Guterres, who has made climate action one of the top priorities for the world body at a time when several powerful world leaders have dismissed the science.

“It is a pretty exquisite balancing act to ally with Greta Thunberg and Xi Jinping to box in Donald Trump,” said Richard Gowan, who follows the United Nations for the International Crisis Group. “Let’s see if he can do it.”

Lisa Friedman contributed reporting.

For more news on climate and the environment, follow @NYTClimate on Twitter.

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Protesting Climate Change, Young People Take to Streets in a Global Strike

They are in open revolt.

Anxious about their future on a hotter planet, angry at world leaders for failing to arrest the crisis, thousands of young people began pouring into the streets on Friday for a day of global climate protest.

In New York the main demonstration was scheduled for midday, but participants began assembling early and it appeared that turnout would be large. Many brought handmade signs. “Think or Swim,” one read.

“I’m feeling very hopeful,” said Azalea Danes, 20, a senior at the Bronx High School of Science who was waiting at Foley Square for protests to begin. “This is our first inter generational strike.”

Demonstrations in North and South America will be the culmination of a day of global strikes that began almost 24 hours earlier as morning broke in the Asia-Pacific region.

More than 100,000 protested in Melbourne as the protests began, in what organizers said was the largest climate action in Australia’s history. The rally shut down key public transport corridors for hours.

In Sydney, thousands gathered in the Domain, a sprawling public park just a short walk east of the Central Business District — grandparents escorting their children holding homemade signs, groups of teenagers in school uniforms, parents handing out boxed raisins to their young children.

“Adults are, like, ‘respect your elders.’ And we’re, like, ‘respect our futures,’” said Jemima Grimmer, 13, from Sydney. “You know, it’s a two-way street, respect, and I’m angry that I have to be here.”

Rarely, if ever, has the modern world witnessed a youth movement so large and wide, spanning across societies rich and poor, tied together by a common if inchoate sense of rage.

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Protesters at the climate demonstration in Sydney. CreditSteven Saphore/EPA, via Shutterstock

In Quezon City, in the Philippines, protesters, including one dressed as Pikachu, the Pokémon character, held a sign that read: “Dead Planet Soon. Act Now!” Greenpeace posted pictures on Twitter showing its activists blockading the entrance to a Shell oil refinery in the Philippines.

No protests were authorized in China, the world’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

As morning arrived farther west, banners in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, ranged from serious to humorous. One read, “Climate Emergency Now.” Another said, “This planet is getting hotter than my imaginary boyfriend.”

Roughly 100,000 demonstrators showed around the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on a bright but unseasonably chilly day in Berlin, according to the police.

Demonstrators there held signs reading: “Stop the Global Pyromania,” “Short-Haul Flights Only for Insects,” and “Make the World Greta Again.”

“We all know what the problem is,” said Antonia Brüning, 14, marching nearby, next to the Reichstag, with a group of her friends from school. “So why isn’t anything happening?”

Across Britain, there were large protests from Brighton to Edinburgh, with the turnout in London especially large.

There, the carved stone of the Palace of Westminster reflected bright Autumn sunshine onto crowds flooding out of a nearby subway station.

Theo Parkinson-Pride, 12, was passing by the palace with his mother Catherine, 45, who said she had emailed her son’s school to tell them he would be missing classes on Friday. “I said to my mum, I feel this is more of important than school today because soon there may be no school to go to,” Theo said.

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In Mumbai, children in oversize raincoats marched in the rain. In the Indian capital, New Delhi, where the air pollution is some of the worst in the world, dozens of protesters gathered outside a government building. “I want to breathe clean,” they chanted, The A.P. reported.

At a time of fraying trust in authority figures, children — who by definition have no authority over anything — are increasingly driving the debate over how to avert the most catastrophic effects of climate change. Using the internet, they are organizing across continents like no generation before them. And though their outsize demands for an end to fossil fuels mirror those of older environmentalists, their movement has captured the public imagination far more effectively.

“What’s unique about this is that young people are able to see their future is at risk today,” said Kumi Naidoo, the head of Amnesty International and a longtime campaigner for environmental issues. “I certainly hope this is a turning point.”

Kenyans marched through the Nairobi city center. CreditBen Curtis/Associated Press

The generational outcry comes as planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions continue to soar, even as their effects — including rising seas, intensifying storms, debilitating heat waves and droughts — can be felt more and more.

Average global temperatures have risen by about 1 degree Celsius since the start of the industrial age, and the world as a whole remains far from meeting its obligations under the Paris Agreement, the landmark climate accord designed four years ago, to keep temperatures from rising to catastrophic levels. President Trump has said the United States, which has contributed more emissions than any country since the start of the industrial age, will pull out of the accord.

An early test of the student protests will come on Monday when world leaders assemble at United Nations headquarters to demonstrate what they are willing to do to avert a crisis. Their speeches are unlikely to assuage the youth strikers, but whether the youth protests will peter out or become more confrontational in the coming weeks and months remains to be seen. More protests are planned for Monday in several cities.

“They’re going to call ‘BS,’” Dana R. Fisher, a sociologist at the University of Maryland who studies contemporary protest movements, said of the protesters. “It’s great for people at the United Nations summit to posture and say they care about this issue, but that’s not enough to stop the climate crisis. These kids are sophisticated enough to recognize that.”

Many websites have said they would go dark, in solidarity with the protests. Groups of scientists, doctors and technology workers are also joining the strikes in various locations.

Certainly, this is not the first time in modern history that young people have been stressed about their future and galvanized around a cause. Young people led social movements against the Vietnam War and for civil rights in the United States. So, too, against apartheid and in the global antinuclear movement.

This is a new generational revolt, though. It’s not against injustice in a particular country, nor against a war. This is about the future on a hotter planet. Young people worry about the cataclysmic impact of climate change on their future, coloring where they will live, how they will grow their food, and how they will cope with recurrent droughts and floods. The internet allows them to mobilize. They often know more about the issue than their parents do.

Whether they will have any direct impact is unlikely to be clear for years.

On the sidelines of the London protest. CreditHannah Mckay/Reuters

Megan Mullin, a political scientist at Duke University, said she saw no evidence that the youth protests would move the political needle on climate change in a state like hers.

“The challenge is translating something that is a global movement into a kind of concentrated political pressure than can influence government decisions,” she said. “It needs to be translated to influencing decision makers who aren’t already convinced.”

In the United States, climate strikers — nearly two-thirds of whom are women and girls — have been unusually engaged. Half had attended other protests, including for gun control laws and women’s rights, according to a survey that Dr. Fisher carried out among 660 climate strikers. By comparison, 40 percent of survey-takers outside the United States had attended protests on other social issues.

“They are mobilized around an issue of consistent concern across countries and across geographic areas,” Dr. Fisher said. “It spans the developing-developed country divide. There aren’t that many issues that would unify in such a manner. And we all know the burden of climate change will fall on these kids’ shoulders when they are adults. They are acutely aware as well.”

Reporting was contributed by Lewis Fischer from Melbourne, Tacey Rychter from Sydney, Palko Karasz from London, and Christopher Schuetze from Berlin.

For more news on climate and the environment, follow @NYTClimate on Twitter.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Amazon Accelerates Efforts to Fight Climate Change

Westlake Legal Group 19amazon-facebookJumbo Amazon Accelerates Efforts to Fight Climate Change United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Global Warming Delivery Services Carbon Dioxide Bezos, Jeffrey P Amazon.com Inc

WASHINGTON — Amazon committed on Thursday to meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement 10 years ahead of schedule and be carbon neutral by 2040, in the company’s most ambitious push yet to combat climate change.

Jeff Bezos, the company’s chief executive, said that the promises were part of a new effort called the Climate Pledge. Amazon is the first company to join the pledge.

To help meet its goal, Mr. Bezos said Amazon was ordering 100,000 electric delivery trucks from Rivian, a Michigan-based company that Amazon invested in this year.

Mr. Bezos said that climate change had outpaced even the serious predictions the scientific community made five years ago.

“Those predictions were bad but what is actually happening is dire,” he said.

Thursday’s announcement comes a day before more that 1,500 Amazon employees had planned to walk out of work, in an escalation of almost a year of pressuring Amazon to be more aggressive in its climate goals. The walkout is in conjunction with a day of planned climate strikes around the world.

They pushed Amazon on three issues: That the company have zero emissions by 2030, that it stop offering custom cloud-computing services that help the oil and gas industry find and extract more fossil fuels, and that it stop giving campaign donations to politicians who deny climate change is happening.

Mr. Bezos punted on many of their demands. Amazon would still continue to sell its cloud services to the oil and gas industry, he said. “We’re going to work hard for energy companies, and in our view we’re going to work very hard to make sure that as they transition that they have the best tools possible,” he said. “To ask oil and energy companies to do this transition with bad tools is not a good idea and we won’t do that.”

He said the company was taking a “hard look” at whether its political donations were going to “active climate deniers,” but stopped short of saying that the company would not give them more money in the future.

Mr. Bezos said Thursday that Amazon would lobby on a case-by-case basis for political responses to climate change. But he declined to endorse the Green New Deal, which has gained significant traction on the left.

“There are lot of different ideas for what the Green New Deal is and it’s probably too broad to say too much about that in particular,” he said.

This February, Amazon invested $440 million in Rivian. After almost a decade of work, Rivian last November revealed its battery-powered pickup truck and an electric sport-utility vehicle built on a “skateboard”-like platform that carries the battery, cooling system, motor and other essential parts. It has said it could build other vehicle types on the platform, and the pickup could drive 400 miles between charges.

Amazon said the first Rivian electric delivery trucks would hit the road in 2021, and it planned to have 10,000 in service as early as 2022.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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Trump to Revoke California’s Authority to Set Stricter Auto Emissions Rules

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is expected on Wednesday to formally revoke California’s legal authority to set tailpipe pollution rules that are stricter than federal rules, in a move designed by the White House to strike twin blows against both the liberal-leaning state that President Trump has long antagonized and the environmental legacy of President Barack Obama.

The announcement that the White House will revoke one of California’s signature environmental policies will come while Mr. Trump is traveling in the state, where he is scheduled to attend fund-raisers in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley.

The formal revocation of California’s authority to set its own rules on tailpipe pollution — the United States’ largest source of greenhouse emissions — will be announced Wednesday afternoon at a private event at the Washington headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency, according to two people familiar with the matter.

A White House spokesman referred questions on the matter to the Environmental Protection Agency. A spokesman for the E.P.A. did not respond to an email requesting comment.

Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, said the state intends to strike back with a lawsuit, one that is expected to go all the way to the Supreme Court. “While the White House clings to the past, automakers and American families embrace cleaner cars,” he wrote in an email, calling the tougher standards “achievable, science-based, and a boon for hardworking American families and public health.”

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The move has been widely expected since last summer, when the Trump administration unveiled its draft plan to roll back the strict federal fuel economy standards put in place by the Obama administration. That draft Trump rule also included a plan to revoke a legal waiver, granted to the state of California under the 1970 Clean Air Act, allowing it to set tougher state-level standards than those put forth by the federal government.

The revocation of the waiver would also affect 13 other states that follow California’s clean air rules.

In recent months, the administration’s broader weakening of nationwide auto-emissions standards has become plagued with delays as staff members struggled to prepare adequate legal, technical or scientific justifications for the move.

As a result, the White House decided to proceed with just one piece of its overall plan — the move to strip California of its legal authority to set tougher standards — while delaying the release of its broader rollback, according to these people.

The administration’s plans have been further complicated because major automakers have told the White House that they do not want such an aggressive rollback. In July, four automakers formalized their opposition to Mr. Trump’s plans by signing a deal with California to comply with tighter emissions standards if the broader rollback goes through.

While the broader efforts to undo the federal vehicle emissions standards remain incomplete, the legal proposal to revoke California’s legal authority to set its own pollution rule has been completed and ready to go for weeks.

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White House officials have also been eager to move quickly to revoke California’s authority to set its own standards because they want the opportunity to defend the legal effort to undo emissions regulations in the Supreme Court before the end of Mr. Trump’s first term. The thinking goes that if a Democrat were to be elected president in 2020, the federal government would be unlikely to defend revocation of the waiver in the high court.

California’s special right to set its own tailpipe pollution rules dates to the 1970 Clean Air Act, the landmark federal legislation designed to fight air pollution nationwide. The law granted California a waiver to set stricter rules of its own because the state already had clean air legislation in place before the landmark 1970 federal legislation.

A revocation of the California waiver would have national significance. Thirteen other states follow California’s tighter standards, together representing roughly a third of the national auto market.

Because of that, the fight over federal auto emissions rules has the potential to split the United States auto market, with some states adhering to stricter pollution standards than others. For automakers, that represents a nightmare scenario.

The Obama-era tailpipe pollution rules that the administration hopes to weaken would require automakers to build vehicles that achieve an average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, cutting about six billion tons of carbon dioxide pollution over the lifetimes of those vehicles. The proposed Trump rule would lower the requirement to about 37 miles per gallon, allowing for most of that pollution to be emitted.

For more news on climate and the environment, follow @NYTClimate on Twitter.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

As Disasters Multiply, Billions in Recovery Funds Go Unspent

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is sitting on tens of billions of dollars in unspent recovery money meant to help Americans recover from disasters, leaving people less able to rebound from the effects of Hurricane Dorian and other storms.

As of June 30, the government had spent less than one-third of the $107 billion provided by Congress following the hurricanes and wildfires of 2017 and 2018, federal data show. The Department of Housing and Urban Development, which received $37 billion — more than any other agency — had spent less than $75 million.

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That money is meant to help cities and states rebuild after a disaster. It is often used to fix roads, drainage systems and other infrastructure, or to repair or elevate houses in low-lying, vulnerable areas.

The funds are being held up partly by laws designed in an earlier age of fewer and less severe disasters. In addition, states and cities already reeling from earlier floods or fires often struggle to meet the federal bureaucratic requirements. As climate change amplifies the disaster risk, the logjam threatens to worsen, with increasingly dire consequences.

“If we had all the money, and everything was flowing, we would be safer,” said Laura Hogshead, chief operating officer for the Office of Recovery and Resiliency in North Carolina, a state now being menaced by Hurricane Dorian. This year, the state created a new office to try to speed up those funds — a model that Dorian could test.

“There’s a lot of suffering while you wait,” she said.

The bulk of the money comes just two federal offices: the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which helps communities recover from disasters by funding everything from clearing debris to rebuilding hospitals, and HUD, which helps repair homes, infrastructure and businesses.

The sluggish spending joins a long list of headaches for federal officials trying to protect Americans against climate change. Among them: The shrinking number of people with flood insurance compared with a decade ago; the growing number of homes being built in floodplains; the refusal of many states to impose mandatory, up-to-date building codes; and the emphasis on rebuilding in the same place, rather than somewhere safer.

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What sets this problem apart is that it’s largely of the government’s own making.

“There are opportunities to make the recovery process faster at every level,” said Marion McFadden, who ran the disaster recovery grants at HUD during the Obama administration. “We’ve got to fix this.”

Some delays are unavoidable, such as those associated with sprawling infrastructure projects — like building sea walls or deepening ports — requiring complex environmental reviews. But many other delays stem from a bureaucratic process for delivering federal money, coupled with state and local agencies that often lack the staff or expertise to spend it, observers say.

As a result, persuading Congress to provide money for recovery is just the beginning of the struggle for places hit by disasters.

“We build very complex systems in Washington,” said Craig Fugate, who ran FEMA under President Obama. “Then you apply it to a disaster, and it gums up the system.”

At the same time, the growing frequency of natural disasters, amplified by climate change, increases the urgency of rebuilding.

Part of the problem reflects the fundamental tension between speed and oversight, Mr. Fugate said. As disaster funding has increased, so has scrutiny from lawmakers wary of fraud and abuse. So FEMA and other agencies have responded by adding more safeguards and layers of review, which slows the process further.

States, too, have increased oversight, fearful of being ordered to pay the federal government back for money that might run afoul of the rules. For example, Florida audits every funding request its local governments submit to FEMA, Mr. Fugate said — a level of diligence he said slows recovery.

“Congress wants it both ways: They want it fast, but they also want full accountability,” Mr. Fugate said. “It is slowing down the process to a painful crawl.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160180305_8693997b-678c-4991-9028-ef6ba367a524-articleLarge As Disasters Multiply, Billions in Recovery Funds Go Unspent Wildfires United States Politics and Government North Carolina Housing and Urban Development Department Greenhouse Gas Emissions Global Warming Floods federal emergency management agency Federal Aid (US) environment Disasters and Emergencies Carbon Dioxide

Workers filling sandbags in Lumberton, N.C., to prepare for Hurricane Dorian on Wednesday.CreditAlyssa Schukar for The New York Times

FEMA has yet to spend about $8 billion of the $34 billion allocated to it by Congress following the disasters of 2017 and 2018. An agency spokeswoman, Abigail Dennis, said that over the past few years FEMA has improved its Public Assistance program, which pays for rebuilding infrastructure and other needs, by simplifying the application process and retraining the staff who review applications.

The spending rate has been far slower at the Department of Housing and Urban Development: It has paid out less than 1 percent of its disaster funding from the past two years.

The department, which oversees the nation’s public housing, became involved in disaster recovery more by convenience than design, according to Ms. McFadden. After Hurricane Andrew struck Florida in 1992, Congress needed a vehicle for delivering large sums of money to cities and states, so it chose the department’s Community Development Block Grant program.

But the disaster-recovery function was never set up to be permanent. So Congress requires the department to essentially design a new program from scratch each time it receives disaster money, according to Ms. McFadden. That means writing new rules for how states and cities can spend that money.

“There is this period of a year or more where the money is just sitting essentially at HUD,” said Ms. McFadden, who is now senior vice president for public policy at Enterprise Community Partners, a Washington nonprofit organization. “That period is just lost.”

That problem has caught the attention of both political parties. In July, the House Financial Services Committee voted unanimously in support of a bill that would make the department’s disaster recovery program permanent, helping it get those funds to states and cities more quickly. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate the same month.

This year, Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, acknowledged that the program could be streamlined. “Some of the basic things that have to be done in order to get the grant money out is absolutely the same thing over and over again,” Mr. Carson told the House Financial Services Committee in May.

Reforming the federal government’s approach will solve only part of the delay in rebuilding, disaster experts warn.

President Trump, second from left, at the site of the Paradise, Calif., wildfire last November with then-governor Jerry Brown, center, and others.CreditLeah Millis/Reuters

Even once the housing department has set the rules for each batch of disaster funding, states must submit detailed plans for how they will use that money, and then help cities and counties spend it properly. That work often falls to staff who don’t have the time or expertise required, according to Rob Moore, a senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Mr. Moore offered an example. “Your office is normally handling $2 million a year. You’ve got five people to do that,” he said. But then, “A disaster hits. Suddenly you’ve got $100 million to spend. You’ve got the same five people on your staff. And you’ve still got to do your normal job.”

That tension is now playing out in North Carolina.

The state hadn’t gotten disaster recovery grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development since 2003. Then it was hit by two hurricanes in quick succession: Matthew, in 2016, and then Florence in 2018.

With those disasters came a rush of federal funds. In August of 2017, almost a year after Matthew, the housing department awarded North Carolina $237 million in recovery grants. The state has drawn down less than $20 million of that money. (A spokeswoman for North Carolina, Bridget Munger, said the state has committed $98 million of that money to specific projects, adding that the $20 million figure “does not reflect the hundreds of projects that are in the planning stage or well underway.”)

“Things were not going very quickly,” said Ms. Hogshead, at the state recovery office. “And then Florence hit.”

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As Floods Keep Coming, Cities Pay Residents to Move

July 6, 2019

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So, this January, North Carolina created the Office of Recovery and Resiliency for that purpose, with money for 45 staff, and hired Ms. Hogshead, a former senior official at HUD, to help run it. “Standing up this office is recognition that it just wasn’t going very well,” she said. “The state did not have an expertise in spending this money.”

Keeping pace with the rising tempo of disasters will require more states to build that type of expertise, according to Josh Sawislak, who was a senior adviser for infrastructure resilience to the secretary of housing and urban development.

But it will require many other changes as well, Mr. Sawislak said: Not just reforming the housing department’s grant programs, but also integrating the sprawling set of federal programs that fund disaster recovery, and making communities less vulnerable to disasters in the first place by changing where and how we build.

“We have to start preparing for these things,” Mr. Sawislak said. “Dorian is the new normal.”

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Trump’s Rollback of Auto Pollution Rules Shows Signs of Disarray

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WASHINGTON — The White House, blindsided by a pact between California and four automakers to oppose President Trump’s auto emissions rollbacks, has mounted an effort to prevent any more from joining the other side.

Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors were all summoned by a senior Trump adviser to a White House meeting last month where he pressed them to stand by the president’s own initiative, according to four people familiar with the talks.

But even as the White House was working to do this, it was losing ground. Yet another company, Mercedes-Benz, is now preparing to join the California agreement, according to two people familiar with the German company’s plans.

Mr. Trump, described by three people as “enraged” by California’s deal, has also demanded that his staffers step up the pace to complete his plan. His proposal, however, is directly at odds with the wishes of many automakers, which fear that the aggressive rollbacks will spark a legal battle between California and the federal government that could split the United States car market in two.

The administration’s efforts to weaken the Obama-era pollution rules could be rendered irrelevant if too many automakers join California in opposition before the plan can be put into effect. That could imperil one of Mr. Trump’s most far-reaching rollbacks of climate-change policies.

In addition to Mercedes-Benz, a sixth prominent automaker — one of the three summoned last month to the White House — also intends to disregard the Trump proposal and stick to the current, stricter federal emissions standards for at least the next four years, according to executives at the company.

Together, the six manufacturers who so far plan not to adhere to the new Trump rules account for more than 40 percent of all cars sold in the United States.

“You get to a point where, if enough companies are with California, then what the Trump administration is doing is moot,” said Alan Krupnick, an economist with Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan energy and environment research organization.

A senior administration official called the California pact “a government solution to force the adoption of expensive vehicles that everyday Americans don’t want or need.” Speaking on condition of anonymity, he added: “It’s simply top-down policymaking from California that’s trying to force their standard on 49 other states.”

The Trump administration’s proposal would drastically weaken the 2012 vehicle pollution standards put in place by President Barack Obama, which remain the single largest policy enacted by the United States to reduce planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions. The Obama-era rules require automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, cutting carbon dioxide pollution by about six billion tons over the lifetime of all the cars affected by the regulations, about the same amount the United States produces in a year.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps the sun’s heat and is a major contributor to climate change.

Mr. Trump has billed his plan, which would freeze the standards at about 37 miles per gallon, as a deregulatory win for automakers that will also keep down car prices for American consumers. Mr. Trump’s plan would also revoke the legal authority of California and other states to impose their own emissions standards.

In an extraordinary move, automakers have balked at Mr. Trump’s proposal, mainly because California and 13 other states plan to continue enforcing their current, stricter rules, and to sue the Trump administration. That could lead to a nightmare scenario for automakers: Years of regulatory uncertainty and a United States auto market that effectively split in two.

Last week, California officials said in interviews that they expected more automakers to join their pact, which commits carmakers to build vehicles to a standard nearly as strict as the Obama-era rules that the president would like to weaken. “Many companies have told us — more than one or two — that they would sign up the agreement as soon as they felt free to do so,” said Mary Nichols, the top clean air official in California.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_159466788_45f2b212-f7cb-4526-bd5a-f3f2bae13117-articleLarge Trump’s Rollback of Auto Pollution Rules Shows Signs of Disarray United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Jr Transportation Department (US) Regulation and Deregulation of Industry Mercedes-Benz Greenhouse Gas Emissions Global Warming Fuel Efficiency Environmental Protection Agency environment Carbon Dioxide Automobiles

Mary Nichols of the California Air Resources Board in 2018.CreditDavid Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Officials from Mercedes-Benz declined to comment.

Executives from the three auto companies summoned to the White House declined to comment publicly on their interactions with the Trump administration. But at a recent press event, Mike Manley, Fiat Chrysler’s chief executive, said of the California pact: “We are absolutely going to have a look at it and see what it means.”

In the Trump administration, three senior political officials working on the rollback, a complex legal and scientific process, have all left the administration recently. A senior career official with years of experience on vehicle pollution policy was transferred to another office.

That means the process is now being helmed by Francis Brooke, a 29-year-old White House aide with limited experience in climate change policy before moving over from Vice President Mike Pence’s office last year. Given the lack of experienced senior staffers, people working on the plan say it is now unlikely to be completed before October.

At the same time, staff members at the Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation Department, which are writing the rule, say they are struggling to assemble a coherent technical and scientific analysis required by law to implement a rule change of this scope.

Several analyses by academics and consumer advocates have questioned administration’s claim of benefits to the public. An Aug. 7 report by Consumer Reports concluded that Mr. Trump’s proposed rollback would cost consumers $460 billion between vehicle model years 2021 and 2035, an average of $3,300 more per vehicle, in car prices and gasoline purchases. It also found the rollback would increase the nation’s oil consumption by 320 billion gallons.

“The numbers, public comments and real analysis are at odds with what the White House wants to do,” said one career staff member at the E.P.A., speaking on condition of anonymity.

The White House official called the staff departures “irrelevant” and said that the rule was near completion. “It is a major change, so it does take time. What we are seeing now is that people who were opposed to the rule from the beginning, including some in the automotive industry, are starting to get nervous that our plan to make cars safer and more affordable is going to succeed.”

Policy experts point out that Mr. Trump’s quest to undo his predecessor’s signature climate-change regulation despite opposition from the very industry being regulated is extraordinarily unusual. For automakers, they say, it makes more sense to try to remain globally competitive by building more sophisticated vehicles as the world market moves toward more efficient cars.

“I don’t think there is any precedent for a major industry to say, ‘We are prepared to have a stronger regulation,’ and to have the White House say, ‘No, we know better,’” said William K. Reilly, who headed the E.P.A. in the first George Bush administration.

For some companies, Mr. Trump’s regulations are already moot. An E.P.A. assessment of the 2017 Honda CR-V, the best-selling SUV in the country that year, showed the car is set to meet 2022 Obama-era targets five years ahead of schedule. Honda is one of the four automakers to have signed on to the California pact, along with Ford, Volkswagen and BMW.

Late last month, in the days immediately after deal between California and the four automakers was announced, White House discussions ranged widely about how to respond.

At one White House meeting, Mr. Trump went so far as to propose scrapping his own rollback plan and keeping the Obama regulations in place, while still revoking California’s legal authority to set its own standards, according to the three people familiar with the meeting. The president framed it as a way to retaliate against both California and the four automakers in California’s camp, those people said.

Neal E. Boudette contributed reporting from Detroit.

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States Sue Trump Administration Over Rollback of Obama-Era Climate Rule

WASHINGTON — A coalition of 29 states and cities on Tuesday sued to block the Trump administration from easing restrictions on coal-burning power plants. The move could ultimately limit how much leverage future administrations would have to fight climate change by restricting a major source of Earth-warming pollution.

The lawsuit, led by New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, argued the Environmental Protection Agency had no basis for weakening an Obama-era regulation that set the first-ever national limits on carbon dioxide pollution from power plants.

That rule, the Clean Power Plan, required states to implement plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2022, and encouraged that to happen by closing heavily-polluting plants and replacing those energy sources with natural gas or renewable energy. Carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is a major contributor to global warming because it traps the sun’s heat.

The lawsuit — by 22 states and seven cities including Massachusetts, California, Colorado, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Chicago and Miami — is the latest swing of the legal pendulum in a long-running dispute over how to regulate emissions from coal plants. Previously, Republican-led states and industry groups had sued to stop Mr. Obama’s Clean Power Plan from going into effect, and won a reprieve when the Supreme Court in 2016 temporarily blocked the Obama administration from imposing changes.

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The new challenge, filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, argues that the Trump administration’s replacement, known as the Affordable Clean Energy rule, ignores the E.P.A.’s responsibility under the law to set limits on greenhouse gases. It maintains that the new rule would actually extend the life of dirty and aging coal-burning plants, promoting an increase in pollution instead of curbing it.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_156677724_476a4b41-7091-4a33-a768-21ebd611f844-articleLarge States Sue Trump Administration Over Rollback of Obama-Era Climate Rule Wheeler, Andrew R United States Politics and Government Regulation and Deregulation of Industry James, Letitia Greenhouse Gas Emissions Global Warming Environmental Protection Agency environment Carbon Dioxide

E.P.A. administrator Andrew Wheeler signing the Affordable Clean Energy Rule at a ceremony in June.CreditAlex Brandon/Associated Press

It’s a legal battle that could again go all the way to the Supreme Court. This time, if justices ultimately decide in favor of the Trump administration and find the Clean Air Act does not allow the government to direct broad changes to the nation’s energy deployment, it could permanently weaken the United States’ ability to tackle its contributions to global warming.

“It would have a devastating effect on the ability of future administrations to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act,” said Richard L. Revesz, a professor at New York University who specializes in environmental law. “It would essentially make it extremely difficult to regulate greenhouse gases effectively,” he said.

Michael Abboud, an E.P.A. spokesman, said in a statement that the agency does not comment on pending litigation. But he said of the A.C.E. regulations: “EPA worked diligently to ensure we produced a solid rule, that we believe will be upheld in the courts, unlike the previous Administration’s Clean Power Plan.”

Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the E.P.A., announced the new rule in June at an event attended by coal-industry leaders, utility lobbyists and prominent deniers of climate change science.

Unlike the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, the Trump rule does not cap greenhouse gas emissions. Instead it leaves it up to states to decide whether, or if, to scale back emissions and pick from a menu of technologies to improve power-plant efficiency at the facility level.

Under the Clean Air Act, the E.P.A. is required to use the “best system of emissions reduction.” The Obama-era options included switching to cleaner energy sources like gas, solar or wind; putting a price on carbon dioxide emissions; or using technology that could capture and store carbon dioxide rather than releasing it into the atmosphere. The Trump-administration rule, by contrast, focuses solely on new efficiency measures for individual plants.

Mr. Wheeler argued that the Obama administration had overreached its authority with its rule and that the Trump administration’s plan was legally defensible. Mr. Obama’s Clean Power Plan was suspended by the Supreme Court in 2016 after challenges from 28 Republican-led states and several major industry organizations.

The coalition filing the lawsuit is led by New York’s attorney general, Letitia James.CreditMary Altaffer/Associated Press

Those groups said Mr. Obama’s plan was unduly burdensome to utilities and too costly for consumers, a position that Mr. Wheeler also embraced. He maintained that A.C.E. would lead to a reduction of 10 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions and provide net benefits of $70 million each year. He also, however, said the new rule could lead to new coal plants being built.

Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, called the Trump administration’s rule “toothless,” described it as the “fossil fuel protection plan” and said the rule artificially narrows E.P.A.’s authority. “The Clean Air Act requires the E.P.A. to utilize the best system of emissions reduction that it can find. This rule does the opposite,” he said.

Ms. James said under the Trump administration’s suggested best system of reducing emissions, carbon dioxide pollution will come down only 0.7 percent more in the coming decade than it would if no rule existed at all.

Others joining the suit include Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia, as well as Boulder, Los Angeles, New York City and Philadelphia.

A coalition of environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund are expected to file their own legal challenge this week.

Two leading public health groups, the American Public Health Association and the American Lung Association, have already filed suit to block the Trump administration plan.

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a trade group that represents coal producers, last week filed a motion in support of the Trump administration. Michelle Bloodworth, the organization’s chief operating officer, said in a statement that she believes the E.P.A. has a “strong legal case” but added “we also want to help E.P.A. defend the new rule against others who prefer extreme regulation.”

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What Worries Iceland? A World Without Ice. It Is Preparing.

HÖFN, Iceland — From the offices of the fishing operation founded by his family two generations ago, Adalsteinn Ingólfsson has watched the massive Vatnajökull glacier shrink year after year. Warmer temperatures have already winnowed the types of fish he can catch. But the wilting ice mass, Iceland’s largest, is a strange new challenge to business.

“The glacier is melting so much that the land is rising from the sea,” said Mr. Ingólfsson, the chief executive of Skinney-Thinganes, one of Iceland’s biggest fishing companies. “It’s harder to get our biggest trawlers in and out of the harbor. And if something goes wrong with the weather, the port is closed off completely.”

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Adalsteinn Ingólfsson, the chief executive of Skinney-Thinganes, one of Iceland’s biggest fishing companies. “Unless we find a solution,” he said, “things will just get worse.”CreditSuzie Howell for The New York Times

A warmer climate isn’t just affecting Höfn, where the waning weight of Vatnajökull on the earth’s crust is draining fjords and shifting underground sediment, twisting the town’s sewer pipes. As temperatures rise across the Arctic nearly faster than any place on the planet, all of Iceland is grappling with the prospect of a future with no ice.

Energy producers are upgrading hydroelectric power plants and experimenting with burying carbon dioxide in rock, to keep it out of the atmosphere. Proposals are being floated for a new port in Finnafjord, now a barren landscape in the east, to capitalize on potential cargo traffic as shipping companies in China, Russia and Arctic nations vie to open routes through the melting ice. The fishing industry is slashing fossil fuel use with energy-efficient ships.

A trawler belonging to Skinney-Thinganes. Its trawlers can now move in and out only at high tide, Mr. Ingólfsson said, and his business suffers for that.CreditSuzie Howell for The New York Times

Glaciers occupy over a tenth of this famously frigid island near the Arctic Circle. Every single one is melting. So are the massive, centuries-old ice sheets of Greenland and the Polar regions. Where other countries face rising seas, Iceland is confronting a rise in land in its southernmost regions, and considers the changing landscape and climate a matter of national urgency.

When Europe suffered record-breaking heat in July, Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik clocked its hottest temperatures ever. Iceland’s economy is on the cusp of a recession, partly because an important export, the capelin fish, vanished this year in search of colder waters. This week, the United Nations warned that the world’s land and water resources are being exploited at an unprecedented rate.

“Climate change is no longer something to be joked about in Iceland or anywhere,” said Gudni Jóhannesson, Iceland’s president.CreditSuzie Howell for The New York Times

“Climate change is no longer something to be joked about in Iceland or anywhere,” Gudni Jóhannesson, Iceland’s president, said in an interview, adding that most Icelanders believe human activity plays a role. “We realize the harmful effects of global warming,” he said. “We are taking responsibility to seek practical solutions. But we can do better.”

The country elected an environmentalist, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, as prime minister in 2017 on a platform of tackling climate change. Her government is budgeting $55 million over five years for reforestation, land conservation and carbon-free transport projects to slash greenhouse gas emissions. More will be spent by 2040, when Iceland expects businesses, organizations and individuals to be removing as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they put in.

Each one of Iceland’s glaciers is melting.CreditSuzie Howell for The New York Times

Environmental activists say that still isn’t enough to make Iceland, a wealthy nation of just 350,000 people, a model. Despite generating clean geothermal energy and hydropower, major industries including aluminum and ferrosilicon production also produce a third of Iceland’s carbon dioxide. Tourism, now the engine of growth after a banking collapse in 2008, has flourished with warmer weather but added to Iceland’s climate woes as planes packing millions of visitors push per capita carbon dioxide emissions above that of every country in Europe.

Bigger nations like Norway and Finland have cut emissions more, and over 190 other countries except the United States have pledged to combat climate change under the Paris Agreement. But with the impact in Iceland more visible than in other nations, it is doing what it can — while trying to turn the warming climate into an economic advantage. “Let’s look at practical solutions instead of being filled with despair,” Mr. Jóhannesson said.

Ólafur Eggertsson’s family has run his farm since 1906.CreditSuzie Howell for The New York Times

Ólafur Eggertsson, a farmer, has been anticipating how to tame the wilds of his new environment. On a sunny day, he pointed to a sparkling glacier sprawled thinly atop the nearby Eyjafjallajökull volcano on Iceland’s southern rim. Eyjafjallajökull erupted spectacularly in 2010, snarling European air traffic and raining ash over the Thorvaldseyri farm run by his family since 1906. But even before that, the glacier had been visibly retreating, and far faster than when his father and grandfather worked the land.

That alarms him, he said, because glaciers keep volcanoes cool. Scientists predict more eruptions in the coming century as the glaciers melt. Mr. Eggertsson is working to make the farm carbon neutral to prevent more warming, by transforming it from a mainly dairy operation to an 160-acre estate with barley and rapeseed fields — crops that couldn’t grow in the cold climate 50 years ago.

The road leading to Mr. Eggertsson’s house and farm, with a melting glacier in the hills above.CreditSuzie Howell for The New York Times

He is converting the rapeseed to biofuel. And Mr. Eggertsson, who plans to ramp up his 364,000-euro investment in the crop business in coming years, is hoping that Iceland’s farmers will one day grow enough barley to avoid importing it on polluting ships and planes.

“Sometimes what I’m doing feels like a drop in the ocean,” Mr. Eggertsson said, pulling handfuls of barley from the soil. “But humans are contributing to warming. I have no choice but to act.”

Reynir Kristinsson this year planted 200,000 native birch trees on 700 acres of volcanic flatland.CreditSuzie Howell for The New York Times

Others are finding deals in the demand from companies and people eager to offset their carbon footprint. Near Mr. Eggertsson’s farm, Reynir Kristinsson this year planted 200,000 native birch trees on 700 acres of volcanic flatland that his nongovernmental organization, Kolvidur, leases from the state.

More than a million trees have been purchased by Icelandic companies and foreign ones like Ikea since 2010. Mr. Kristinsson is negotiating with Isavia, Iceland’s airport operator, in hopes of crafting a deal to plant trees for every tourist and Icelander who flies in and out of the island, and is bidding to lease 12,000 more acres, forecasting “exponential growth.”

HB Grandi, another fishing company, has invested in enormous super-trawlers that use less fossil fuel and allow for a larger catch.CreditSuzie Howell for The New York Times

Some companies are just trying “to green wash” their image, Mr. Kristinsson acknowledged. But as consumers demand transparency, businesses are more serious about protecting the environment and know they have to spend substantial money toward battling the changes. “If they don’t show they’re acting responsibly, they will lose clients,” he said.

Yet most of Iceland’s volcanic terrain is deforested, and it will take decades for newly planted trees to absorb carbon at a large scale. Trees are certainly not a fast fix for Iceland’s glaciers, which scientists say now can no longer recover the ice they are losing.

Mackerel caught by Skinney-Thinganes. Mackerel are now swimming in the warmer currents around Iceland, and the value of the catch has risen noticeably.CreditSuzie Howell for The New York Times

That includes Vatnajökull, which once stretched over more than a tenth of Iceland and now covers 8 percent of this 40,000-square mile island. Named a Unesco World Heritage site in June, it is shrinking by a length of nearly three football fields a year in some places.

In Höfn, Mr. Ingólfsson’s business has been thwarted by the change. While the land here has risen nearly 20 inches since the 1930s, in the last decade alone, it has floated four inches above sea level. It is forecast to rise as much as six feet in the coming century, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office.

Steinthór Arnarson, who runs boat tours in Iceland, takes visitors around iceberg-studded waters that barely existed two decades ago.CreditSuzie Howell for The New York Times

That new land is preventing Mr. Ingólfsson from acquiring bigger-capacity trawlers that his competitors use. HB Grandi, a Reykjavik-based rival that is one of Iceland’s largest fishing companies, has invested in enormous super-trawlers that use less fossil fuel and allow for a larger catch. This year, cold water capelin can’t be found. But mackerel are now swimming in the warmer currents around Iceland, and the value of the catch has risen noticeably.

Such investment — which also translates into smaller fleets — are running through Iceland’s fishing industry, and fits a national strategy to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to ocean acidification and harm fish. The transformation is important and strategic: Fish account for 39 percent of Iceland’s exports.

Vatnajökull, a glacier that once stretched over more than a tenth of Iceland, is shrinking by a length of nearly three football fields a year in some places.CreditSuzie Howell for The New York Times

Mr. Ingólfsson’s trawlers can now only move in and out at high tide, and his business suffers for that. Last winter, two were stuck outside the harbor when a storm hit, he said, forcing the catch to be offloaded at another factory on the east coast, leaving scores of workers at his Höfn plant idle.

“Unless we find a solution,” he said, “things will just get worse.”

Glacial melting is also expected to oversaturate watersheds in the next century and scientists predict that they then will dry up, forcing energy producers to adapt. Landsvirkjun, the state-run energy company, which generates three-quarters of Iceland’s power, is building room for additional water turbines at its dams. It is also building new capacity for wind turbines to operate when the glaciers die.

“From a design perspective, we’re taking into account what will happen in the next 50 to 100 years,” said Óli Grétar Blondal Sveinsson, the executive vice president for research and development. “There will be no glaciers,” he said flatly.

That prospect has jolted Icelanders — and some visitors — to a realization that they are witnessing a treasure vanish. Steinthór Arnarson, 36, quit his job as a lawyer three years ago to open a tour business at the Fjallsárlón lagoon, employing 20. He takes visitors on inflatable boats around iceberg-studded waters that barely existed two decades ago.

A native of the area, he recalled the lake being a fraction of its current size when he was a teenager. When he returned in 2012, the Vatnajökull outlet here had melted so much that the lagoon had grown a mile wide, and thundering rivers nearby had shifted course.

Many of the 200 tourists who visit daily want to see Vatnajökull before it disappears, Mr. Arnarson said.

“People are stunned by the glacier’s beauty and feel like me,” he said, gazing at the 130-foot high wall of blue ice soaring from the water.

“It’s nice to see a piece of it break off,” he said. “But it’s really sad.”

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A Plan to Mine the Minnesota Wilderness Hit a Dead End. Then Trump Became President.

ELY, Minn. — In the waning months of the Obama administration, a Chilean conglomerate was losing a fight with the United States government over a copper mine that it wanted to build near a pristine wilderness area in Minnesota.

The election of President Trump, with his business-friendly bent, turned out to be a game-changer for the project.

Beginning in the early weeks of Mr. Trump’s presidency, the administration worked at a high level to remove roadblocks to the proposed mine, government emails and calendars show, overruling concerns that it could harm the Boundary Waters, a vast landscape of federally protected lakes and forests along the border with Canada.

Executives with the mining company, Antofagasta, discussed the project with senior administration officials, including the White House’s top energy adviser, the emails show. Even before an interior secretary was appointed to the new administration, the department moved to re-examine leases critical to the mine, eventually restoring those that the Obama administration had declined to renew. And the Forest Service called off an environmental review that could have restricted mining, even though the agriculture secretary had told Congress that the review would proceed.

An Interior Department spokesman said it simply worked to rectify “a flawed decision rushed out the door” before Mr. Trump took office. Several senior department officials with previous administrations, however, said they were surprised by the swift change of course for the little-known Minnesota project, which was not a focal point of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.

For the family of the billionaire Andrónico Luksic, which controls the Chilean conglomerate, the policy reversals could provide a big boost to its mining business. Since the change in administration, the Antofagasta subsidiary Twin Metals Minnesota has significantly ramped up its lobbying in Washington, according to federal disclosures, spending $900,000.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 00CLI-HOUSE-luksic-articleLarge A Plan to Mine the Minnesota Wilderness Hit a Dead End. Then Trump Became President. Zinke, Ryan (1961- ) Wilderness Areas Wetlands washington dc United States Politics and Government Trump, Ivanka Trump, Donald J Tidwell, Thomas L Renting and Leasing (Real Estate) Minnesota Mines and Mining Lobbying and Lobbyists Kushner, Jared Kushner, Charles Interior Department Greenhouse Gas Emissions Global Warming Forests and Forestry Forest Service environment Chile Carbon Dioxide Banco de Chile Bachelet, Michelle Appointments and Executive Changes

Andrónico Luksic’s plan for a copper mine in Minnesota was blocked by President Barack Obama. His fortunes have since shifted.CreditMartin Bernetti/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ivanka Trump, left, and Jared Kushner, second from left, two of the president’s closest advisers.CreditAlex Wong/Getty Images

But the mining project’s breakthrough, already unpopular with environmentalists, has drawn additional scrutiny and criticism because of an unusual connection between Mr. Luksic and two of Mr. Trump’s family members.

Just before Mr. Trump took office, Mr. Luksic added a personal investment to his portfolio: a $5.5 million house in Washington. Mr. Luksic bought the house with the intention of renting it to a wealthy new arrival to Mr. Trump’s Washington, according to Rodrigo Terré, chairman of Mr. Luksic’s family investment office, which handled the purchase.

The idea worked. Even before the purchase was final, real estate agents had lined up renters: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

The rental arrangement has been a point of concern for ethics experts and groups opposed to mining near the Boundary Waters, and has focused national attention, particularly among some Democrats in Congress, on an otherwise local debate.

The Wall Street Journal first reported about the house in March 2017. At that time, Twin Metals was suing the federal government over the mining leases, but the Trump administration’s direction on the mine since then had only begun to take shape.

In recent months, the scrutiny has grown. In March, Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, the Arizona Democrat who is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, wrote a letter with other lawmakers to the interior and agriculture secretaries raising significant concerns about the proposed mine.

The letter said the two departments’ actions “blatantly ignored scientific and economic evidence.” It also mentioned the “interesting coincidence” surrounding the rental of the Luksic house to Mr. Trump’s relatives. Separately, a group in Minnesota opposed to the mining, Save the Boundary Waters, has called the rental arrangement “deeply troubling” and has seized on it to cast doubt on the administration’s actions.

The White House and representatives for the couple declined to answer questions about whether the rental deal had been reviewed by ethics officials. “Both Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump follow the ethics advice they received when they entered government service,” said Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Mr. Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell.

Mr. Terré called the lease a simple real estate transaction that happened to involve the incoming president’s family. “I do not believe there was anything unethical or inappropriate about this business transaction,” he said.

Both Mr. Mirijanian and Mr. Terré said the rental was not related to the Minnesota mine. “There is no correlation in any way,” Mr. Mirijanian said. They were “two entirely unrelated matters” and tying them together was “based on unfounded rumors and speculation,” Mr. Terré said.

An Interior Department spokeswoman said that neither Mr. Kushner nor Ms. Trump been involved in discussions about the mine.

Nonetheless, several ethics experts said they would have cautioned Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump against renting the home, given the Luksic family’s business before the administration.

“There may be nothing wrong,” said Arthur Andrew Lopez, a federal government ethics official for two decades who is now a professor at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. “But it doesn’t look good.”

Antofagasta hopes to mine on the edge of the Boundary Waters, which encompasses more than a million acres of lakes and forest.CreditTim Gruber for The New York Times

The Boundary Waters hold a special place in American geography: More than a million acres of lakes and forests provide a rich habitat for thousands of species, including the gray wolf and Canada lynx. But below the surface and beyond lies richness of another sort, an estimated four billion tons of copper and nickel ore — believed to be one of the world’s largest undeveloped mineral deposits.

The mining giant controlled by the Luksic family, Antofagasta, took full control of the project in 2015, and its executives have called it the company’s “most advanced international opportunity.” Antofagasta, which is publicly traded in London, is poised to benefit from the growing use of copper in renewable-energy technologies like wind and solar. It lists Mr. Luksic as a board member, and his younger brother, Jean-Paul Luksic, as chairman.

The company has spent more than $450 million so far on the project, run by the subsidiary, Twin Metals Minnesota. It says the project will generate hundreds of mining jobs.

The promise of employment resonates in Minnesota’s Iron Range, which has lost a quarter of its mining jobs since 2000. “The mining industry brings a tsunami effect for the community with regard to jobs, schools, everything,” said Andrea Zupancich, the mayor of Babbitt, a town of 1,500 near the proposed mine.

Antofagasta’s environmental record, however, has raised concerns. In Chile, the company’s Los Pelambres copper mine has suffered toxic spills, according to environmental groups. The company said the mine had experienced only “minor incidents involving limited spills” which were not toxic, and said it was proud of its environmental record.

In a 2016 analysis, Thomas Tidwell, who was then chief of the United States Forest Service, warned of risks to the Boundary Waters from the proposed Twin Metals mine, including the leaching of harmful metals. Mining, he concluded, risked “serious and irreplaceable harm to this unique, iconic, and irreplaceable wilderness.”

Twin Metals called the analysis “riddled with errors” and said “environmental risks will be properly managed.”

Still, the fears have divided nearby residents. “In the summer, we drink out of this water,” said Susan Schurke, who runs Wintergreen Northern Wear, an outdoor clothing company. “Once that’s tainted, it’s over. How can we risk that?”

When the Obama administration moved to block the project in 2016, Twin Metals sued. The company said in a statement then that the administration’s move threatened jobs and would “hinder access to one of the world’s largest sources of copper, nickel and platinum — resources of strategic importance to the U.S. economy and national defense.”

Just as the mining company’s hopes appeared to be on the ropes, it got a welcome surprise: Mr. Trump’s election, and the promise of a pro-industry agenda.

“In 100 years, this water is going to be far more valuable a resource here than copper,” Sullen Sack, a wilderness educator, said.CreditTim Gruber for The New York Times
A map of the Boundary Waters at Ely Outfitting Company in Ely, Minn.CreditTim Gruber for The New York Times The region has lost a quarter of its mining jobs since 2000.CreditTim Gruber for The New York Times

With a new administration on its way to Washington, Mr. Luksic contacted a real estate broker he knew for help with an investment idea: buying residential properties in Washington, including a luxury home, to rent out.

With the help of the broker, Rodrigo Valderrama, Mr. Luksic’s family investment office, which through corporate entities owns a portfolio of real estate in the United States, bought two condominiums in the capital. One was never rented and the other was later sold at a loss.

As for the luxury home, Mr. Valderrama spent weeks touring homes and alerting brokers that he had an interested client. One house he saw was on Tracy Place, in the Kalorama neighborhood, being handled by the real estate firm Washington Fine Properties.

Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner were using the same firm for their hunt for a house to rent. With Mr. Kushner’s parents tagging along, they saw the six-bedroom, 7,000-square-foot Kalorama home as well.

In the space of a week, Mr. Luksic’s representatives agreed to buy the house and closed on the all-cash transaction, while their would-be tenants waited for the purchase to be complete.

The two sides, working through brokers, agreed on rent of $15,000 per month. Mr. Terré described it as being in the “high range” for the area, which some real estate agents confirmed. Still, that rent was significantly lower than what the couple had discussed paying for another more expensive house, according to interviews.

The home rented by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in the Kalorama neighborhood of Washington.CreditTom Brenner for The New York Times

Mr. Terré said both sides were aware of each others’ identities before the rental deal was finalized. “We disclosed our name and the name of my boss,” he said in a telephone interview. Mr. Mirijanian said the couple had decided to lease the home before knowing the landlord’s identity. He did not directly respond to questions about whether they learned of that identity before signing the lease.

Mr. Luksic has written on Twitter that he does not know Mr. Trump or any member of his family, and only met Mr. Trump briefly at a New England Patriots football game years ago. Mr. Terré said Mr. Luksic “has not had any interactions with the Trump White House.”

Critics of the Luksic family say they were suspicious of the Washington investments because of Mr. Luksic’s past in Chile, where he has faced claims of attempts to win favor with the family of a former Chilean president. The Luksic family, one of the world’s wealthiest, has interests spanning banking, manufacturing, energy, shipping and beer.

Mr. Luksic came under fire for meeting with the son and daughter-in-law of Michelle Bachelet, who was running to be president of Chile at the time, as they sought a $10 million loan for their company from Banco de Chile, which is controlled by the Luksic family conglomerate. After Ms. Bachelet’s 2013 election, the bank approved the loan.

A spokesman for Ms. Bachelet said an investigation into the meeting didn’t lead to any charges. Representatives for Mr. Luksic said that he never discussed the loan with Ms. Bachelet, and that regulators found “there was absolutely nothing irregular about the bank’s approval of the loan.”

The Trump administration’s efforts to smooth the way for Antofagasta’s mining ambitions began less than two weeks after the inauguration, when Interior Department officials began re-examining the leases, the government emails show.

The message from an early meeting, according to an attendee who spoke on condition of anonymity, was that officials should prepare for a change in direction.

Officials also made sure the incoming interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, not yet in the job, was briefed. In an email, one Interior Department official described that effort as a “fire drill.”

The administration’s efforts are documented in part in thousands of pages of government emails and calendars, many obtained through records requests by Louis V. Galdieri, a documentary filmmaker, and the Sierra Club, an environmental organization.

A key meeting occurred in early May, when Antofagasta’s chief executive, along with other executives and lobbyists, discussed the issue with the White House’s top adviser on domestic energy and the environment, Michael Catanzaro. The company said it wanted to reverse the Obama-era decisions, which it said were illegal and inflicted “undue damage.”

Rock core samples taken by Twin Metals as part of preparations for mining.CreditTim Gruber for The New York Times
Near the Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge outside Ely. Dogsledding in the Boundary Waters wilderness is popular in winter.CreditTim Gruber for The New York Times A slab of taconite iron ore, a major local industry in decades past, on display in Babbitt, Minn.CreditTim Gruber for The New York Times

The next month, Interior Department officials learned that the White House had “expressed interest in the Twin Metals matter,” according to an email sent by a department lawyer marked “TIME SENSITIVE.” Soon after, top interior appointees traveled to the Minnesota site.

That December, the department reversed course on denying the company’s leases, and Twin Metals withdrew its lawsuit. The Interior Department formally renewed the leases last month, with some restrictions.

Twin Metals scored another victory in September when the Forest Service cut short its mining-ban review. An agency spokesman said it had determined that neither the study nor a ban was needed.

A Twin Metals spokesman, David Ulrich, said the company’s outreach was part of a long-running effort to share its views with the federal government. Obama administration officials had also visited the mining site, he said.

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“We are confident that this world-class mineral resource can be developed safely and with a minimal impact to the environment,” he said in a statement.

The mine still faces a yearslong permitting and approval process. Engineers have been drilling boreholes and wells to study the region’s geology and water, and the company is preparing an operating plan.

“The last administration created some challenges,” Mr. Ulrich said during a tour of the site on the Boundary Waters’ edge. “But it was never not moving forward.”

On a trip to Minnesota in April, Mr. Trump was jubilant about the restoration of mining.

“Under the previous administration,” he said at a truck factory, “America’s rich natural resources were put under lock and key.” The changes since then, he said, were “really pretty amazing.”

Moonrise over Garden Lake, on the edge of the Boundary Waters in Minnesota.CreditTim Gruber for The New York Times

Reporting was contributed by Lisa Friedman in Washington, Jesse Drucker and Kate Kelly in New York, and Pascale Bonnefoy in Santiago, Chile. Kitty Bennett and Alain Delaquérière contributed research.

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Automakers Say Trump Pollution Rules Could Mean ‘Untenable’ Instability and Lower Profits

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WASHINGTON — Many of the world’s largest automakers joined together Thursday to tell President Trump that one of his most sweeping deregulatory efforts — his plan to weaken pollution standards for automobiles — threatens to hurt their profitability and produce “untenable” instability in one of the nation’s most important manufacturing sectors.

In a letter signed by 17 companies including Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Volvo, the automakers asked Mr. Trump to go back to the negotiating table on the planned rollback. It represents the most forceful statement to date by the auto industry against Mr. Trump’s effort to weaken the tailpipe pollution rules, one of President Barack Obama’s signature policies to fight climate change.

Mr. Trump’s new rule, which is expected to be made public in the coming weeks, would all but eliminate the Obama-era auto pollution regulations, essentially freezing mileage standards at about 37 miles per gallon for cars, down from a target of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The policy makes it a near certainty that California and 13 other states will sue the administration while continuing to enforce their own, stricter rules — in effect, splitting the United States auto market in two.

For automakers, a bifurcated market is their nightmare scenario. In the letter to Mr. Trump, a copy of which was reviewed by The New York Times, they warned of “an extended period of litigation and instability” should his plans be implemented.

The letter was delivered to the White House on Thursday morning, the same time as a similar letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, according to a senior auto industry lobbyist who was not authorized to speak about the matter because the letters had not yet been made public.

“We strongly believe the best path to preserve good auto jobs and keep new vehicles affordable for more Americans is a final rule supported by all parties — including California,” the letter says.

To Mr. Newsom, the companies wrote, “We are writing with a desire to resurrect discussions” on the plans.

A White House spokesman, Judd Deere, said Thursday afternoon that he was unaware of the letter and therefore unable to respond to questions about it. Stanley Young, a spokesman for the California Air Resources Board, the agency that runs the state’s tailpipe pollution program, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The automakers’ letter is the latest unusual turn in Mr. Trump’s quest to roll back regulations on auto manufacturing, an industry he has vowed to support, only to be told by that same industry that his efforts may do more harm than good. Some industry chief executives and lobbyists have been privately telling the White House the same thing for months, but Thursday’s letter represents the most forceful pushback by the industry in their efforts to temper the president’s plan.

“Our thinking is, the rule is still being finalized, there is still time to develop a final rule that is good for consumers, policymakers and automakers,” said Gloria Bergquist, a vice president at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

But criticizing the president’s plan comes with risk for the automakers. The White House has courted their support for his moves, and, in particular, executives at auto companies have said they expect to be asked to stand with Mr. Trump in the Rose Garden when he announces the rollback — just as they once stood with Mr. Obama in 2009 when he announced the creation of the pollution rules.

Privately, some officials have said that they fear auto industry criticism of Mr. Trump’s rollback could lead the president to retaliate by imposing tariffs on auto imports. That, too, could be painful for the industry, because many cars and components are now made or partly assembled across the border in Mexico or Canada.

In asking Mr. Trump to rewrite his planned rollback of the pollution rule in such a way that it could be supported by the environmentally progressive state of California, the automakers effectively withdrew their support for Mr. Trump’s current plan and asked the president to make a deal with a state that he appears to relish antagonizing. Mr. Trump has variously described California as “ridiculous,” “out of control” and “the state that has wasted billions of dollars.”

Xavier Becerra, the California attorney general, has said repeatedly that the state intends to sue Mr. Trump over the weakening of the auto pollution rules. In one such remark this year, he said he was “prepared to defend our national clean car standards even if the Trump administration intends to go AWOL.”

While two of the nation’s Big Three companies signed the letter, the third, Fiat Chrysler, which has been more supportive of the administration’s plan, did not. Other automakers who signed the letter include BMW, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru and Volkswagen.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 06CLI-AUTOS2-articleLarge Automakers Say Trump Pollution Rules Could Mean ‘Untenable’ Instability and Lower Profits United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Toyota Motor Corp Regulation and Deregulation of Industry Newsom, Gavin Greenhouse Gas Emissions Global Warming General Motors Ford Motor Co environment Carbon Dioxide Automobiles Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers Air Pollution

The president during a March 2017 meeting in Michigan with auto industry executives.CreditNicholas Kamm/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The automakers conceded in their letter that they were seeking to solve a crisis of their own making. Soon after Mr. Trump took office, chief executives from Detroit’s top automakers personally asked him to loosen some elements of the Obama-era regulations.

However, the Trump administration went further than the industry expected, using the rollback to attack California’s legal authority to set its own rules. Since the 1970 Clean Air Act, California has had special privileges to write its own pollution regulations.

The Trump administration last year unveiled a draft plan that would have rolled back the Obama rule and stripped California of the right to set tougher state standards. In subsequent months, both sides said they hoped to negotiate their way to a final plan that would lead to one national standard, avoiding potential courtroom showdowns.

But in February, the White House announced that it had ended talks with California, essentially ensuring that the final outcome would lead to litigation.

The Car Industry Is Under Siege

June 6, 2019

Westlake Legal Group 00auto-1-threeByTwoSmallAt2X Automakers Say Trump Pollution Rules Could Mean ‘Untenable’ Instability and Lower Profits United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Toyota Motor Corp Regulation and Deregulation of Industry Newsom, Gavin Greenhouse Gas Emissions Global Warming General Motors Ford Motor Co environment Carbon Dioxide Automobiles Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers Air Pollution

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