World News Brief, Tuesday June 3

Obama administration announce plans to cut US coal emissions; tension between US and China at security conference; Thailand's ruling military junta releases plans to kick-start economy; Spanish king abdicates in favour of son; Taliban and US negotiate prisoner exchange; and more 

Top of the Agenda

Obama Administration to Unveil Carbon Reduction Plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will unveil on Monday a new regulation that would require states and utilities to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal plants by some 25 percent by 2020 and 30 percent by 2030 as compared to 2005 levels, while giving them flexibility in how to achieve reductions (WSJ). President Barack Obama spearheaded the executive action, his administration's most ambitious on climate change, after legislative efforts to address the issue have stalled, and it is expected to face strident political and legal challenges (WaPo) during the public commenting period over the next year. The White House hopes the new rule will spur not just further domestic climate-change policy, but also an international accord as world leaders are set to debate emissions cuts in New York in September ahead of a new climate treaty (NYT).


"The 2020 target is relatively deep. It entails lower emissions than the EIA projected would be achieved by the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012, the American Power Act of 2010 (better known as Kerry-Lieberman), or the ill-fated Waxman-Markey bill of 2009. The 2020 target also looks relatively easy to achieve. It is consistent with what the EIA estimates would be accomplished with a modest $10 a ton carbon tax starting in 2015 and rising to $13 by 2020. Waxman-Markey, by contrast, envisioned a much-higher carbon price of $32 a ton by 2020," writes CFR's Michael Levi.

"Climate change is already disrupting local economies, destroying critical infrastructure and uprooting people's lives. At the same time, some health problems resulting from fossil fuel combustion, such as asthma attacks, have doubled in the last three decades. Pollution emitted from coal-fired power plants alone kills 13,000 Americans every year and sicken tens of thousands more. The EPA's actions will significantly improve public health, while also enhancing U.S. leadership on climate change. Other countries have been waiting for the U.S. to lead by example, and tomorrow's action will make it harder for them to remain on the sidelines," writes Michael R. Bloomberg in Bloomberg View.

"There is conspicuous absence of a globally agreed principle of how polluters should pay for damages in countries least capable of dealing with them. Cap and trade may work in rich countries with the capacity to pay for transaction costs and technology development. But the money made from selling surplus permits may or may not finance development of technology that reduces emissions. Most painfully for poorer countries, the glacial speed of cap-and-trade programs does little to address the most urgent challenge of climate change," writes Rajendra Shende in the New York Times.



China, U.S. Exchange Barbs at Security Conference

China's maritime disputes dominated the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore over the weekend (SCMP). U.S. defense secretary Chuck Hagel criticized China's "destabilizing, unilateral actions," and Lt. Gen. Wang Guanzhong, the Chinese military's deputy chief of general staff, called Hagel's speech "a provocative challenge" that was "full of hegemony" (WSJ).

A CFR Interactive explains China's territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.

THAILAND: The ruling military junta released its plan to kick-start an ailing economy on Sunday as it deployed thousands of troops and police throughout Bangkok to stifle scattered protests (Irawaddy).


Spanish king abdicates in favour of son

Taliban and US negotiate prisoner exchange

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