Washington Insider-- Tuesday

Climate Change Talks Underway

Here’s a quick monitor of Washington farm and trade policy issues from DTN’s well-placed observer.

IMF Okays Chinese Yuan to Lending-Reserve Currency Status

As expected, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Monday added the Chinese yuan to the basket of currencies comprising its lending reserve. The group’s benchmark currency basket, also known as special drawing rights (SDR), currently contains the dollar, euro, pound and yen.

The IMF decision will elevate China’s influence in the global economy. This inclusion would make the yuan more attractive to global central banks as a currency to store foreign reserves. It would also increase demand from other large money managers. The IMF’s staff earlier this month recommended in a report to the fund’s board that the renminbi join the other four currencies in the SDR basket as part of a regular five-yearly review.

The IMF’s executive board, which represents the fund’s 188 member nations, decided the yuan meets the standard of being “freely usable,” the organization said in a statement. Approval was expected after IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde announced Nov. 13 that her staff recommended inclusion, a position she supported. The IMF reviews the composition of the basket every five years and rejected the yuan during the last review, in 2010, saying it didn’t meet the necessary criteria.

It is the first change in the SDR’s currency composition since 1999, when the euro replaced the deutsche mark and French franc.

The yuan will not officially become a reserve currency until Oct. 1 2016.


EPA and Army Corps Reveal Preliminary Jurisdictional Findings

A national database, which lists all approved jurisdictional determinations made under the Section 404 “dredge-and-fill” permitting provision of the Clean Water Act since September, is now public.

The move is part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s push to increase transparency as the agencies seek to defend their Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule in court, according to a memo sent by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Army Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy to the EPA acting deputy assistant administrator for water, EPA regional administrators, chief of engineers and all district and division engineers at the Army Corps.

Previously, the database only contained jurisdictional determinations approved before September. Over the next year, the database will grow to include more details about the status of individual determinations and associated land tracts, states, watersheds and years.


Washington Insider: Climate Change Talks Underway

President Obama is in Paris this week for the Global Climate Conference, and is taking a strong stand on the need for global action, Bloomberg reported on Monday. He said he is taking the opportunity provided by the conference to demonstrate to the “terrorist factions that the world is unbowed” by their actions.

One key argument the President makes concerns the importance of the conference, that he thinks marks “a turning point for collective action on global warming.” He elaborated that comment by painting the threat posed by climate change as “the defining challenge of the century.” He called the United Nations-sponsored summit as the first organized to reach a “truly global agreement to curb greenhouse gases.”

The president argued that no nation is immune from the effects of climate change, and, in a somewhat unusual stance, said the U.S., “the world’s biggest economy and its second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, accepted its role for contributing to the problem and shares the responsibility to fix it.”

One of the central U.S. goals at the summit is commitments from the wealthiest nations to invest in clean energy research and assistance for developing countries in their mitigation efforts. The president is looking to advance that goal by highlighting both public and private efforts, including an unprecedented commitment from private donors including Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates who will provide billions of dollars for basic energy research over the next five years.

Some 20 countries, including the world’s biggest carbon emitters such as the U.S., China, and India, have also agreed to increase spending in that area from $10 billion to $20 billion over the next five years. Bloomberg said.

While leaders in Paris seem eager to demonstrate unity, the President’s positions are highly controversial in some quarters. For example, a group of influential congressional Republicans is hoping to use the summit to undercut the president’s ambitions and scale back American funding for international efforts, Bloomberg reports.

The White House has downplayed such efforts including proposals to restrict the State Department’s ability to donate to the Green Climate Fund, the central mechanism expected to be used to assist developing countries. The administration has pledged $3 billion to the international effort, with the White House requesting $500 million of that funding this year.

In addition, the White House has aggressively courted corporate interests ahead of the talks, soliciting significant pledges and contributions that the President intends to use as examples of how the U.S. is acting even without congressional assistance.

There are other factors at play concerning U.S. leadership in the climate wars, Bloomberg notes. For example, it reports that a new CBS/New York Times poll indicates that two thirds of Americans say the United States should join international plans to reduce greenhouse gasses and slow climate change; that some 53% of Americans think global warming is caused by human activity; and that about half of the respondents think global warming is already having serious impacts on environment.

In earlier efforts to control climate change, a major weakness was the attempt by developed countries to control greenhouse gasses alone, while allowing developing countries to avoid similar efforts. Now, there are strong signs that developing countries, with developed country support, will make significant efforts to join in controls to deal with significant problems of their own.

Still, the effort to build unity among so many extremely different nations will require an enormous effort and faces continuing political risks, particularly in the United States. The outcome certainly is important to U.S. producers, and the debate should be watched carefully as it proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

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