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Renewable energy provided a record 55 percent of power generating capacity worldwide in 2016, according to a new UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance report.

The new capacity comes with a smaller price tag for investors due to the plummeting costs for renewables: average PV solar generation costs dropped 17 percent, while onshore wind dropped 18 percent and offshore wind dropped 28 percent.

Overall, global investment in clean energy fell 23 percent from 2015 levels, even as the world installed a record 139 GW of renewable energy. The report estimates that the collective renewable installation prevented the emission of 1.7 gigatonnes of CO2.

"It's a whole new world: even though investment is down, annual installations are still up; instead of having to subsidize renewables, now authorities may have to subsidize natural gas plants to help them provide grid reliability," Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board at UNEP, said in the report.

For a deeper dive:

News: Reuters, Politico Pro, AP, Bloomberg, Mashable, Christian Science Monitor, InsideClimate News

Commentary: ThinkProgress, Joe Romm column

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

Photo credit: iStock

The group of 17 states which backed the Clean Power Plan filed a legal challenge Wednesday urging the DC Circuit Court of Appeals to ignore the Trump administration's request to stay legal proceedings in the Clean Power Plan suit.

The challenge alleges that the federal government has a responsibility to regulate emissions from power plants and that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "vague" plans to review the Clean Power Plan could cause an "indefinite delay" in the process.

"EPA fails to justify its unprecedented request for an open-ended abeyance at this late stage of litigation: more than six months after the en banc court heard a full day of oral argument," the states wrote.

"This case is ripe for decision now, and nothing that EPA has proposed to do obviates the need for this court's review. Indefinitely deferring a decision here, as EPA requests, would waste the substantial resources already expended in this litigation by the parties and this court."

Environmental groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council, filed a similar brief Wednesday, saying the delay "would have the effect of improperly suspending the rule without review by any court, without any explanation and without mandatory administrative process. The agency cannot be allowed to accomplish through abeyance something it cannot do on its own: an indefinite suspension of a duly promulgated rule without judicial review, without a notice and comment rulemaking and without any reasoned explanation."

The coalition of states include attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington—along with the District of Columbia and other smaller localities.

"The law is clear: the EPA must limit carbon pollution from power plants," New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. "In order to repeal Obama-era protections, the Trump administration must replace those protections, as well—and we know how well repeal-and-replace went the first time around. My office will continue to defend the Clean Power Plan and aggressively oppose any effort to stand down from our shared responsibility to protect our environment and our climate."

For a deeper dive:

Reuters, The Hill, Politico Pro

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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Myron Ebell gives a speech at the Heartland Institute's conference in Washington, DC.

Despite having fellow deniers at the wheel at both the White House and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), reports surfaced this week that climate deniers are unhappy with rhetoric and actions coming from the Trump administration.

Prominent deniers have expressed disappointment that the administration seems to have ignored Myron Ebell's transition plan for the EPA and are outraged at reports that Scott Pruitt successfully argued against draft language in a previous version of today's executive order that took aim at the EPA's 2009 endangerment finding.

Deniers should be soothed that some influential Trump players are still paying close attention: The Washington Post reported Monday that Robert and Rebekah Mercer, prominent Trump donors who have also bankrolled denier efforts in the past, attended last week's climate-denier-heavy Heartland conference.

According to DeSmogBlog:

The Mercer family were key financial backers of Trump's successful presidential campaign, but were also key influencers in the make-up of Trump's administration.

As key investors in Breitbart, the Mercers worked with that right-wing outlet's former boss Steve Bannon, who is now Trump's chief strategist.

The Mercer Family Foundation, led by Rebekah, has given heavily to climate science denial groups like Heartland.

Their latest $100,000 donation, declared in the Mercer Family Foundation's 2015 tax form, takes their financial backing of Heartland to more than $5million since the first $1million check was written in 2008.

As DeSmog has reported, the Mercers have also donated to several of the Heartland Institute conference sponsors, including the Heritage Foundation and the Media Research Center, which has received more than $13 million from the Mercer Family Foundation.

But as is the custom for Rebekah and Robert, they declined interview requests from journalists and stayed in the background of a conference characterised by no short measure of triumphalism mixed with some frustration that the Trump administration is not pushing even harder to pull apart regulations and rules tied to action on climate change.

For a deeper dive:

Deniers: New Republic, Axios, DeSmogBlog

Mercers: Washington Post, The Hill

Deniers in charge: New York Times

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

The global coal boom took a nosedive in 2016 as construction starts on coal-fired power plants fell to nearly two-thirds of 2015 levels, according to a report, from Coalswarm, Sierra Club and Greenpeace.

"Markets are demanding clean energy, and no amount of rhetoric from Donald Trump will be able to stop the fall of coal in the U.S. and across the globe," said Nicole Ghio, senior campaigner for the Sierra Club's International Climate and Energy Campaign.

The updated Boom and Bust report, which is released annually, finds that China and India were responsible for some of the largest demand cuts in 2016, with policy and investment shifts causing those countries to freeze more than 100 project sites representing 68 GW of construction.

"2016 marked a veritable turning point," said Lauri Myllyvirta, senior global campaigner on Coal and Air Pollution at Greenpeace. "China all but stopped new coal projects after astonishing clean energy growth ... Closures of old coal plants drove major emission reductions, especially in the U.S. and U.K., while Belgium and Ontario became entirely coal-free and three G8 countries announced deadlines for coal phase-outs."

While the report cautions that more drastic cuts must be made to keep warming below 2°C, the global slowdown in coal construction brings that goal "within feasible reach."

"The shift from fossil fuels to clean sources in the power sector is a positive one for health, climate security and jobs. And by all indications, the shift is unstoppable," Ted Nace, director of CoalSwarm, said.

For a deeper dive:

AP, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, Vox, Climate Home

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that carbon dioxide levels in 2016 broke records for the second year in a row with an increase of 3 parts per million (ppm).

The measurements are coming from the Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory in Hawaii and were confirmed by NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. The numbers show that the rate of CO2 in the atmosphere is now at 405.1 ppm, the highest it has been in more than 10,000 years. Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA's Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, said the findings are accurate and disturbing.

"The rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age," Tans said in a press release. "This is a real shock to the atmosphere."

A shock, indeed. An atmosphere of 400 ppm is dubbed the "carbon threshold," a point of no return. To sum it up, levels this high throw the whole balance of the climate cycle into chaos, making it more difficult to predict climate changes and causing sea level rise, severe tropical storms, drought and flooding.

This graph shows the annual mean carbon dioxide growth rates observed at NOAA's Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory. Further information can be found on the ESRL Global Monitoring Division website.NOAA

Emissions from fossil-fuel consumption have remained at historically high levels since 2011, and according to Tans, these emissions are contributing to the dramatic spike in atmospheric CO2 levels, which, up until the industrial revolution in 1760, averaged about 280 ppm.

Even if humans were to stop burning fossil fuels today, the carbon will continue to be trapped for at least the next few decades. Back in October 2016, when levels finally reached the 400 ppm threshold, Tans said, "It's unlikely we'll ever see CO2 below 400 ppm during our lifetime and probably much longer."

The Great Barrier Reef has been hit by mass bleaching for an unprecedented second year running. Photo credit: Chris Jones / Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

The only hope to save the world's coral reefs is to take immediate action to stop climate change, according to new research published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The study analyzed 2016 bleaching events in the Great Barrier Reef, finding that they were mostly driven by rising temperatures and that local efforts to reduce pollution and overfishing did little to keep the reefs alive. 2016 was the worst year for coral bleaching worldwide, with more than 90 percent of the corals on the Great Barrier Reef affected.

Only nine percent of the reef has avoided bleaching since 1998. "Climate change is not a future threat," the study's lead author, Terry P. Hughes, told the New York Times. "On the Great Barrier Reef, it's been happening for 18 years."

"We didn't expect to see this level of destruction to the Great Barrier Reef for another 30 years," Hughes added.

For a deeper dive:

Washington Post, New York Times, AP, Reuters, FT, The Guardian, NPR, LA Times, Buzzfeed, Mother Jones, Mashable, InsideClimate News, TIME

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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Photo credit: Sarah Winstton / Flickr

Rex Tillerson used an email address registered under the name "Wayne Tracker" to discuss climate policies while CEO of ExxonMobil, according to a letter sent by the New York attorney general's office to a New York Supreme Court justice Monday.

In the letter, lawyers for AG Eric Schneiderman's office allege that Exxon did not disclose the existence of this false address in court documents and failed to provide correspondence from the account in its reply to the AG's subpoena investigating the company's public and private climate policies.

Exxon executives responded that the "Wayne.Tracker@exxonmobil.com" address, in use between 2008 and 2015, was "put in place for secure and expedited communications between select senior company officials and the former chairman for a broad range of business-related topics."

For a deeper dive:

The Hill, Bloomberg, Buzzfeed, InsideClimate News

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

Photo credit: Tesla

Tesla unveiled a new 13MW solar farm on the Hawaiian island of Kauai Wednesday, bringing the state closer to its ambitious goal of sourcing 100 percent renewables by 2045.

The farm includes nearly 300 Tesla Powerpack batteries, which provide 52 MWh of capacity and will allow the farm to sell stored power during the evening. The company estimated that the farm will offset 1.6 million gallons of fossil fuel usage per year in the state, which relies heavily on oil-fired power plants and has some of the highest electric rates in the country.

According to The Verge:

It's the first major solar-plus-storage project for Tesla since its $2.6 billion acquisition of SolarCity last year, and Tesla said in a statement that it "will work with energy providers around the world seeking to overcome barriers in the way of building a sustainable, renewable energy grid of their own."

Stationary storage is "something I think will probably be as big as the car business long term," Tesla CEO Elon Musk said during a tour of the Gigafactory last year. "And will actually have a growth rate probably several times that of what the car business is per year. The growth in stationary storage is really under appreciated. That's a super-exponential growth rate."

For a deeper dive:

Bloomberg, Mashable, TechCrunch, Engadget, The Verge, Business Insider

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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