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Greenhouse Gas Mitigation in the United States

An Overview of the Current Policy Landscape

In the context of the U.S. goal to achieve “in the range of a 17 percent emission reduction by 2020 compared with 2005 levels,” this report examines key existing and emerging federal policies that are likely to reduce GHG emissions in the United States. U.S. government GHG projections suggest...

Rebuilding Cities After Sandy: 3 Keys to Climate Resilience

As negotiators in Doha move toward a new global climate agreement this week, politicians and planners in the United States are still busy absorbing the lessons of Hurricane Sandy.

With half of all Americans living near the ocean, Hurricane Sandy provides a wake-up call for state and municipal authorities in coastal areas nationwide. New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo is leading the way, pledging a new generation of storm-resistant infrastructure and forming three commissions to explore how the state can better prepare for climate change’s coming impacts.

Sandy wrought a 1,000-mile trail of damage in towns and cities along the East Coast shoreline. As climate change intensifies, more severe storms (and storm surges), rising seas, extreme heat, and other destructive impacts loom on the horizon. How can New York City; Newark, N.J.; and other cities hit by Sandy rebuild in ways that avoid a repeat of the devastation that deprived millions of the basic essentials of modern life? How can other coastal cities adapt to become more resilient to a warming climate?

Put simply, they need to “build back better,” a phrase first coined by President Clinton following the 2004 Asian tsunami. In practice, this means coupling short-term efforts to get communities back on their feet with longer-term urban development that adapts to expected climate change impacts.

As they seek to make our coastal cities and towns more climate resilient, urban leaders should adopt three key approaches that we believe will be critical to success:

The Japanese Fast-Start Finance Contribution

Japan’s fast-start finance (FSF) commitment is one of the largest amongst developed countries, but it is important to consider the contents of this commitment. Japan has played a significant role in global efforts to finance climate change activities in developing countries, and its FSF...

Making Progress on Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) at COP 18

The international climate deal reached in Durban, South Africa last December marked an important milestone in designing a system for measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) of countries’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions-reductions efforts. In 2014, all countries will submit verifiable biennial reports with information on their GHG emissions, actions to reduce emissions, and support received or provided to other countries for emissions reductions. The Conference of the Parties (COP) also strengthened guidelines for developed countries’ (Annex I) GHG inventories, an important milestone for building trust among all countries.

Despite this progress, however, a number of outstanding issues remain. These issues will need to be resolved at COP 18 in order to ensure that there is an effective MRV system in place that tracks countries’ climate action commitments and holds them accountable.

5 Key MRV Issues that Countries Must Resolve at Doha

While COP 17 mandated revising guidelines by 2014 for developed countries’ national communications (i.e., a document submitted in accordance with the Convention and the Protocol informing other Parties of activities undertaken to address climate change), it failed to begin a similar process for developing countries, whose guidelines are similarly outdated. The Durban text also failed to establish the accounting rules required to prevent the double counting of GHG emissions, where both buyers and sellers of carbon offsets count emissions reductions toward their mitigation targets. COP 18 must build on the momentum generated in Durban to ensure a cost-effective, credible MRV and accounting framework.

Safeguarding Forests and People

A Framework for Designing a National System to Implement REDD+ Safeguards

During the design of REDD+, Parties recognized that REDD+ actions will likely not be sustainable unless they account for the role of local people and ecosystems. As a result, Parties defined seven “safeguards” to guide implementation of REDD+, among them transparency, participation, protection...

What Is Ambition in the Context of Climate Change?

This post was co-authored with Kate DeAngelis, an intern with WRI's Climate and Energy Program.

Ambition is a word often used in the context of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations. While most people think of ambition as a strong desire to achieve something, the word has a more specific meaning when it comes to international climate action.

What Does Ambition Mean and Why Is it Important?

The UNFCCC’s ultimate goal is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a “level that would prevent dangerous, anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” Scientists have found that in order to avoid devastating consequences such as mass desertification, glacier loss, extreme weather, and sea level rise, the international community must limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. In the climate negotiations, “ambition” refers to countries’ collective will—through both domestic action and international initiatives—to cut global greenhouse gas emissions enough to meet the 2°C goal. Ambition further represents the actual steps countries are taking to meet that temperature goal.

Collective ambition is deemed to be lacking when the aggregate policies and actions of all countries are deemed insufficient to meet the 2°C goal. Countries are also judged on their own individual ambition levels, which are assessed based on their commitments to reduce greenhouse gases. In recent years, effective implementation of policies has emerged as an additional method for evaluating whether individual countries are sufficiently ambitious or not.

Confronting the Reality of a Rapidly Warming World

This post originally appeared on Bloomberg.com.

The reality of a world with more extreme weather events, rising seas, and longer droughts is becoming clearer by the day. Even more troubling is that we are on course for still greater changes to our planet in the years ahead.

That’s the key takeaway from a major new report by the World Bank, which examines the impact of a 4 degrees Celsius warmer world. At the same time, new analysis from WRI finds that there are nearly 1,200 proposed coal plants worldwide. If these plants come online, our chances of staying within 2 degrees of warming—the level recommended to prevent the worst consequences of climate change—would be nil.

4 Degrees of Warming Could Reshape Our World

The World Bank is not prone to hyperbole. Its warning that we could be heading to 4 degrees of rising global temperatures should be taken extremely seriously by leaders around the world. The World Bank’s assessment reaffirms what many of us already understand: scientific evidence of human-caused global warming is unequivocal. Given that it took little more than 4 degrees of cooling to create the last Ice Age, it would be hard to overstate how 4 degrees of warming could reshape our world by the end of this century.

New Global Assessment Reveals Nearly 1,200 Proposed Coal-Fired Power Plants

Coal-fired power plants are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions—one that could be increasing significantly globally, according to new analysis from the World Resources Institute.

Several months ago, WRI began compiling and analyzing information about proposed new coal-fired plants in order to assess potential future risks to the global climate. We released our findings today in the Global Coal Risk Assessment working paper. Our research shows that 1,199 new coal-fired plants with a total installed capacity of 1,401,268 megawatts (MW) are being proposed globally. If all of these projects are built, it would add new coal power capacity that is almost four times the current capacity of all coal-fired plants in the United States.

View the locations of proposed coal-fired power plants by country in our interactive map below.

Issues to Watch at the Doha Climate Negotiations (COP 18)

As the U.N. climate change conference in Doha, Qatar (COP 18) rapidly approaches, the urgency of climate action has never been more evident. Extreme weather has wreaked havoc in many corners of the globe, most recently with Hurricane Sandy, which resulted in loss of life and severe economic hardship in all the countries in its pathway. Many countries—from the United States to those with far less capacity to respond—are still trying to comprehend what happened and how much it will cost to get back to normal.

They also understand that this just may be, to quote New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, “the new normal.” The World Bank Group has just released a shocking report of what a world that is 4 degrees Celsius warmer would look like. We must hope that when delegates arrive in Doha, they grasp the urgency of this issue, recognize the immediate and far-reaching threat to human security, and summon the necessary political will to craft an ambitious and equitable global response.

What Can We Expect This Year as Countries Meet for COP 18?

Last year’s meeting in Durban, South Africa was a potentially important turning point, launching a new round of negotiations to create a legally binding international agreement by 2015 to limit global average temperature increase to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. However, after three consecutive years of rather “big moment” COPs, Doha is more about giving operational momentum to the decisions reached in Durban. COP 18 will likely confirm the design of a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, bring some long-standing work streams to a successful close, and set the parameters for the negotiations leading to a new international climate agreement in 2015.

Global Coal Risk Assessment

Data Analysis and Market Research

Coal-fired power plants are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions—one that could be increasing significantly globally. This working paper analyzes information about proposed new coal-fired plants and other market trends in order to assess potential future risks to the global climate....

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