Being "thrifty" means spending one cent as if you have only half a cent. This is an old Chinese saying to warn people to handle affluence without forgetting about a potential crisis. Underlying this common sense is an ethic rooted in Chinese culture: wasting is bad.
President Xi Jinping has urged Chinese people to "build a thrifty society", because if we persist with our business-as-usual production and consumption pattern we would invite a resource and environmental crisis.
One "inconvenient truth" is that China uses about 20 percent of the total global energy to produce about 12 percent of the world GDP. The country's energy consumption per unit of GDP is 2.2 times that of the world average. A similar pattern is seen in the consumption of other resources such as steel, cement and other raw materials, as highlighted by State leaders and experts at the International Forum on Building Ecological Civilization hold in Guiyang, Guizhou province, last month. In doing so, the leaders indicated that huge amounts of energy could be saved in China by improving efficiency.
As part of his recently released Climate Action Plan, President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set carbon pollution standards for existing power plants. While these federal standards are a critical component of the U.S. plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb climate change, the responsibility to actually implement them will fall to individual states.
The good news for many states is that they can greatly reduce their power sector emissions through existing policies and infrastructure, such as by meeting state standards for renewables and efficiency and increasing the use of existing natural gas power plants. These measures will ease the path for those states to meet future EPA power plant emissions standards and combat climate change.
WRI recently analyzed the existing tools Ohio can use to reduce its power sector emissions and help meet future EPA emissions standards. Over the coming months, we’ll release a series of fact sheets that outline the steps several other states can take.
WRI analysis finds that Ohio can reduce its CO2 emissions 27 percent below 2011 levels by 2020 using existing state policies and infrastructure opportunities. These reductions would meet or exceed potentially stringent federal standards by the EPA for existing power plants.
The Obama Administration committed in 2009 to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. While the Administration is not currently on track to meet this goal, it can pursue a suite of policies even without new legislation.
Mexico currently ranks twelfth in the world in terms of GHG emissions. Although not bound by Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions limits, the country is committed to fighting global warming. Mexico’s new climate change strategy proposes a graduated process that begins with GHG accounting and reporting, progresses to energy sector GHG caps, and culminates in a national cap-and-trade system linked to international GHG markets. WRI provided the GHG Protocol accounting tools that undergird the policy and provided technical consultation to the Mexican government. WRI also helped launch a Mexican industry-led voluntary GHG accounting program in 2004. WRI is working with partner organizations to replicate the model in Brazil, China, India, and the Philippines.
The first step in addressing the challenge of climate change is to define a consistent way to measure its causes. In April 2007, thirty-four U.S. states formed the Climate Registry to measure, track, verify, and publicly report GHG emissions accurately, transparently, and consistently across borders and industry sectors. The Registry will support voluntary, market-based, and regulatory GHG emissions reporting programs. The states joining represent 78% of the U.S. population, with impressive geographic, economic, and political diversity. WRI played a pivotal role in helping to convene this initiative and by providing technical consulting. Ideally, these standards and strategies will help support and provide a common template for federal climate change policies and programs.
The United Nations’ new population growth projections show that the world is set to reach nearly 9.6 billion by 2050. This growth holds serious implications for global food security. Absent other effective measures to control dietary shifts and reduce food loss and waste, the world will need to produce about 70 percent more food annually by 2050 to meet global demands. That is a big task, and even harder to do without converting millions more hectares of forests into farmland, contributing to climate change.
Germany’s energy transition (or “Energiewende”) is the most ambitious current effort to put a large industrial economy onto a sustainable energy path, recognizing the 21st century reality of a climate-constrained world. If the world’s fourth largest economy demonstrates that this shift is possible without undermining economic growth, it could be a major factor in enabling a global energy transition. And with climate change intensifying – 2012 was the 36th straight year of above-average global temperature, and 2011 and 2012 each produced more extreme weather events costing over one billion dollars each than any other year in recorded history – reducing greenhouse gas emissions is imperative for any future energy system. Thus, the Energiewende is critical to the ongoing fight against global warming.
As impacts from climate change become more visible and costly, leaders across the nation are responding. In the wake of projections from the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science showing that Maryland could face sea-level rise of more than six feet by the end of the century, Governor Martin O’Malley unveiled a state climate action plan this week. The initiative will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also supporting job creation and economic growth.