As extreme weather events like wildfires, heat waves, downpours, and droughts continue to make headlines in the United States and around the world, many have wondered what their connection is to climate change. A new report sheds some light, firmly drawing correlations between several extreme weather events in 2012 and human-induced warming.
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.
Transportation is quite literally the engine of economic growth in large congested cities throughout the developing world. EMBARQ – the WRI Center for Sustainable Transport – is working to bring cleaner, more efficient transportation systems to these cities. With assistance from EMBARQ and other national and international organizations, India’s Ministry of Urban Development is implementing the country’s first-ever national urban transportation policies. Cities and states that adopt the policies become eligible for financial assistance from a new $11 billion government program, Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission, to support sustainable transport projects. The policies are a significant step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving India’s vision of making its cities the most productive and livable in the world.
An increasing number of U.S. states and Canadian provinces are enacting regulations to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. WRI has been an active contributor to this movement, providing critical technical and policy advice, and facilitating negotiations.
Arizona, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and four Canadian provinces recently agreed to collectively reduce GHG emissions by 15% of 2005 levels by 2020 and establish a cap-and-trade system. Under the plan, companies obtain permits for the emissions attributable to their operations. Cleaner, more efficient companies needing fewer permits may sell what they don’t need to those with larger emissions. This initiative is the largest effort of its kind in North America. Member states account for nearly 27% of total U.S. GHG emissions. Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, along with Manitoba, have also agreed to design an emissions reduction market.
Both efforts build off of the experiences of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a similar program among ten northeastern states targeting electric utilities that WRI helped create in 2005. Carbon trading began in September 2008.
In January 2010, two WRI-recommended features were incorporated into the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) regulations for implementing the new Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). These regulatory features will help minimize the negative impacts of biofuels by ensuring comprehensive accounting of their lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The 2007 expansion of the RFS program required the EPA to set lifecycle GHG threshold standards to ensure that biofuels being used to meet the RFS emit fewer greenhouse gases than the petroleum fuel they replace. The framework the EPA would develop to calculate the GHG emissions factors of biofuels was critical. A framework that was less than comprehensive could end up creating incentives for U.S. biofuels that would actually lead to more GHG emissions than the traditional fossil-based fuels they replace. Two accounting factors were particularly important: How to account for carbon dioxide emissions that occur in the future. WRI recommended applying a zero discount rate over a shorter time horizon, rather than the more popular proposal of a two percent discount rate over a 100 year time horizon. Our recommendation was more consistent with prior research and would minimize the risk of artificially inflating the emissions reductions benefits of bio-fuels.
Whether or not to include the emissions associated with indirect land-use changes. For example, a shift from soybean to corn farming in Iowa to make ethanol can result in a ripple effect that drives land conversion for soya in the Brazilian Cerrado. This land conversion may result in significant emissions of carbon dioxide. The uncertainty of indirect land use impacts does not render them insignificant. WRI recommended that emissions associated with global indirect land-use changes be included in the framework, along with approaches for refining the estimates as the science improves.
EPA adopted both our recommendations. In particular, the adoption of an accounting methodology that accounts for the emissions associated with global indirect land use impacts of domestic policy sets a precedent that has significant implications well beyond the biofuels sector.
WRI was the pioneering voice on the zero discount rate. WRI’s Biofuels and the Time Value of Carbon was the first and, to the best of our knowledge, only publication to address the issue of how to choose a discount rate for physical carbon in the context of biofuels accounting. WRI’s Liz Marshall was selected as one of five professional peer reviewers for the time parameters portion of the RFS rule. WRI’s perspective on indirects, set forth in Biofuels, Carbon, and Land-use Change and Rules for Fuels, also provided the analytical foundation for advocacy NGOs during the course of this debate.
Wading through the vast sea of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions data can be a real challenge. To help simplify the process and make such data more accessible, today the World Resources Institute is launching the Climate Analysis Indicators Tool, or CAIT 2.0.
The free, online portal provides data on GHG emissions from 186 countries and all 50 U.S. states, as well as other climate data. CAIT 2.0 allows users to view, sort, visualize, and download data sets for comparative analysis. By providing comprehensive emissions data in an easy-to-use tool, users from government, business, academia, the media, and civil society can more effectively explore, understand, and communicate climate change issues.
Check out a screencast of how CAIT 2.0 works.
A growing number of countries and companies now measure and manage their emissions through greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories. Cities, however, lack a common framework for tracking their own emissions—until now.
Thirty-three cities and communities from around the world started pilot testing the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions Pilot Version 1.0 (GPC Pilot Version 1.0) last month. The GPC represents the first international framework for greenhouse gas accounting for cities. It was launched in May 2012 as a joint initiative among WRI, C40, and ICLEI in collaboration with the World Bank, UN-HABITAT, and UNEP.