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Climate, Energy & Transport

Energy Roadmap 2050: ‘Europe can decarbonise’

This post originally appeared on the website of the Zero Emissions Resource Organization (ZERO) on December 16, 2011. ZERO is a partner in the Open Climate Network.

The European Commission has announced the adoption of its Energy Roadmap 2050, which explores the challenges of decarbonising the European Union while ensuring security of energy supply and economic competitiveness.

The roadmap’s analysis concludes that decarbonisation of the energy system is "technically and economically feasible" and that energy efficiency and renewables are a critical part of the mix. Its analysis is based on scenarios created by combining, in different ways, the four main decarbonisation routes – namely, energy efficiency, renewables, nuclear, and carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Three Ideas That Are Good for Both Economy and Environment

This piece was written with Vinod Thomas, Director General, Independent Evaluation, Asian Development Bank. It originally appeared in The Guardian.

As we enter a new year, the world continues to be in the grips of dual crises. A stubborn economic downturn with widespread job losses combined with accelerating global warming threatening vulnerable communities. Many argue that dealing with climate change in the midst of an economic slump will hurt recovery efforts. The underlying reality, however, is quite the opposite. Not only can preparing for climate change offer opportunities for economic growth, it would be unwise to pursue one without the other.

A Look Back at U.S. Climate Policy in 2011

As the year winds down, it’s a good time to take stock of climate policy in the United States. Here’s a quick round up of what happened -- or didn’t happen -- in 2011.

The year began with big questions about what the Obama Administration and states would do to address climate change and clean energy, absent a comprehensive federal climate policy. This year’s record was decidedly mixed. Not as much happened as some would have liked, but it was in total better than many feared as the year began.

Shale Gas: Time to Look Before We Leap Any Further

Shale gas is a game-changer for global energy supply. It is already transforming the U.S. energy outlook, and is expected to deliver over 40% of domestic gas production by 2025 (Figure 1). Other countries and regions, notably Europe and China, may soon follow suit, in a repeat of the early 20th century oil rush.

Opinion is bitterly divided, however, over the environmental risks and benefits of this abundant new source of energy – so much so, that the different sides struggle to agree even on basic facts. The debate is raging over two key issues – on-the-ground impacts to water, air, communities, land use, wildlife, and habitats; and the broader energy and global warming implications of developing shale gas.

China At Durban: First Steps Toward a New Climate Agreement

This post originally appeared on ChinaFAQs.org.

The UN Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa, concluded over the weekend with a consensus to negotiate an agreement that will include all major emitters of warming gases. The conference agreed to a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, extended the work of the group for Long-term Cooperative Action, and most significantly established new negotiations under the Durban Platform. Launching these negotiations was hailed as major progress around the world (Bloomberg, The Statesman, Xinhua). For the first time the world’s three major emitters (by total amount of greenhouse gases emitted), China, the United States and India, have agreed to begin negotiations for an international “protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force,” indicating that there will be actions and efforts by all countries. (For the implications of this complex legal wording, see my colleague Jake Werksman’s discussion on WRI Insights).

Reflections on COP 17 in Durban

Written with analysis from Athena Ballesteros, Louise Brown, Florence Daviet, Crystal Davis, Aarjan Dixit, Kelly Levin, Heather McGray, Remi Moncel, Clifford Polycarp, Kirsten Stasio, Fred Stolle, and Lutz Weischer

Jennifer Morgan, Edward Cameron, and our team of climate experts look back on the key decisions from Durban and give a first take on their implications for global efforts to tackle climate change.

As weary negotiators return home from the marathon United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks in Durban, South Africa, opinion is divided on the deal that was struck.

Some believe the package – consisting of a new “Durban Platform” to negotiate the long-term future of the regime, a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, and an array of decisions designed to implement the Cancun agreements – represents a significant step forward and cause for hope. Others are more cautious, viewing these outputs as insufficient in ambition, content, and timing to tackle the far-reaching threat of climate change.

Q & A: The Legal Aspects of the Durban Platform Text

At the 17th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change (COP-17) in Durban – “the longest COP ever” -- Parties agreed to establish an Ad Hoc Working Group on a Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (AWG-DP). The AWG-DP has the mandate to develop “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties.”

The AWG-DP will start its work “as a matter of urgency” in the first half of 2012. It will complete it no later than 2015, with the outcome to be adopted at COP-21 and to come into effect and be implemented from 2020. The content of AGDP’s workplan will focus in particular on “enhancing mitigation ambition to identify and to explore options for a range of actions that can close the ambition gap with a view to ensuring the highest possible mitigation efforts by all Parties.”

What are the legal implications of the Durban Platform text, and what could the different legal options mean for the UNFCCC? Below we go through some questions and answers:

EPA Mercury and Air Toxics Rules for Power Plants: 20+ Years in the Making

As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency prepares to release new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), some people may be wondering about the history and timeline for these standards. One Senator recently claimed that EPA is “charging ahead” with them.

These standards, however, have been in development for over 20 years. These are standards that many plants are already meeting. Furthermore, 11 of the 15 largest coal utilities, roughly half of the nation’s coal fleet, have informed their shareholders that they are well positioned to meet them.

This post unwraps the history, standards, and timelines for compliance.

EPA Mercury Rules: Keeping the Lights on While Removing Toxics from Our Air

Next week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to finalize new rules to reduce mercury and other toxic air emissions that will affect dozens of antiquated power plants currently operating without pollution controls.

These rules have stirred debate in some circles as to whether retrofitting or retiring outdated plants will cause shortfalls in electricity capacity. How will new EPA mercury rules influence the electricity system? This post updates earlier assessments by taking a close look at recent studies on the reliability of the electricity grid to answer that question.

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