While leaders in Washington, D.C. grapple with a potential national economic crisis, in Florida, mayors and citizens are taking action—on climate change and sea-level rise, that is. Florida Atlantic University (FAU) will host its second annual Sea Level Rise Summit this week, bringing together national and international experts to discuss the impacts of sea-level rise and storm surge on local and national economies.
Climate, Energy & Transport
China launched its first pilot emission trading program this past June. This development is potentially a major marker in the country’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The Shenzhen Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) program will cover some 635 industrial companies from 26 industries. This is the first of seven proposed pilot GHG cap-and-trade schemes in China, which the country has been developing since 2011. Besides Shenzhen, four of the other pilots are expected to start trading this year.[^1]
In 2010, these 635 industrial companies emitted 31.7 million tons of carbon dioxide and contributed 59 percent of the Industrial Added Value (gross domestic product (GDP) due to industry) and 26 percent of Shenzhen’s GDP.
As the federal government gets started implementing a national Climate Action Plan, the country’s boldest state-level experiment is making strong progress. Yesterday, California announced the results of its latest auction of carbon pollution permits, completely selling out of its permits for future carbon pollution for the first time. The increased demand for these pollution permits reflects an encouraging development: Confidence in California’s climate action program is growing, and its long-term future is becoming more and more certain.
Australia is a major nation to watch when it comes to curbing climate change. The country made an international commitment to reduce its GHG emissions by 5 to 25 percent from 2000 levels by 2020. How Australia achieves these reductions can provide lessons on how other countries around the world can pursue their own climate change mitigation plans.
WRI’s Open Climate Network and Australia’s The Climate Institute (TCI) recently analyzed Australia’s climate change plan, which includes a mix of policies to reduce emissions (check out the working paper here). We found that three initiatives stand out in terms of their potential to significantly reduce GHG emissions: a carbon pricing mechanism, a Renewable Energy Target (RET), and the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI).
As I prepare to take part in an event on hurricanes and extreme weather in Miami, Florida later today, it’s clear just how much climate change threatens the state’s local communities. Florida is the most vulnerable U.S. state to sea-level rise, with seas projected to rise along the state’s coast by as much as 2 feet by 2060--threatening valuable infrastructure, homes, and communities. Even Superstorm Sandy--which had the greatest impacts in New York and New Jersey--caused significant damages along Florida’s east coast while centered miles offshore. Rising seas contributed to Sandy’s storm surge and tidal surges, causing flooding throughout Miami-Dade County and sweeping away portions of State Road A1A in Fort Lauderdale.
But as overly concerned as I am of the climate change impacts Florida faces, I’m also encouraged. Florida has something that few other states have: A bipartisan collaboration to address global warming’s disastrous impacts.
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.
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.
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.
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.