Manish Bapna highlights five standout climate and energy stories of 2013, which point to signs that some businesses, consumers, and governments are moving toward a growing understanding of the risks of climate change. The question is whether this heightened awareness will shift a global course quickly enough to reduce negative climate impacts. This blog post was originally published at Forbes.
Climate, Energy & Transport
This is the final installment of WRI’s blog series, Adaptation and the Private Sector. Each post explores ways to engage the private sector in helping vulnerable communities adapt to the impacts of climate change.
It is not possible to effectively address climate change without substantive [greenhouse gas] GHG emission reductions by the transport sector. But putting the pieces together – especially in developing countries – will require fine-tuning transportation climate finance readiness to match growing demand.
A new report for the German International Cooperation (Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)) outlines seven routes governments in the developing world can take to accelerate investment in low-carbon transport.
At least 60 cities and communities from around the world have formally adopted the Global Protocol for Community-Scale GHG Emissions (GPC). This international greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting standard for cities was jointly developed by WRI, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), and the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI).
Cities account for more than 70 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Many recognize the importance of GHG inventories in city planning and have started measuring and reporting their GHG emissions. However, the absence of a universal accounting standard led to a number of issues in city GHG inventories, including:
- Inconsistency: Inventories varied in types of gases measured, emissions sources included, and categorization of emissions, reducing clarity and comparability of results.
- Incompleteness: Many of the methods out there focus only on carbon dioxide emissions, excluding other essential greenhouse gases covered under the Kyoto Protocol.
- Double-counting: Due to unclear categorization and division of direct and indirect emissions, double-counting within and between inventories occurred.
These differences confused and sometimes misled decision-makers, users, and practitioners.
The pilot version of the GPC was released in 35 cities in May 2012. In the first 6 months, the three core partners deliberated on how to develop the standard together and engage diverse cities. Early this year, the partners agreed that the GHG Protocol program at WRI would lead development of the GPC while C40 and ICLEI would lever their extensive city networks to participate as pilot testers. WRI has since established an advisory committee that consists of more than 30 international organizations, cities, national governments, and foundations.
Within a year of the GPC’s launch, we have influenced 60 cities to measure and report city-wide GHG emissions. Successful implementation by these pioneer cities has created momentum to scale up GPC’s global adoption in other cities. In particular, we continue to work with our partners to promote it in China, Brazil, and India. In these countries, we’ve begun developing country-specific, GHG calculation tools and provided training and technical assistance to help local practitioners. Once the GPC is finalized in early 2014, we aim to convince more than 500 cities to use the standard by 2018.
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) – a high-quality, efficient, bus-based mode of public transport – can shorten commuting times, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and generally improve quality-of-life for city residents. Today, 160 cities around the world use BRT and busway systems—up from just 45 cities since WRI’s EMBARQ program was founded in 2002. EMBARQ has played a major role in expanding the BRT concept to cities throughout the world.
Rapid urbanization, motorization, and climate change require high-quality, sustainable urban transport solutions that can be developed quickly and cost-effectively. BRT systems can carry up to 46,000 passengers per hour—matching some of the world’s busiest metros—and can be implemented at one-tenth to one-half of the time and cost as subways or light rail. Yet in the early 2000s, BRT systems were largely limited to Latin America, and the rate of adopting the new system had plateaued.
Since EMBARQ’s founding in 2002, our experts have helped implement and develop the BRT concept around the world. We collaborate with local, regional, and national-level decision-makers to provide research and expertise that is both technical – advising on aspects such as safety, operations, fare integration, and branding – and political – navigating relationships to create a common vision.
EMBARQ provided technical assistance to more than 20 cities over the past 11 years. These cities’ BRT systems have now carried passengers on more than 5 billion trips. These systems save passengers almost 30 percent travel time, reduce CO2 emissions, and improve safety. In 2013 alone, we directly influenced new or improved BRT systems in cities such as Lima, Peru; Indore, India; Puebla and Chihuahua, Mexico; and Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Currently, EMBARQ is helping to plan or expand systems in Bangalore, India; Izmit, Turkey; Brasilia, Brazil; and Chengdu, China..
EMBARQ has also played a major role in championing financial support from international banks and national programs, such as in Mexico and India, for sustainable transport systems like BRT. In addition, we’ve published and widely disseminated cutting-edge research such as Modernizing Public Transport, and built BRT capacity through learning networks and trainings.
Today, 160 cities have adopted BRT. The BRT concept has reached a tipping point, with massive new investment and significant expansion planned on six continents. EMBARQ estimates that dozens of cities around the world are planning new or expanding existing BRT or busways, giving citizens access to safe, equitable transport and a higher overall quality of life.
Moving forward, EMBARQ will continue to promote major global BRT scale-up through project implementation, national policy advice, influence in major financing initiatives, and capacity building.
Government of Mexico Introduces Latin America’s First-Ever Fuel-Efficiency Standard for Light Duty Vehicles
In June 2013, Mexico took a big step toward a low-carbon economy and improved public health by implementing a new fuel-efficiency standard for light vehicles– the first fuel-efficiency standard in Latin America. EMBARQ Mexico played a major role in developing this new standard, writing the draft regulation, proposing mechanisms for economic flexibility, and assisting the government of Mexico during the negotiation process.
National fuel-efficiency standards are critical tools in reducing CO2 emissions and improving public health. Yet, Mexico was the only OECD country without a fuel-efficiency standard, and Mexican car manufacturers were hesitant to support a new fuel-efficiency regulation.
For four years, EMBARQ and our partner, Centro Mario Molina, collaborated with the Mexican government to help develop a new fuel-efficiency standard. Originally, EMBARQ Mexico offered the Mexican government our transport and economic expertise. Then, when negotiations between the government and the car industry broke down, EMBARQ and Centro Mario Molina stepped in and presented Mexico’s National Environmental Ministry (SEMARNAT) with a fully written draft regulation and strong technical support. This draft brought the automotive industry to the negotiation table, and won EMBARQ a voting seat on Mexico’s National Standardization Committee of Environment. Finally, on June 21, 2013, the final fuel-efficiency standard was released, with recognition for EMBARQ’s contributions published in the official journal text.
The new standard mandates a new vehicle fleet average of 14.9 kilometers per liter of gas (or 35 miles per gallon) by 2016. This will reduce CO2 emissions by 170 megatons– the amount of CO2 captured by a forest 10 times the size of Mexico City. It’s a win for people and the environment – consumers will save $2,700 USD each in fuel over the lifetime of a regulated vehicle.
In addition, Mexico patterned their standard on U.S. and Canadian regulations, meaning these three countries now have a harmonized fuel-efficiency standard. Mexico exports 81 percent of its cars to the global market, so this regulation could make the Mexican car industry more competitive globally.
The Mexican experience, tools, and methodology can be replicated in other developing countries that are in the process of implementing fuel-efficiency standards. Furthermore, expanding this regulation to other countries creates incentives for an increasingly homogeneous and more efficient global automotive industry.
EMBARQ Mexico is part of the EMBARQ network. EMBARQ is a program of the World Resources Institute. EMBARQ helps cities make sustainable transport a reality.
China’s main policy-making body, the National Development Reform Commission (NDRC), adopted a groundbreaking policy this year to limit CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants. The policy—which promotes the demonstration of carbon dioxide capture, storage, and utilization—is the first-of-its-kind in any country, and reflects WRI’s Guidelines for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), developed in partnership with Tsinghua University, China.
World energy use is estimated to increase by 56 percent between 2010 and 2040, with half of the increase attributed to China and India alone. In addition, 76 percent of new coal-fired power plants will be located in these two countries. Shifting to a much-needed, low-carbon economy requires that these nations either rely on more efficient and renewable sources of energy or find ways to manage the greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. Our Guidelines for CCS in China were issued at a time when CCS was not a high priority within the Chinese administration. Yet we remained determined to continue actively engaging with experts and bringing our expertise to the table.
In collaboration with Tsinghua University, WRI began an early stakeholder effort to discuss guidelines for CCS in China. We convened leaders from China’s state-owned enterprises with NDRC officials and academics to develop the guidelines. This was perhaps the first time coal, oil, and electricity sectors ever met to discuss whether and how CCS would proceed in China. The group also traveled together on CCS study tours in 2009 and 2010, maintaining engagement with the Chinese government during these trips. This process contributed significantly toward the NDRC adopting a policy to promote demonstration of CCS and incorporating many aspects of the Tsinghua-WRI Guidelines.
NDRC’s adoption of the policy has created strong support for CCS projects within China. China has 11 large-scale, integrated CCS projects in the planning stages. On top of this, four large-scale, integrated pilots are already operating or in the construction stages. This type of leadership can not only inform other CCS practices and standards throughout the world, it can boost collaboration—particularly with the United States.
Borrowing major themes from our guidelines, the policy also promotes environmental standards and includes public engagement. It lays the groundwork for testing a variety of different technologies and, more importantly, phases out the use of naturally occurring CO2. The NDRC and other relevant ministries have since focused on the incorporation and implementation of the policy—a critical next step in scaling up this outcome.
On June 25 2013, President Obama announced the Climate Action Plan to address climate change and put the United States on a trajectory to meet its international commitment of reducing its emissions 17 percent by 2020. The findings of WRI’s flagship report, "Can the U.S. Get There from Here", played a valuable role in influencing the Administration’s decision.
Given prevailing political inertia, there was scant hope in 2012 for any new U.S. legislation to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Another unwelcome dynamic was that many government officials and influential leaders argued without credible evidence that recent declines in U.S. emissions meant the country was already “on track” to meet its international commitment.
WRI responded with its groundbreaking report, which recommended a “Four-Point Plan” to achieve emissions reductions by taking action on existing power plants, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), methane, and energy efficiency. A strong outreach and communications effort followed, resulting in extensive media coverage of the report. We also held briefings for high-level Administration officials and enlisted allies in the environmental and business worlds to echo our message and carry our work into the White House.
When the President announced a Climate Action Plan, it included key elements of WRI’s “Four Point Plan” and other measures to reduce carbon dioxide pollution and prepare for the impacts of climate change. His speech announcing the Plan was the clearest statement by a U.S. President of his intent to use the Administration’s existing legal authority under the Clean Air Act and other enacted legislation to reduce GHG emissions.
Although implementation of the Plan in the coming months and years will determine its success, the Plan itself represents the most substantial and comprehensive approach to addressing domestic GHG emissions since the defeat of cap-and-trade legislation in 2010. It also sent a clear signal to the international community that the United States is prepared to take significant actions to reduce its GHG emissions – without Congress, if need be – and be a more constructive partner in international negotiations.
The nineteenth United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) is shaping up to be a “construction COP” where nations take steps toward achieving a new global climate agreement by 2015.