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
Location: WASHINGTON DC
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced proposed emissions standards for new power plants. According to the EPA, electricity generation represents one-third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. These rules are one of the important steps the EPA can take to reach the U.S. goal of reducing greenhouse gas emission by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
In the absence of federal action to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, nine northeastern states have drafted a plan to stabilize power plant GHG emissions through 2015, and reduce them by 10% by 2020. WRI has served as facilitator for this cooperative action that has developed a market-driven system to control GHG emissions – the first of its kind in the U.S. The nine states alone produce greenhouse gases roughly equivalent to Germany’s emissions. WRI stands ready to assist in the replication of this system in the Midwest and the West Coast.
WRI assisted Whole Foods Market in completing the largest purchase of green power in U.S. history, 4598 kilowatt-hours per year from wind farms—enough to power 40,000 homes. Corporate leadership is essential to the growth of green power and Whole Foods’ purchase has set a new benchmark. Whole Foods worked with WRI because of the success of our Green Power Market Development Group, a partnership of Fortune 500 companies building corporate markets for renewable energy. Group members are now the nation’s largest corporate users of renewable energy. Starbuck’s, J&J, and IBM support wind power. DuPont and GM are the country’s largest corporate users of landfill biogas for thermal energy, while J&J, Staples, and GM are among the nation’s top business users of solar power.
Our work with Time Inc., the world’s largest magazine publisher, is a terrific example of the successes enabled by our partnership-based approaches. While many companies set their own internal greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets, Time Inc. announced a GHG reduction target goal for its paper suppliers. This groundbreaking move sets a new standard for a company having impact along its supply chain. Time Inc. worked with WRI to implement this initiative. They also were part of WRI’s Climate Northeast Partnership, working to build strategies that will allow companies to thrive in a carbon-constrained economy. When an iconic company like Time Inc. takes confronting global climate change seriously, other industry leaders take heed.
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.