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Climate, Energy & Transport

5 Reasons Why It’s (Still) Important to Reduce Fugitive Methane Emissions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released its annual greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory report. Using new data and information, the EPA lowered its estimate of fugitive methane emissions from natural gas development by 33 percent, from 10.3 million metric tons (MMT) in 2010 to 6.9 MMT in 2011. While such a reduction, if confirmed by measurement data, would undeniably be a welcome development, it doesn’t mean that the problem is solved.

There are still many reasons why reducing fugitive methane is important. Even better, WRI’s recent analysis finds that we have the technologies and policy frameworks to do so cost effectively.

Here are five big reasons we should care about fugitive methane emissions:

1) Emissions Are Still Too High.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and a key driver of global warming. Methane is 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide over a 100-year time period and 72 times stronger over a 20-year period. In fact, 6.9 MMt of methane is equivalent in impact to 172 MMt of CO2 over a 100-year time horizon. That’s greater than all the direct and indirect GHG emissions from iron and steel, cement, and aluminum manufacturing combined. Reducing methane emissions is an essential step toward reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and slowing the rate of global warming.

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On Climate Change Adaptation, Put Local Communities First

How can we make climate change adaptation measures more effective? I recently traveled to Dhaka, Bangladesh to discuss ways to address that very question.

I took part in the 7th annual Community-Based Adaptation Conference (CBA7), hosted by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and the Bangladesh Center for International Studies. The conference provides a forum for organizations working on climate change adaptation to come together, learn from each other, and identify shared interests and needs. The organizations involved mainly work at the grassroots level with poor and vulnerable people in the developing world, but the conference also attracts a growing number of government representatives.

One of the conference’s main themes was that stakeholders at the local and national levels must work together to foster locally grounded, community-based adaptation efforts. I elaborated on this theme in a video interview with IIED. Check it out below.

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3 Encouraging Signs of Progress from the Bonn Climate Talks

A slight breath of fresh air entered the UNFCCC climate negotiations this week in Bonn, Germany. Held in the old German parliament—which was designed to demonstrate transparency and light—the meeting took on a more open feel than the past several COPs and intersessionals.

Instead of arguing over the agenda, negotiators got down to work, discussing ways to ramp up countries’ emissions-reduction commitments now and move toward a 2015 international climate action agreement. Reaching these two goals is imperative. It was encouraging to hear delegates make progress across three key issues involved in achieving them:

1) "Spectrum of Commitments"

This idea—put forward by the United States—is that every country should determine its own national “contribution” to curbing global climate change and present it to the international community. A “spectrum” of various commitments would thus emerge, which could be included in some sort of formal agreement.

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Lessons Learned from Low-Carbon City Planning in Malaysia

Stacy Kotorac, a project coordinator/research assistant with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, also contributed to this blog post.

Low-carbon city development has become a central part of the Malaysian government’s strategy to meet its greenhouse gas (GHG) commitments. The country, currently ranked second in terms of emissions per capita in Southeast Asia, has committed to reduce the emissions intensity of its gross domestic product (GDP) by 40 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

Many Malaysian cities have created ambitious, low-carbon visions in order to meet national targets. However, many cities don’t yet have a credible GHG inventory or a comprehensive blueprint to help them systematically implement and monitor low-carbon actions. Without such a framework, it is nearly impossible to establish baseline measurements, set goals, or measure progress.

That’s why the GHG Protocol is currently working with partners to develop a standard methodology, the Global Protocol for Community Scale Emissions (GPC), as well as an accompanying toolkit that cities will be able to utilize to plan for their low-carbon development. Last year, we released the GPC Pilot Version 1.0. Over the next six months, about 30 cities will pilot test it.

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2 Big Issues to Watch at this Week’s Bonn Climate Talks

It’s been almost four months since the last UNFCCC negotiations in Doha, Qatar (COP 18). Countries decided in Doha to finalize the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, wrap up a series of decisions on the Bali Action Plan, and outline a plan to establish an international climate agreement by 2015. Countries will gather this week in Bonn, Germany, for the first formal conversations since the Doha meeting.

This week’s intersessional is a low key, but important session. Negotiators will discuss two critical issues: How to substantially step-up the level of ambition by countries, companies, cities, and civil society; and how to ensure a strong international climate agreement by 2015. Progress on these two issues could bring the world one step closer to strong, international action to curb climate change.

Increasing Ambition

The final decision by all countries at COP 17 in Durban recognized that current GHG-reduction pledges are not adequate to keep global average temperature below 2 degrees C (the limit science says is necessary to prevent climate change’s most disastrous impacts). In Bonn, experts will put forth new ideas on how to ratchet up ambition in the short-term. Country representatives will also highlight best practices and success stories, in particular, the role that land use could play for enhanced mitigation and adaptation policies.

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Tracking Greenhouse Gases: 3 Factors for Successful National Inventories

This blog post was co-authored with Soffia Alarcon-Diaz, an intern with WRI's Climate and Energy program.

Measuring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) across different sectors is no easy feat. But creating a national inventory of GHGs is one important step for countries to take toward managing them. Starting in 2014, many developing countries will begin providing more frequent updates to their national inventories under guidelines from the COP 17 Durban Platform. How can they best meet international reporting requirements and, more importantly, use the development of their national inventory systems to support domestic low-carbon growth?

In a new set of case studies (see the text box) we have documented experiences from Brazil, Colombia, India, Mexico, and South Africa—countries that have already made notable efforts to develop robust national inventory systems. Each study explores critical aspects of these countries’ inventory processes and provides lessons that could benefit other countries looking to further develop their own systems.

3 Attributes of Successful National Greenhouse Gas Inventories

Although each national inventory system is unique, the case studies reveal several common attributes of successful inventory improvement. Here are three:

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New Guidance Makes Corporate Value Chain Accounting Easier

An effective corporate climate change strategy requires a detailed understanding of a company’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Until recently, most companies have focused on measuring emissions from their own operations and electricity consumption, using the GHG Protocol’s Scope 1 and Scope 2 framework. But what about all of the emissions a company is responsible for outside of its own walls—from the goods it purchases to the disposal of the products it sells?

The GHG Protocol Scope 3 Standard, released in late 2011, is the only internationally accepted method for companies to account for these types of value chain emissions. Building on this standard, GHG Protocol has now released a new companion guide that makes it even easier for businesses to complete their scope 3 inventories. The guidance is freely available for download via the GHG Protocol website.

How Can Businesses Use the New Guidance?

Assessing GHG emissions across the entire value chain can be complex. For companies just beginning to assess their scope 3 emissions, it can be difficult to know where to start. This calculation guidance is designed to reduce those barriers by providing detailed, technical guidance on all the relevant calculation methods. It provides information not contained in the Scope 3 Standard, such as:

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How Much Did the United States Contribute to International Fast-Start Finance?

This post was co-authored with Jenna Blumenthal, an intern with WRI's Climate and Energy program.

As U.S. government officials take stock of last week’s Ministerial Meeting on Mobilizing Climate Finance and prepare for upcoming UNFCCC talks in Bonn, WRI’s Open Climate Network (OCN), along with Climate Advisers and the Overseas Development Institute, are taking a look back at U.S. efforts on climate finance. (See our new fact sheet).

Back in 2009, developed countries pledged to provide $30 billion in climate finance by the end of 2012 in order to help developing countries implement low-carbon, climate-resilient development initiatives. This funding period—which took place from 2010 to 2012—is known as the “fast-start finance” period.

Our analysis reveals two sides to the U.S. contribution of roughly $7.5 billion in fast-start finance: On one hand, it represents a significant effort to increase international climate finance relative to previous years, in spite of the global financial crisis. On the other, it is not clear that the entirety of the contribution aligns with internationally agreed principles, which stipulate that the finance be “new and additional” and “balanced” between adaptation and mitigation. In any case, the United States, along with other developed countries, is now faced with the challenge of scaling up climate finance to developing countries to reach a collective $100 billion per year by 2020.

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Exploring Prospects for U.S. Coal Exports to China

This post originally appeared on ChinaFAQS.org.

The United States and China are the world’s two largest economies. They are also the two largest producers and consumers of coal, and the largest emitters of carbon dioxide. In recent years, however, their paths on coal have started to diverge.

Over the last few years, coal consumption has dropped dramatically in the United States, mainly due to low natural gas prices. In response to weak domestic demand, the U.S. coal industry has been rushing to find its way out to the international market. Last year, U.S. coal exports hit a historical high of 114 million metric tons.

However, it is worth noting that the shift away from coal in the U.S. may not be permanent. As my colleague, Kristin Meek, pointed out in an earlier blog post, coal use in the U.S. power sector was on the rise again towards the end of 2012, likely driven by the new uptick in natural gas prices.

On the other side of the globe, China’s appetite for coal continues to grow. In response, Chinese power companies are looking to tap the international coal market for sources that are more reliable and cost competitive. Among those markets is the United States. In 2012, China imported 290 million metric tons of coal. China was the third largest destination for U.S. coal exports, behind the Netherlands and the U.K.

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