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.
Climate, Energy & Transport
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.
Transportation is quite literally the engine of economic growth in large congested cities throughout the developing world. EMBARQ – the WRI Center for Sustainable Transport – is working to bring cleaner, more efficient transportation systems to these cities. With assistance from EMBARQ and other national and international organizations, India’s Ministry of Urban Development is implementing the country’s first-ever national urban transportation policies. Cities and states that adopt the policies become eligible for financial assistance from a new $11 billion government program, Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission, to support sustainable transport projects. The policies are a significant step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving India’s vision of making its cities the most productive and livable in the world.
Mexico currently ranks twelfth in the world in terms of GHG emissions. Although not bound by Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions limits, the country is committed to fighting global warming. Mexico’s new climate change strategy proposes a graduated process that begins with GHG accounting and reporting, progresses to energy sector GHG caps, and culminates in a national cap-and-trade system linked to international GHG markets. WRI provided the GHG Protocol accounting tools that undergird the policy and provided technical consultation to the Mexican government. WRI also helped launch a Mexican industry-led voluntary GHG accounting program in 2004. WRI is working with partner organizations to replicate the model in Brazil, China, India, and the Philippines.
Four years ago, few financial firms factored climate change impacts into their operations. Now, due in large part to WRI’s work to examine the risks and opportunities that climate change is creating for business, industry leaders such as ABN AMRO, Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, and Lehman Brothers are committing significant resources and billions of dollars toward cleaner technologies and climate change solutions. What started as “boutique research” is now a mainstream issue. WRI believes that financial markets attuned to environmental issues will create powerful incentives for companies to improve their environmental performance, while also ensuring better returns for investors.