Author Archives: Derek Walker

Historic Agreement Demonstrates Broad Commitment to Build Clean Energy Economy

With the stroke of a pen, North American efforts to combat climate change and promote clean energy reached a new level today.

I was lucky enough to witness the historic event, as Governor Jerry Brown joined the leaders of Oregon, Washington State and the Canadian province of British Columbia, to sign an agreement that formally aligns climate and clean energy policies in the four jurisdictions.

This signing by these “Fab Four” of the Pacific Coast Collaborative makes sense given all they have in common: they’re geographically connected, share infrastructure, and their combined regional economy accounts for a $2.8 trillion GDP, making it the world’s fifth largest economy.

Beyond the symbolic nature of today’s announcement, the event signals California’s far-reaching influence on energy and climate policy development.

Once labeled the “go it alone” state, California is now succeeding with its “lead by example” approach.

What has driven this success? Most recently, the Golden State established the world’s most comprehensive cap-and-trade program, a proven and sensible environmental and economic approach to limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Once considered a “grand experiment,” its early success has helped to establish a strong, viable market and spur interest from around the world.

Today was no exception, as business, labor and environmental leaders from all four jurisdictions joined the signing, signifying a strong regional commitment to putting a price on carbon, using market mechanisms to spur a clean economy and reduce pollution on a regional scale.

The agreement is also further proof that strong climate and clean energy policies are tied to economic benefits, creating a large market for innovators and low-carbon businesses in the region. California is on the brink of linking its cap-and-trade program with Quebec’s; making the two states’ carbon allowances interchangeable and showing growing carbon market momentum.

Today’s event is a beacon of hope for national and global action to fight climate change.  While the four parties in this agreement are in different stages in putting a price on carbon, their combined commitment is a positive sign and further impetus for regional and international collaboration. The vision of these four leaders – along with California’s proven record of success – makes me very optimistic that we are on the right path.

Posted in Cap and trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Linkage, Politics| Comments closed

Hopeful signs for U.S. and Chinese Cooperation on Climate Change

The past week has offered a thrilling glimpse into the future for the millions of people around the U.S. and across the world who are yearning for real solutions to climate change.  On June 18, Shenzhen, an economically-vibrant city of 15 million on the South China Sea, launched the first of seven Chinese regional pilot carbon market systems slated to begin by the end of 2014.  The Shenzhen market is set include at least 635 local companies that contribute approximately 40% of the city’s CO2 emissions, and is expected to result in a 21% decrease in the carbon intensity of the economy in just two years.  Shenzhen is one of seven carbon trading pilots that represent about 25% of China’s GDP and may include thousands of companies emitting hundreds of millions of tons of CO2.

Inspiration, encouragement and support for Shenzhen’s maiden market launch came from a familiar place:  California.  Both Shenzhen and California have well-established reputations as trailblazers on innovative solutions that match economic growth with environmental gains.  Perhaps it will be little surprise, then, that none other than the state’s top climate change official,  California Air Resources Board (CARB) Chair Mary Nichols and Governor Brown’s personal representative, Wade Crowfoot, stood with senior officials from Shenzhen and from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) at last Tuesday’s launch.  Nichols has presided over the development of California’s groundbreaking climate change effort and oversaw the Fall 2013 launch of California’s carbon market, the first comprehensive state-level system in the U.S.

The California market is a promising model for Shenzhen and the other Chinese pilots.  California has held three allowance auctions to date, with strong participation by companies and a modest increase in the price of allowances with each auction.  Ultimately, California’s carbon market will be a key element driving the state back to 1990 levels of greenhouse gas pollution by 2020, accompanied by dramatic improvements in air quality and significant incentives to carbon-cutting entrepreneurs.  Nichols formalized the partnership between California and Shenzhen by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) paving the way for technical cooperation between officials and other stakeholders engaged in the respective carbon market programs.

The California-Shenzhen partnership is just the tip of the iceberg in the crescendo of cooperation between the U.S. and China.  Earlier this month in California, President Obama and Chinese President Xi signed an agreement to collectively fight dangerous hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that are used in air conditioning and refrigeration.   HFCs are pound-for-pound some the most potent greenhouse gases, and controlling them will be an essential short-term piece of solving the climate change puzzle.

As California and Shenzhen roll up their sleeves to support one another’s ambitious climate change programs, they will provide demonstrable proof of the promise of cooperation between their nations and will deliver results and momentum towards national action.   In her remarks at the Shenzhen launch, Mary Nichols called the leadership of California, Shenzhen, and other provinces, states and cities around the world “a foundation that national and international action can spring from.”

The Chinese carbon trading pilots are strong signals that climate change is an issue to be taken seriously and to be acted on expeditiously.  In the U.S., President Barack Obama takes the stage in Washington tomorrow to lay out his Administration’s vision for bold national action to fight climate change, an eagerly-anticipated outline of how progress will be achieved towards Obama’s 2009 commitment to slash greenhouse gas pollution 17% by 2020.

While 2020 will be an important milestone in charting progress, it is but the beginning of a long journey.  Climate change science couldn’t be clearer about the need to achieve dramatic greenhouse gas reductions by mid-century.  And no long-term solution to the environmental challenge of our lifetime will be found without the leadership of the world’s top greenhouse gas polluters.  That leadership is now coalescing into national and bilateral action and, for the first time in some time, offers hope that we are headed in the right direction.

Posted in Climate, General, Linkage| Comments closed

California Climate and Energy: Top 10 Blogs of 2012

2012 was an exciting year for California’s climate change and energy leadership. Our “Top 10 Blogs of 2012” recap some of the year’s highlights and illustrate how EDF is engaged in groundbreaking work in the Golden State every day. Whether it was helping to pave the way for the opening of North America’s largest carbon market in California, or helping design the first commercial On-Bill Repayment program, EDF was at the center of the most important environmental issues facing California in 2012.

In 2013, we will continue to tout both the economic and environmental benefits of California’s landmark environmental programs. California is our nation’s most important laboratory for meaningful action on climate change and clean energy. We must ensure that California serves as a model for the nation proving that good environmental policy can create jobs, spur our economy, and improve our overall quality of life.  We look forward to a productive and prosperous 2013 and will continue to share with you the stories that impact California and shape our nation.

       1. On-Bill Repayment Bill Introduced In California (Published: December 7, 2012)

California Senator Kevin de León introduced a bill, SB 37, which would create the first On-Bill Repayment (OBR) program entirely financed by private capital. OBR allows property owners to finance energy efficiency and renewable generation upgrades and repay the obligations through their utility bills. Read more…

       2. California Cap-and-Trade Auction Success (Published: November 19, 2012)

The results of California’s first ever auction for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions allowances are public, marking the start of a new era for stimulating innovative solutions to combat climate change. Coincidentally, earlier today new atmospheric data was released by NOAA showing that 2012 is on pace to be the warmest year, eclipsing the mark set only two years ago. Read more…

       3. California’s record gas prices shows AB 32 will help both your wallet and your health (Published: October 10, 2012)

Fuel prices in California hit historic highs this week, an unexpected price spike that has put the state’s dependence on oil and natural gas into sharp focus. Like many of the state’s former fuel price shocks caused by demonstrable events (i.e. foreign and domestic supply disruptions), oil companies are once again saying that refinery problems and pipeline issues were the root cause. However, most reports on the current price swing aren’t pinpointing the true reason – drivers en masse are too reliant on the current mix of gas and diesel, an energy source that pollutes our environment every time it is used. Read more…

       4. Latino Support Surges for the Environment (Published: October 4, 2012)

California lawmakers take notice: Latino voters want a strong economy AND a clean environment, two things they believe are not mutually exclusive. Read more…

       5. What does history say about the costs and benefits of environmental policies? (Published: September 20, 2012)

With just three months to go before California launches North America's first economy- wide cap on global warming pollution, many businesses large and small all over the state are quietly and effectively creating a clean economy that will get a further shot in the arm when California puts a price on carbon in January. Unfortunately, albeit predictably, opponents of this landmark effort choose to overlook the likely benefits and instead spread questionable information about the assumed costs. Read more…

       6. Californians see global warming as a threat, and support action to abate (Published: August 2, 2012)

Decision makers at every level across California should take notice of today’s affirmation that the public supports California’s efforts to respond to the causes of climate change. Read more…

       7. Invest to Grow: EDF’s newest report highlights the opportunities created by the strategic investments behind California’s landmark emissions reduction program (Published: July 13, 2012)

Over the past 20 years, the unprecedented growth and resiliency of California’s clean and efficient economy has continued throughout economic recessions and budget crises – even while many other sectors of the economy have shrunk. This growth has created a statewide infrastructure of companies providing the products and services that are at the heart of the transition towards a lower carbon economy envisioned by California’s landmark climate law. Read more…

       8. A Dynamic Approach To California Energy Use (Published: July 5, 2012)

Californians are poised for a more functional, data-driven model for setting the prices people pay for electricity. The new model will make the massive differences in costs of providing electricity during the course of a typical day more evident to us as energy users, thereby inspiring more efficient use of electricity resources. Read more…

       9. Outpouring of Support for California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (Published: June 25, 2012)

California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) has received an impressive outpouring of support from a diverse range of “friend of the court” briefs as the case challenging the regulation makes its way through the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Back in April, the LCFS won a preliminary victory when the 9th Circuit held that California could continue to enforce the regulation while the court considers the case. On June 8, the state and other appellants, including EDF, submitted the first full brief arguing the merits of the case. A week later, groups filed seven different briefs in support of the LCFS, asserting a wide range of interests in the case. Read more…

       10. Getting ‘Smart’ About Your Energy Use Just Got Easier (Published: January 20, 2012)

On Wednesday, I attended a presentation of the Green Button at EMC2, hosted by Silicon Valley Leadership Group, OSIsoft and SolarCity, and moderated by Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Tech Officer and Advisor to the President. Read more…

 

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, General, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Politics, Smart Grid, Transportation| Comments closed

Californians see global warming as a threat, and support action to abate

Decision makers at every level across California should take notice of today’s affirmation that the public supports California’s efforts to respond to the causes of climate change.

The results from the newly released Public Policy Institute of California’s annual survey of Californian attitudes towards the environment speak loud and clear: The majority of Californians see global warming as a serious threat to the state’s economy and their future quality of life and they continue to support measures to reduce green house gas emissions through the state’s cap and trade law.

Since the poll also revealed that many Californians think not enough is being done on this issue – particularly at the federal level – those in a position to make policy changes should take this poll as a call to action to address what the public sees as a major threat to their lives and livelihoods.

That’s not to say that significant efforts aren’t already underway. In addition to California’s visionary cap and trade law about to go into effect at the beginning of next year, the state just released its third assessment of our climate change vulnerabilities – a reminder that in addition to reducing our emissions we must also prepare for the climate impacts that scientists tell us are still to come.

Highlights from the PPIC poll include:

  • A majority of likely voters say global warming is a serious threat (40% very serious, 26% somewhat serious) to the economy and quality of life in California’s future.
  • 62% of likely voters support the state’s cap and trade law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Four in ten Californians say efforts to reduce greenhouse gases will result in more jobs.
  • 64% of likely voters say steps need to be taken right away to counter the effects of global warming.
  • 53% of likely voters say the federal government is not doing enough to address global warming.
  • 42% of likely voters say state and local governments are not doing enough to address global warming.
  • The majority (78% of Californians and 73% of likely voters) is in favor of increasing federal funding to develop wind, solar, and hydrogen technology. That support is reflected across political party lines.

So the science is in, and so is public opinion. Our leaders have every incentive they need to take sustained and decisive action to kick start economic growth by moving forward with California’s groundbreaking climate law.

Posted in Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32| Comments closed

Governor Brown and the U.S. Navy are making maneuvers with California clean energy companies to showcase real progress

This week, the U.S. Navy and the Office of California Governor Jerry Brown are teaming up to put on display the blossoming relationship between California’s clean energy industry and the U.S. Navy, part of the nation’s biggest energy consumer, the U.S. Department of Defense.

The fact that the U.S. Navy and the clean energy companies featured in the Clean Energy Showcase event – Borrego Solar, Solar City and Biodico, to name just a few – are nurturing this partnership is enormously telling of the direction that the mainstream of our country is moving in. And by providing a platform for this event, Governor Brown is shining a much-needed light on the numerous advantages to this significant public-private sector alliance, and continuing to bolster California’s impressive clean energy credentials.

It’s clear that Brown is applying the power of his office to set ambitious clean energy goals for the state – he already set a goal that the state will have 20,000 megawatts of new renewable energy on the grid by 2020. This newer role however is a clear signal that he is also committed to fostering clean energy links that will provide benefits throughout the state’s economy. In his role as convener, Brown sends a powerful message to all sectors – that they too can contribute to and benefit from California’s surge towards a clean energy future.

For its part, the Navy’s energy management strategies are an entirely pragmatic response to climate change, the complex security landscape and the realities of a squeezed budget. These three challenges represent three corners of a triangle, each inextricably linked to the other. As Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said back in May, “As someone who now faces a budget shortfall exceeding $3 billion because of higher-than-expected fuel costs, I have a deep interest in more sustainable and efficient energy options.”

Not only is the U.S. military out ahead on this issue, but so is California. Ready to implement America’s first carbon emissions trading market, California has already become a magnet for clean energy investment. And, as described in our new report Invest to Grow, the investment opportunities created by this law will provide numerous benefits to the existing landscape of companies throughout the state that are already providing clean energy and energy efficiency products and services.

Climate change, national energy security and constrained budgets are weighty issues for not just the military, but for the state of California. This week’s Clean Energy Showcase provides an opportunity for our country’s most innovative, practical and pragmatic forces – business and military – to publicly shine a light on the clear path forward. Under the wing of Governor Brown’s administration, this partnership can help further California progress towards a more responsible, and secure, clean economy.

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Politics| Comments closed

Cap-and-Trade Club Grows with Addition of Quebec

Despite the Durban climate talks ending with little progress beyond launching negotiations of a new agreement by 2015 that encompasses all the major emitters, momentum for carbon markets continues to grow from the ground up. Case in point: Canada’s second largest province, Quebec. 

Just three days after Canada announced it was dropping out of the Kyoto Protocol, Quebec announced it was going forward with a cap-and-trade program tied to California’s.

It was little surprise that Canada would renege on its commitment to cut climate pollution because it had done little to meet the treaty’s targets. And while its move was harshly condemned at home and abroad as ‘irresponsible’ and ‘reckless’, the news was offset by progress that’s being made at the sub-national level.

Quebec and California are part of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), a partnership of states and provinces pledging to fight climate change by putting a price on pollution. Other Canadian provinces in the WCI, including British Columbia and Ontario, are actively developing carbon market programs.

Quebec is the latest entity to join climate’s ‘cap-and-trade club’ that counts the European Union, Japan, New Zealand, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and Switzerland as members. China and South Korea are among the countries that are exploring starting cap-and-trade programs. The United States used cap-and-trade to notable success in the ‘90s to cut acid rain faster and at dramatically lower costs than predicted by industry.

With extreme weather events linked to climate change on the rise, along with public support for solutions, Canada is joining the United States in refusing to deal with the most pressing environmental issue of our lifetime.  Fortunately, Quebec and California are leading the charge to cap and reduce pollution, an approach proven to deliver great economic and public health benefits. 

A recent study on the economic benefits of RGGI in the first three years found that the region’s economy grew by $1.6 billion, produced $1.3 billion in energy savings to consumers and created more than 16,000 jobs. 

Sub-national governments have become the hotbeds of leadership and progress on climate change, proving that taking action grows their economies while protecting the environment. We must not let the hope of a perfect (global agreement) become the enemy of the urgent (taking concrete action to fight climate change).

Posted in Cap and trade, Climate, Linkage| Comments closed
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    How California can leverage market-based environmental policies to revitalize its economy, protect its quality of life and retain a leading edge in global innovation.

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