Category Archives: Climate

Lima Climate Talks Showcase Another Path to Global Climate Action: Through States, Provinces and Cities

California state Senate President Kevin de León arrives at the conference center for the UN climate talks in Lima, Peru. Image used with permission from Senator de León.

California state Senate President Kevin de León arrives at the conference center for the UN climate talks in Lima, Peru. Image used with permission from Senator de León.

The chattering classes of the climate policy world are abuzz with their customary post-mortems following the latest breathless two-week session of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change 20th Conference of Parties (also known simply as COP 20), held in Lima, Peru.

Consensus is forming around a “slightly better than nothing” assessment of the Lima Call for Climate Action, which was adopted in the wee hours of Sunday amidst the usual skirmishes over money, monitoring, and mandates.

Lima clarified some of the expected content of the national pledges (“Intended Nationally Determined Contributions,” INDCs in COP shorthand) to be presented by all countries next year.

Notwithstanding the softness engendered by the word “intended,” at least we aren’t firmly stuck in the “old world order” where only developed countries are taking on mitigation actions.

Subnational cooperation and pathways to climate progress outside UN process

While nations squabbled about intentions, another story was playing out on the sidelines of the COP, showcasing real, groundbreaking and consequential progress at the subnational level – within states, provinces, and cities. Read More »

Also posted in General, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Politics| Leave a comment

Vive La Linkage: California and Quebec Working Together to Fight Climate Change

rp_KHK-picture-200x300.jpgThe holiday season is often considered a time to stop and take stock of the things that we are thankful for, and to celebrate the accomplishments of the past year. Today, California and Quebec have one more thing to celebrate: the successful completion of their first-ever joint cap-and-trade auction, which marks the last of many steps to fully harmonize the two carbon markets. Auctions are held quarterly and are opportunities for companies regulated by cap-and-trade and others to electronically bid on and purchase carbon allowances (permits to emit one metric ton of greenhouse gas emissions).

California and Quebec carefully prepare for full linkage of their programs

California and Quebec worked closely to design their cap-and-trade programs to ensure that the essential mechanisms and stringent targets were in place to allow for linkage. The jurisdictions both started their cap-and-trade programs on January 1, 2013, and formally linked their carbon markets a year later. At that point, carbon allowances originating from Quebec’s program could be purchased and used by a California company and vice versa. Until the most recent auction, the two jurisdictions held separate auctions, allowing time to update the auction system to handle bidding from multiple jurisdictions with different currencies, different time zones, and different requirements for the minimum allowable bid. This process of careful preparation culminated in a practice joint auction held at the beginning of August, which went smoothly according to reports from the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the regulatory agency responsible for overseeing the implementation of California’s cap-and-trade program.

Sustained strength of linked program reflected in results of first joint auction

The first real joint auction took place last Tuesday, after a great deal of preparation and some technical difficulties that caused a few days of delay. During this auction, companies from both California and Quebec bid together on the same collective pool of allowances, aligning allowance price over the two programs. The results of this auction were released today and revealed healthy demand in the linked market for cap-and-trade allowances. 100% of the current 2014 vintage allowances for sale in this auction were purchased by bidders at a price of $12.10, while 100% of the 2017 future vintage allowances offered were purchased at a price of $11.86.

Read More »

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Carbon Markets Reward 10 Pioneering States. Who's Next?

carbon_378x235A handful of states are already proving that economic growth and environmental protection can go hand in hand – and they’re using market forces, price signals and economic incentives to meet their goals.

These results are particularly salient as states consider how to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to limit dangerous pollution from power plants.

So let's take a closer look at what's happening on our two coasts.

California: 4% cut in emissions, 2% growth

California’s landmark cap-and-trade program is closing out its second year with some strong results. Between 2012 and 2013, greenhouse gas emissions from the 350+ facilities covered by the program dropped by 4 percent, putting California solidly on track to meet its goal to cut emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

During the same period, the state’s gross domestic product jumped 2 percent.

Read More »

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The Results Are In: 2013 Data Shows Capped Emissions are Down

rp_KHK-picture-200x300.jpgYesterday, millions of votes were tallied across the country and meticulously recorded to determine who would make up the nation’s next group of elected leaders. At noon yesterday, in the midst of this election activity, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released a report of its own careful counting; not of votes, but of 2013 greenhouse gas emissions, collected under California’s Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting program. Under this program, California’s largest polluters across all sectors are required to report their emissions and have them checked by a CARB-accredited verifier.

Covered emissions decrease

Today's report revealed that emissions currently covered by the state’s cap-and-trade program decreased by almost 4% to 145 million metric tons (MMT) of CO2E. This is 11% under California’s stringent cap of 162.8 MMT for 2013, indicating that the state is on track to reduce emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020. Complementary policies established under AB 32, such as the Renewable Portfolio Standard and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, are almost certainly playing a significant role in keeping emissions down. Because these other measures drive reductions in emissions within the cap, the cap-and-trade program essentially functions as an insurance policy, guaranteeing the state meets or even beats its reduction targets.

California’s economy flourishes while companies comply with cap-and-trade

Total reported emissions, including those not covered under the cap-and-trade program, increased from 2012 to 2013 by a very slim tenth of a percentage point. Over this same period, California data shows that the state gross domestic product (GDP), a commonly used measure of the health of the economy, increased by over 2%. So, while the state’s economy grew, emissions did not grow proportionally with it, showing that it is possible to break the link between economic output from emissions output. Job growth in California throughout 2013 was also impressive, beating the national average.

 In addition to reporting emissions every year, regulated polluters must also surrender some emissions allowances each year. Yesterday, covered businesses did this for the first time, turning in enough allowances to account for 30% of their 2013 emissions. ARB confirmed that they saw 100% compliance with this surrender requirement, showing that businesses are ready and able to incorporate cap-and-trade obligations into their regular business practices.

Sights set on post-2020

As significant progress is being made towards the state’s 2020 goals, focus is beginning to turn to California’s ambitious long-term target: to reduce emissions down to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.   To achieve this, CARB, the Governor's office, and some members of the legislature are calling for a midterm target to keep the state on a path to deep reductions.  Next year, we will take another important step towards this goal when transportation sector emissions, representing 38% of state GHG pollution, are regulated under the cap-and-trade program.

Today's results show that, as we prepare for these critical next steps, California has a strong foundation to build on with its cap-and-trade program. For more in-depth analysis of the emissions data released today, look out for EDF’s second annual report on California’s cap-and-trade program in January 2015.

Also posted in Cap and trade, General, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32| Comments closed

Why California Thirsts for Rain and the East Coast gets Soaked

rain_378x235_1If you think the weather’s acting strange, you’re correct. Extreme weather in the United States is trending upward, and human-caused climate change has already been blamed for much of it – most recently in connection with the California drought.

But along with extreme weather we’re also getting extreme contrasts. What on Earth is going on when New York gets endless rain and San Francisco none, and when one part of the country is freezing while another suffers under record heat?

You guessed it, rising temperatures have something to do with it – and here’s how.

Rain patterns are changing

In the Northeast, the combination of more moisture in the atmosphere from a warmer world and changes in circulation patterns are bringing more rain. In the Southwest, meanwhile, rainfall is suppressed by a northward expansion of high pressure in the subtropics. Read More »

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How Scientists Linked the California Drought to Climate Change

calidrought_378x235_2Editor's note: This post was updated December 16, 2014.

California has officially entered its fourth consecutive year of drought, and is trapped in its worst water shortage situation ever.

Because we know that human-caused climate change can trigger and exacerbate drought conditions, media, public officials, California residents, and scientists have all been wondering for years if rising global temperatures likely caused or contributed to the current drought in California.

The short answer: Yes, they did.

Weather won’t cooperate

Scientists have suspected for some time now that a certain meteorological condition lies behind the long-lasting California drought. The persistence of a stubborn high-pressure system off the coast has been preventing storm systems from reaching California and instead deflecting them to Alaska and elsewhere. Read More »

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