Climate 411

Important climate rulemaking kicks off in Oregon: What we’re watching

Oregon Capitol

Oregon Capitol. PC: Zehn Katzen 

Yesterday kicked off the official start of the “Climate Protection Plan” rulemaking in Oregon, a process that is likely to answer whether Oregon will follow through on meeting its strong commitments to climate action. The stakes for this critical rulemaking are high: Oregon had one of its most destructive wildfire seasons on record last year and faces far more devastating climate impacts in the coming decades, if climate-warming pollution continues unchecked.

While Governor Brown’s climate executive order from last year provides reasons for hope, there are already some red flags appearing as Oregon’s lead environmental agency dives into this rulemaking. EDF analysis provided here reveals how the pace and scale of Oregon’s policy action will impact total emissions this decade— and ultimately determine long-term climate damages.

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Saving and restoring tropical forests has enormous value for the planet and the economy

Aerial view of the Amazon Rainforest, near Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas. Neil Palmer (CIAT). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

This post was authored by Sabine Fuss, Group Leader for Sustainable Resource Management and Global Change at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), Ruben Lubowski, Chief Natural Resource Economist at EDF, and Alexander Golub, Adjunct Professor of Environmental Science at American University

The protection of tropical forests globally is indispensable for significantly increasing climate ambition in line with Paris Agreement goals as illustrated by a tremendous return on climate investment, according to our new article in the journal Global Sustainability.

Without dedicated efforts to protect tropical forests, tropical deforestation will contribute to the atmosphere on the order of 200 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions through the end of the century. Allowing this deforestation to occur would make the transition extremely difficult, requiring drastic immediate cuts in difficult-to-decarbonize sectors at high costs with no flexibility to allow benefitting from ongoing innovation and cost reductions. Unmitigated tropical deforestation would also put net zero emissions out of reach without large-scale deployment of Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) technologies, which would require an unanticipated ramp-up of new infrastructure pervaded by a diverse array of uncertainties.

Protecting and restoring tropical forests as envisioned under the international finance framework REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) thus provides the world with greater flexibility to implement deeper cuts in emissions. Other studies have also recognized the importance of REDD+ for climate stabilization, but ours goes a step further by determining the economic value that REDD+ can provide by enhancing global flexibility for reducing emissions.

For our study, we applied the widely used climate economics model DICE developed by US Nobel Prize winner William Nordhaus. DICE shows the cost of achieving climate targets by using the most favourable mix of mitigation measures, but has so far not explicitly reflected the mitigation potential of tropical forest conservation. Our analysis incorporates more recent estimates from Jonah Busch and colleagues of the CO2 impacts of protecting and restoring tropical forests and of the direct opportunity costs of such activities, i.e. how much it would cost to forego the economic benefits of clearing or of allowing forests to regenerate – a key concern in many developing countries and often a strategic decision because of the large role that agricultural exports play in the economy.

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Posted in Carbon Markets, Forest protection, REDD+, United Nations / Leave a comment

Measuring the true impact of Colorado’s climate delay: Minding the emissions gap (Part 2)

After Colorado legislators passed landmark climate legislation in 2019, which included a statutory mandate directing the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to adopt rules and regulations to reduce statewide emissions, the state has yet to even propose a policy framework capable of getting the job done. This three-part series explores the impact of Colorado’s delay, analyzing the impact on total emissions and the state’s ability to meet its own climate targets.

Hayden Generating Station

Hayden Generating Station (Hayden Station), a coal-fired power plant near Hayden, Colorado. PC: Jeffrey Beall.

This year started with promising climate news in Colorado: The state’s largest electric utility, Xcel Energy, announced it will close two of its coal-fired units sooner than planned and support plant workers through retraining and retirement opportunities. While this is a step in the right direction for Colorado’s clean energy future, much more policy action will be needed to meet the state’s statutory emissions goals.

In Part 1 of this series, EDF analysis uncovered the cumulative impact of the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission’s (AQCC) inaction on greenhouse gas emission reductions. Delays will have profound consequences for the total pollution that the state emits over the next decade, which could mean more severe long-term climate damages for Colorado communities and ecosystems. The AQCC’s refusal to seriously evaluate policy mechanisms for much faster and deeper reductions flies in the face of what Colorado legislators mandated in 2019. They set a clear timeline for the AQCC to swiftly propose regulations and reduce statewide emissions 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050, all relative to 2005 emissions.

In Part 2 of this series, we dive into a recent EDF report and analyses released by both the state and other researchers that reveal how Colorado is far off track from achieving these upcoming 2025 and 2030 statutory targets under current policies. The state’s glaring ‘emissions gaps’ underscore the need for transformative leadership on a policy framework capable of securing the reductions consistent with our goals and protecting Coloradans for generations to come.

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Posted in Cities and states, Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Comments are closed

It’s time to power up, America

America has been living through particularly difficult times. As our leaders consider how to contain the coronavirus, create jobs and address environmental injustice, they have a chance to make some big changes that are long overdue.

We can power up the economy and reduce air and climate pollution by building more clean trucks, buses, cars and clean energyAll of this will move us toward a healthier and more prosperous future.

It starts with building more electric trucks, buses and cars – right here in America

  • Transitioning to a zero-emission transportation sector will put over one million people to work, save thousands of lives, build up our domestic manufacturing base and make American businesses more competitive.
  • A clean transportation system has the potential to bring good jobs as well as significant health benefits to communities of color and lower-income communities, who are more likely to live near highways and be directly exposed to harmful soot and smog pollution.
  • The goal of all new cars to be zero polluting by 2035, and all new trucks and buses to be zero polluting by 2040 is achievable: every major truck, bus and car manufacturer is already developing or investing in all-electric, zero-emission vehicles.

To achieve the scale needed to transform the transportation sector, we need Congress to: 

  • Support domestic manufacturing of electric vehicles, batteries and component parts.
  • Expand tax incentives and point-of-sale vouchers for zero-emissions cars and trucks.
  • Provide grants to school districts to purchase zero-emissions, electric school buses.
  • Fund state and local agencies developing electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
  • Ensure low-income communities, communities of color and others hit hardest by climate change and air pollution are first in line to benefit.

We must also transition to clean electric power to run our homes, farms, businesses and vehicles

  • Transitioning to clean energy will help boost our economy: Before the coronavirus recession, the sector was producing jobs 70% faster than the economy as a whole.
  • Dirty power plants are a major source of air, water and climate pollution and often located in communities of color and low-income communities. By investing in clean energy and energy efficiency we can protect these communities, clean up our air and guarantee everyone access to reliable
    and affordable energy.
  • 1 in 3 Americans are already getting service from a utility that’s moving to 100% clean electric generation, but we need smart policies to reach our nationwide goal of 100% clean electric power by 2035.

To accelerate progress, we need Congress to:

  • Extend and expand clean energy tax credits for wind, solar and energy efficiency.
  • Establish new tax credits for offshore wind and energy storage.
  • Invest in new transmission & distribution infrastructure, and grid-scale energy storage.
  • Ensure that a significant percentage of investments are directed to frontline communities and areas that are losing fossil fuel industry jobs to ensure a just transition for workers.
  • Double funding for clean energy research and development, including significant increases to the budget of ARPA-E, a government agency that helps companies commercialize promising breakthrough energy technologies.

American innovation makes these ambitious goals achievable. We have a long history of entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers tackling big challenges, and this is no different.

Let’s get to work creating healthier communities by building clean trucks, buses, cars and clean energy. It’s time to Power Up, America!

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Measuring the true impact of Colorado’s climate delay: Total pollution in the next decade (Part 1)

After Colorado legislators passed landmark climate legislation in 2019, which included a statutory mandate directing the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to adopt rules and regulations to reduce statewide emissions, the state has yet to adopt a policy framework capable of getting the job done. This three-part series explores the impact of Colorado’s delay, analyzing the impact on total emissions and the state’s ability to meet its own climate targets.

Comanche coal power plant in Pueblo, Colorado.

When it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Colorado—like many other states with leading science-based climate commitments—has a disconnect between rhetoric and reality. Colorado is far from where it needs to be to meet its climate goals, and state regulators just recently slammed on the brakes on a small but important step forward.

After initially voting to accelerate three coal plant retirements as part of a Regional Haze rulemaking in November, state Air Quality Control Commissioners reversed their decision under pressure from the Polis administration to revert back to the later coal plant retirement dates volunteered by industry.

Yet new analyses from EDF, and those released by both the state and other researchers, underscore that Colorado can’t afford a cavalier approach to curbing climate-warming pollution. The state is still far from having a policy framework in place capable of cutting greenhouse gas emissions at the pace and scale required—and Colorado’s first emissions target is right around the corner in 2025.

EDF’s analysis on the impact that these delays will have on total emissions this decade—which will translate into long-term climate damages—underscores why Colorado urgently needs a policy framework that will deliver the ambitious emission reductions that science—and state law—demand.

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Posted in Cities and states, Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Comments are closed

It’s time to unite behind next-generation clean car standards

The broad coalition defending America’s clean car standards is gaining key allies as Americans unite to build a pollution-free transportation future.

Led by Ford, automakers representing nearly half of the U.S. market have committed to working with California and the incoming Biden-Harris administration to enact ambitious policies that will create high-quality domestic jobs, protect our health, and confront the climate crisis. This is a good start, but we need all automakers to ditch the Trump administration’s clean cars rollback and advocate for next-generation standards that will make new light duty vehicles 100% pollution-free by 2035.

America’s clean car standards are among our most effective policies for reducing pollution exposure, cutting climate emissions, and creating good jobs. By driving innovation and cutting fuel costs, the model year 2017-to-2025 Clean Car Standards were projected to add hundreds of thousands of jobs and save Americans tens of billions of dollars at the gas pump each year. But the Trump administration rolled back the national standards and undermined longstanding state authority to set more protective standards. The Trump administration’s rollback would cost jobs and have devastating public health and environmental impacts, including an additional 18,500 premature deaths, 250,000 asthma attacks, and 1.5 billion tons of climate pollution — as much as running 68 coal plants for five years — by mid-century.

This is not what Americans want. A recent Pew Research Center poll showed that 71% of Americans support strengthening vehicle standards, not rolling them back.

EDF has joined a broad coalition of businesses, states, cities, experts, and environmental and public health groups in defending our clean car standards in court. We filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s attack on state authority and a second suit challenging its rollback of the national standards. (You can find all the legal briefs in the clean cars cases on our website.)  Leading transportation companies such as Lyft, Tesla, and Rivian have formed a key part of our coalition. But some automakers, including Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, GM, and Nissan, entered the litigation on the Trump administration’s side.

GM and Nissan have recently withdrawn their support of the administration’s attack on state authority, and GM has expressed its support for President-elect Biden’s vision of a zero emission transportation future. This is a welcome development, but it’s just a start. We need the entire industry to embrace ambitious policies, such as next-generation clean car standards that will create a million jobs and equitably transition the U.S. to 100% pollution-free new cars by 2035. These policies must prioritize eliminating pollution in environmental justice communities, and ensure that pollution-free vehicles and charging infrastructure are available to people of all colors and income levels.

And the automakers who are still backing Trump’s attack on state authority — looking at you, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler — need to follow their peers’ lead, for the sake of the climate, their customers, their employees, and their bottom line. Customer opinions of Toyota have dropped sharply in response to its stance on the clean car standards. This could have a big impact on sales if the company doesn’t shift out of reverse soon. Over 200 state and local officials from 26 states, and over 285,000 petitioners, have called on Toyota and Fiat Chrysler to do just that by investing in clean transport innovation, not litigation trying to prop up the Trump administration’s rollback.

If automakers need an example to follow, they should look no further than Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, BMW, and Volvo, who have been out in front supporting strong clean car standards and states’ authority to adopt them. In August, these five manufacturers entered bilateral agreements with California that recognize the state’s clean car authority and will prevent hundreds of millions of tons of climate pollution. The agreements earned the highest possible rating in EDF’s new Climate Authenticity Meter. One company that has taken its commitment a step further is Ford, which recently supported California’s bold commitment to make all new cars sold in the state zero-emitting by 2035.

As the growing support for transformative clean car standards shows, we face an incredible opportunity. Together, we can put a million Americans to work building the pollution-free cars that will make our air safer to breathe and steer us away from the climate cliff. We hope that all automakers will join us in pursuit of these shared goals.

Posted in California, Cars and Pollution, Cities and states, Economics, EPA litgation, Green Jobs, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, Jobs, Partners for Change, Policy / Read 1 Response