Climate 411

Western Climate Initiative ends the year on a high note with record prices

Wind farm in Mojave Desert.

Wind farm in the Mojave Desert. PC: Tom Brewster Photography for the Bureau of Land Management.

The latest results of the Western Climate Initiative’s quarterly auctions were announced today. All current and future vintage allowances sold, and for the second quarter in a row, settled at a record-high allowance price.

These results arrive as new data underscores the success of the program’s design and the strength of the market.

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Posted in California, Carbon Markets, Cities and states / Leave a comment

Cutting pollution, driving investment: US state leaders shared ambitious models for action at COP26

While many of the headlines from COP26 focused on whether newly announced national commitments will be enough to curb catastrophic global warming, our ability to fend off the climate crisis largely depends on what happens outside conference walls — namely, how quickly we translate climate commitments into policy that curbs pollution.

This COP saw the largest-ever, bipartisan U.S. subnational delegation, including six governors and dozens of state lawmakers, who were there to discuss progress on slashing greenhouse gas emissions. It was a strikingly different context from the last three COPs when U.S. leadership on climate was absent at the federal level, and state leaders stepped up to send a message to the world that U.S. states, cities and corporations were still committed to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. However, state officials did not come to Glasgow to pass the baton back to the Biden administration; all were there to demonstrate how they are putting in place policies that can help the U.S. meet its ambitious new National Determined Contribution (NDC).

One key policy that is already delivering quantifiable results at the state level is cap-and-invest, which puts a limit on climate pollution while driving significant investments in climate mitigation and resilience. The Western Climate Initiative (WCI) and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) are already keeping emissions in participating jurisdictions within a steadily declining budget, and Washington state’s new Climate Commitment Act provides the onramp to get a program up-and-running by 2023.

At a COP26 event hosted by Environmental Defense Fund, International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), and National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL), state and environmental leaders discussed how these leading programs can help states meet their targets, promote equity, drive progress on our national target and offer valuable lessons learned.

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Oregon is finalizing a key pillar of its climate strategy. Will DEQ deliver the climate ambition that Oregonians are demanding?

This post is authored by Kjellen Belcher, Senior Analyst for U.S. Climate at EDF.

Oregon wildfire.

Photo credit: US Bureau of Land Management.

This past summer, the Pacific Northwest endured record-breaking high temperatures, with Portland reaching 116 degrees F. Hundreds of Oregonians are still reeling from the wildfires of 2020 —  one of the most destructive seasons on record for Oregon. And a new study just revealed that Mt. Hood, an iconic Oregon landmark, will have low to no snowpack within the next 35 to 60 years, impacting Oregon’s water supply, winter sports season and other treasured natural resource industries.

Climate change is impacting every part of Oregon, and every action we take (or don’t take) will either solidify a very grim climate future or stop the ever-accelerating impacts of climate change and the immeasurable human suffering that goes with it.

But Oregon regulators have the power to take immediate action to address the climate crisis.

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

Shifting toward clean energy can lower costs for Pennsylvanians

Thermostat for heating

As fall leaves are rapidly disappearing and temperatures drop, families across Pennsylvania are starting to turn up home thermostats to keep warm. Ensuring affordable, reliable energy is available should be an absolutely critical priority for policymakers. This winter, however, is expected to bring higher than usual energy prices that could hit U.S. households in colder regions like the Northeast and upper Midwest especially hard. And it reveals how American families and businesses bear the brunt of wild price fluctuations in fossil fuels and deserve more stable, cleaner sources of energy. 

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), households that primarily use natural gas for space heating will spend an average of 30% more on heating this winter than last year. This is especially concerning for a state like Pennsylvania where over half of households use natural gas to heat their homes, and much of Pennsylvania’s electricity is powered by natural gas-fired power plants, meaning even those who don’t use natural gas fuel directly for heating may still be affected by rising prices.

With families, communities and businesses worried about costs for heat and electricity, many are capitalizing on this fear to spread disinformation about the causes. So, what exactly is driving these spikes? And how can we avoid this situation in the future? 

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Posted in Cities and states / Comments are closed

UN aviation agency sets a new standard for sustainable flight by adopting critical fuels criteria

This blog post was authored by Pedro Piris-Cabezas, Director of Sustainable International Transport & Lead Senior Economist at Environmental Defense Fund, and Anna Stratton, Consultant.

ICAO Building in Montreal

As the world convened for COP 26, the United Nation’s civil aviation body announced a major milestone in the transition to sustainable flight by adopting an expanded set of sustainability criteria for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).   

SAF — jet fuel made from renewable feedstock instead of fossil fuels — provides a distinct opportunity to put aviation on a pathway to net-zero climate impact by 2050. But, to achieve that level of success, the SAF that airlines will use to be eligible for ICAO’s emissions reduction program, the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), must meet a high standard of environmental integrity, and be accurately tracked and accounted for. Indeed, not all alternative fuels are equal. Some make environmental problems worse. Deploying SAF without a robust accounting and sustainability framework could negate the entire climate benefits and even increase emissions several-fold compared to fossil jet fuels.  

After years of hesitation, ICAO Council Members finally seized the opportunity to set these forward-looking sustainability safeguards, ensuring that SAF eligible under CORSIA lives up to its sustainability potential, and provides certainty for SAF producers as they make investments in the sustainability of their supply chains and operations.  

Not only is this decision a major milestone for ICAO, it is also the first time a UN body has defined a clear standard for what constitutes sustainability for a mitigation action. ICAO has also operationalized it with a full-fledged monitoring, reporting and third-party verification system including a high level of assurance, which makes CORSIA the most comprehensive SAF Framework adopted to date.  

ICAO’s decision also sends a clear signal to countries embarking in SAF policy: support for SAF must include robust environmental safeguards. This is critical because ICAO’s SAF framework can enable the production of truly climate beneficial SAF but only if paired with effective national policies that generate the needed economic incentives. 

The Council’s adoption of the SAF sustainability criteria is a turning point in the aviation sector’s journey to decarbonize—but it is far from its final destination. Now, countries, airlines, and fuel producers must take action to jump-start high-integrity SAF by shaping their national SAF policies accordingly.  

EDF, as a member of the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA), the group of environmental NGOs with observer status at ICAO, took a leadership role in this important development. EDF created the space for this negotiation to take place in ICAO’s Committee for Aviation Environmental Protection and was granted the privilege to co-chair the technical negotiations on SAF sustainability matters together with the International Air Transport Association (IATA). This privileged position gave us the capacity to thoughtfully design the negotiations and create the necessary coalitions to ensure, against all odds, the sequential adoption of the sustainability criteria and framework along ICAO’s political decision-making process. 

What’s the role of the SAF sustainability criteria?  

The role of sustainability criteria is to safeguard against direct and indirect negative effects on ecosystems and communities that are not captured or are underestimated by the lifecycle assessment approach, and to promote sustainable development.  

To be eligible under ICAO’s CORSIA, SAF needs to meet the following overarching goals across its supply chain:  

  1. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil jet fuel on a lifecycle basis. The criteria ensures that SAF provides meaningful emissions reductions, counted across the full lifecycle of the fuel from feedstock to flight, and including key indirect environmental effects such as indirect land use change. The 10% minimum emissions reduction required by ICAO might appear disappointing at first sight, but it should be noted that—in its current shape—it is only intended as a safeguard to ensure that any emission reduction claim in CORSIA is backed up with real emissions reductions that go beyond the uncertainties associated to the lifecycle assessment methodology. Independently, only SAF that delivers large emissions reductions makes sense economically and environmentally speaking, which means that SAF with large land use change emissions is tacitly disqualified as a viable production pathway. That’s the magic of assessing SAF on a lifecycle basis including indirect land use change emissions. 
  2. Protect ecosystems and natural resources. The robust set of sustainability criteria also includes environmental safeguards against negative environmental effects that are not captured by the lifecycle emissions assessment—defending water quality, soil health, air qualitybiodiversity and conservation values. 
  3. Present no risks to human rights, food security, or local economies. Ensuring that SAF feedstock production does not present social risks, ICAO prioritized the inclusion of human and labor rights, land use rights and water use rights for local and indigenous communities. 
  4. Promote the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. As a United Nations body, the ICAO championed these sustainability criteria aiming for SAF to contribute to the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including eliminating poverty and promoting food security.  

What’s in the SAF sustainability criteria?  

The criteria cover 12 themes that encompass the three pillars of sustainability: social, environmental, economic. Provisions pertain to emissions reductions, carbon hotspots, water, soil, air, conservation, waste and chemicals, human and labor rights, land use rights and land use, water use rights, local and social development, and food security. For each theme, a principle a set of criteria are outlined. The criteria capture the binding provisions.  

To be eligible under ICAO’s CORSIA to generate emissions reductions for compliance purposes, SAF must meet the following criteria: 

Theme Principle Criteria 
1.  Greenhouse Gases (GHG) Principle: Sustainable Alternative Jet fuel should generate lower carbon emissions than conventional kerosene on a life cycle basis. Criterion 1: Sustainable alternative jet fuel shall achieve net greenhouse gas emissions of at least 10% compared to fossil jet fuel on a life cycle basis. 
2. Carbon stock 


Principle: Sustainable alternative jet fuel should not be made from biomass obtained from land with high carbon stock. Criterion 1: Sustainable alternative jet fuel shall not be made from biomass obtained from land converted after 1 January 2008 that was primary forests, wetlands, or peat lands and/or contributors to degradation of the carbon stock in primary forests, wetlands, or peat lands as these lands all have high carbon stocks. 
Criterion 2: In the event of land use conversion after 1 January 2008, as defined based on IPCC land categories, direct land use charge (DLUC) emissions shall be calculated. If DLUC greenhouse gas emissions exceed the default induced land use change (ILUC) value, the DLUC value shall replace the default ILUC value. 
 3. Water Principle: Production of sustainable alternative jet fuel should maintain or enhance water quality and availability. Criterion 1: Operational practices shall be implemented to maintain or enhance water quality. 
Criterion 2: Operational practices shall be implemented to use water efficiently and to avoid the depletion of surface or groundwater resources beyond replenishment capacities. 
 4. Soil Principle: Production of sustainable alternative jet fuel should maintain or enhance soil health. Criterion 1: Agricultural and forestry best management practices for feedstock production or residue collection shall be implemented to maintain or enhance soil health, such as physical, chemical and biological conditions. 
5. Air  Principle: Production of sustainable alternative jet fuel should minimize negative effects on air quality. Criterion 1: Air pollution emissions shall be limited. 
6. Conservation Principle: Production of sustainable alternative jet fuel should maintain or enhance biodiversity, conservation and ecosystem services. Criterion 1: Sustainable alternative jet fuel shall not be made from biomass obtained from areas that are protected for their biodiversity, conservation value, or ecosystems services, unless evidence is provided that shows the activity does not interfere with the protection purposes.
Criterion 2: Low invasive-risk feedstock shall be selected for cultivation and appropriate controls shall be adopted with the intention of preventing the uncontrolled spear of cultivated non-native species and modified microorganisms. 
Criterion 3: Operational practices shall be implemented to avoid adverse effects on areas that are protected for their biodiversity, conservation value, or ecosystem services. 
7. Waste and Chemicals Principle: Production of sustainable alternative jet fuel should promote responsible management of waste and use of chemicals. Criterion 1: Operational practices shall be implemented to ensure that waste arising from production processes as well as chemicals used are stored, handled and disposed of responsibly. 
Criterion 2: Operational practices shall be implemented to limit or reduce pesticide use. 
8. Human and labour rights Principle: Production of sustainable alternative jet fuel should respect human and labour rights. Criterion 1: Sustainable alternative jet fuel production shall respect human and labour rights. 
9. Land use rights and land use Principle: Production of sustainable alternative jet fuel should respect land rights and land use rights including indigenous and/or customary rights. Criterion 1: Sustainable alternative jet fuel production shall respect existing land rights and land use rights including indigenous people’s rights, both formal and informal. 
10. Water use rights Principle: Production of sustainable alternative jet fuel should respect prior formal or customary water use rights. Criterion 1: Sustainable alternative jet fuel production shall respect the existing water use rights of local and indigenous communities. 
11. Local and social development Principle: Production of sustainable alternative jet fuel should contribute to social and economic development in regions of poverty. Criterion 1: Sustainable alternative jet fuel production shall strive to, in regions of poverty, improve the socioeconomic conditions of the communities affected by the operations. 
12. Food security Principle: Production of sustainable alternative jet fuel should promote food security in food insecure regions. Criterion 1: Sustainable alternative jet fuel production shall, in food insecure regions, strive to enhance the local food security of directly affected stakeholders. 

Figure:  Sustainability Themes, Principles and Criteria recommended by ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection at its 2017 Steering group Meeting. The version eventually adopted by Council contains some enhancements but does not change fundamentally. The new version will be publicly released soon as an amendment to the ICAO CORSIA Document with the Sustainability Criteria.

How are  SAF sustainability criteria implemented?  

The ICAO sustainability framework works as an umbrella standard that relies on ICAO-approved independent Sustainability Certification Schemes (SCS) for its implementation.  These organizations define the sustainability certification requirements including the indicators and metrics to evaluate compliance with the criteria, set the requirements for certification bodies, auditors and accreditation bodies, and monitor the effectiveness of the assurance system. To become ICAO-approved SCS must undergo a thorough evaluation process and meet a comprehensive set of requirements in line with ICAO’s eligibility framework 

In conclusion, the newly adopted sustainability criteria take a robust and equitable approach, placing environmental and social safeguards on the production of SAF across its entire supply chain. It also provides a harmonized approach to ensure that airlines across the world strive for these same values of climate ambition, environmental integrity, human rights, and social equity.  

This new set of sustainability criteria and the broader sustainability frameworkare designed to ensure the future of flight allows travelers to see new horizons, connect with other cultures, visit faraway loved ones and collaborate internationally – while doing less harm to our climate, and respecting our environment, and local and indigenous communities.  As more countries, airlines, and fuel producers adopt and adhere to this robust criteria, the faster we can reach our destination of a net-zero emissions flight by 2050.  

Posted in Aviation, International, Policy, United Nations / Read 1 Response

New EDF Research Shows More than 330,000 Workers Already Make Electric Trucks and Buses Throughout the United States, Potential for Tremendous Future Growth

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Build Back Better Act later this month, a bill with an unprecedented $555 billion in climate and clean air investments that will drive the creation of clean energy and manufacturing jobs. And the economic potential of manufacturing trucks and buses is underscored by two recent EDF reports – one examining the current landscape, and another offering a glimpse of what’s possible in the future.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans already make electric trucks and buses… Read More »

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Climate Change Legislation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News / Comments are closed