Climate 411

A Chorus of Opposition to the Final ACE Rule

(This post was co-written by EDF intern Laura Supple)

The Trump administration has finalized a rule that throws out the Clean Power Plan – America’s first and only nationwide limit on carbon pollution from existing power plants – and replaces it with a “do nothing” rule that, by EPA’s own numbers, would actually increase dangerous climate and smog-forming pollution in many states compared to no policy.

A broad and diverse group including political leaders, business representatives, and public health advocates have come out in strong opposition to the rollback. You can find all their responses here.

Here are some of the most notable comments. Read More »

Posted in Cities and states, Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News, Partners for Change, Policy / Leave a comment

The Status Quo is not an Option for Oregon or the Planet

Authored by Erica Morehouse, Senior Attorney, U.S. Climate Policy and Analysis

Oregon is the current bellwether for climate action in the United States thanks to its effort to place an ambitious, firm limit on all major sources of climate pollution in the state.  HB 2020, Oregon’s “Cap and Invest” bill has passed three major legislative hurdles this year and has the final and most challenging – passage in the state Senate – left to clear before the end of session on June 30.  We are expecting a vote today.

The status quo is not an option

Oregon is already seeing the devastating effects of climate change; the question is only how much worse it is going to get before we transition to the clean economy we need. It’s time to be honest with ourselves, the status quo is not an option.  HB 2020 lays out a solution to address climate pollution while providing a smooth transition for Oregonians directly impacted by this bold initiative. These features include assistance for low-income Oregonians, investments in worker transition programs, compliance cost reductions for many manufacturers designed to protect jobs, and a novel investment set aside for tribes.

The two most critical components of Oregon’s policy

In the final weeks of Oregon’s legislative session, opponents tried and failed to make amendments to the bill that would have gutted the core of what makes Oregon’s effort so ambitious and critical—and a true model for other states to follow: the interim 2035 target and Day 1 coverage of the transportation sector.

  • The 2035 interim target ensures reductions over the next decade on the timescale that science demands. The IPCC report tells us we have just over a decade to significantly reduce climate pollution and avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. Setting ambitious targets for the 2030s is essential for getting reductions on track now, and achieving the critical early emission reductions people and the planet need. Also, having an ambitious target in the 2030s is almost certainly a non-negotiable prerequisite for linking with the California-Quebec WCI market – a stated priority for the architects of Oregon’s policy. Moreover, this level of ambition is consistent with Colorado’s recently passed statutory requirement to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions 50% below 2005 levels by 2030.
  • Coverage of the transportation sector means the largest source of Oregon’s pollution is included. Exempting the rising emissions of this sector means smaller industries would have to do even more to reduce emissions to meet Oregon’s goals, while giving the biggest polluters a free pass. Without the transportation sector in the program from day one, Cap and Invest will not have the power or reach to drive the transformational change that we literally cannot live without.

Climate action under attack

After failing to push their disastrous amendments, opponents are now set on undermining this bill altogether and are asking legislators to vote “no”.  Leading the charge against HB 2020 are Boeing and AAA.  AAA claims to be the travelers “most trusted advocate”, but it is unlikely that their members across Oregon who rely on them for towing services and roadside assistance understand that they are working actively in Salem to undermine an effort to get cleaner cars on the road and to diversify transportation options for Oregonians. Boeing’s opposition is also particularly hard to understand.  Final amendments to the bill put Boeing in the enviable position of being guaranteed valuable free allowances for their facility in Gresham that will significantly, if not completely, reduce costs the company might have seen from the program while creating a critical market-based incentive to improve efficiency and reduce emissions associated with their production practices while protecting incentives to increase output.  Yet, the company is lobbying against climate policy that is in line with corporate sustainability commitments they have already made.  Many companies have taken on ambitious voluntary, climate commitments and vocally supported climate action including in Oregon. Companies that are stuck in the past and insist on obfuscating, misleading, and outright obstructing to derail climate action should be held accountable.

A diverse coalition of stakeholders reflects a fine-tuned policy

As demoralizing as myopic opposition can be, Oregon has a winning coalition that can provide lessons on how to win on climate in the U.S. and around the world:

  • Legislative leaders and Governor Kate Brown have provided their full throated support for Cap and Invest for well over a year and have been diligently putting the pieces in place to pass a policy that can deliver the environmental outcomes the climate needs while ensuring the provisions are carefully tailored for Oregon communities.
  • Local environmental, environmental justice, and health leaders have been working hard for the better part of a decade to pass companion legislation and lay the groundwork for such an overarching policy like HB2020 that will provide the certainty around pollution outcomes and harness the power of the market to drive investment and innovation in clean technologies.
  • Over 100 forward-looking businesses, including major companies like Nike and Uber, have been supporting the policy through several legislative iterations.
  • Major electric and gas utilities—those that power and heat Oregon’s homes and businesses—are supporting the legislation, including Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, and Northwest Natural, citing key consumer-protection provisions.
  • Oregon’s Native American tribes have played a critical role in developing and advocating for the policy and have secured a novel set aside from carbon revenue that will directly benefit tribes.
  • Key labor unions such as the building trades also support Cap and Invest, after securing the inclusion of prevailing wage provisions.

Time for the Senate To Act

Oregon has all of the ingredients for success, but the political fight is still a bitter one. HB2020 will create tangible benefits for Oregonians and the state’s economy—while laying out a clear policy template for other states who are now committing to strong reduction targets but don’t yet have the regulations or policies in place to actually achieve the reductions in climate pollution that we know are necessary. It’s imperative that Oregon shows the way toward a real solution that can drive action now— and such a framework will not only chart a path for other states, but provide a real roadmap for future federal action.

Posted in Carbon Markets, Climate Change Legislation, Economics, News / Comments are closed

Clean Energy Innovation: An Important Piece of the Climate Puzzle

Bipartisanship and congressional action aren’t words associated with climate change in recent years. But we may be taking steps away from that stalemate. There is growing momentum in Congress to support innovation in clean energy – which can play an important role in reducing climate pollution.

Members from both parties recognize that investing in innovation can accelerate the development of high-impact breakthrough clean energy technologies. That includes “negative emissions technologies” (NETs) that remove carbon from the air and that scientists say will be needed to meet climate goals. Innovation programs can also help drive down the costs of existing essential options like solar, wind, and electric vehicles.

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s Subcommittee on Energy recently held a hearing to discuss two proposals that would direct the Department of Energy to develop and improve technologies that would reduce emissions from using fossil fuels. For example, DOE would be authorized to spend significant funding on technologies that capture carbon from power generation and industrial facilities as well as those that can cut emissions from difficult to decarbonize parts of the economy, like aviation, shipping, and cement, iron and steel production. Meanwhile, the House version of the Fiscal Year 2020 Energy and Water appropriations bill reflects the growing bipartisan support for innovation. It is a clear rejection of President Trump’s recommendations to cut or eliminate funding for renewable energy development, building and industrial energy efficiency programs, sustainable transportation technologies, and the popular and successful ARPA-E program that invests in high risk, high reward technologies.

These investments in innovation are an important step forward, but they are also not sufficient on their own to solve climate change – we must also act swiftly to put in place policies that set declining limits on greenhouse gas emissions and account for the real costs of that pollution. Together, these policies will lead to deeper pollution reductions, accomplished more quickly and affordably. That’s because a limit and a price on emissions will accelerate demand for clean energy, creating powerful economic incentives to adopt new technologies and providing a market for innovators who develop better ways to cut carbon. Investment in innovation can help make new technology options available, but we also need policies that create a level playing field such that clean technologies can thrive on the timeline and at the scale consistent with meeting our ambitious climate goals.

When it comes to innovation policies specifically, details matter, which is why we are outlining a set of key principles that together can form the foundation for well-designed innovation policy. Of course, not every individual bill can be expected to meet all of these principles, but a comprehensive national innovation strategy should strive to achieve them collectively.

  • Performance-based. The most promising technologies should receive the most funding – our focus should be on potential tons of pollution reduced per dollar invested.
  • Diversified. Investments should take a broad-based approach, encompassing a wide range of technologies that can reduce emissions in sectors throughout the economy – from NETS to emissions-reducing technologies like utility-scale energy storage to building and industrial efficiency to next-generation batteries, nuclear designs, electric vehicles, and grid equipment.
  • Risk tolerant. Government should not shy away from supporting riskier investments in potential breakthrough technologies given their possible impact on reducing pollution.
  • Ambitious. We need to stop adding climate pollution no later than 2050 – that is, producing no more than we can remove, or net-zero emissions. To dramatically transform our energy systems, we will need to at least double overall investments in innovation. That includes clean energy research and development – as well as programs focused on helping entrepreneurs and scientists bring technologies from the lab to the market.
  • Strategic. Policies should aim to leverage private capital as much as possible, and avoid duplicating or “crowding out” private investment.
  • Coordinated. Coordination across government agencies and programs, including within the Department of Energy, is critical to ensure investments are streamlined and their impacts maximized.
  • Adaptive. Programs should collect data to track performance in order to evaluate effectiveness per dollar and to improve with lessons learned over time.
  • Environmental integrity. Monitoring and tracking of emissions reductions is critical – including carbon that’s captured and stored underground or used in products or processes.  It’s also important to ensure full life-cycle accounting of emissions impacts – for example, taking into account land use changes as a result of biofuels production. And all policies should guard against negative environmental or health impacts and respect local and national environmental laws, like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

We must be at least as bold as the climate crisis is urgent. Support for innovation alone won’t do the job – but by pairing a robust innovation push with strong policy frameworks that limit overall greenhouse gases, we can cut pollution at the pace and scale that science demands. We should seek out and embrace every step forward while fighting for the comprehensive action needed to protect our economy, our health, and our children from the impacts of climate change.

Posted in Energy, Policy / Comments are closed

Wheeler’s Clean Power Plan rollback misses a huge opportunity for cost-effective pollution reduction

Co-authored by Laura Supple and Rama Zakaria

The Trump administration is expected to soon finalize a rule that will throw out the Clean Power Plan – the first and only nation-wide limit on carbon pollution from existing power plants – and replace it with a “do-nothing” rule. Unlike the common-sense, market-based approach of the Clean Power Plan, the final rule is expected to mirror Wheeler’s proposed replacement–which contains no binding limits on carbon pollution, leaving it to the states to establish standards based on only a narrow and ineffective menu of operational efficiency tweaks for coal-fired power plants.

EPA’s own analysis has shown that this proposed replacement would increase climate pollution and dangerous soot and smog pollution, causing thousands of additional deaths and childhood asthma attacks every year compared to the Clean Power Plan, and may even increase pollution in several states compared to having no policy at all. In addition to disregarding the health and wellbeing of Americans, the proposed rule represents a tragic lost opportunity to achieve the deep, cost-effective reductions in pollution that are needed to address the urgent threat of climate change – and move the U.S. forward into a clean energy economy.

Here are four reasons why:

Power companies are making bold commitments to cut pollution, investing in cleaner technologies that deliver high-quality power at low cost to consumers

Power companies are setting ambitious goals to reduce pollution and increase the share of renewable technologies in their energy mix. Some of the largest power providers in the country have recognized the long-term economic value of renewable power and cleaner energy, setting their own targets to reduce pollution well below what the Clean Power Plan requires.

Xcel Energy, a utility serving 3.6 million customers across 8 Midwestern states, has already reduced carbon pollution by about 38% below 2005 levels while keeping costs low for its consumers. According to Xcel, its residential customer electric bill has decreased 3% in the past five years and is on average $28 lower per month than the national average. Xcel also recently ramped up its own ambitions, committing to cut carbon pollution 80% below 2005 levels by 2030, and achieve 100% clean power by 2050.

Other companies are also joining the trend towards decarbonizing their electricity mix, including Idaho Power, which has committed to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045, and Platte River Power Authority, which aims to provide 100% renewable energy by 2030.

States and cities across the country are also setting bold targets to reduce pollution and expand the use of renewable energy. Seven states, 11 counties, and 125 U.S. cities have committed to 100% renewable energy, and at least 27 states have long-term policies establishing quantitative energy savings targets. These initiatives are making energy supplies more robust, reliable, and affordable, demonstrating that ambitious pollution reduction strategies can be good for the environment, good for business, and good for consumers.

Power sector trends have made deeper reductions achievable and cost-effective

Thanks in part to the ongoing market shift towards a cleaner electricity resource mix, the power sector is decarbonizing faster than was predicted just a few years ago.

In 2015, when the Clean Power Plan was finalized, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected baseline power sector carbon dioxide pollution would drop 10% from 2005 levels by 2030. Based on recent trends and technological developments, however, EIA’s most recent projections estimate that power sector carbon pollution would be at 34% below 2005 levels by 2030 – surpassing Clean Power Plan targets – even without federal climate regulation.

To be clear, we need the long-term regulatory signal established by meaningful federal regulation to ensure these trends continue and secure pollution reductions. Now more than ever, it is imperative that EPA use this momentum to set even greater climate protection targets in order to achieve the rapid reductions in carbon pollution that scientists say are necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Plummeting costs of clean energy technologies are making pollution reduction more affordable and economical than ever

Targets for the Clean Power Plan relied on the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) 2015 Annual Technology Baseline projections of renewable energy costs. In its latest 2018 report, NREL predicted that the costs of onshore wind in 2030 would be 28% lower than 2015 projections, and utility-scale solar PV costs could be up to 68% lower.

These projections match trends we see on the ground. Recent filings from Xcel Energy to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission include proposals for wind power between $11 to $18/MWh – cheaper than the operating cost of all existing coal plants in Colorado – and solar-plus-storage bids not much higher than standalone solar. Last year, NV Energy reported even lower bids, setting record-low prices in its solar and solar-plus-storage request for proposals.

Overall, electricity from renewables is already cheaper than electricity from fossil fuels in many parts of the country. PacifiCorp, a majority-coal power provider, recently found it could save money by retiring 60% of its coal fleet by 2022 and replacing those units with renewables. In a 2019 analysis, Energy Innovation reported that the U.S. has officially entered the “coal cost crossover,” finding that local (within 35 miles) wind and solar generation could replace 74% of U.S. coal plants at an immediate cost savings to customers. By 2025, 86% of coal power plants could be replaced with local renewable generation.

Recent modeling shows far more ambitious and cost-effective pollution reductions can be achieved

Several studies demonstrate just how ambitious climate targets could be – with the right set of regulatory and market-based strategies. A range of analyses show that far greater reductions in carbon pollution can be achieved at low cost.

In 2015, EPA estimated the cost of achieving the Clean Power Plan targets to be in the range of $24 to $37 per ton of carbon over the 2022 to 2030 compliance period. Recent updated analysis using the same power sector model, however, found that much more ambitious carbon pollution reductions of more than 50% below 2005 levels are possible at similar costs to the Clean Power Plan.

EIA also found that even greater reductions of 68% below 2005 levels could be achieved by 2030 at modest cost. A 2016 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists showed that in a “Mid-Cost Case”, power sector carbon pollution limits of 76% below 2005 levels by 2030 could be cost-effectively achieved. Modeling by Columbia University Center and Rhodium Group also suggest that similar strategies could cut power sector carbon pollution by 72 to 76% below 2005 levels by 2030.

At a time when the threats of climate change have never been more apparent, EPA must move forward on climate action with emission reduction targets that surpass the ambition of the Clean Power Plan and protect human health and the environment from dangerous pollution. Instead, Wheeler’s proposed replacement misses a tremendous opportunity to secure deep reductions in carbon pollution and propel the U.S. into a clean energy future.

Posted in Clean Power Plan, Economics, Energy, Health, News / Comments are closed

Carbon markets: Can countries fill in the missing chapter of the Paris rulebook in Bonn?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/unfccc/48078728413/in/album-72157709079202332/

Bonn Climate Change Conference opening plenary. UNclimatechange

Negotiators are meeting in Bonn, Germany this week and next on the back of the successful negotiations in Katowice, Poland where the Paris climate agreement “rulebook” was mostly agreed, on time. A feat nearly unprecedented in the often glacial UN climate talks provides hope that countries can continue to work together in light of the urgency to address climate change.

The one exception to the success in Katowice was international cooperation through carbon markets. Despite taking the session into overtime, negotiators could not agree on a key chapter of that rulebook – the text meant to catalyze international cooperation on carbon markets under Article 6.

Among other things, Article 6 guidance will spell out how countries can “count” the results of international emissions reduction trading toward their Paris greenhouse gas reduction pledges (known as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs). Article 6 has three main components framing international cooperation under the Paris Agreement. Article 6.2 provides for the accounting framework, Article 6.4 establishes a new UNFCCC mechanism and Article 6.8 provides a framework for non-market approaches.

As one of the last items that need to be addressed after COP24, carbon markets will be a central focus of the negotiations in 2019 and Article 6 will benefit from additional political focus on the road to agreement at COP25 in Santiago de Chile in December.

Here we answer key questions about carbon markets and the UN climate talks.  Read More »

Posted in Carbon Markets, International, Paris Agreement, United Nations / Comments are closed

Trump administration gears up for rollbacks of climate safeguards

The Trump administration just released its updated plan of action for rolling back our some of our most important protections against dangerous climate pollution.

In store for this summer: final attacks on crucial climate safeguards that help keep you and your family safe.

Right now, the science is calling for dramatically accelerated climate progress. Extreme weather is threatening homes and communities. Yet the Trump administration is determined to take us backwards, putting communities at risk and squandering the economic opportunities we have from made-in-America solutions.

Here’s what we know about upcoming threats to limits on three major climate protections – measures to reduce pollution from cars, power plants, and oil and gas facilities:

Read More »

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, Jobs, News, Policy / Comments are closed