Defending Our Future: Fighting Climate Change in South Florida

Speakers at the Defend Our Future/Voto Latino event: (back row) Alexis Calatayud, FIU Student Body President; Eric Chappell, Climate Corp alum; Edwin Luevanos, Citizen Energy; Mustafa Santiago Ali, EPA; (front row) Enrique Acevedo, Univision; Karina Castillo, CLEO Institute/MCAF

Speakers at the Defend Our Future/Voto Latino event: (back row) Alexis Calatayud, FIU Student Body President; Eric Chappell, Climate Corp alum; Edwin Luevanos, Citizen Energy; Mustafa Santiago Ali, EPA; (front row) Enrique Acevedo, Univision; Karina Castillo, CLEO Institute/MCAF

On Tuesday night Defend Our Future, EDF’s initiative to empower young people to fight climate change, partnered with Voto Latino, an organization that empowers Latino Millennials to claim a better future for themselves and their community, to bring a Power Summit “Pop Up” to Florida International University (FIU). We brought together 100 area youth leaders to engage in an evening of conversation focused on how young Latinos can fight climate change in South Florida. In Miami, in particular, addressing climate change is a critical part of this equation, and seeing a room full of rising leaders ready to take action was inspiring.

To kick off the conversation, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Senior Advisor on Environmental Justice, Mustafa Santiago Ali, reminded the crowd:

We need to be laser-focused on climate change.

He shared his story about growing up near a power plant in West Virginia, and reminded us about the importance of protecting our communities from the interconnected threats of air pollution and climate change. This is especially true, Ali said, for Latinos and African-Americans because climate change can compound other serious threats to our health and well-being.

Our panelists shared this perspective, including our moderator — Univision’s Enrique Acevedo, anchor of Noticiero Univision and Emmy nominee. Enrique began the panel conversation with FIU Student Body President Alexis Calatayud who spoke about the sense of urgency she feels addressing climate change in South Florida:

To me, Miami is my place. And if I don’t take care of my place, who is going to?

For Calatayud, her ‘Aha!’ moment on climate came earlier this year, when Alexis joined Defend Our Future in Washington, D.C. for the White House Youth Climate Conference.

Our guests made clear that there are countless ways in which young people can make a difference on climate change — from taking a challenge with Defend Our Future (like reducing your carbon footprint by committing to a reusable water bottle), to supporting Florida access to solar power, to weaving environmental responsibility into our careers.

But most impressive was the work young Latinos at the event were already engaged in within their communities. Karina Castillo knew from an early age that she wanted to study meteorology, but she didn’t know her work would to lead her to the Climate Leadership Engagement Opportunities (CLEO) Institute and to activism with Moms Clean Air Force. Edwin Luevanos shared his trajectory from Mexico to founding Citizen Energy, a consultancy for community-driven energy efficiency. And former EDF Climate Corp alum Eric Chappell shared his path from becoming an environmentalist to learning about sustainability in business school and beyond.

At this event and elsewhere, young people have made it clear they’re already acting on climate and want to do more – a great sign that we’re on the right track. No matter where you are, you can join us by taking action now and staying engaged. Join Defend Our Future’s #IWillNotWait campaign, take the challenge, and join the thousands of young people across the country who are becoming leaders in their own communities. You can also register to vote with Voto Latino In 2016.

Miami can’t wait for us to take action on climate change and honestly, neither can we.

This post was co-authored by Maria Urbina, VP of Politics & Campaigns for Voto Latino

Posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Partners for Change, Science| Leave a comment

3 signs we're entering a golden age for carbon markets

This is an adaptation of an essay by Fred Krupp and Nat Keohane for the International Emissions Trading Association’s Greenhouse Gas Market 2015/2016 report. This adaptation was originally posted on EDF Voices.

There was a time when market-based approaches seemed to fall off the radar in discussions of climate policy, but carbon markets are back.

Well-designed emission trading systems offer the combination of flexibility, incentives and guaranteed results that help polluters meet their targets – while leaving it up to the market to figure out the best way to meet them, driving costs down.

This is why so many companies are staunch supporters of emissions trading, and why national and international efforts are taking off.

Here are three indications  we may be entering a golden age for carbon markets and what it means for COP21, the international climate talks that begin in Paris later this month.

1. Carbon markets are going global

Climate progress in the United States and China is changing the global dynamic.

Gone are the days when the two largest emitters blame each other for inaction, and their bilateral progress is inspiring commitments around the world. All told, cap-and-trade programs are in place in more than 50 jurisdictions worldwide that are home to nearly a billion people.

Quebec and California have linked their carbon markets, creating North America’s largest cap-and-trade system, becoming the first example of subnational jurisdictions in different countries launching a joint market. And more programs are in the works.

Ontario, Canada’s most populous province and home to a significant manufacturing base, is developing a cap-and-trade program to launch by 2017 and link to California and Quebec’s market by 2018. Having the largest U.S. state and Canadian province in a formal, linked carbon market will help lay the foundation for further carbon market collaboration in North America and beyond.

China, meanwhile, is set to open a national carbon market in 2017, the world’s largest.

2. Next: International aviation and tropical forests

One of the most exciting opportunities is in international aviation.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is developing a market-based mechanism for consideration at its next Triennial Assembly in 2016 to help the sector meet its stated commitments to carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and a 50-percent cut by 2050.

That would cap emissions from a global sector that accounts for roughly 2 percent of carbon emissions, and growing fast, and would set a powerful precedent for international cooperation on climate change.

Another opening is in the forest sector.

Tropical forests are not only crucial to stabilizing the climate – they are critical to sustainable economic development for the communities and nations that rely on them. Carbon markets can play a key role in driving a new model of green growth in the tropics.

By allowing jurisdictional REDD+ credits (short for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) into their compliance markets, California – and, perhaps soon, the ICAO – have the opportunity to create positive economic incentives for forest protection at a landscape scale.

3. Existing markets are thriving

Since 2006, when California’s climate change program was signed into law, the state has received more clean tech venture capital investment than all other states combined. Bloomberg News recently ranked the Golden State the best place in the U.S. to do business, citing the state’s visionary leadership on climate change as one of the markers of its success.

A good illustration of how market-based policies can promote greater ambition is the landmark U.S. cap-and-trade program for sulphur dioxide. This program reduced national average concentrations of the pollutant by 76 percent since 1990 – taking an enormous step toward solving the problem of acid rain ahead of schedule and well below the estimated cost while creating hundreds of billions of dollars in annual benefits.

And despite well-publicized ups and downs – attributable in large part to the worst recession since the 1930s – the European Union’s emissions trading system is now performing well. It has over-achieved its goals, leading to more reductions at lower cost than expected.

To COP21 in Paris…and beyond

How can we capitalize on this political moment and build on the momentum we are seeing, to keep carbon markets growing around the globe?

A durable climate regime established by the Paris agreement will be one that harnesses market forces in the hunt for solutions, mobilizes private sector energies, enhances national self-interest and, through rigorous and transparent reporting, allows countries to demonstrate to each other that they are meeting their commitment.

A United Nations agreement is only one of many tools available to address climate change. It will take continuing strong action by leading emitters and leading carbon market jurisdictions to spur the technological, political and institutional transformations that will support more ambitious action in the years to come.

Posted in Economics, News| Leave a comment

Votes Reveal Increasing Senate Support for Clean Power Plan — Resolutions to Block It Are Going Nowhere


Courtesy: Wikipedia

It can be hard to interpret political maneuvering inside the Washington Beltway, and today’s Senate votes on the U.S. Clean Power Plan are no exception. So take it from someone who keeps a close eye on these votes in Congress — this was a good day for the Clean Power Plan, for U.S. climate leadership, and for a clean energy future.


Because today’s votes showed that the Clean Power Plan has gained support in the Senate since a test vote earlier this year.

More importantly, today’s votes demonstrated that the Senate is well short of what is needed if Senators truly want to stop the Clean Power Plan from taking effect.The measures that were passed narrowly today (52-to-46) are going nowhere. President Obama will veto these efforts to undo the Clean Power Plan, and there are more than enough supporters of the plan in Congress to sustain the veto.

The Clean Power Plan is a Clean Air Act initiative to cut dangerous carbon pollution from power plants and spur growth in clean energy. It is an important part of America’s leadership strategy on climate change, which is helping not only to accelerate the transition to clean energy here at home but also to inspire actions by other nations, including China. With world leaders set to convene global talks on climate change in the coming weeks, it’s important to put today’s votes in context.

For two years — even as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was developing the Clean Power Plan — Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has been promising to block the rules any way he could. In March, he launched a symbolic attack on the Clean Power Plan that passed the Senate 57-43.

In today’s vote, which was based on an infrequently used procedure called the Congressional Review Act, McConnell’s margin of victory grew smaller. Three Republicans (Senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois) broke from McConnell and supported the Clean Power Plan.

Since the rule’s release this summer, public support for limits on carbon pollution have only increased. According to a Public Policy poll done this month, 60 percent of voters in Iowa support the Clean Power Plan, while 70 percent of voters in Illinois and 64 percent in Virginia support it.

The Clean Power Plan comes at a time when shifts in technology are opening new pathways to clean energy. Even utility companies recognize that a fundamental shift has taken place. The CEO of one of America’s largest coal burning power companies, AEP, recently said he views the Clean Power Plan as a:

catalyst for the transformation that’s already occurring in our industry

The Clean Power Plan is also just one element of a bigger turning point in American policy on clean energy and climate in recent years. The adoption, a few years ago, of dramatically increased gas mileage standards and greenhouse gas limits for cars is no longer a matter of controversy. States like California and a consortium of nine northeastern states are demonstrating that market-based climate pollution limits are good for economic growth.

The bottom line is that today’s votes to “overturn” the Clean Power Plan were all about political theater. Everyone involved knows the congressional resolutions will ultimately fail, so it’s a free vote for politicians who want to appeal to a relatively narrow slice of the electorate.

The larger narrative, which is the transformation of the United States into a global leader to protect the next generation from climate pollution, is the real story.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Climate Change Legislation, International, Policy| Comments are closed

A Growing Number of Experts Affirm the Strong Legal Basis for the Clean Power Plan

rp_Gavel_iStock000003633182Medium1-300x199-300x199.jpgSince it was enacted in 1970, the Clean Air Act has protected public health and dramatically reduced air pollution at the same time as the economy has grown by leaps and bounds.

Many of the major Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) actions that have been most vital to this progress were subject to hard-fought — and largely unsuccessful — legal challenges.

The Clean Power Plan, which establishes the nation’s first limits on carbon pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants, is no exception. Dozens of lawsuits challenging the Clean Power Plan have been filed since the rule was published in the Federal Register – and a large coalition of states and municipalities, public health and environmental organizations, leading power companies, and clean energy providers have moved to defend the Clean Power Plan against these challenges.

Fortunately, EPA has a long history of successfully defending its rules against legal attacks – and the Clean Power Plan is on similarly strong legal footing.

Leading law enforcement officials, former EPA officials from Administrations of both parties – including the Administrator and the General Counsel in President George H.W. Bush’s Administration — and prominent legal scholars have concluded that the Clean Power Plan is firmly within EPA’s long-standing authority under the Clean Air Act.

Statements on the Final Clean Power Plan:

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is a critical step forward in responding to the threat of climate change. The rule is firmly grounded in science and the law. The rule incorporates successful strategies New York and other states have used to cut climate change pollution from power plants while maintaining electricity reliability, holding the line on utility bills, and growing our economies. We are committed to aggressively defending the Clean Power Plan to ensure progress is made in confronting climate change. — Attorneys General of New York, California, Connecticut , Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode             Island, Vermont, Washington, Massachusetts, Virginia, and the District of Columbia; attorneys for the cities of Boulder, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and South Miami; and the attorney for Broward County, Florida, A.G. Schneiderman Leads Coalition of 25 States, Cities and Counties in Defense of EPA’s Clean Power Plan, November 4, 2015

[The Clean Power Plan] is exactly what cooperative federalism looks like…It is the EPA recognizing the states’ leadership, giving states the opportunity to employ and use strategies that … are working. — Maura Healey, Attorney General of Massachusetts, Attorneys General Explain Why 18 States are Defending EPA's Clean Power Plan, SNL, November 4, 2015

The country needs to reduce CO2 from existing power plants which generate 40% of America's CO2. The rule is needed, and the courts we hope will recognize that it is on the right side of history. — William K. Reilly, former EPA Administrator under President George H.W. Bush, and William D. Ruckelshaus, former EPA administrator under Presidents Nixon and Reagan, Former EPA Administrators Reilly and Ruckelshaus Issues Statement Regarding the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, October 23, 2015

North Carolina's Clean Smokestacks Act, our renewable energy standard and other utilities, environmentalists, businesses and consumer advocates. Our state is in a great position to bring these and other stakeholders together once again to work with the EPA to devise our own plan to protect North Carolina's air and promote economic growth… I encourage the [North Carolina General Assembly] to avoid the path of litigation and instead work on a cooperative effort we can all be proud of. — Roy Cooper, Attorney General of North Carolina, Letter to leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly, Aug. 7, 2015

Opponents of the Clean Power Plan have already sued twice before to strike down this rule, only to have their challenges thrown out as premature. This time, judges will hear their arguments, but the arguments hold little legal merit. — Prof. Richard Revesz, New York University School of Law, and Denise Grab, Senior Attorney at the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law, Noise Trumps Logic in Clean Power Plan Lawsuits, The Hill, October 27, 2015

[T]he government is on solid legal footing to defend the Clean Power Plan. — Profs. Jody Freeman and Richard J. Lazarus, Harvard Law SchoolThe Biggest Risk to Obama's Climate Plan May Be Politics, Not the CourtsThe Guardian, August 5, 2015

In many of the air pollution programs, EPA is directed to consider some combination of the cost of compliance and the practicability of the means of compliance when setting standards…The [New Source Performance Standards and Clean Power Plan] fit well within these statutory parameters: they bring about net economic benefits, they promote cleaner air, and they can be achieved within the existing landscape of how electricity is generated and transmitted. — Prof. Emily Hammond, George Washington University Law School, Testimony before the Energy and Commerce Committee, U.S. House of Representatives, October 22, 2015

[T]he EPA stands an excellent chance of prevailing in this epic showdown. And for the good of the planet and the welfare of future generations, one can only hope it will. — Prof. Patrick Parenteau, Vermont Law School, The Clean Power Plan Will Survive: Part 2, Law360, September 29, 2015

Many experts have also concluded that requests for courts to block (or “stay”) the Clean Power Plan during the period of litigation are likely to fail.

Statements Refuting the Need for a Stay of the Clean Power Plan:

I think the deadlines [in the Clean Power Plan] are sufficiently far in the future that there's no need for a stay here, the court is certainly going to be able to decide this case before the deadlines. — Robert Percival, Robert F. Stanton Professor of Law and Director, Environmental Law Program, University of Maryland, Francis King Carey School of Law, EPA, Clean Power Plan Foes Gird For Court Fight, Law360, August 3, 2015

[T]he EPA’s rule includes generous compliance deadlines . . . Challengers will be hard-pressed to persuade anyone they merit a stay. — Profs. Jody Freeman and Richard J. Lazarus, Harvard Law SchoolThe Biggest Risk to Obama's Climate Plan May Be Politics, Not the CourtsThe Guardian, August 5, 2015

Experts have remarked on the Clean Power Plan’s bedrock legal authority throughout its creation – from when it was first proposed.

Statements on the Proposed Clean Power Plan:

The EPA has authority under the 1990 Clean Air Act, an authority affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court, to set these public health protections against carbon pollution. — Carol M. Browner, former EPA Administrator under President Bill Clinton, and Alex LaskeyWith New Power Plant Rules, Energy Efficiency Checks All the BoxesThe Hill, June 2, 2014

Critics of the [Clean Power Plan] say that President Obama is making an end run around Congress, stretching the law to achieve by executive action what he could not accomplish through the legislative branch. This is flat wrong. More than four decades ago, Congress expressed its clear desire to regulate pollution from power plants, in the form of the Clean Air Act. I know, because I worked on the legislation, including the key part of the act—Section 111—that the Obama administration is using to justify its move. — Leon Billings, former Chief of Staff to Sen. Edmund Muskie and staff director of the Senate Environment Subcommittee during the drafting of the Clean Air ActThe Obscure 1970 Compromise That Made Obama’s Climate Rules PossiblePolitico, June 2, 2014

Limiting Greenhouse Gas emissions from existing power plants is the next logical step after the Supreme Court and other courts have upheld EPA’s authority and obligation to address this issue. A system-wide approach provides needed flexibility and reduces costs, as well as encouraging investment in lower-emitting generation. EPA has wisely left the states a lot of discretion rather than mandating specific measures as some had wanted. — E. Donald Elliott, EPA General Counsel under President George H.W. BushObama’s Section 111d Plan Has Support From George H.W. Bush’s EPA General Counsel, Utility ExecutivesLegal Planet, June 1, 2014

[I]t is important to be clear here: the President is required to issue the rules, required by law and by the interpretation of the law by the highest Court in the land. — Prof. Ann Carlson, UCLA School of Law, Obama Has To Issue Climate Change Rules — The Law Says So, Talking Points Memo, May 30, 2014

Posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, EPA litgation, Policy| Comments are closed

These three states have a head start on the Clean Power Plan. You'd never guess who they are

This solar energy plant in Nevada can power 75,000 homes during peak demand and will generate $73 million in tax revenues over 20 years. Source: Solar Reserve.

Everyone in Colorado skis, all Oklahomans can rope a calf, and native New Jerseyans like me all talk like Pauly D did on Jersey Shore. Right?

You may also stereotype when it comes to clean energy: Progressive states such as California are pumping out clean, renewable energy while others insist on clinging to old, dirty power plants. Well, it’s more complicated than that.

California, which has a market-based system for cutting carbon pollution, does lead the country. But a number of states, including notably Nevada, Texas and North Carolina, are also making great progress on clean energy – which may surprise some.

Their success is evidence that the supposed divide on clean power may be more about politics than economics and opportunities on the ground.

And that bodes well for the federal Clean Power Plan’s goal of reducing emissions from America’s power plants. Because if Texas is well-positioned to comply, why couldn’t other states do the same?

Energy policies that boost state economies

Texas, home of Big Oil, big hats, and JR Ewing, actually has more energy potential from resources sweeping over its prairies – in the form of wind and sunshine – than from those flowing underneath them. The state leads the nation in wind power and combined heat and power, and has the potential to generate more solar power than any other state.

If energy efficiency used by Austin Energy were extended across the state, it would reduce peak electricity growth by 40 percent, while keeping Texans as high-powered as ever.

Nevada, meanwhile, has also been smart about exploiting its huge solar energy potential. The state’s current renewable energy standard requires utilities to generate 25 percent of its power from renewable resources by 2025, with 6 percent coming from solar energy by 2016.

With more than 250 days of sunshine a year and abundant wind and geothermal energy potential, this goal is well within reach. Nevada’s forward-thinking energy policies and commitment to clean energy are part of the reason Tesla chose it as the location of its multi-billion dollar gigafactory to produce batteries for electric cars.

Finally, in North Carolina, tax credits and a modest renewable energy portfolio standard created opportunities to build a strong clean energy industry.

North Carolina is now one of the top four states in installed solar capacity and second behind California in large, utility-scale solar projects. Clean energy added nearly $5 billion to the state’s economy last year, and today provides nearly 23,000 jobs.

Earlier this year, tech giants like Google, Apple and Facebook told lawmakers that state policies “made North Carolina particularly attractive to [their] businesses.” Retail giants Walmart and North Carolina-based Lowe’s Home Improvement told lawmakers they want more choice and competition when it comes to energy.

North Carolina’s burgeoning clean energy economy suffered a set-back this year, however, when state lawmakers chose not to extend the tax credit – proving that state legislators are not required to take the Hippocratic Oath.

Back-track or invest in the future?

All this will make a big difference when it comes to implementing the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which gives each state a target and flexibility for cutting climate pollution.

As much as some leaders in the Lone Star State and elsewhere complain and sue over this rule, they are actually well on their way to meeting their goals under the plan. If state governments would only take advantage of the natural opportunities they have – be more like Nevada and less like the recent back-tracking in North Carolina – they’d be in great shape.

We need to protect ourselves from the trillions in potential damage that Citibank and others say we’d face from unchecked climate change, so the world is moving toward clean energy. Wouldn’t it be better if state political leaders, who have so much to gain and such an achievable path forward, put their efforts in to creating that future rather than clinging to the past?

Forward-looking leaders do, because stereotypes aside, it ultimately comes down to good economics.

This post originally appeared on our EDF+Voices blog.

Posted in Clean Power Plan, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions| Comments are closed

China's underestimated carbon emissions: What does it mean for climate action?

By Dan Dudek

The New York Times revealed in a Nov. 4 article that China has been burning as much as 17 percent more coal annually than previously thought, citing new Chinese government data.

It was sobering news to all of us who are working to reduce China’s dependency on fossil fuels, but not necessarily a verdict on the country’s – or the world’s – prospects going forward.

It’s important to note, first of all, that China’s revised coal consumption numbers have not changed scientists’ estimates of global carbon dioxide levels in the air. Unlike national emissions data, which is based on fuel consumption statistics, global levels are measured directly.

So what do we make of the news that China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, has been underestimating coal use since 2000?

China needs good data, and knows it

Significantly higher emissions in any country increase the urgency and difficulty of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change – and this is especially true for an economy the size of China’s. However, it is significant that this story was prompted by the Chinese government reporting its own data corrections, and not by an external watchdog.

China has acknowledged the challenges it faces trying to develop robust emissions estimates, and the new numbers, though troubling, are a sign that the country is making progress in this regard.

This is important not just for the international climate negotiations that kick off in Paris later this month, but also for China’s long-term strategy.

China has made it a priority to upgrade its baseline inventory emissions data, especially for sources that might be included in its national emissions trading system. Good baseline data is a prerequisite to the effective carbon trading and reduction program Environmental Defense Fund has been working toward for 25 years.

Needed now: Deeper emissions cuts 

It’s also important to note that while the emission data was revised, China’s growth in coal consumption has actually been declining, a trend that remains unchanged and will likely continue.

The government has recently targeted 6.5 percent economic growth as the official target for the next five years, down from the recent 7- percent rate. Slower growth, air quality concerns, new requirements to invest in renewables and energy efficiency, and the international commitments to peak emissions and introduce a carbon market will all put continued downward pressure on coal.

China’s data correction does not change our basic understanding of what it will take to reach the crucial turning point where global emissions finally level off and begin to decline.

We have long known that much deeper reductions will be required to get us there. The Paris commitments are shaping up to be a major milestone on that road, but won’t by themselves get us where we need to go.

For China, the solution remains a national carbon market that creates the incentives to  lower emissions as efficiently as possible. China remains committed to launching the market  in 2017.

For all of us who understand the urgency of global climate change, The New York Times story is a reminder that there is still a great deal of work still to be done – in China and beyond.

Image source: Flickr/Nicolò Lazzati 

This post originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog.

Posted in Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, International| Read 1 Response
  • About this blog

    Expert to expert commentary on the science, law and economics of climate change.

  • Get blog posts by email

    Subscribe via RSS

  • Categories

  • Meet The Bloggers