Climate 411

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

Latest EPA climate pollution data shows disturbing lack of progress

Greenhouse gas emission trends since 1990. Click to expand

The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday reported that that the US made essentially no progress on climate pollution — an insignificant drop of 0.5% — even as scientists warn that without major reductions in emissions, global temperatures are on a dangerous track to increase well above 2 degrees Celsius.

Other data indicates that since 2017, the last year covered by this report, emissions have actually begun to rise. The Energy Information Agency and Rhodium Group estimate that in 2018 climate pollution from energy combustion rose 2.8 and 3.4%, respectively.

As climate pollution remains stubbornly high, the Trump administration has worked to undermine limits on carbon pollution, roll back rules on highly potent methane emissions and ducked international obligations to deal with climate change. This new report is another sign that without bold action, climate pollution will cause worsening impacts on our economy, health and future.

The dismal national climate pollution numbers contrast with pollution reductions underway in many states that have put in place aggressive policies to limit emissions and move towards clean energy even while the federal government sits on the sidelines. Read More »

Posted in Clean Air Act, Economics, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy, Science / Comments are closed

Oregon poised to cap carbon pollution

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffgunn/8237668817/in/photolist-cXAqeb-eKtpYD-22HdzME-2aKADbW-j3fACu-rdqUSL-4psFMA-h2pgpG-JLrzPx-2cQryfW-pHj7q7-CnaWpN-dxWcWH-r7SPf-ezHCnq-hyMSjJ-sw97qX-ZxDuR-ssSyRn-sonWuA-q4Mraz-dByjPK-ixGyPj-eZuV1t-rBC5Ao-LrCUZQ-ipr4Ze-jfT1pG-rgTCFb-ejLRAy-nmvBz-fcNTHb-oZGWqn-rBBBZr-ekSVRZ-r7SK44-C6i95A-moDYBA-A7nips-tRD7vz-eczcuJ-pVPQ1S-txYbBh-oN7iF4-sgBqMh-ydRfMa-ejLUy7-kuNYkr-rYC7pz-pXL8dN

Portland, Oregon. Flickr/Jeff Gunn

Federal climate action is in an indefinite holding pattern with a serious risk of major backtracking; but the good news is that non-federal climate action has continued, with states, cities and businesses gearing up to take big strides toward the commitments they have made on climate.

Oregon is one key state with a big opportunity for bold action in 2019. The state Legislature reconvened on January 22 and will consider a “cap and invest” bill that promises to place a firm limit on the state’s climate pollution while ensuring continued investments in resilient communities, green jobs and clean energy. Legislators are expected to release bill language by January 31.

Read More »

Posted in Carbon Markets, Cities and states / Read 2 Responses

Climate scare tactics won’t work in California

Some polluters and their allies are rolling out an old and tired playbook in Sacramento. California is ahead of schedule in curbing climate pollution and the economy is booming. Yet alarmism persists. These latest scare tactics are focused on one particular provision of the state’s cap-and-trade program: the level of the “price ceiling”. The price ceiling is an emergency provision that is intended to ensure that prices polluters have to pay per ton of pollution don’t reach above unexpectedly high levels.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is currently working to update the cap-and-trade program based on direction the Legislature gave in 2017 to extend it out to 2030. CARB will consider proposed amendments to the program today with passage of the amendments expected after a second consideration in January.

The future of climate action in California is optimism and transformation, not fear and anger

Those who look only at doomsday scenarios are mixing farfetched fearmongering with a dose of outrage by boiling this complex policy decision down to an oversimplified estimate of how much Californians might have to pay in the worst possible scenario in 2030. But fear and anger aren’t what California is about (whatever your political leanings). California is transforming its economy to a cleaner and more prosperous version of itself. After the great recession the economy recovered and grew, but carbon pollution did not.

Read More »

Posted in California, Carbon Markets / Comments are closed

California’s cap-and-trade program doesn’t need an overhaul

(Source: cropped photo from Flickr/ Zoe-Rochelle)

Today Senator Bob Wieckowski, supported by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, proposed what amounts to a complete overhaul of California’s cap-and-trade program after 2020 in amendments to SB 775.

Pro Tem de Leon in particular has been a tireless champion of effective climate policies that are benefiting California’s communities and making the state a global leader on climate action. California would not be where it is today without his leadership especially on investments in disadvantaged communities and strong renewable and energy efficiency targets. This particular proposal, however, contains provisions that risk undermining the enormous progress the state has made.

Rather than scrapping the current system and starting over with an unproven approach, the state should build on success, keeping what is working well while strengthening the program by doing more to address local air pollution and environmental justice.

With President Trump seeking to take the country in reverse, California’s leadership is needed now more than ever. We can – and must – forge a post-2020 program that benefits communities in the state while leveraging progress here at home to spur greater ambition globally.

What’s at risk in this bill?

We still need to do a full assessment on the language of the bill, which was amended today on the Senate floor, but we know certain key policies are at risk:

  • Setting a hard ceiling on allowance prices, without any provision to ensure that California would meet its climate targets if that price ceiling were exceeded, opens a loophole that could undermine the program’s environmental integrity and California’s climate leadership. While the specific price ceiling envisioned in the bill is high enough that it may not be triggered, it represents an approach that is counter to the signature feature of the cap-and-trade program: the guarantee that California will meet its emission target.
  • This price ceiling also supplants a carefully designed cost-containment system that has operated effectively and works in harmony with California’s environmental goals. For example, this bill would prohibit firms from banking allowances, denying them a key source of flexibility that allows them to reduce emissions at the lowest possible cost over time. The bill would also ban the use of offsets, which help California achieve high integrity, hard-to-reach reductions outside the cap while keeping costs under the cap in-check and extending California’s climate diplomacy.
  • This bill could put California’s existing and future partnerships and linkages at risk by overhauling California’s approach to cap-and-trade and then asking partners to quickly fall in line. International linkages strengthen California’s leadership position and allow the state to leverage its program to spur greater ambition globally. Turning inward now would cede global leadership just when the world needs it most.

Today’s proposal is just one step in the complex legislative process, not a final bill proposal. Decision makers must balance many policy priorities as they navigate how to extend California’s cap-and-trade program. We believe there is plenty of room to adapt and strengthen California’s policy package while hewing to the framework that has served California well in reducing carbon pollution so far.

How California can chart a path to a strong cap-and-trade extension

California’s cap-and-trade program is working to bring carbon pollution down while the economy thrives. Even with this success, we recognize California needs to be doing more to address the very serious air pollution issues in local, environmental justice communities. EDF is committing to working on this with legislative leadership and our partners to ensure that the air is safe for all Californians to breathe wherever they live, while recognizing that climate policy – which affects issues as serious as our access to water – is critical to our continued future.

California needs policies that – in addition to improving local air quality – will continue to build on the successful reductions of GHG emissions; secure national and international partnerships vital to the state’s progress as a climate leader; and continue to support strong economic growth.

Rather than a wholesale change of a program that is meeting its goals, we should preserve what’s working and strengthen the parts that aren’t doing enough by designing and implementing policies that will directly improve air quality, especially in environmental justice communities.

This Senate bill comes as Governor Brown is urging the Legislature to pass an extension through the budget process with a two-thirds vote, and after two proposals introduced into the Assembly on how to extend the cap-and-trade program.

It is important that the Senate has now entered this debate and is recognizing the importance of passing a cap-and-trade extension with a supermajority vote. EDF looks forward to working with Senator Wieckowski, President Pro Tem de Leon, Assembly leaders, the Governor, and other stakeholders as California charts a path to a strong post-2020 climate policy.

With the Trump Administration abandoning its leadership role on climate at home and on the international stage, it is more important than ever that California continues to model successful climate policy that ensures that the state will meet its ambitious carbon pollution reduction targets, while promoting better local air quality and supporting a thriving economy.

Posted in California / Comments are closed

Linkage Approval Boosts Cap-and-Trade Momentum

(This was originally posted on EDF’s California Dream 2.0 blog)

Don’t look now, but California’s cap-and-trade program is going global.

With California Air Resources Board (CARB) approving linkage between California and Quebec’s cap-and-trade programs today, these two programs will now be able to trade emissions allowances across borders starting in 2014.  CARB’s action comes on the heels of California Governor Jerry Brown’s recent decision to approve the linkage, which will increase the size of California’s cap-and-trade market by 20 percent. More importantly, linkage will boost California’s clean energy economy by creating a broader market for innovative, low-carbon technologies.  The linkage is also a shot in the arm for global efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and it sends a positive signal to other jurisdictions that are working on building their own carbon markets and might ultimately seek to join with California and Quebec.

This linkage comes at a moment when momentum for carbon market development has been building around the world. Many other regions, including Europe, Australia, South Korea, and the Northeastern U.S., have instituted or are currently developing carbon markets. Australia also announced plans last August to phase-in a linkage with the EU system starting in 2015.

California Governor Jerry Brown also recently returned from a trip to China where he signed an agreement with their Minister of Environmental Projection to help reduce air pollution and an agreement with Guangdong Province to share best practices related to cap-and-trade, clear evidence that if we want to get serious about climate change, California or one region can’t do it alone.

Before full linkage is possible, it’s often helpful for governments to develop ‘unofficial links’ in the form of partnerships to share policies, best practices, and goals. This cooperation – which California and Quebec have had since 2007 – is important and beneficial for the overall growth, rigor and integrity of carbon markets. The California cap-and-trade system uses a similar platform to the RGGI system in the Northeastern U.S., and the California system has been carefully crafted based on lessons learned from the EU ETS.

It took many steps to get to this point, but with a first joint cap-and-trade auction now scheduled for early 2014, California and Quebec are finally there. CARB’s approval of linkage is a big milestone for California and the nation, and another strong signal of California’s leadership in fighting climate change, while moving the nation further down the path to a clean energy economy.

Posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, International, News / Comments are closed