Climate 411

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.

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Also posted in California / Comments are closed

7 reasons avoiding double counting of emissions reductions helps countries, and the environment

Photo credit: iStock

Meeting the Paris Agreement’s ambitious goal – to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial level” – will necessitate dramatic reductions in total emissions of greenhouse gases.

Market-based approaches that follow well-established “rules of the road” for emissions accounting and transparency have a powerful role to play in helping countries to meet their near-term commitments as efficiently as possible, and in encouraging and even accelerating the broad and ambitious long-term climate action that the Paris Agreement demands.

By affirming a role for market-based approaches in Article 6, the Agreement recognizes the realities on the ground, where emission-trading systems are already at work in over 50 jurisdictions home to nearly 2 billion people. More than half of the world’s countries have so far expressed an interest in using carbon markets to meet their pledges, including for achievement of conditional targets, in their NDCs (“nationally determined contributions”) under the Paris Agreement.

But if the Paris Agreement goals are to be met, the risk of “double counting” emissions reductions must be avoided.

That is why the Paris Agreement rulebook to be finalized this December in Poland at COP 24 should clearly and unambiguously state that any country that voluntarily chooses to transfer some of its emissions reductions must transparently “add back” a corresponding amount of emissions to its own emissions account. This is known as a “corresponding adjustment,” and it should apply to all transfers: whether the transferred reductions occur inside or outside the country’s NDC; and whether the reductions are being transferred to another country or to the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).

A corresponding adjustment has clear environmental benefits for both participating countries and our shared climate. Here are 7 of them:

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Also posted in Aviation, Paris Agreement, United Nations / Comments are closed

Once is enough: how climate negotiators can protect the environmental integrity of the Paris Agreement by avoiding double counting

Climate ambition is often thought of in terms of the stringency of emission reduction commitments, expressed by countries under the landmark Paris Agreement as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). While the NDCs that have been pledged by countries are important, they are only the first step.

To truly assess progress in reducing global climate pollution, it is necessary to look behind country pledges to understand exactly how their emissions are counted and reported. We need consistent accounting rules and transparent reporting to ensure the world is on track.

The details of accounting and transparency may sometimes sound boring and technical. But the content of these rules is as important as countries’ headline climate targets, since the headline numbers are only as good as our ability to ensure countries are clearly reducing emissions and counting those reductions accurately.

Fortunately, these same accounting and transparency rules – if done right – can also help unlock the potential of carbon markets to drive investment and innovation up, and pollution down. Read More »

Also posted in Aviation, United Nations / Comments are closed

Western Climate Initiative: Stability reigns after Ontario exit as all current and future allowances sell

Golden Gate Bridge Shutterstock

Golden Gate Bridge. © CAN BALCIOGLU / Shutterstock Images.

“Stability” is the word of the day for California and Quebec’s joint August auction. All current and future allowances sold, indicating that despite last month’s abrupt de-linking with Ontario, the market can weather political turbulence and remain strong.

Auction quick takes

  • All 79,421,265 current allowances sold, clearing at USD $15.05, 52 cents above the $14.53 price floor and 40 cents higher than the May auction. The offered allowances include some that were previously unsold, but do not include any allowances from Ontario.
  • All of the 9,401,500 future vintage allowances offered sold at $14.90, 37 cents above the floor price. This is significantly higher than the volume sold at the May auction, due to a number of potential variables including the de-linking with Ontario. It also signals that there is high confidence in the California-Quebec auction past 2020 as these allowances aren’t available for use until 2021.
  • An estimated $798 million was raised for California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which will go to help improve habitat, clean up local air, and invest in frontline communities.
  • Quebec raised approximately $166 million USD to fund provincial climate investments.

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Also posted in California / Comments are closed

International trading of emissions reductions could greatly increase global climate ambition

The Arc de Triomphe following the signing of the Paris Agreement. Each party set a Nationally Determined Contribution for emissions reductions.

This post was authored by Gabriela Leslie, Pedro Piris-Cabezas and Ruben Lubowski

Carbon pricing is steadily growing worldwide and increasingly recognized as a way to achieve emissions reductions at lower cost than with standard regulations. A recent economic analysis from Environmental Defense Fund found that these cost savings from international trading of emissions could translate into direct gains for the atmosphere – and could produce nearly double the climate ambition at the same overall cost as countries’ complying with their Paris Agreement targets without international markets.

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Also posted in News, REDD+ / Comments are closed

Why it matters that California hit its 2020 emissions target four years early

sacramento california cityscape skyline on sunny day, water, wetland

Sacramento, Calif. cityscape. Photo credit: digidreamgrafix

This post was authored by Jonathan Camuzeaux and Maureen Lackner

California hit its 2020 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target four years ahead of schedule, according to 2016 emissions data released yesterday by the state. At this rate, the state is well-positioned to formally meet its 2020 target assuming it keeps up the good work.

While the world’s emissions are once again on the rise and the Trump Administration is pulling the U.S. backward on climate progress at the federal level, states and regions continue pushing ahead, and California is at the front of the pack. California’s monumental achievement is worth celebrating – and it’s worth investigating how the state got here, and the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Latest emissions data

Here are some highlights from the annual California Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory published yesterday:

  • California’s 2016 emissions fell to 429 MMt CO2e, beating the 2020 target of 431 MMt CO2e, the statewide greenhouse gas emissions level in 1990.
  • This was the fourth year in a row of emissions reductions in California, where emissions dropped by 3% (12 MMt CO2e) between 2015 and 2016. Emissions fell 13% (64 MMt CO2e in 2016) compared against 2004, when emissions in the state peaked.
  • Business is booming as emissions are falling. In the last year, California’s GDP grew 3% while the carbon intensity of the economy dropped 6%. From January 2013 to December 2016, California added over 1.3 million jobs, an 8% increase, outpacing U.S-wide job growth of 6% in the same period.

The report is an annual update of statewide GHG emissions based on state, regional, and federal data sources, as well as facility-specific information from California’s Mandatory GHG Reporting Program (MRR). The GHG Inventory includes both emissions covered by cap and trade and the remaining 20% of emissions outside the program. Although the GHG Inventory report does not distinguish between emissions within and outside cap and trade, the latest MRR report shows that both categories of emissions fell in 2016, suggesting that California’s multi-pronged approach to emissions reductions is working.

The earlier, the better

Global warming is caused by the cumulative emissions that are present in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide can stay in the atmosphere for more than a century, so earlier emissions reductions mean there are fewer years for those tons of carbon to have a warming impact on our climate. So beating the 2020 target is important for the atmosphere, but also gets us off to a good start to meet the even more ambitious 2030 target.

Where California’s reductions are coming from

The electric power sector is responsible for about 16% of the state’s 2016 emissions, and accounts for over 85% of gross reductions. Relative to 2015, total sector emissions fell 18%, while emissions from in-state power generation fell 15% and imported electric power emissions dropped 22%. CARB analysis attributes these reductions to growth in utility-scale renewables, as well as rooftop solar generation.

Hydropower also generated larger amounts of electricity than usual due to heavy rainfall in 2016. Small reductions came from industry (a 2% sector-wide drop) and agriculture (1% sector-wide).
Although not enough to fully counteract power sector decreases, some sectors’ emissions increased in 2016. California’s 2016 transportation emissions—the largest source of GHGs in the state—increased by about 2%, continuing the sector’s trend of slowly rising emissions since 2014. Emissions from commercial and residential activities grew by 4%, but account for less than a tenth of total state emissions.

Looking ahead

Given current emissions reductions, the state can start to look forward to its more ambitious 2030 target of getting emissions 40% below 1990 levels. The state’s 2017 “Scoping Plan,” which EDF supported, lays out a comprehensive plan for how to approach this target. All the signs are positive right now and if additional measures are needed to meet state requirements for 2030, there is still plenty of time to pursue those.

California is clearly demonstrating that smart, market-based policy helps us meet targets faster and more cheaply than originally envisioned. California is growing its GDP and adding jobs faster than the national average, and cutting carbon even faster than we expected. This creates a strong foundation for the even more dramatic transition California needs to reach its next goal in 2030.
In the coming decades, the world must get on track for deep emissions reductions and a dramatic transformation to a cleaner economy. California is helping to blaze the trail to that future by demonstrating once again that meeting ambitious climate targets is possible while maintaining a thriving economy.

Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Comments are closed