Climate 411

Climate change and severe storms in Europe – new science shows we need a lower temperature target

Great Britain during the Big Freeze of 2010. Photo courtesy: NASA

As experts around the world consider ways to stabilize global temperatures at either 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, scientists are meticulously analyzing the risks of a world that warms by that additional half a degree.

A growing number of studies have found that a 2 degree Celsius world is far worse than a 1.5 degree Celsius world.

One of those new studies, published in Earth System Dynamics, shows how severe winter storms in Europe will become even more severe.

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Second California-Quebec-Ontario carbon auction sells out, showing market’s strength

 

https://www.pexels.com/photo/golden-gate-bridge-san-francisco-61111/

San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge. Photo by Juan Salamanca.

The second California-Quebec-Ontario joint greenhouse gas allowance auction has sold all current allowances, just like the inaugural tripartite auction in February 2018. There was again strong demand for future allowances, all indicating that despite political and regulatory uncertainty from a key partner, Ontario, the market is on solid ground.

May auction at-a-glance:

  • All 90,587,738 current and previously-unsold allowances sold, clearing at $14.65, which is 12 cents above the $14.53 price floor. This is slightly higher than the February settlement price.
  • 6,057,000 of the 12,427,950 future vintage allowances offered sold at the floor price. This is 2,519,000 million less than sold at the February auction. The decrease is likely due to ongoing uncertainty in Ontario, but as these allowances are not available for use until 2021, it is still an indicator of confidence in the Western Climate Initiative market down the road.
  • An estimated $681,051,270 was raised for California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to continue funding climate and equity priorities like urban greening, electric vehicle infrastructure, and affordable housing near public transit.
  • Ontario raised approximately $369,271,300 USD for funding public transit, electric vehicle incentives and energy efficiency upgrades.
  • Quebec raised approximately $151,353,660 USD to support the province’s transition to a green economy.

These results are encouraging because they show that despite ongoing political uncertainty in Ontario, the market is strong and stable. They also show the benefits of linkage to a larger market are real. All three linked jurisdictions have access to more trading partners through the Western Climate Initiative, which creates opportunities for even greater climate ambition. This kind of international cooperation shows that jurisdictions can have an outsized influence on global climate action, particularly at a time when federal leadership from the United States on climate is lacking.

Previously unsold allowances
The role of previously unsold allowances could also be impacting today’s auction results in two ways.

First, this is the third auction where held, or previously unsold allowances were offered for sale. These allowances increase the number of available allowances in the auction, which may contribute to keeping the price near the floor. This demonstrates the importance of that price floor. It is a central feature of the program that ensures stability of the market and the revenues.

Second, back in July 2017 the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted the so-called “24 Month Rule.” This establishes that any state-owned allowances that remain unsold for 24 months are either moved to the Allowance Price Containment Reserve (APCR) or retired. This has the effect of tightening the cap either temporarily (if prices were to unexpectedly jump) or permanently. The first significant retirement of allowances could happen after the August auction, so companies could be buying now in anticipation of decreased supply later.

Looking Forward
CARB is in the process of drafting a regulatory update for the cap-and-trade program post-2020. The program has been successful at reducing emissions, as demonstrated by current emissions being below the cap, even as California has grown to the fifth largest economy in the world. This emissions trend provides an important opportunity for California to continue driving increased ambition by setting a tighter post-2020 emissions cap, and continue showing that ambitious climate action can go hand-in-hand with strong economic growth.

Of course the biggest question in the linked carbon market right now is Ontario, which is having elections in June. Although two of the leading parties want to preserve the program, one party wants to end it, but would need to overcome a mountain of legal hurdles. The outcome of the June election could set up either increased confidence in the future of cap-and-trade in Ontario or lingering questions. But the results for both current and future vintage in this auction indicate that confidence is steady, and the California-Quebec-Ontario market remains a world leader in driving climate action.

Posted in California, Carbon Markets / Comments are closed

Sowing the seeds of a roadmap for agriculture

Photo credit Dr Huynh Quang Tin

Low carbon rice production in Vietnam. Dr Huynh Quang Tin

At last November’s COP23 in Germany, Parties involved in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations on agriculture celebrated a notable victory after agreeing to create the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA). The KJWA marks a shift in focus from agricultural adaptation activities only, to a broader discussion of mitigation related activities. While COP23 Parties did not decide on the details of the KJWA, such as the “how” and the “when,” the outcome generated much needed momentum for the agriculture agenda of the UNFCCC.

In the lead up to the Bonn climate change negotiations that concluded last week, Parties and observers submitted their views on the “what”, “how”, and “when” of the KJWA. The Parties kept a very constructive – and even friendly – discourse in negotiation sessions, building off of last year’s positive COP23 outcome and increasing focus on implementation. The developing country group known as the G&77 + China, building off a New Zealand-led proposal, was very active in coordinating the creation of a roadmap for the KJWA. By the end of the first week, Parties agreed to draft conclusions outlining the roadmap.

Now with the UN secretariat for adoption, this roadmap provides an agenda of activities that includes workshops, topic submissions, and workshop reports every six months between now and the end of 2020. The series of workshops will cover the following topics:

  • How to implement the outcomes from the five in-session workshops on adaptation and resiliency held before last year’s COP decision;
  • Methods and approaches for assessing adaptation, adaptation co-benefits, and resilience;
  • Improved soil carbon, soil health, and soil fertility under grassland and cropland as well as integrated systems, including water management;
  • Improved nutrient use and manure management towards sustainable and resilient agricultural systems;
  • Improved livestock management systems, including agropastoral production systems and others; and
  • Socioeconomic and food security dimensions of climate change in the agriculture sector.

Submissions on topics for each workshop will be solicited prior to each session, followed by the preparation of a report after each workshop.

The first activity on the roadmap—submissions on implementing the outcomes of the five in-session workshops on adaptation and resiliency—is due on October 22, 2018. Considering that Parties in Bonn solicited external inputs for current and future discussions, organizations like the Environmental Defense Fund have the opportunity to help advance the KJWA roadmap. By providing technical assistance, content, and process inputs, EDF and other organizations will support the work of Parties under the KJWA and maintain momentum. It is imperative to use this time to determine what issues to focus on during this series of workshops and how to operationalize the outcomes.

As reflected by the nature of the KJWA itself, shifting focus to implementation and tangible actions to help actors in the agriculture sector respond to climate change is essential if we are to meet the climate goals laid out in the Paris Agreement.

Posted in Agriculture, International, United Nations / Comments are closed

Five things you need to know about the U.S. Clean Car Standards

Cars on a dealer lot, waiting to be sold. Photo: Every Car Listed

America’s Clean Car Standards are one of our biggest success stories, yet the Trump Administration is preparing to dramatically weaken them.

News reports say the Trump Administration is also taking aim at state leadership on clean cars, by preparing to challenge California’s and 12 other states’ authority to maintain more protective standards.

Here’s what you need to know:

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Posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy, Pruitt / Comments are closed

Pruitt admits lying, blames others, and leaves behind a cloud of questions: 3 takeaways from today's hearings

After a month of revelations and allegations about his tenure in EPA and in Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt finally had a chance to provide straight answers to Congress about his mounting ethics problems.  The results were not encouraging:

  1. Caught:

    The top story coming out of today’s hearings is that Scott Pruitt admitted that he lied.

    He told Members of Congress that he knew about his employee raises, despite having told Fox News on April 4 that “I found out this yesterday.”

    CNN reports:

    "Several senior EPA officials reacted in shock Thursday. One EPA official told CNN that a sense of 'a collective "Oh sh**" came out of EPA HQ' when Pruitt admitted he knew of the raises.

    Aides for weeks knew that Pruitt had lied in his Fox News interview, but were stunned that he contradicted himself so publicly on Thursday."

    Added John Roberts from Fox News: “This may be the end of the line.”

  2. Says it not his fault:

    Asked about multiple accusations of ethical problems, Pruitt shifted blame to everyone else: Milan Hupp, Ryan Jackson, Kell Kelly, and anyone else carrying out his orders, and at one point, “the process.”

  3. Dodges the Questions:

     

    Many big questions were left unanswered, including:

    • $43,000 Phone Booth: Pruitt insisted that he asked for a “secure line” because of a single telephone call. What was so important about that incident? And Pruitt went on to admit that such calls are “rare”—if so, why can’t he go to one of EPA’s two other secure phones, as his predecessors did?
    • Illegal Use of Government staff: Pruitt said that he was “not aware” of Millan Hupp spending government time looking for his apartment. Unanswered: Did he ask Millan Hupp—or anyone else on his staff — to look for an apartment for him?
    • Demoting Staff: Did Pruitt tell his chief of staff not to come to travel planning meetings after he raised concerns about Pruitt’s travel?
    • Kell Kelly: Did Pruitt ever inquire why Kell Kelly was banned for life from banking by the FDIC when he hired him?
    • Condo: On the condo lease, why was Stephen Hart’s name originally typed in as “landlord,” but then scratched out and the name of his wife scribbled in?
    • Private Jet: Was it Pruitt who sought to have the EPA pay $100,000 per month to rent a private jet, as Trump campaign staffer and EPA employee Kevin Chmielewski claims?
    • Morocco Trip: Before traveling to Morocco, why was Pruitt’s only briefing before the trip conducted by political staff, not career staff in the agency’s international affairs office, which typically coordinates foreign trips?
    • Oklahoma Travel: As Oklahoma Attorney General, in January 2016 Pruitt traveled to Washington, D.C., costing taxpayers more than $1,000 to meet with the Federalist Society and Club for Growth. Did Pruitt reimburse taxpayers? Did he use taxpayer money for political or personal trips?
    • Enforcement: Why did Pruitt try to end EPA funding for Justice Department Superfund enforcement efforts, and cut EPA enforcement against criminal polluters?
    • Super-polluting trucks: EPA proposed a loophole for super-polluting glider trucks, citing an industry-funded study now being investigated for research misconduct. Will it withdraw the proposal?

There are many more unanswered questions .

Posted in News / Comments are closed

Proof that the Clean Power Plan’s strategy for cutting carbon pollution is the industry standard

The public comment period is just about to close on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s reckless attempt to repeal the Clean Power Plan, and thousands of Americans — including mayors, CEOs, energy experts, and citizens concerned about the threats Pruitt’s actions pose to our children’s health and future — have already spoken out in vigorous opposition to the misguided repeal effort.

There is a lot at stake. The Clean Power Plan would prevent 4,500 early deaths and 90,000 childhood asthma attacks each year. It would cut carbon pollution by 32 percent from 2005 levels, and would substantially reduce other harmful air pollutants from power plants.

By slashing air pollution and helping mitigate the threats of climate change, the Clean Power Plan would secure significant benefits to public health while growing the clean energy economy.

Yet, as Pruitt continues his misguided effort to turn back the clock on lifesaving climate protections, momentum is growing in states and the power sector to slash carbon pollution and usher in a clean energy future.

States and companies are moving away from carbon-intensive sources of electricity generation, and are increasing their use of cleaner technologies — deploying the same cost-effective strategies to cut carbon pollution that EPA relied upon when establishing emission reduction targets under the Clean Power Plan. Pruitt’s attempt to repeal the Clean Power Plan is putting this flexible approach to ambitious and low-cost emission reductions under attack.

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Posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Economics, Energy, EPA litgation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Policy, Pruitt / Comments are closed