Author Archives: Derek Walker

Ontario on a Tear with its New Climate Proposal

rp_dWalker-228x300.jpgOnce upon a time, an international agreement forged through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) seemed the surest route to meaningful action on climate change. But the complexities of reaching common ground between nearly 200 distinct national agendas have dimmed the hopes for the sort of “global deal” envisioned in the run-up to the Copenhagen conference in 2009. The UN process has provided a platform for countries to make new emission reduction commitments: Mexico recently announced a promising post-2020 climate commitment, and the US-China announcement last November was a game-changer. Even these critical breakthroughs, however, demonstrate that strong action on climate will be driven from the “bottom up” by national policies, not from the “top down” by an international treaty.

Thankfully, many leaders are blazing a path towards climate progress, working from the ground up and collaborating with others to foster collective action. As I have previously written, cities, states, and provinces are going ahead with some of the most substantial climate commitments to date. Ontario – Canada’s largest province, with 40 percent of the country’s population and nearly one-quarter of its greenhouse gas emissions – has become the latest jurisdiction to chart an ambitious path forward with this morning’s announcement of a comprehensive cap-and-trade program intended to ultimately link with the existing California-Quebec system.

Ontario’s announcement is significant for a number of reasons. First, cap-and-trade will help Ontario meet bold 2020 and 2050 goals for cutting greenhouse gas pollution, which stand at 15 percent below and 80 percent below 1990 levels, respectively. Second, the news is a compelling curtain raiser for the high-profile Premiers Climate Change Summit in Quebec City, which begins on Tuesday and is meant to showcase opportunities for provinces to take individual and collective climate action. Finally, Ontario is poised to build on and leverage cap-and-trade successes from elsewhere, most notably California, where the two-year old program has helped cut pollution and grow the economy. Read More »

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The Winning Equation on Climate and Jobs in California

Derek Walker.jpgAs the old saying goes, comparisons are odious, and when it comes to policies to combat climate change, we want every state in this country—and every country in the world—to take action. But sometimes a comparison between two states can help illuminate the benefits of taking one course of action over another, especially as it relates to the all-important issue of creating a strong economy.

Recently, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released revised job growth numbers for all states. Previously, the numbers released in December 2014 showed Texas ahead of California on job growth for the year—458,000 to 320,000—but the revised estimates indicate that California added 498,000 jobs in 2014, with Texas coming in at 393,000. In other words, California added almost half a million jobs in 2014, showing that Texas is not the only state that can do things on a big scale.

So what do these job growth numbers have to do with the fight against climate change? California is seeing their job numbers tick up as the state takes the lead on tackling harmful greenhouse gas emissions through an astonishingly ambitious array of policies. The state’s policies cover everything from squeezing as much carbon from the state’s economy as possible to ensuring that we find clean energy solutions to keep the lights on, so to speak. Although environmental leadership seems to be an integral part of the state’s DNA, the game really changed with California’s 2006 law limiting emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The state’s law ushered in a succession of effective measures, including the state’s cap-and-trade program and Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which are cutting pollution and helping the economy. Read More »

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New Study: California's Carbon Market Delivers for Economy and Climate

caliwind_378x235Would you believe there's a state that cut pollution and cleaned up its air, while creating jobs and sustaining economic growth?

And where economic incentives, rather than costly regulations, are stimulating innovation and investment?

California passed the earliest, most comprehensive law to set a cap on carbon pollution, along with numerous other complementary policies to help the state transition to a low-carbon, clean-energy economy.

The results are now coming in and the present – and future – looks bright.

Two years after it was fully implemented, California's cap-and-trade program is thriving, a new report [PDF] from Environmental Defense Fund shows.

The program is now ramping up as the state economy is growing, paving the way for California to pass even stronger climate policies. Perhaps most important, it's laying the groundwork for other states and nations to move forward with similar steps.

The four top findings from our report: Read More »

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Lima climate talks showcase another path to global climate action: through states, provinces and cities

Kevin de Leon Peru COP

California state Senate President Kevin de León arrives at the conference center for the UN climate talks in Lima, Peru. Image used with permission from Senator de León.

The chattering classes of the climate policy world are abuzz with their customary post-mortems following the latest breathless two-week session of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change 20th Conference of Parties (also known simply as COP 20), held in Lima, Peru.

Consensus is forming around a “slightly better than nothing” assessment of the Lima Call for Climate Action, which was adopted in the wee hours of Sunday amidst the usual skirmishes over money, monitoring, and mandates.

Lima clarified some of the expected content of the national pledges (“Intended Nationally Determined Contributions,” INDCs in COP shorthand) to be presented by all countries next year.

Notwithstanding the softness engendered by the word “intended,” at least we aren’t firmly stuck in the “old world order” where only developed countries are taking on mitigation actions.

Subnational cooperation and pathways to climate progress outside UN process

While nations squabbled about intentions, another story was playing out on the sidelines of the COP, showcasing real, groundbreaking and consequential progress at the subnational level – within states, provinces, and cities.

After spending the vast majority of my time in Lima with innovative and dynamic subnational leaders, I came away with an unbridled sense of optimism and renewed hope that there are pathways to climate progress, even if many of them go around rather than through the formal UN process.

Read More »

Posted in Lima (COP-20), UN negotiations| 6 Responses

California's carbon market could help stop Amazon deforestation

(This post appeared in Point Carbon North America on Feb. 7)

By Juan Carlos Jintiach, Shuar indigenous leader from the Amazon basin, and Derek Walker, Associate Vice President for the US Climate and Energy Program at Environmental Defense Fund

Credit: Dylan Murray

California has a role to play in keeping Amazon deforestation on the decline and giving indigenous and forest communities the recognition and support they need. Credit: Dylan Murray

A recent article in the Journal of Climate predicts that destroying the Amazon rainforest would cause disastrous drought across California and the western United States. Californians are already no strangers to drought – the state is suffering one of its worst on record.

But the research adds an interesting dimension to what we already know from numerous studies about deforestation: that greenhouse gas pollution in California and around the world makes forests, including the Amazon, drier and more susceptible to widespread fires. California may be thousands of miles away from “the Earth’s lungs,” but how we treat our diverse ecosystems directly affects the one atmosphere we all share.

It is good news for everyone that California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) – which includes the world’s most comprehensive carbon market – is already helping reduce the state’s greenhouse gas pollution. Amazon states and nations have also greatly reduced their greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, which collectively accounts for as much greenhouse gas pollution as all the cars, trucks, and buses in the world. California now has a terrific opportunity to show global environmental leadership by helping Amazon states keep deforestation rates headed for zero while helping save money for companies and consumers in the Golden State.

The current world leader in greenhouse gas reductions is Brazil, which has brought Amazon deforestation down about 75% since 2005 and kept almost 3 billion tons of carbon out of the atmosphere. Indigenous peoples and forest communities have played an essential role in this accomplishment. Decades of indigenous peoples’ struggles against corporate miners, loggers, ranchers, and land grabbers and advocacy in defense of their land rights have resulted in the legal protection of 45% of the Amazon basin as indigenous territory and forest reserves – an area more than eight times the size of California.

These dedicated indigenous and forest lands hold about half of the forest carbon of the Amazon, and have proven to be effective barriers against frontier expansion and deforestation. In a real sense, indigenous and forest peoples are providing a huge global environmental service, but that service is almost entirely unrecognized, let alone compensated. And in Brazil, where agribusiness is pushing back hard against law enforcement and reserve creation, deforestation is back on the upswing – increasing nearly 30% last year.

California has a role to play in keeping Amazon deforestation on the decline and giving indigenous and forest communities the recognition and support they need. A program called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) gives countries or states that commit to reducing deforestation below historic levels “credits” they can sell in carbon cap-and-trade markets. Getting these programs recognized by California’s carbon market would send a powerful signal that forests in the Amazon and around the world are worth more alive than dead, and would also provide real incentives for further reductions.

Forest community and indigenous leaders from Latin America visited California to engage state leaders and policymakers on the issues of deforestation, indigenous and local peoples’ rights, and potential partnership with the state's carbon market. From left: Juan Carlos Jintiach (Shuar indigenous leader), Megaron Txucarramae (Kayapo indigenous leader) and Lubenay (of a Chiapas forest community).

A few weeks ago, indigenous leaders from Brazil, Ecuador, and Mexico were in California engaging state leaders and policymakers on the issues of deforestation, indigenous and local peoples’ rights, and potential partnership with California’s carbon market. California should insist that only jurisdictions that respect indigenous and local peoples’ rights, territory and knowledge, and ensure that they benefit from REDD+ programs get access to its market.

The successful adoption and implementation of AB 32 is proof that California is leading the nation on effective, market-based climate change policies. But it’s time to take that another step forward. By allowing credits from REDD+ to play a role in the AB 32 program, the Golden State can be a world leader on one of the most significant causes of climate change and take action to protect the health and prosperity of a threatened land and its people.

 

Learn more about REDD+ and California:

Posted in Brazil, Deforestation, Indigenous peoples, REDD+| 3 Responses

California’s Carbon Market Could Help Stop Amazon Deforestation

(This post first appeared in Point Carbon North America)

By Juan Carlos Jintiach, Shuar indigenous leader from the Amazon basin, and Derek Walker, Associate Vice President for the US Climate and Energy Program at Environmental Defense Fund

From left to right: Juan Carlos Jintiach, Megaron Txucarramae (a leader of Brazil’s indigenous Kayapo tribe), Lubenay.

A recent10 article in the Journal of Climate predicts that destroying the Amazon rainforest would cause disastrous drought across California and the western United States. Californians are already no strangers to drought – the state is suffering one of its worst on record. But the research adds an interesting dimension to what we already know from numerous studies about deforestation: that greenhouse gas pollution in California and around the world makes forests, including the Amazon, drier and more susceptible to widespread fires. California may be thousands of miles away from “the Earth’s lungs,” but how we treat our diverse ecosystems directly affects the one atmosphere we all share.

It is good news for everyone that California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) – which includes the world’s most comprehensive carbon market – is already helping reduce the state’s greenhouse gas pollution. Amazon states and nations have also greatly reduced their greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, which collectively accounts for as much greenhouse gas pollution as all the cars, trucks, and buses in the world. California now has a terrific opportunity to show global environmental leadership by helping Amazon states keep deforestation rates headed for zero while helping save money for companies and consumers in the Golden State.

The current world leader in greenhouse gas reductions is Brazil, which has brought Amazon deforestation down about 75% since 2005 and kept almost 3 billion tons of carbon out of the atmosphere. Indigenous peoples and forest communities have played an essential role in this accomplishment. Decades of indigenous peoples’ struggles against corporate miners, loggers, ranchers, and land grabbers and advocacy in defense of their land rights have resulted in the legal protection of 45% of the Amazon basin as indigenous territory and forest reserves – an area more than eight times the size of California.

Credit: Dylan Murray

Credit: Dylan Murray

These dedicated indigenous and forest lands hold about half of the forest carbon of the Amazon, and have proven to be effective barriers against frontier expansion and deforestation. In a real sense, indigenous and forest peoples are providing a huge global environmental service, but that service is almost entirely unrecognized, let alone compensated. And in Brazil, where agribusiness is pushing back hard against law enforcement and reserve creation, deforestation is back on the upswing – increasing nearly 30% last year.

California has a role to play in keeping Amazon deforestation on the decline and giving indigenous and forest communities the recognition and support they need. A program called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) gives countries or states that commit to reducing deforestation below historic levels “credits” they can sell in carbon cap-and-trade markets. Getting these programs recognized by California’s carbon market would send a powerful signal that forests in the Amazon and around the world are worth more alive than dead, and would also provide real incentives for further reductions.

A few weeks ago, indigenous leaders from Brazil, Ecuador, and Mexico are in California engaging state leaders and policymakers on the issues of deforestation, indigenous and local peoples’ rights, and potential partnership with California’s carbon market. California should insist that only jurisdictions that respect indigenous and local peoples’ rights, territory and knowledge, and ensure that they benefit from REDD+ programs get access to its market.

The successful adoption and implementation of AB 32 is proof that California is leading the nation on effective, market-based climate change policies. But it’s time to take that another step forward. By allowing credits from REDD+ to play a role in the AB 32 program, the Golden State can be a world leader on one of the most significant causes of climate change and take action to protect the health and prosperity of a threatened land and its people.

 

Learn more about REDD+ and California:

Posted in California, Deforestation, Emissions trading & markets| Leave a comment
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