Author Archives: Guest Author

The evolution of US-China collaboration on environmental protection

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump in Beijing with President Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan on November 8, 2017 | Photo: State.gov

By Zhang Jianyu, Managing Director for Global Strategy, EDF. See also his interview in China DailyExpert: China, US now equals in pollution fight.

As one of the earliest representatives of an international environmental organization working in China, I have witnessed the progress of environmental protection collaboration between the US and China in the past 20 years and witnessed many specific incidents that have given me a good understanding of the different roles played by each country and how they have changed over time.

In 1999, the Chinese Premier at that time – Premier Zhu Rongji, visited the US and signed the very first environmental protection memorandum of collaboration between the Chinese and US environmental protection agencies. This memorandum spurred 10 collaborative sub-projects and was also the first practical environmental protection collaboration since the signing of the technology collaboration memorandum in 1979. The first sub-project was the SO2 emissions trading program, which EDF participated in creating. At the same time, I had just completed my studies in the US and was heading back to China to participate in this exciting, US- China environmental protection collaboration.

With the changes in China’s societal and economic developments and the political turnover in the US, the collaboration between the countries has entered a new phase that is showing new characteristics.

In the following years, China implemented several policies to promote the country’s environmental protection by referencing similar US policies and experiences such as pollution emissions trading, daily penalty system, green supply chain, and emissions permit system.

I had participated in the implementation of those policies and experienced first-hand how willing US colleagues were to share experiences and in return, how willing the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) was to learn from them. I will never forget when Ms. Cheryl Wasserman from the US EPA’s Compliance and Enforcement Bureau even enlisted her husband – who was working at EPA as well—to help record a remote training course on the top 10 characteristics of US environmental enforcement.

Recent U.S. administrations

Climate change is an important example of a new kind of bilateral relationship between China and the US. President Xi and President Obama had jointly issued three climate change-related agreements and set stage for the creation and success of the Paris Agreement and the developments in the arena of international climate change.

Both sides were working towards a common goal despite the differences in their positions and tension-filled negotiation processes. Fortunately, both nations’ leaders participated in person at the last minute and confirmed the US emissions reduction targets and China’s resolution to launch the largest carbon market in the world.

Today, with the changes in China’s societal and economic developments and the political turnover in the US, the collaboration between the countries has entered a new phase that is showing new characteristics.

Exchanges at the governmental level still continue. For example, in May 2017, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) visited the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Enforcement Investigation Center to conduct a survey in preparation for establishing a Chinese national environmental enforcement support agency.

Environmental issues also remain a critical bilateral focal point, as was the case at the U.S.-China Social and Cultural Dialogue concluded in Washington DC in Sept, 2017. In addition, the collaborations between the US states and Chinese provinces are still thriving.

Chinese companies are becoming more active on the global stage. On May 10, 2017, the CEOs from 30 multinational corporations, with EDF's support, issued a joint statement in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times urging the US government to stay in the Paris Agreement. For the first time in history, a CEO from a Chinese corporation – Mr. Zhang Yue from Broad Group was among them.

In the summer of 2017, California not only renewed  the AB-32 bill that was passed in 2013 to 2030, with the support of EDF, but continued to make efforts to expand its outreach. During California Governor Jerry Brown’s visit in June 2017, he was warmly received by President Xi. Prior to Governor Brown’s visit, he had expressed the interest in discussing with China the possibility of linking California ETS with China’s future national carbon market. EDF has been playing a bridging role in the formation of this initiative, and we hope to continue supporting both sides to fulfill their objectives.

Today

On President Trump’s first visit to China as president, he was accompanied by a trade delegation consisting of 29 U.S. corporate representatives, 11 of which represent energy and environment corporations.

Presidents Trump and Xi signed the US-China collaboration agreement, which includes text regarding energy and environmental protection cooperation – evidence that exchanges and collaboration in the energy and environment sectors are still a primary focus for the two countries’ strategic development.

As a witness and a participant of US-China environmental exchanges, I have personally felt the changes in the interactions between the US and China on environmental protection and from which represents a reflection of the changes in political relations between the two nations. I hope environmental protection will always be a key topic and connection for both sides as we only have one Earth.

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Temer’s rollback of Brazil’s environmental and indigenous protections threatens livelihoods and world’s climate goals

Guest authors: Juliana Splendore, EDF climate change and indigenous issues consultant in Brazil, and Joelson Felix, Communications Officer of COIAB – a Brazilian indigenous organization representing indigenous peoples in the Brazilian Amazon

An aerial view of the Brazilian Amazon under a pouring rain | Photo by Juliana Splendore

One year into his presidency, Brazilian President Temer is leading a dismantling of crucial protections for Brazil’s indigenous territories and the environment.

New policies the president recently approved put at risk indigenous peoples’ rights to their lands, and could open the flood gates for Amazon deforestation, which has been rising dramatically in the past few years.

The president’s actions, aimed at winning the favor of the powerful agriculture lobby in Congress, threaten the livelihoods of the indigenous peoples who live in the forests, as well as Brazil’s international climate leadership and the world’s ability to meet the greenhouse gas emissions targets agreed to in the Paris Agreement.

One of the world’s largest tropical forest areas, the Brazilian Amazon is home to more than 200 groups of indigenous peoples. Nearly half of the Brazilian Amazon, an area about five times the size of California, is designated as indigenous lands or protected natural areas, and as such is protected from development. These indigenous and protected areas and their indigenous populations were key to Brazil’s decreasing its deforestation by 70% from 2005 to 2014, which has made it the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

However, these gains are now at risk. Over the last two years, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon nearly doubled from 4,500 km2 in the period of 2011-2012 to 8,000 km2 in the period of 2015-2016, according to the National Institute of Space Research (INPE).

The significant rise in deforestation caused the Norwegian government this year to cut its forest protection payments to the Amazon Fund to about $35 million, $65 million less than in 2016. This cut directly affects the indigenous populations in the Amazon, who are among the main beneficiaries of the Fund.

Rollbacks in indigenous lands and environmental protections

Since he took office August 31, 2016, scandal-plagued Brazilian President Temer approved new measures and federal rules aimed at helping him gain critical support from the advocates of agribusiness and large rural landowners, known as the ruralistas, who make up one of the most powerful caucuses in the National Congress with over 200 seats.

Temer has created a new federal rule to be implemented by Brazilian Administration that can be used to deny many indigenous peoples the right to their lands. It stipulates that indigenous peoples do not have the right to their lands if they were not occupying them in October 1988, when the current constitution came into effect. Essentially, it denies the right of the indigenous peoples who lack sufficient documentation to prove that they were expelled from their lands during that time. As a result, many pending requests by indigenous groups for titles to their traditional territories could be denied because of their earlier expulsions. Another part of the new rule also prohibits the expansion of existing indigenous territories. Finally, the new rule also allows certain types of infrastructure projects to be permitted on their titled territories without any consultation.

A new short-term measure signed by President Temer (MP759) – which can be easily turned into a law – is expected to substantially intensify deforestation in the Amazon region. The new measure facilitates the legalization of public lands that were illegally occupied in the period of 2004 – 2011 and increases the size of land parcels that can be claimed. This measure could result in the loss of millions of hectares in the Amazon to land speculators.

Indigenous peoples in a training organized by ISA (Instituto Socioambiental) | Photo by Juliana Splendore

Need for more international attention and support

Taken together, these developments in Brazil endanger not only the livelihoods of indigenous populations, but also the significant amount of forest carbon stored in indigenous territories in the Brazilian Amazon, threatening the world’s ability to stabilize global climate.

The silver lining here is that the advocacy efforts led by the indigenous movement, environmentalists, Norway, and some international organizations are playing a key role in  mitigating the effects of the policies and guidance approved by Temer.

Now, indigenous peoples need even more support from international actors, in particular from EU governments and international companies committed to reduce deforestation in their supply chains. The governments and business leaders need to tell President Temer to roll back the new rules and measures.

Posted in Brazil, Deforestation, Indigenous peoples| Leave a comment

From Sea to Shining Sea: Cap-and-trade Programs Showing Success on Both Coasts

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Guest Author: Katie Hsia-Kiung, Former EDF High-Meadows Fellow

When the preliminary plans for California’s cap-and-trade program were first introduced in 2010, it was quickly regarded as a groundbreaking policy due to its stringency, size, and scope. California was the ninth largest economy in the world – it has now jumped to eighth – and the Golden State’s program would soon implement the first economy-wide cap on greenhouse gas pollution in the country. But, it was not the first cap-and-trade program in the United States. In fact, ten states in the northeast had implemented the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in 2008. Like California’s program, the RGGI system places a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions and sets a corresponding price on carbon, but covering only the electricity sector. Despite the difference in scope and location of these two programs, they are both demonstrating that carbon pricing through cap-and-trade is an effective way to decrease harmful greenhouse gas pollution while allowing the economy to grow.

A new report released this past Wednesday by the Acadia Center digs into the most recent data out of the RGGI system. According to the Acadia analysis, the RGGI states have decreased their emissions by 35 percent since the start of the program, while emissions from the 40 states unregulated by a cap only decreased by 12 percent over the same period. At the same time as emissions dropped, the RGGI state economies grew by 21 percent as compared to the non-capped states, which only saw an 18 percent growth in their economies. California has similarly been able to grow its economy impressively while implementing an aggressive cap on emissions. During the first year of the program, the Golden State moved from ninth to eight largest economy in the world, grew its GDP faster than the national average, and decreased capped emissions by four percent. Read More »

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California Clean Polices are Moving at the Right Speed for Wrightspeed

rp_ca_innov_series_icon_283x204.jpgGuest Author: Katie Hsia-Kiung, Former EDF High-Meadows Fellow

If you live or have ever lived in a city, you are probably familiar with the feeling of waking up in the wee hours of the morning to the sounds of a garbage truck as it makes its way down your street. Not the most pleasant sound to wake up to, sometimes made even worse by the sinking feeling when you realize you’ve forgotten to put the trash out on the curb the night before.

Now, what if you learned that noisy, polluting garbage trucks might soon be a thing of the past? And, what if phasing out these trucks saved your local garbage company money in the process?

A garbage truck revolution might sound too good to be true for some, but for Wrightspeed, a San Jose-based company founded by Tesla cofounder Ian Wright, it might be right around the corner. The company is developing a technology that will allow medium and heavy-duty truck owners to retrofit their existing fleet and turn their trucks into range-extended electric vehicles. This means companies can keep their old trucks while making them cleaner, more gas efficient, and virtually silent. Since old heavy duty trucks also happen to be some of the dirtiest vehicles on the road, the Wrightspeed model can be good for public health, cutting costly greenhouse gas pollution and harmful particulate matter emissions. Read More »

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California’s Cap and Trade is Succeeding after Two Years, Report Says

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Guest Author: Katie Hsia-Kiung, Former EDF High-Meadows Fellow

These days, everyone seems to have an opinion about everything. The ubiquity of social media channels has saturated public discourse with so many viewpoints that it can be nearly impossible to distinguish facts from fiction. But facts still matter. Even though an argument about the quality of a neighborhood restaurant or the accomplishments of your local elected official might be inherently subjective, there’s no question that strong, empirical evidence gives you the best shot at coming out on top. What’s more, the greater the consequences of the issue being debated, the higher the stakes are when it comes to analyzing and acting on real-world evidence.

On one particularly timely and potentially far-reaching issue—solutions to climate change—evidence is mounting and becoming impossible to ignore: cap and trade is not just an idea you learn in an economics lecture, it is a policy solution being deployed successfully in California, the world’s eighth largest economy. According to EDF’s comprehensive analysis released today, California’s cap-and-trade program is working after two full years of implementation. Not only is the program incentivizing energy efficiency improvements, it is paving the way for the state to pass even stronger climate policies, and is helping other states and nations move forward with similar steps. Here are some of the top conclusions EDF puts forward in the report, based on our analysis of the evidence:
Read More »

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Vive La Linkage: California and Quebec Working Together to Fight Climate Change

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Guest Author: Katie Hsia-Kiung, Former EDF High-Meadows Fellow

The holiday season is often considered a time to stop and take stock of the things that we are thankful for, and to celebrate the accomplishments of the past year. Today, California and Quebec have one more thing to celebrate: the successful completion of their first-ever joint cap-and-trade auction, which marks the last of many steps to fully harmonize the two carbon markets. Auctions are held quarterly and are opportunities for companies regulated by cap-and-trade and others to electronically bid on and purchase carbon allowances (permits to emit one metric ton of greenhouse gas emissions).

California and Quebec carefully prepare for full linkage of their programs

California and Quebec worked closely to design their cap-and-trade programs to ensure that the essential mechanisms and stringent targets were in place to allow for linkage. The jurisdictions both started their cap-and-trade programs on January 1, 2013, and formally linked their carbon markets a year later. At that point, carbon allowances originating from Quebec’s program could be purchased and used by a California company and vice versa. Until the most recent auction, the two jurisdictions held separate auctions, allowing time to update the auction system to handle bidding from multiple jurisdictions with different currencies, different time zones, and different requirements for the minimum allowable bid. This process of careful preparation culminated in a practice joint auction held at the beginning of August, which went smoothly according to reports from the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the regulatory agency responsible for overseeing the implementation of California’s cap-and-trade program.

Sustained strength of linked program reflected in results of first joint auction

The first real joint auction took place last Tuesday, after a great deal of preparation and some technical difficulties that caused a few days of delay. During this auction, companies from both California and Quebec bid together on the same collective pool of allowances, aligning allowance price over the two programs. The results of this auction were released today and revealed healthy demand in the linked market for cap-and-trade allowances. 100% of the current 2014 vintage allowances for sale in this auction were purchased by bidders at a price of $12.10, while 100% of the 2017 future vintage allowances offered were purchased at a price of $11.86.

Read More »

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