EDF Talks Global Climate

California Adopts Climate Game Plan for 2030

Cap and trade is like the goalie – it’s there keeping California’s emissions in check even if it’s the state’s other policies that are scoring most of the goals. Photo: Wikimedia

By Katelyn Roedner Sutter and Erica Morehouse

Today the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted the 2017 Climate Change Scoping Plan, the strategy for achieving California’s 2030 greenhouse gas emissions target. Developing and updating this Scoping Plan is a process pioneered by California that provides a game plan of how the state intends to meet its climate goals with an increased focus on air quality.

The cap-and-trade program continues to be a centerpiece of the current Scoping Plan because it allows the state to put a firm limit on overall carbon emissions. This is essential as the state charts a path to an ambitious 2030 target. The Scoping Plan lays out the blueprint for California’s overall climate policies. Cap-and-trade design details will be further developed in future ARB rulemakings; EDF will be deeply engaged on details like setting a high enough price ceiling and setting the level of the cap with a focus, as always, on environmental integrity.

Cap and trade is a team sport in California: focusing on who makes the goals is missing the point

The role of cap and trade is an important one: assuring that California doesn’t exceed the emissions limit it has adopted into law. California has a variety of policies in place to meet its climate targets, which means there are multiple programs acting to lower the same emissions. But cap and trade is the policy that will ensure California reaches its climate target by setting a firm limit. If other policies do not do as much as anticipated to reduce emissions, cap and trade will make up the difference. The flip side is that if other policies are driving down emissions faster than expected, cap and trade may need to do less of the work to reduce emissions.

I’m a hockey fan, so here is one way to think about it. A goalie on a hockey team isn’t failing when they aren’t the one who scores the winning goal. They are succeeding when they are preventing the other team from scoring. Cap and trade is like that goalie – it’s there keeping California’s emissions in check even if it’s the state’s other policies that are scoring most of the goals. But cap and trade is also a versatile athlete, it can play the forward position when needed. California has designed its climate policies as a team sport, though, and whatever position cap and trade plays, it’s a critical member of the team as today’s Scoping Plan recognizes.

Beating reduction goals is a good thing and an opportunity

California’s emissions are declining and the state is on track to beat its 2020 goal. There’s discussion about the implications of having emissions significantly below the cap, but rather than being a concern, we see this as a sure sign of success. More emission reductions earlier in the program is good news for the environment. It’s also an opportunity for California to consider cutting emissions even more by trimming the overall number of allowances it makes available in the coming years as the state looks to the ambitious 2030 target.

Today’s adoption of the 2017 Scoping Plan helps ensure the ongoing success of California’s team of climate strategies, with cap and trade as the check on carbon pollution. Together, California’s suite of climate and air policies can keep driving down global warming pollution while improving the health and environment across the Golden state.

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The New Normal: California-Quebec Auction Clears Above the Floor Price

Photo: Pxhere

By Erica Morehouse and Katelyn Roedner Sutter

California and Quebec released results today for the November 2017 auction which showed steady prices well above the floor for the second auction in a row. The November auction was also the second in a row to sell out of allowances. Both outcomes are a reflection of the secure market that is now set to run through 2030, and demonstrate that the design features of cap and trade are working as expected to maintain a strong and stable program.

November Auction At-a-Glance

  • Approximately $862,407,989 raised for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to invest in a number of programs including clean transportation, urban greening, and improving local air quality.
  • All current vintage allowances were sold of the 79,548,286 offered for sale, including 15,909,657 allowances that were previously unsold in 2016. This is the first auction including held allowances.
  • Current vintage allowances sold at $15.06, $1.49 above the $13.57 floor price. This is 31 cents higher than the August clearing price.
  • All future vintage allowances sold of the 9,723,500 offered for sale. These allowances will not be available for compliance use until 2020. For the second auction in a row, future vintage allowances sold out above the floor price, showing strong confidence in the cap-and-trade program after 2020.

The Nuts and Bolts of Cap and Trade, Important and Working

This auction demonstrated how some of the “behind the scenes” elements of cap and trade are working – and succeeding – to keep the market strong and stable.

Importance of Banking

These auction results show that businesses’ ability to “bank” allowances for use in later years when prices will be higher and the cap tighter are critical for market stability, and most importantly, emissions performance. In 2016 and early 2017, before California legislatively extended its cap-and-trade program from 2020 to 2030, demand for allowances was falling off in part because emissions were already below the cap and the uncertainty of the future program discouraged any banking. With the cap extended to 2030, however, demand and prices are more stable and there is once again a strong incentive for polluters to save their allowances for future years and make cost-effective emission reductions sooner than required for compliance. Early reductions can be cost effective for companies, and are great for the environment.

First Auction to Offer Unsold Allowances

The November auction is the first to offer previously unsold allowances, in this case allowances held over from the 2016 auctions. Last year, when demand for allowances was lower, these unsold allowances were held to be re-offered at later auctions. This adjusted supply downward when needed and adds extra supply when allowances prices start to rise (as they are doing now), creating price stability in the market. These 15 million extra allowances now mean there was enough supply to meet demand.

California Emissions Continue to Decline

Further good news from November, as EDF reported yesterday, is that the California Air Resources Board released their 2016 emissions report and found that emissions covered by cap and trade have not only continued to decline, but are doing so at a faster pace than in previous years.

  • Emissions are a whopping 58 million metric tons below the cap for 2016, an amount equivalent to taking over 14 coal fired power plants off-line for a year. Even if some of these “saved” pollutants are emitted later, this is a win for the atmosphere since there will be several years where they will not be contributing to atmospheric warming.
  • The bulk of these reductions came from the electricity sector, which reduced emissions by increasing renewable production and hydroelectricity and decreasing imports from coal-generated electricity.
  • Transportation emissions did increase in California as they did in the rest of the world. However, the state has a number of policies that are targeted at reducing those emissions and cap and trade is keeping overall emissions in check so they have time to work.

Today’s auction results show one more data point in the example California and Quebec are setting for the world in how to implement effective climate policies. This example was on display at the recent UN Conference of Parties (COP23) in Bonn, Germany that wrapped up last week. Governor Brown as well as three other U.S. Governors and many mayors were in attendance making sure the world knew Donald Trump cannot prevent U.S. states and cities from acting to reduce emissions and protect their residents.

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California Bucks Global Trend with another Year of GHG Reductions

A parabolic trough solar thermal electric power plant located at Kramer Junction in California | Photo: Wikimedia

By Jonathan Camuzeaux and Maureen Lackner

The California Air Resources Board’s November 6 release of 2016 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions data from the state’s largest electricity generators and importers, fuel suppliers, and industrial facilities shows that emissions have decreased even more than anticipated. California’s emissions trends are showing what is possible with strong climate policies in place and provide hope even as new analysis projects that global emissions will increase by 2% in 2017 after a three-year plateau.

California’s emissions kept falling in 2016

The 2016 emissions report, an annual requirement under California’s regulation for the Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (MRR), shows that emissions covered by the state’s cap-and-trade program are shrinking, and doing so at a faster pace than in prior years. Covered emissions have dropped each year that cap and trade has been in place, amounting to 31 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent (MMt CO2e) over the whole period, or 8.8% reduction relative to 2012. The drop between 2015 and 2016 accounts for over half of these cumulative reductions (16 MMt CO2e; 4.8% reduction relative to 2015). The electricity sector is responsible for the bulk of this drop: electricity importers reduced emissions about 10 MMt CO2e while in-state electricity generation facilities reduced emissions by about 7 MMt CO2e.

Some sectors’ emissions grew in 2016. Just as with global transportation emissions, California’s transportation emissions have steadily crept up in recent years, and the MRR report suggests this trend is continuing. Transportation fuel suppliers, which account for the largest share of total emissions, reported a 1.8 MMt CO2e increase in emissions covered by cap and trade since 2015. Cement plants and hydrogen plants also experienced small increases in covered emissions. One of the benefits of cap and trade, however, is that if the clean transition is occurring more slowly in one sector, other sectors will be required to reduce further to keep emissions below the cap while the whole economy catches up.

Emissions that are not covered by the cap-and-trade program dropped, from 92 MMt CO2e in 2015 to 87 MMt CO2e in 2016. While small, this represents the largest reduction in non-covered emissions since 2012 and is mostly driven by suppliers of natural gas/NGL/LPG and electricity importers. Net non-covered and covered emissions reductions resulted in a 20.5 MMt CO2e drop in total emissions from these sectors. 

These results are a welcome reminder that the cap-and-trade program is working in concert with other policies to accomplish the primary objective of reducing emissions.

The California climate policies are accomplishing their emissions reductions goals

The 2016 MRR data indicate impactful reductions in GHG emissions and progress toward reaching the state’s target emissions reductions by 2020. The 2016 emissions drop is a consequence of several factors: a CARB analysis of the year’s electricity generation points to increased renewable capacity, decreased imports of electricity from coal-fired power plants, and increased in-state hydroelectric power production. To put it in perspective, the 20.5 MMt CO2e emissions reductions is equivalent to offsetting the energy use of about 2.2 million homes, or 16% of California’s households.

Emissions below the cap are a climate win, not a concern

Total covered emissions in 2016 were about 324 MMt CO2e, well below California’s 2016 cap of roughly 382 MMt. Some observers of the cap-and-trade program worry that an “oversupply” of credits will result in reduced revenue for the state and lesser profits for traders on the secondary market. This concern was especially pronounced when secondary market prices dipped below the price floor in 2016 and 2017.

Importantly, oversupply of allowances is not a bad thing for the climate. As Frank Wolak, an energy economist at Stanford, points out, oversupply may be a sign of an innovative economy in which pollution reductions are easier to achieve than anticipated. Furthermore, having emissions below the cap represents earlier than anticipated reductions which is a win for the atmosphere. Warming is caused by the cumulative emissions that are present in the atmosphere so earlier reductions mean gases are not present in the atmosphere for at least the period over which emissions are delayed.

While market stability is a valid concern, the design of the program has built-in features to prevent market disruptions. Furthermore, the California legislature’s recent two-thirds majority vote to extend the cap-and-trade program through 2030 provides long-term regulatory certainty. Both the May and August auctions were completely sold out suggesting that the extension has succeeded in stabilizing demand.

These results are a welcome reminder that the cap-and-trade program is working in concert with other policies to accomplish the primary objective of reducing emissions, and that we’re doing it cheaply is an added bonus. Early reductions at a low cost can lead to sustained or even improved ambition as California implements its world-leading climate targets.

As California closes its fifth year of cap and trade, it should be with a sense of accomplishment and optimism for the future of the state’s emissions.

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U.S. subnational leaders enjoy banner event at COP 23

America's Pledge event at COP23 | Photo: UNClimateChange

COP 23 has been a banner event for subnational actors, and especially for California. Between events and breaking news, our EDF California team has enjoyed visiting informally with representatives from around the world.

One theme from these conversations is “we’re so glad you are here!”

The presence of American states and NGOs, and the leadership of states like California, has not gone unnoticed, especially when the absence of U.S. leadership on climate is so obvious.

Some have asked if we have received backlash from the United States about being here (so far so good!), and there’s universal enthusiasm for the US Climate Action Center (or “igloo” – nicknamed both for the big white tents and chilly temperatures).

It is clear from these announcements and conversations that the leadership of California is more critical than ever.

Here’s a quick round-up of key state-level news:

America’s Pledge – California Governor Jerry Brown and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg shared the first report of their joint initiative, America’s Pledge. A reaction to the United States’ dismissal of the Paris Agreement, this project demonstrates the power of collective action and aims to spur greater climate ambition. If they were one country, the signatory cities and states would have the third largest GDP in the world, and would be home to one-third of the American people. This is a significant rejection of the Trump Administration’s rhetoric on climate, and a testament to Governor Brown and Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership.

Under2 Coalition Signing – A joint initiative of Governor Jerry Brown and the German state of Baden-Württemberg, the Under 2 Coalition commits ambitious states and regions around the world to making commitments on emission reductions consistent with the Paris Agreement and to keeping global warming below 2°C. Virginia became the latest partner in the Under 2 Coalition, solidifying its climate leadership and the state continues to works toward greater electric vehicle infrastructure and reducing carbon emissions from the power sector.

California’s Progress and Promise – Governor Brown, CalEPA Secretary Matt Rodriguez, Assembly Member Cristina Garcia and others have each had speaking engagements at COP 23, and across them all two themes emerge. First, California is leading the way on reducing emissions, cleaning up pollution, and striving for equitable climate policy. But the second theme is that there is much more to do. While celebrating these achievements, the state has further to go de-carbonizing the economy and improving local air quality.

California-Acre Luncheon – One of the most exciting things about COP23 is the opportunity to build connections across countries and cultures on issues of mutual importance. The California Legislative Delegation had the opportunity for lunch with the delegation from the state of Acre, Brazil. They discussed deforestation and its impact on the climate and local communities, as well the need for global partnerships to go further and faster stopping climate change.

2018 Global Climate Action Summit – Want your own COP-like experience? Governor Brown invited attendees to join him and sub-national leaders from around the world at the 2018 Climate Summit in San Francisco! Described as the “COP for subnationals,” one key goal is to establish a San Francisco agreement on sub-national climate action. Businesses, cities, states, investors, and civil society will explore how much more we can do together on climate action, learn from each other, and build positive momentum for COP 24 in Poland.

It is clear from these announcements and conversations (not to mention Governor Brown’s rock star status at COP 23) that the leadership of California is more critical than ever. This is especially true now that the United States is the sole country opposing the Paris Agreement, now that Syria and Nicaragua have joined the agreement.

California’s role as climate champion, success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining economic prosperity, and concerted efforts for greater climate equity are all stories we are proud to be sharing with the rest of the world.

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California to showcase subnational climate action at COP 23

This week, signatories to the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 23) meet in Bonn, Germany to discuss implementation of the Paris Agreement. While much of the domestic news will focus on the Trump Administration’s “break-up” with the Paris Agreement, there will also be significant focus at the COP on actions of sub-nationals: cities, states, and regions around the world who are stepping up to address climate change.

California is a leader in sub-national climate action, and Governor Jerry Brown has been designated Special Advisor for States and Regions to COP 23. He will be welcoming new partners in the Under2MOU: a coalition of 188 jurisdictions around the world acting to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. Governor Brown was also instrumental in creating the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bi-partisan group of states committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement, even if Washington, DC tries to walk away.

At the U.S. Climate Action Pavilion at COP 23, Governor Brown, together with Michael Bloomberg, will release a new report on November 11th highlighting the progress of U.S. states, cities, and businesses in addressing climate change. He will also be participating in other events with the “We Are Still In” effort to promote American climate action and leadership. These are important examples of sub-national action that increases the ambition of other regions in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

To illustrate California’s state-level achievements, Environmental Defense Fund has two new publications for COP 23. “California’s Cap-and-Trade Program Step by Step” explains how California set up its cornerstone climate policy, cap and trade, in an easy-to-follow 10-step formula. Other sub-nationals as well as interested countries will be able to learn from the state’s experience in developing their own emissions trading system.

Cutting Carbon and Growing the Economy” highlights the progress California has made since cap and trade began in reducing emissions, strengthening the economy, and ensuring all California residents benefit.

Reducing emissions and growing the economy go hand-in-hand. The state is on track to beat the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and the state’s Gross State Product has increased more than 16% since 2006.

At the same time, California’s job growth has outpaced the nation, and the growth in “clean jobs” has dwarfed overall job growth. Revenues from cap and trade mean over $5 billion is being invested in communities across the state. This includes funds directed toward air quality and other environmental justice issues in the most polluted neighborhoods.

Together, these publications demonstrate the progress California has made in addressing climate change. In partnership with the California State Delegation to COP 23, EDF will illustrate to the world that the Trump Administration doesn’t have the last word on American climate action. States like California are leading the way and are encouraging other sub-nationals to join them in ambitious climate action.

For further questions please reach out to any of EDF California’s delegation heading to Bonn this week: Quentin Foster, Erica Morehouse, or Katelyn Roedner Sutter.

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Western Climate Initiative expands: Ontario to join California-Québec carbon market

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, second from left, pictured in 2015 joining the Under2 Coalition, a first-of-its-kind agreement among states and provinces around the world to limit the increase in global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius – the warming threshold at which scientists say there will likely be catastrophic climate disruptions. Photo: Jenna Muirhead via Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.

en español  |  This morning California, Québec, and Ontario signed a linking agreement that officially welcomes Ontario into the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) cap-and-trade market.

The announcement came after an inspiring Climate Week in New York where states, businesses, and individuals showed that despite Washington D.C going backwards, the U.S. will continue to make progress on our commitment to help avert catastrophic climate change. This linkage announcement provides a concrete example of how motivated governments can work together and accomplish more through partnership than they could apart.

Why linkage matters

The agreement will allow participants from all three locations to use carbon “allowances” issued by any of the three governments interchangeably and to hold joint carbon auctions.

This full linkage can have a number of benefits.

  1. The concrete benefits that economists often point to include “liquidity” from a larger market, meaning that if participants need to purchase or want to sell an allowance, it is easier to find a trading partner.
  2. There are also significant administrative benefits to joining an existing market and to working together, including sharing the administration of auctions.
  3. A larger market can also provide access to lower cost reduction opportunities, which lower the overall cost of compliance for the whole market, allowing governments to maintain and strengthen the ambition of their commitments.
  4. The less tangible benefits of having partners that are equally committed to addressing the challenge of climate change can’t be ignored. California may not have a willing climate partner in Washington D.C. but the state is finding the partners it needs in Québec and Ontario and together they can prove that cap and trade provides an effective model for international collaboration and a cost-effective way to keep harmful climate pollution at acceptable levels.

Choosing the right partners

To ensure any carbon market linkage is strong, partners must be carefully selected by evaluating the compatibility of each program. California, Québec, and Ontario started this process early by working together (along with several other states and provinces) in 2009 to develop best practices for establishing cap-and-trade programs.

This carbon club model is one that EDF has identified as a powerful potential driver of climate action

When full linkage is being considered, one of the most important threshold questions is how ambitious each potential partner’s cap is; the cap is the key feature of each program that ensures the environmental goals of each government are met, and a weak cap would impact all participants. Ontario, California and Québec have all cemented into law ambitious and world-leading climate targets for 2020 and 2030. Beyond that, there are some design elements which should be aligned among all programs and others that can differ and outlining these parameters is a negotiation among participants.

Ontario is demonstrating that the WCI carbon market model is an accessible one for ambitious governments to consider joining. This carbon club model is one that EDF has identified as a powerful potential driver of climate action. Hopefully other states and provinces will take Ontario’s lead. Here are some locations to watch:

  • Several Canadian provinces are actively developing cap-and-trade programs that could link with WCI one day.
  • State legislators in Oregon may have a chance to vote during their short session in early 2018 on a “cap and invest” program that is being designed with WCI linkage in mind.
  • Momentum on carbon markets is also growing elsewhere in the Americas. Mexico is in the process of developing its own national emission trading system and has expressed an interest in linking such a system with the California-Québec-Ontario market.
  • And just this past June, in the Cali Declaration, the heads of state of the Pacific Alliance countries of Mexico, Colombia, Chile, and Peru embraced the vision of a voluntary regional carbon market in agreeing to strengthen monitoring, reporting, and verification frameworks for greenhouse gas emissions.

California, Québec and Ontario are creating a model for action that is ripe for others to adopt as is or adapt as needed. This type of bottom-up partnership that matures into real and ambitious collective action is the future of international climate policy.

 

Note: More details on the linkage concepts discussed in this blog can be found in chapter 9 of the EDF co-authored report Emissions Trading in Practice: A Handbook on Design and Implementation.

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