Climate 411

The U.S. needs more economic stimulus: Here’s how it can create jobs and tackle climate change

After winning on the strongest climate platform of any major party presidential nominee in history, the Biden-Harris administration has a mandate to confront the existential crisis of climate change. This blog series explores what it will take to restore and strengthen climate leadership both across the country and on the global stage.

Man looks at wind turbines in the sunset

Of the many items on the to-do list for the Biden administration, one of the first priorities must be to work with Congress to accelerate recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. While the year-end stimulus bill recently passed by Congress gave some support to struggling families and businesses, significantly greater economic relief and stimulus investments are needed to ensure an equitable economic recovery.

There is enormous opportunity to “Power Up, America” by rebuilding an economy that is stronger and more equitable than before—one that helps protect current and future generations by investing in solutions that simultaneously address the urgent climate crisis, create good-paying jobs and build healthier communities. While stimulus spending alone will not be enough to meet necessary climate goals – achieving a 100% clean economy in the United States no later than 2050, and cutting emissions 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 to get on that path — well-targeted investments can reduce climate pollution in the near term and help buy down the costs of longer-term reductions.

Congress should take this opportunity to invest in clean energy across the economy, with an emphasis on cleaning up the power sector and electrifying transportation. Investment in these two sectors can create millions of jobs, save thousands of lives through cleaner air and make American businesses more competitive.

The year-end stimulus bill contained several important climate and clean energy provisions, such as a phaseout of the powerful super-pollutants known as HFCs and a temporary extension of key renewable energy incentives, but much more will be needed to meet our long-term climate goals. New policies will also be needed to fill the gaps in the package, including policies to advance equity and accelerate deployment of electric vehicles, both of which were included in earlier versions of the bill but were notably absent from the final deal.

As policymakers consider what to include in an early 2021 economic stimulus package, there are a number of important factors they should take into account: Which clean energy policies can curb the most pollution? Create the most jobs? Improve health and equity? And provide the most bang for the buck? Congress should prioritize policies that will generate the most benefits for economic recovery, health, equity and climate action.

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Posted in Jobs, Policy / Leave a comment

Public comment period on RGGI wraps up, moving Pennsylvania closer to slashing power plant carbon pollution

Wind Turbines overlook farm country in Western PA.

After 10 hearings with over 400 voices from across Pennsylvania, and tens of thousands of written comments, the result is clear: A vast majority of Pennsylvanians support the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a proven cap-and-invest program that curbs climate pollution from the power sector.

At the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) virtual public hearings in December, EDF testified in strong support of the rule and urged DEP to finalize it quickly to enable the program to start in January 2022. EDF spoke out alongside representatives spanning the environmental, public health, frontline, faith, labor, youth, low-income, agricultural and business community expressing their support for the draft rule. Here are some highlights from their testimonies:

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Posted in Cities and states, Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Leave a comment

Important climate rulemaking kicks off in Oregon: What we’re watching

Oregon Capitol

Oregon Capitol. PC: Zehn Katzen 

Yesterday kicked off the official start of the “Climate Protection Plan” rulemaking in Oregon, a process that is likely to answer whether Oregon will follow through on meeting its strong commitments to climate action. The stakes for this critical rulemaking are high: Oregon had one of its most destructive wildfire seasons on record last year and faces far more devastating climate impacts in the coming decades, if climate-warming pollution continues unchecked.

While Governor Brown’s climate executive order from last year provides reasons for hope, there are already some red flags appearing as Oregon’s lead environmental agency dives into this rulemaking. EDF analysis provided here reveals how the pace and scale of Oregon’s policy action will impact total emissions this decade— and ultimately determine long-term climate damages.

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Posted in Cities and states, Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Comments are closed

Saving and restoring tropical forests has enormous value for the planet and the economy

Aerial view of the Amazon Rainforest, near Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas. Neil Palmer (CIAT). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

This post was authored by Sabine Fuss, Group Leader for Sustainable Resource Management and Global Change at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), Ruben Lubowski, Chief Natural Resource Economist at EDF, and Alexander Golub, Adjunct Professor of Environmental Science at American University

The protection of tropical forests globally is indispensable for significantly increasing climate ambition in line with Paris Agreement goals as illustrated by a tremendous return on climate investment, according to our new article in the journal Global Sustainability.

Without dedicated efforts to protect tropical forests, tropical deforestation will contribute to the atmosphere on the order of 200 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions through the end of the century. Allowing this deforestation to occur would make the transition extremely difficult, requiring drastic immediate cuts in difficult-to-decarbonize sectors at high costs with no flexibility to allow benefitting from ongoing innovation and cost reductions. Unmitigated tropical deforestation would also put net zero emissions out of reach without large-scale deployment of Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) technologies, which would require an unanticipated ramp-up of new infrastructure pervaded by a diverse array of uncertainties.

Protecting and restoring tropical forests as envisioned under the international finance framework REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) thus provides the world with greater flexibility to implement deeper cuts in emissions. Other studies have also recognized the importance of REDD+ for climate stabilization, but ours goes a step further by determining the economic value that REDD+ can provide by enhancing global flexibility for reducing emissions.

For our study, we applied the widely used climate economics model DICE developed by US Nobel Prize winner William Nordhaus. DICE shows the cost of achieving climate targets by using the most favourable mix of mitigation measures, but has so far not explicitly reflected the mitigation potential of tropical forest conservation. Our analysis incorporates more recent estimates from Jonah Busch and colleagues of the CO2 impacts of protecting and restoring tropical forests and of the direct opportunity costs of such activities, i.e. how much it would cost to forego the economic benefits of clearing or of allowing forests to regenerate – a key concern in many developing countries and often a strategic decision because of the large role that agricultural exports play in the economy.

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Posted in Carbon Markets, Forest protection, REDD+, United Nations / Comments are closed

Measuring the true impact of Colorado’s climate delay: Minding the emissions gap (Part 2)

After Colorado legislators passed landmark climate legislation in 2019, which included a statutory mandate directing the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to adopt rules and regulations to reduce statewide emissions, the state has yet to even propose a policy framework capable of getting the job done. This three-part series explores the impact of Colorado’s delay, analyzing the impact on total emissions and the state’s ability to meet its own climate targets.

Editor’s note: This post was last updated Jan. 19. 2021 to reflect Colorado’s final greenhouse gas roadmap.

Hayden Generating Station

Hayden Generating Station (Hayden Station), a coal-fired power plant near Hayden, Colorado. PC: Jeffrey Beall.

This year started with promising climate news in Colorado: The state’s largest electric utility, Xcel Energy, announced it will close two of its coal-fired units sooner than planned and support plant workers through retraining and retirement opportunities. While this is a step in the right direction for Colorado’s clean energy future, much more policy action will be needed to meet the state’s statutory emissions goals.

In Part 1 of this series, EDF analysis uncovered the cumulative impact of the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission’s (AQCC) inaction on greenhouse gas emission reductions. Delays will have profound consequences for the total pollution that the state emits over the next decade, which could mean more severe long-term climate damages for Colorado communities and ecosystems. The AQCC’s refusal to seriously evaluate policy mechanisms for much faster and deeper reductions flies in the face of what Colorado legislators mandated in 2019. They set a clear timeline for the AQCC to swiftly propose regulations and reduce statewide emissions 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050, all relative to 2005 emissions.

In Part 2 of this series, we dive into a recent EDF report and analyses released by both the state and other researchers that reveal how Colorado is far off track from achieving these upcoming 2025 and 2030 statutory targets under current policies. The state’s glaring ‘emissions gaps’ underscore the need for transformative leadership on a policy framework capable of securing the reductions consistent with its goals — and protecting Coloradans for generations to come.

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Posted in Cities and states, Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Comments are closed

It’s time to power up, America

America has been living through particularly difficult times. As our leaders consider how to contain the coronavirus, create jobs and address environmental injustice, they have a chance to make some big changes that are long overdue.

We can power up the economy and reduce air and climate pollution by building more clean trucks, buses, cars and clean energyAll of this will move us toward a healthier and more prosperous future.

It starts with building more electric trucks, buses and cars – right here in America

  • Transitioning to a zero-emission transportation sector will put over one million people to work, save thousands of lives, build up our domestic manufacturing base and make American businesses more competitive.
  • A clean transportation system has the potential to bring good jobs as well as significant health benefits to communities of color and lower-income communities, who are more likely to live near highways and be directly exposed to harmful soot and smog pollution.
  • The goal of all new cars to be zero polluting by 2035, and all new trucks and buses to be zero polluting by 2040 is achievable: every major truck, bus and car manufacturer is already developing or investing in all-electric, zero-emission vehicles.

To achieve the scale needed to transform the transportation sector, we need Congress to: 

  • Support domestic manufacturing of electric vehicles, batteries and component parts.
  • Expand tax incentives and point-of-sale vouchers for zero-emissions cars and trucks.
  • Provide grants to school districts to purchase zero-emissions, electric school buses.
  • Fund state and local agencies developing electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
  • Ensure low-income communities, communities of color and others hit hardest by climate change and air pollution are first in line to benefit.

We must also transition to clean electric power to run our homes, farms, businesses and vehicles

  • Transitioning to clean energy will help boost our economy: Before the coronavirus recession, the sector was producing jobs 70% faster than the economy as a whole.
  • Dirty power plants are a major source of air, water and climate pollution and often located in communities of color and low-income communities. By investing in clean energy and energy efficiency we can protect these communities, clean up our air and guarantee everyone access to reliable
    and affordable energy.
  • 1 in 3 Americans are already getting service from a utility that’s moving to 100% clean electric generation, but we need smart policies to reach our nationwide goal of 100% clean electric power by 2035.

To accelerate progress, we need Congress to:

  • Extend and expand clean energy tax credits for wind, solar and energy efficiency.
  • Establish new tax credits for offshore wind and energy storage.
  • Invest in new transmission & distribution infrastructure, and grid-scale energy storage.
  • Ensure that a significant percentage of investments are directed to frontline communities and areas that are losing fossil fuel industry jobs to ensure a just transition for workers.
  • Double funding for clean energy research and development, including significant increases to the budget of ARPA-E, a government agency that helps companies commercialize promising breakthrough energy technologies.

American innovation makes these ambitious goals achievable. We have a long history of entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers tackling big challenges, and this is no different.

Let’s get to work creating healthier communities by building clean trucks, buses, cars and clean energy. It’s time to Power Up, America!

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