Climate 411

The benefits of clean trucks and buses: thousands of lives saved, less pollution, more jobs

Passenger cars have been leading the way, so far, in the development of zero emission technologies. But there’s also a movement underway to develop heavy-duty electric vehicles – like freight trucks and buses – that could have sweeping benefits for the climate, public health, and American jobs.

At EDF, we just released a new report, Clean Trucks, Clean Air, American Jobs, that analyzes the effects of eliminating tailpipe pollution from those medium and heavy-duty vehicles – including buses, semis and other long-haul trucks, and the “last-mile” trucks that deliver packages to American homes.

Our report found that a rapid transition to zero-emitting freight trucks and buses will significantly reduce dangerous air pollution – pollution that disproportionately burdens lower income neighborhoods and communities of color.

Air pollution standards that ensure all new heavy-duty trucks and buses sold for urban and community use are zero-emitting by 2035, and all such vehicles sold are zero-emission by 2040, would:

  • Prevent a sum total of more than 57,000 premature deaths by 2050
  • Eliminate a sum total of more than 4.7 billion metric tons of climate pollution by 2050.
  • Significantly reduce two main components of smog – nitrogen oxides pollution by a sum total of more than 10 million tons by 2050, and particulate pollution by a sum total of almost 200,000 tons by 2050
  • Save $485 billion in health and environmental benefits alone as a result of pollution reductions.

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Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Health, Jobs, News, Policy / Comments are closed

EDF experts weigh in: President Biden’s executive actions on climate

Professional worker installing solar panels. Shutterstock.

President Joe Biden is taking executive action to combat climate change while creating high quality American jobs, building on the steps he took on his first day in office. EDF is providing this analysis of some of the actions the President took on January 20th and is taking today.

Wednesday, Jan. 27 Climate actions

Omnibus Domestic and International Climate Executive Order

If there was any doubt before today that the Biden administration was making climate change central to policy across the administration, today’s major action erased it. The Omnibus Executive Order clearly implements a “whole of government” approach to climate change:

  • A new White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy under the leadership of National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy.
  • A new post of Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change, filled by John Kerry, charged with the development of U.S. international climate policy.
  • A National Climate Task Force, led by McCarthy and Kerry, that will coordinate climate policy across the administration and ensure that climate is integrated into every aspect of domestic and international policy.

The administration clearly intends today’s major announcements to be the start of a historic push to reduce climate pollution. That vision should include 100 percent clean electricity by 2035 together with 100% clean cars by 2035 and all new zero emitting trucks and buses no later than 2040. Eliminating the extensive climate and air pollution from these sources together with the administration’s commitment to slash methane from new and existing oil and gas extraction activities are among the single most important steps we can take immediately as a nation to address the climate crisis.

These actions will save tens of thousands of lives each year as smokestacks, tailpipes and oil and gas discharge deadly particle pollution, smog-forming contaminants and air toxics. For far too long, too many communities and neighborhoods have been disproportionately afflicted by the heavy and unjust burden of industrial air pollution.

The race to deploy clean solutions will also create new American jobs, strengthening American manufacturing now and for years to come, and create economic opportunities in urban and rural communities alike to build 21st Century infrastructure. As shown by two new EDF reports, eliminating pollution from new cars by 2035 will bring extensive health, climate, cost saving benefits of eliminating pollution from new cars by 2035.

Climate Leaders’ Summit

The White House also confirmed that it will host the online Climate Leaders’ Summit on April 22, Earth Day. The summit, which fulfills one of President Biden’s campaign pledges, will bring together world leaders to discuss pressing climate issues ahead of COP 26. It will mark the next key step in the U.S. government’s engagement on international climate.

Pausing federal oil and gas leasing

After years of giving away oil and gas leases at fire-sale prices, tapping the brakes is a sensible and necessary step. It will give the administration time to determine whether oil and gas leasing on public lands can be reconciled with the need to rapidly transition to a clean energy economy. It will allow permanent protections to be put in place for the Arctic, parks and monuments, lands that are culturally significant to Native American communities and coastal areas that have long been off-limits. Critically, it will also allow time for EPA and BLM to reinstate and strengthen methane and waste prevention rules rescinded by the previous administration. With industry already sitting on more than 13 million acres of idle oil and gas leases, claims that a pause on leasing will cause economic harm stretch all credulity.

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Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Health, Jobs, Policy, Science / Comments are closed

It’s time to unite behind next-generation clean car standards

The broad coalition defending America’s clean car standards is gaining key allies as Americans unite to build a pollution-free transportation future.

Led by Ford, automakers representing nearly half of the U.S. market have committed to working with California and the incoming Biden-Harris administration to enact ambitious policies that will create high-quality domestic jobs, protect our health, and confront the climate crisis. This is a good start, but we need all automakers to ditch the Trump administration’s clean cars rollback and advocate for next-generation standards that will make new light duty vehicles 100% pollution-free by 2035.

America’s clean car standards are among our most effective policies for reducing pollution exposure, cutting climate emissions, and creating good jobs. By driving innovation and cutting fuel costs, the model year 2017-to-2025 Clean Car Standards were projected to add hundreds of thousands of jobs and save Americans tens of billions of dollars at the gas pump each year. But the Trump administration rolled back the national standards and undermined longstanding state authority to set more protective standards. The Trump administration’s rollback would cost jobs and have devastating public health and environmental impacts, including an additional 18,500 premature deaths, 250,000 asthma attacks, and 1.5 billion tons of climate pollution — as much as running 68 coal plants for five years — by mid-century.

This is not what Americans want. A recent Pew Research Center poll showed that 71% of Americans support strengthening vehicle standards, not rolling them back.

EDF has joined a broad coalition of businesses, states, cities, experts, and environmental and public health groups in defending our clean car standards in court. We filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s attack on state authority and a second suit challenging its rollback of the national standards. (You can find all the legal briefs in the clean cars cases on our website.)  Leading transportation companies such as Lyft, Tesla, and Rivian have formed a key part of our coalition. But some automakers, including Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, GM, and Nissan, entered the litigation on the Trump administration’s side.

GM and Nissan have recently withdrawn their support of the administration’s attack on state authority, and GM has expressed its support for President-elect Biden’s vision of a zero emission transportation future. This is a welcome development, but it’s just a start. We need the entire industry to embrace ambitious policies, such as next-generation clean car standards that will create a million jobs and equitably transition the U.S. to 100% pollution-free new cars by 2035. These policies must prioritize eliminating pollution in environmental justice communities, and ensure that pollution-free vehicles and charging infrastructure are available to people of all colors and income levels.

And the automakers who are still backing Trump’s attack on state authority — looking at you, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler — need to follow their peers’ lead, for the sake of the climate, their customers, their employees, and their bottom line. Customer opinions of Toyota have dropped sharply in response to its stance on the clean car standards. This could have a big impact on sales if the company doesn’t shift out of reverse soon. Over 200 state and local officials from 26 states, and over 285,000 petitioners, have called on Toyota and Fiat Chrysler to do just that by investing in clean transport innovation, not litigation trying to prop up the Trump administration’s rollback.

If automakers need an example to follow, they should look no further than Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, BMW, and Volvo, who have been out in front supporting strong clean car standards and states’ authority to adopt them. In August, these five manufacturers entered bilateral agreements with California that recognize the state’s clean car authority and will prevent hundreds of millions of tons of climate pollution. The agreements earned the highest possible rating in EDF’s new Climate Authenticity Meter. One company that has taken its commitment a step further is Ford, which recently supported California’s bold commitment to make all new cars sold in the state zero-emitting by 2035.

As the growing support for transformative clean car standards shows, we face an incredible opportunity. Together, we can put a million Americans to work building the pollution-free cars that will make our air safer to breathe and steer us away from the climate cliff. We hope that all automakers will join us in pursuit of these shared goals.

Also posted in California, Cars and Pollution, Cities and states, EPA litgation, Green Jobs, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, Jobs, Partners for Change, Policy / Read 1 Response

An insurance policy for cutting emissions: New research strengthens the case for climate backstops

Climate backstops are a critical part of a carbon fee that help ensure expected emissions reductions actually occur. More federal climate proposals are using them, including the new America’s Clean Future Fund Act from Senator Richard Durbin. New research on these innovative mechanisms can help advance our understanding of different design options and implications for environmental performance.

Protecting lives during the COVID-19 crisis, confronting systemic racism, and providing much-needed economic relief to workers and businesses should be the top priorities for federal policymakers right now. As attention turns to recovery and rebuilding, we must use the opportunity to act swiftly to tackle the climate crisis, another significant threat to our nation’s health that exacerbates racial and economic inequality.

The policies and programs designed to stimulate the economy must also dramatically cut climate and air pollution – a goal underscored by the new report from the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, which outlines a range of bold solutions to climate change. Within the suite of climate and air pollution solutions needed, it will be critical that lawmakers include an economy-wide mechanism that puts an enforceable limit on climate pollution. There are several options for such a mechanism – one is a carbon fee that covers the vast majority of emissions across the economy. Such a fee can and should be designed to distribute costs and benefits in a way that promotes equity. That includes protecting the communities most vulnerable to climate impacts, air pollution and the transition to a clean economy through the use of targeted revenue.

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Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Comments are closed

More confirmation that the Trump administration has been disregarding the true costs of climate pollution

A new report highlights the Trump administration’s dangerous efforts to obscure the real costs of climate change, while a major court decision firmly rejects the administration’s approach.

Costly flooding in a Houston area neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an independent agency tasked with providing objective nonpartisan information to policymakers, confirms what we’ve known for years: that the Trump administration has been ignoring the enormous costs of climate change. By ignoring these damages, the administration is turning its back on communities across the nation who are footing the bill for those impacts today.

In addition, a federal court recently issued a clear-cut rejection of the administration’s deceptive math on the cost of methane pollution, another greenhouse gas that is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20 year time period. This ruling reinforces the fact that the administration has been blatantly disregarding widely accepted science and economics when it comes to the costs of climate change.

All of this comes amid a raging and widespread pandemic that underscores the absolute necessity of relying on experts and scientific data when crafting policy. With unchecked climate change fueling more devastating storms, droughts, and other public health impacts — all of which hit vulnerable communities the hardest — incorporating accurate costs of climate change in policy decision-making matters now more than ever.

Here is what this new report and court decision reveal about the administration’s backwards and harmful approach to decisions on climate change — and how experts and the courts are wholly rejecting it.

Why undervaluing the cost of climate change is dangerous

To justify its own political agenda, the Trump administration has manipulated the calculations behind the estimated impact of emissions to allow for more climate pollution from major sources like power plants and cars. The new GAO report outlines the steps the administration has taken to drastically underestimate the “Social Cost of Carbon” — a measure of the economic harm from climate impacts that is used to inform policy and government decision-making. These impacts include extreme weather events like flooding and deadly storms, the spread of disease, and sea level rise, increased food insecurity, and more.

After a 2008 court decision requiring the federal government to account for the economic effects of climate change in regulatory benefit-cost analysis, an Interagency Working Group (IWG) comprised of experts across a dozen federal agencies began in 2009 to develop robust estimates of the social costs of carbon that could be used consistently by agencies across the government. These estimates were developed through a transparent and rigorous process based on peer-reviewed science and economics that included input from the National Academy of Sciences and the public — and were periodically updated over time to account for the latest science. More recently, the NAS conducted a thorough assessment to provide guidance on updating the social cost of carbon estimates and suggestions for continuing to build on and strengthen it.

The GAO report underscores the importance of implementing those recommendations, while pointing to the fact that the federal government has done absolutely nothing to follow through. In fact, in 2017 the Trump administration recklessly disbanded the IWG — the very federal entity that already had the mandate to take on this task.

Since then, federal agencies like the EPA have been relying on an “interim cost” to inform important regulatory decisions that is seven times lower than the IWG’s estimate — a move that dramatically underestimates the profound impacts climate change has on families, businesses, taxpayers and local governments. To make matters worse, the administration is dramatically reducing the IWG figure even though it is widely recognized to be an underestimate of the true costs. There is wide consensus that the true costs are much likely significantly higher.

The Trump administration substantially reduces estimates through two key flaws in its calculations, both of which fly in the face of established science and economic principles. First, the reduced estimates ignore that carbon emissions are a global pollutant, omitting important categories of climate change impacts on the United States. Second, they undervalue the harm to our children and future generations by significantly over-discounting future climate impacts.

By vastly undervaluing the costs of climate change — and thus, the benefits of acting on climate — the administration has been able to justify rolling back critical protections such as the landmark federal Clean Car Standards. These important rules offer critical public health benefits and fuel savings for consumers.

A court ruling refutes the administration’s deceptive math on pollution costs

In encouraging news, a recent court decision outright rejected the administration’s deceptive math on a similar metric, the ‘Social Cost of Methane,’ used to estimate the impacts of methane pollution. The Bureau of Land Management, under former Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, has been using an interim social cost of methane that is more than 25 times less than the estimate from the IWG. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California recently overturned the BLM’s attempt to ease protections from dangerous methane leaking, venting and discharging from oil and gas activities on public and tribal lands, where it used a distorted social cost of methane as justification. EDF joined the states of California and New Mexico and a broad coalition of health, environmental, tribal citizen and Western groups to challenge in court the rescission of these vital safeguards.

In the opinion, the judge ruled that the BLM’s decision to rely on a lower interim estimate for the social cost of methane was “arbitrary” and “capricious,” and therefore, “failed to quantify accurately the forgone methane emissions and the resulting environmental impacts.” In addition, the court underscored that “the President did not alter by fiat what constitutes the best available science” on the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions. This is a major win for not only the broad coalition involved in the case, but for the basic principle of science-based decision-making on climate change. The court’s meticulous critique of the flaws in the interim social cost of methane — and the process used to develop it — could be influential in future cases involving the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions. Such a critical ruling like this opens the possibility that the Trump administration and future administrations could be required to properly account for the costs of climate change.

The Trump administration’s unwavering, politically motivated attempts at twisting facts and discrediting experts is putting Americans’ lives, health and financial well-being at risk. Unfortunately, its effort to skew the costs of climate change is far more than a political game. It is already causing real harm to communities across the country suffering from climate impacts — and it will only add to the mounting costs our children and grandchildren will pay. That is why ongoing efforts to uncover and overturn unjust climate decisions are all the more essential.

Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy / Comments are closed

By the numbers: Colorado Zero Emission Vehicle Program will cut climate pollution and save Coloradans money

(This post was written by EDF  Attorney Laura Shields) 

The numbers are in for Colorado’s proposed Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program – it will cut climate pollution and save Coloradans millions of dollars.

This week, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission is formally considering adoption of the ZEV program for model year 2023 through 2025 vehicles. (Colorado already adopted state Low Emission Vehicle standards last year).

What’s at stake for Coloradans?

This important clean air program means that, while no Coloradan has any obligation to buy or choose a zero-polluting vehicle, ALL Coloradans will have more models of zero-emitting vehicles to choose from if they want a cleaner car.

These clean vehicles will save Coloradans hard-earned money at the gas pump and will reduce dangerous climate pollution. They will also help reduce smog-forming pollution in all communities across Colorado, clean up Denver’s brown cloud, and lift the veil of haze pollution in our world-class national parks and wilderness areas.

In short, Colorado’s proposed ZEV program will mean healthier air, fuel cost savings, more vehicle choice and a safer climate for all Coloradans.

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Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Cities and states, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Partners for Change, Policy / Read 2 Responses