Climate 411

We need to close a mercury pollution loophole for lignite coal plants

(This post was co-authored by EDF attorney Richard Yates)

The Environmental Protection Agency is soon expected to update our national protections against mercury and other toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants – pollution that is extremely dangerous to human health and has been linked to brain damage in children.

EPA proposed strengthening the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and closing a loophole for lignite coal and is expected to issue its final update soon. EDF has found that, even as we have made great progress in reducing mercury pollution overall, the lignite coal loophole leaves parts of the U.S. at especially high risk.

Mapping Big Mercury Polluters

[(i) The owner/operator of the Comanche plant in Colorado has announced its intention to retire unit 2 by 2025 and unit 3 by 2030; unit 1 retired in 2022. (ii) The owner/operator of the Sherburne County plant in Minnesota has announced its intention to retire unit 1 by 2025 and unit 3 by 2034; unit 2 retired in 2023. (iii) The owner/operator of the Cardinal plant in Ohio has announced its intention to retire unit 3 by 2028; units 1 and 2 have no scheduled retirement dates. (Data: EPA’s Clean Air Markets Program Data; EIA’s 2022 Form EIA-860 Data – Schedule 3)] 

Two years ago, EDF published a map of the top 30 mercury-polluting power plants in 2020 across the United States. We have now refreshed this map based on data from 2022, and you can see the results above.

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Also posted in Clean Air Act, Health, Indigenous People, News / Leave a comment

Governor Inslee moves Washington state one step closer to linking carbon market with California and Quebec

Today, the state of Washington took a big step toward linking its cap-and-invest program with the carbon markets in California and Quebec, a move that could boost climate action and create a more stable, more predictable market for all. Governor Inslee signed E2SB 6058 into law, which will further align Washington’s program with the joint California-Quebec program (known as the Western Climate Initiative) and facilitate a smoother linkage process.

This latest development builds on the momentum of last week’s joint statement from the three jurisdictions, in which they expressed their shared interest in the potential creation of a larger, linked market among them. While Governor Inslee and Washington policymakers are tackling climate change head-on and trying to strengthen the state’s carbon market, a wealthy hedge fund executive is trying to bring climate progress to a screeching halt through a ballot initiative that would end the program altogether. The contrast between the two outcomes for Washington’s cap-and-invest program could not be starker.

Here’s what you need to know about the linkage bill and what’s at stake with Washington’s program.

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Also posted in Carbon Markets, Cities and states, Economics, Energy, News / Comments are closed

Auction results and budget decisions emphasize importance of investments from Washington state’s Climate Commitment Act

This blog was co-authored by Janet Zamudio, Western States Climate Policy Intern

The last week has been eventful in Washington, seeing the end of legislative session last Thursday and the first quarterly cap-and-invest auction of 2024, which posted results today. With the legislative session wrapped up and budgets passed, we now know what additional spending lawmakers plan to do with the revenue generated by these cap-and-invest auctions thanks to the supplemental budget passed last week. And with the results from the first auction of 2024 now in the books, it seems the Evergreen State will continue to see significant revenue from this program to reinvest in communities, clean energy projects and climate resilience. There’s a lot to unpack, so let’s start with the auction results:

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Also posted in California, Carbon Markets, Cities and states, Economics, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health / Comments are closed

Clean heat standards: an effective climate policy for the thermal sector

Downtown Boston. Photo: Emmanuel Huybrechts via Wikimedia Commons

This post was co-authored by Chris Neme, Co-Founder and Principal of Energy Futures Group

The concept of a Clean Heat Standard (CHS) is gaining traction in multiple jurisdictions as a way to drive larger, faster reductions in the thermal sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. At least ten U.S. states are considering the policy, with Colorado and Vermont having enacted legislation and Massachusetts and Maryland considering a CHS regulation.

A new report commissioned by Environmental Defense Fund and prepared by Energy Futures Group provides an overview of key design elements that can be used for a CHS, as well as a look at how four states are approaching these elements in their own CHS development process.

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Also posted in Cities and states, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Partners for Change / Comments are closed

Building a greener future: How federal purchasing power can drive a low-carbon cement industry

This blog was co-authored by Dara Diamond, Federal Climate Innovation Intern

Historic climate investments from the Biden administration have put a much-needed down payment toward cutting emissions from industry — a major economic sector that makes up over a quarter of U.S. emissions. Still, a lot of hard work remains to meaningfully scale up solutions in this sector. A particularly tricky piece of the industrial emissions problem is hidden in plain sight all around us, in our buildings, sidewalks, highways and bridges: cement.

The scale of this climate challenge is colossal. Cement is the most widely used man-made material on the planet. If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest emitter in the world.

To slash emissions from cement production, policymakers will need to make the most of existing climate investments and put forward a range of new solutions, including putting the federal government’s massive purchasing power to work.

Here is why cement poses unique climate challenges — and how policymakers can leverage public procurement to help meet them.

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Also posted in Clean Power Plan, Economics, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, Innovation, Science / Comments are closed

Progress to catalyze jurisdictional REDD+

Boat on a river in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest

Ecuadorian Amazon. Photo by Leslie Von Pless, EDF.

This blog post is authored by Angela Churie Kallhauge, Executive Vice President, Impact at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), with contribution from Katie Goslee, Director of Nature-Based Solutions, Winrock International; Stephanie Wang, Associate Director, Wildlife Conservation Society; Jason Funk, REDD+ Strategy Director at Conservation International; and Daniela Rey Christen, Director, Climate Law and Policy

In the fight against the climate crisis, high-integrity jurisdictional REDD+ is intended to be transformational, giving forest communities and governments the ability to tap into the voluntary carbon market to access climate finance needed to ensure that large areas of tropical forests remain intact.

Jurisdictional REDD+ can deliver results, to the benefit of people, nature, and climate. Research shows that larger scale programs to pay for emission reductions from forest conservation – the scale of a whole forest region, state, or nation – are better able to ensure additionality and prevent leakage than are smaller-scale carbon programs. And larger scale programs do so for a longer period of time.

Ensuring high-integrity jurisdictional REDD+ programs are fully functioning has therefore become a key priority for many actors working to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, including businesses, governments, and Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

One problem is that forest nations looking to establish jurisdictional REDD+ programs may not currently have the technical capacity needed to deliver high-integrity carbon credits. This is holding back their access to carbon markets, even as demand for high-integrity jurisdictional tropical forest credits seems poised to accelerate.

The task at hand is to support these jurisdictions in fully unlocking the promise and potential of high-integrity carbon markets at the rapid pace and large scale needed to address the climate crisis. We don’t have much time. If we don’t end and reverse tropical deforestation and degradation by 2030 – only six years from now – the effects could be irreversible.

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Also posted in Carbon Markets, Forest protection, Indigenous People, International, REDD+, United Nations / Comments are closed