Coaland and the Colossal Fossil

A true consensus government, the COP leaves the most progressive at the mercy of the most obstinate. In this system, science deniers and climate activists battle it out, yielding ground, gaining concessions, and, often, feeling like they’ve gotten nowhere. As the world burns and our chances to halt the irreversible slip through our fingers, every small victory reminds us that winning slowly is still losing. So what do you do when a coal-loving country holds the gavel? Can observers only wring their hands as an understaffed Polish Presidency sets regressive agendas and embraces corporate polluters?

The answer, of course, is to mock them.

A hero of satire has emerged to hold the worst members of the COP accountable: Climate Action Network and their “Fossil of the Day” awards.

Each day of negotiations, CAN has chosen a deserving winner. Those who, through obstinacy, ignorance, or plain greed, continue to obstruct global climate action, all earn a place on the podium.

The list of daily finalists includes:

A Polish victory has been brewing all COP. President Andrzej Duda opened his remarks by stating: “There is no plan to fully give up on coal. Experts point out that our supplies run for another 200 years, and it would be hard not to use them.” They’ve followed this up by cozying up to large polluters, filling the venue with single-use plastics, and holding events advertising “clean coal.”

However, most disturbing has been Poland’s battle against climate activism at the COP. At least twelve members of civil society groups and one COP Party delegate were turned away at the Polish border, including CAN Europe’s Zanna Vanrenterghem.

These activities appear to be the product of a new law banning unplanned protesters from Katowice, the COP venue. This barrier to a free and involved public directly belies Poland’s professed commitment “to providing access to information, access to participation, and remedy on environmental matters.” This has had a chilling effect on participants. Coupled with an unambitious conference agenda, the activities of the Polish government have cast a pall over the proceedings that match the one in the air.


How to Improve the Role of Women for Climate Change Solutions

ZAN-EH-2011-005Every year at the COP, the number of actors and stakeholders that want to fight climate change increases. Women are developing an important leadership on this matter, but it is necessary to keep improving their participation.

The United Nations developed a fact sheet called Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change, which concludes that “the consultation and participation of women in climate change initiatives must be ensured, and the role of women’s groups and networks strengthened.”

The number of women leading the climate fight is increasing. They play an important role and are making a difference at every decision-making level. “In the US studies show that more women believe in the science of climate change than men and are likely to act upon it.

Women have been constantly fighting for their basic rights at a global scale and although they have such experience demanding respect for their rights, it is necessary to improve their participation in climate change issues. So, how can we improve the role of women for climate change solutions?

We need to continue working with study cases, background and training to keep empowering women to challenge climate change decisions taken by corrupted governments.

Women´s Earth & Climate Action Network (WECAN) “is a solutions-based, multi-faceted effort established to engage women worldwide to take action as powerful stakeholders in climate change and sustainability solutions.”wecan_fb_default2

WECAN is committed to educate and empower women through stories and case studies to advocate for climate justice, gender equality, and rights of nature among others. To accomplish this purpose, WECAN created the “U.S WOMEN´S CLIMATE JUSTICE INITIATIVE”. This initiative calls for immediate action on climate justice and protection of natural resources.

It includes a series of online education and advocacy trainings. These free trainings seek to empower women to reclaim democracy, and make a difference in decisions made by the government while understanding issues relating climate change.

Today at COP23, WECAN reiterated the importance of women for climate change solutions. It highlighted that women are no longer only victims of climate change, but a solution to it.

Education is definitely the key to improve women participation in issues regarding climate change. Helping women understand what are community rights and rights of nature, and ecological economics and the price on carbon, would empower them to claim their rights.

Their knowledge and experience on issues related to the management of natural resources is the perfect combination to make substantive contributions in the decision-making process on environmental governance. More education means more women participation, which hopefully means more progress in the fights against climate change.


Who is representing the US at COP23?

COP 23You are on your way to COP23, the place to be for everything climate change. You walk through the doors and find yourself among hundreds of people from all over the world, running from one session to the other, with a quick stop perhaps for a cup of coffee. You attend negotiations and presentations, and develop an understanding of what is important to a country or a block of countries as they attempt to reverse the alarming rise in the planet’s temperature.

After a day or two, the chaos becomes normal and all the different languages you overhear start having a familiar tone. You begin to appreciate the setting: located by the Rhine and intersected by a city park, dotted with ponds where ducks, geese, and swans keep residence. It is beautiful. Then, as you are waiting for an electric car/bus to take you between the Bula and Bonn Zones, you notice a white dome shaped building to the side. Curious, you head there and find a sign for the U.S. Climate Action Center.  Peppered throughout the place is the hash tag #wearestillin.

You feel surprised because the U.S. declared its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. But a list of this Center’s events shows these presenters: Al Gore, Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, Governor Jerry Brown of California, Governor Kate Brown of Oregon, and Governor Jay Inslee of Washington.  In other words, a collection of American environmental rock stars and members of the U.S. Climate Alliance fill the place.

But then you notice that the U.S. delegation is hosting a “side event” titled The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation. Unlike events held at the U.S. Climate Action Center, which attracted many attendees, this event drew protests. So who is representing the United States?

A closer look at the U.S. Climate Action Center shows that it as an effort by California Governor Jerry Brown that is funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It has attracted a collection of states, counties and municipalities; colleges and universities; businesses; non-profit organizations; faith organizations; and ordinary citizens. All told, the U.S. Climate Action Center spans all fifty states, 127 million Americans, and $6.2 trillion, all intent on honoring continued U.S. commitment to the Paris Agreement. A delegation called the People’s Delegation at COP23 pledged to the UNFCCC that “we are still in.”

The U.S. delegation, with representatives from the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is the delegation of record.  It, and only it, has the authority to negotiate on behalf of the U.S. (at least till the U.S. projected exit in 2020). But I believe the delegation that can effectuate the goals of the Paris Agreement has the upper hand. If “we are still in” manages to reduce GHG emissions in the U.S., then they are the delegation of record!


We are still in

wearestillinWith President Trump announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in June 2017, it’s no surprise that the administration refused to fund a country pavilion at COP 23. However, that didn’t stop the U.S. Climate Action Center from establishing its presence in Bonn and on social media (#wearestillin).

The Climate Action Center goes to show that, despite Trump’s announcement, the American people are still committed to taking action against climate change. For example, the crowd gathered at the Center booed on cue this morning when Former Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg critically pointed out that the U.S. delegation to COP touts coal as an example of sustainability.

Given the current administration’s stance, non-state actors will play a pivotal role in tackling climate change in the United States. One of the biggest tools at their disposal is the fact that investors can no longer ignore the effects of climate change. According to Carroll Muffett, President and CEO for the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), climate change poses at least four risks to most investments, particularly those steeped in fossil fuel.

First, investors have to take physical impact risks into account. After all, even the fossil fuel industry isn’t impervious to the destruction caused by hurricanes or other inclement weather.

Second, investors must assess the carbon asset risk of certain investments. As the world recognizes the urgent need to reduce emissions (with or without the U.S.), massive quantities of oil and other fossil fuels will eventually be “unburnable,” and thus left in the ground. This could leave millions of dollars on the books of major fossil fuel companies. One need only look to the widespread bankruptcy of the coal industry this past decade to imagine a realistic example.

The third risk is transition risk. Companies that fail to adapt to the increasing use of clean energy run a substantial risk of being left behind in the market.

Fourth, companies can no longer ignore the risk of expensive climate change litigation–particularly since federal district courts are becoming more willing to recognize injury resulting from climate change. These courts don’t just recognize the claims of present victims: they are starting to acknowledge the claims of those exposed to the future risk of climate change, as well.

While most litigation names major oil companies as defendants, the United States government is another potential target for litigation. For example, an Oregon district court recently faced a landmark case where a group of children sued the American government, alleging its failure to take aggressive action against climate change violates their constitutional rights. Last Monday, two children from Philadelphia sued the government for the Trump administration’s inadequacies in addressing climate change.

When it comes to climate, it’s in no one’s interest to be left behind. As the COP 23 President Frank Bainimarama articulated at the COP 23 opening plenary, “we are all in the same canoe.” And despite what President Trump would have the world think, Americans are still in that canoe, trying to row along.


Fake it ‘til you make it: faux meat and climate change

no-meat-pictureIf it tastes like a burger, and bleeds like a burger, it must be . . . plant-based protein?

At least that’s the outcome fake-meat innovators like Impossible Burger are striving for: a meatless burger that captures the textures and flavors of meat to whet the appetite of even the staunchest carnivores.

In fact, the fake meat industry’s approach might be working. Whether for health, environmental, or ethical reasons, more people are tossing veggie burgers on the grill. Food giants like Tyson are taking notice: last year, Tyson bought a 5% stake in Beyond Meat. Google’s Eric Schmidt even identified plant-based proteins as the number one “game-changing” trend of the future.

The growth of the fake meat industry is good news for climate change. After all, the world’s appetite for meat drives 14.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions. According to a U.N. report, factory-farmed animals contribute more to climate change than all the world’s cars, trucks, trains, planes, and ships combined. Having each American replace chicken with plant-based foods at just one meal per week is equivalent to taking more than half a million cars off U.S. roads.

Further, feeding huge numbers of confined animals uses more food than it produces. And while some cultures may be willing to eat insects to cut the impact of livestock on our planet, this option does not seem compatible with–or palatable to–the tastes of Western nations.

The incredible impact of factory farming adds up when you take a hard look at demand. For example, Americans eat three times the recommended level of meat. Given meat’s impact on climate, eating “like an American” is beyond sustainable. “Even in doing everything we can to reduce the emissions associated with meat production, rising demand means livestock emissions would take us beyond the global objective of 2ºC,” said Rob Bailey, a research director at the think tank Chatham House. “Therefore, dietary change is a precondition for avoiding catastrophic climate change.”

Even the UN Climate Change Conferences recognize the importance of dietary change. In addition to focusing on low-carbon and free range food, COP 23 plans to serve a higher share of vegetarian and vegan food than at past sessions.

In changing people’s diets, using “nanny statism“ to tax dairy and meat products–while theoretically effective–may rub Western nations the wrong way. Given the personal choice and cultural intricacies involved in making dinner, “it is not the place of governments or civil society to intrude into people’s lives and tell them what to eat.”

But the fake meat industry might just bring home the bacon. With more and more palatable options, and the withering taboo of veggie burgers for “radical vegetarians,” free market innovation is helping carnivore nations put more plant-based foods on the table. If the fake meat industry puts out a good spread, it could spark a marked drop in greenhouse gas emissions and help feed the world along the way.

 


Is the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement a conservative act?

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“We’re definitely, completely, undoubtedly leaving the accord.” With these words, President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. This decision did not come as a surprise, although it disappointed many around the globe. Now the question is, will it impede global progress toward limiting the rise in temperatures?

Michael Oppenheimer, Princeton climate scientist and co-editor of the Journal of Climactic Change thinks it could, saying “if we lag, the noose tightens” — despite the US Energy Information Administration (EIA)’s estimate that the US is forty years ahead of forecasts in renewable energy growth.

Surprisingly, the same conservative Republican Party principles that led the US to withdraw from the Paris Agreement are also preventing lag. A strong military, free market and support for business, and a limited federal government that favors more state-based regulations are peppered throughout the 2016 Republican Party platform. Here is how these segments react to climate change. First, the military’s response to climate change: as a part of its readiness program, the Department of Defense (DoD) prepared a Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, where it states “among the future trends that will impact our national security is climate change.” This document then describes adaptation strategies that are reminiscent of the ones required by the Paris Agreement Article 7.

The business community — specifically big business — urged the president to keep the US in the Paris Agreement. The CEOs of Exxon Mobil, BP, and Chevron took out an ad in a major U.S. newspaper to declare, “by expanding markets for innovative clean technologies, the agreement generates jobs and economic growth.”

Finally, in the face of President Trump’s decision, state governments have jumped in to mitigate GHG emissions and spur climate change adaptation. The United States Climate Alliance is a consortium of 14 states and Puerto Rico that represents 36% of the US population, $7 trillion of the national GDP, and 1.7 million jobs in green energy. The Alliance has affirmed its commitment to achieve the US’s Paris Agreement pledge. Along with a 14% increase in economic growth, it has already achieved a 15% reduction in GHGs as compared to 2005 levels. It is on track to meet the Paris Agreement goal of 26-28% reduction in GHG emissions by 2025 as compared to 2005.

Nonetheless, we should continue to be disappointed by the announced withdrawal (and thankful for the slow withdrawal procedure detailed in Article 28). The US withdrawal is based on a dangerous idea. This idea depicts climate change policy as a choice between environmental conservation and economic growth or between jobs and regulation. Framing climate change in these terms allows people to think that the issue is a matter of trade-offs. It leads to thinking that, at some point, providing jobs is most important so the environment must take a back seat. However, in reality, climate change is an existential threat and needs to be dealt with.


Trump’s proposed budget would cut US international climate change work significantly

trump budgetAccording to Inside Climate News, the Trump Administration’s recently unveiled budget proposal would cut $10.1 billion from the United States’ current international climate work, which represents a 28% reduction from the status quo.

It would eliminate the Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI), which funds all climate-related bilateral efforts, like collaborations with China and India, and contributes to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The GCCI also assists developing countries manage their emissions and increase their renewable energy capacity.

The proposed budget also eliminates the U.S. contribution to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which helps developing countries prepare for climate impacts. The U.S. under the Obama Administration has pledged $3 billion to the GCF, and thus far,$1 billion has been paid.

In a recent press conference on the budget, Michael Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, represented the administration’s views on climate change: “We’re not spending money on that anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money.”


A Numbers “Crunch” – Trump & The UNFCCC

Number-crunchingLike most every other institution around the globe, for a while now, the UNFCCC has been called on to do more with less. This is clearly reflected in the Executive Secretary’s recent budget presentations that report contributions to UNFCCC trust funds have declined significantly for at least the last 5 years. In fact, 2016 contributions are just 43% of the 2012 level. And all the while, the COP has added new tasks, including, most recently, the raft of work associated with the 2015 Paris Agreement.reduce-boost-graph SmallbizTrends

At a COP22 informal session on November 11, Espinosa shared that the Secretariat, with its mandated zero-growth budget, will be unable to fully deliver on its current mandates. So, all countries are being called on to meet their full commitments and to increase their voluntary contributions.

It just so happens that the U.S. is a big piece of this budget picture, contributing (as of October 21) more than 20% of the total $30.3 mill* in 2016 receipts for the 3 non-Kyoto Protocol related funds. These include the Trust Fund for the Core Budget (with country-specific contribution levels based on UN-determined proportions) and two voluntary funds: Trust Fund for Supplementary Activities and Trust Fund for Participation in the UNFCCC Process (the latter to help developing country Parties attend COPs and other meetings).

Screen Shot 2016-11-17 at 11.50.06 PMAnd, of course, there is the ongoing U.S. climate funding via appropriations from Congress, development finance, and export credit, which totaled $2.6 billion in 2015. That was before $500 million was transmitted to the Green Climate Fund earlier this year in partial fulfillment of the $3 billion U.S. promise (that constitutes 30% of that fund’s total pledges). All of it adds up to a very big number in the climate finance world.

Then, on November 8, from stage right: enter President-elect Trump.

While the potential impact on the climate regime is about more than money (check out our Monday story), the finance implications are indeed great. Considering Mr. Trump’s campaign pledges, the Republican Party’s platform position, and the Transition Team’s recent statements, when it comes to climate funding, those calculators only subtract.

Many negotiators and high-level ministers attending COP22 from around the world have been cautioning against hasty speculation on U.S. policy post-January 20, 2017. Behind the scenes, however, and certainly within the Secretariat, the number crunching has doubtless turned to nail biting.

 

* Based on 11/17/16 EUR-USD exchange rate

(Image credits: Calculator = seocopywriting.com; Diverging costs/revenue= smallbiztrends.com; Scissors & currency= neatoday.org)


Bridging the Gap between NDC Commitments and NDC Implementation

During this morning’s Joint High Level Segment, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Cooper Pershing delivered the U.S. National Statement. Addressing the combined meeting of the COP22/CMP12/CMA1, Pershing said, “With the policies already in place, the United States is well-positioned to meet its Paris Agreement targets” and that through current market trends, “the transition to clean energy is inevitable.” These are reassuring words to those wondering if the U.S. can bridge the gap between its Paris Agreement Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs) and its policies.

Lord Nicholas Stern at COP 22 in Marrakech, Morocco

Lord Nicholas Stern at COP 22 in Marrakech, Morocco

Lord Nicholas Stern echoed these sentiments today at a COP 22 Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment event presenting the institute’s latest COP study. Lord Stern, Grantham Institute Chair and member of the U.K.’s House of Lords, emphasized the importance of federal structure, stating, “The best way for Parties to implement NDCs is to create supporting policies regionally and locally through cities, states, and provinces.” Pledges are only as good as their implementation. Governments will need to continue to translate words into action through understanding, informed by research, science and policy.  Policy is the bridge. Parties now need the courage to cross it.


Is Time Running Out?

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COP 22 hourglass display representing the limited time left to avoid irreversible climate change before the year 2100.

Referencing the response to climate change at today’s COP 22, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented the issue in terms of time.   He stated, “The question is not whether we will transition to a clean energy economy. The question is whether we will have the will power to make the transition in time.  Time is not on our side.”  He was speaking to a group in Marrakech, but his question was really to the world.

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Secretary of State John Kerry in Marrakech, Morocco for the COP 22 Climate negotiations.

 

 

 

 

Sec. Kerry confirmed that the global community is more united than ever and taking real action this year, as evidenced in such historic global agreements as the Paris Agreement, the ICAO Agreement and the Kigali Agreement. Sec. Kerry reassured his listeners that despite the uncertainty that is coming from recent election results, climate change is not a partisan issue.  The majority of Americans, scientists, military leaders, intelligence community, state and city leaders, business leaders, advocacy groups and community organizers are committed to fighting against the problems that contribute to climate change. The Secretary emphasized that although he would not speculate on the incoming administration’s policies regarding the Paris Agreement, he took heart because “issues look very different on the campaign trail than when you are actually in office.”  In fact, the U.S. is on its way to meet its Paris Agreement goals based on market forces and state regulations already in place. Investing in clean energy makes good market sense because as the Secretary said, “you can do good and do well at the same time.”


A New Dawn

King Mohammed VI of Morocco, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, COP 22 President Salaheddine Mezouar, and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa wait to greet arriving dignitaries to the first meeting of the UNFCCC under the Paris Agreement.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, COP 22 President Salaheddine Mezouar, and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa wait to greet arriving dignitaries to the first meeting of the UNFCCC under the Paris Agreement.

One year ago, parties to the UNFCCC signed the Paris Agreement, expecting it to come into force over the next four years as individual nations went through the slow process of ratification. To everyone’s surprise, the requisite number of nations ratified it, and as of November 4, the Paris Agreement officially came into force. Today, the parties to the UNFCCC held the first meeting under the Paris Agreement. At the opening ceremony, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that this historic approval marks “a new dawn for global cooperation on climate change.” All of the speakers at the ceremony emphasized that this rapid endorsement demonstrates that the world is ready to move forward together to address climate change.

The shadow of US President-elect Donald Trump occasionally threatened to cloud the day’s proceedings, but the new dawn continued to shine through. President François Hollande of France

People's Daily

President François Hollande of France

called for consistency and perseverance to work towards the goals of the Agreement, which he called irreversible in law, in fact, and in the minds of the citizens of the world. He specifically thanked President Obama for his crucial role in obtaining agreement in Paris, and then called out the United States, stating that “the largest economic power in the world and the second largest greenhouse gas emitter must respect the commitments they have undertaken.”

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Jonathan Pershing, U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change

The conversation about U.S. participation in the Agreement continued throughout the day. Jonathan Pershing, the Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change, focused on market forces that have made fossil fuels unsustainable. For example, he pointed out that the U.S. currently has over 2 million renewable energy jobs compared to 65,000 coal miners. Although refusing to speculate on the future administration, he hinted that a President focused on jobs might find the renewable energy sector more attractive. He also observed that cities and local governments are already adapting to natural disasters, whether they were calling it adaptation to climate change or not.

In a heavily attended panel on U.S.

Senior Advisor to the President Brian Deese and Secretary of Natural Resources for Vermont Deb Markowitz

Senior Advisor to the President Brian Deese and Secretary of Natural Resources for Vermont Deb Markowitz

Climate Action, Deb Markowitz (Secretary of Natural Resources for Vermont) addressed the tension head-on, theorizing that many people were there to find out just what effect the Trump administration would have. The panelists’ answer? Not as much as one might fear. Brian Deese (Senior Advisor to the President overseeing Climate Change and Energy Policy) emphasized that the Clean Power Plan was promulgated in response to a mandate from the US Supreme Court holding the EPA has a duty to regulate greenhouse gases. Even President Trump cannot reverse the Supreme Court’s holding, nor can he eliminate the Clean Power Plan without backing in science and law. Markowitz, meanwhile, focused on state action. She observed that state actions drove U.S. climate response during the Bush years, and pointed out that states from Texas to Vermont are deploying renewable energy projects.

As President Hollande observed today, our world is in turmoil – a setting in which “those who trade in fear are allowed to thrive.” In this world, many have come to doubt what the international community can do. But the Paris Agreement is a beacon of hope in the night, and “a promise of hope cannot be betrayed. It must be fulfilled.” With, or without, the President of the United States.


Marathon Oral Arguments Whisper Victory for the Clean Power Plan

SmokeOn September 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard nearly seven hours of oral arguments that, on their face, bode well for the Clean Power Plan (Plan) and for the United States’ contribution to the Paris Agreement. EPA published its ambitious emissions guidelines for the Plan on October 23, 2015—and on the very same day, states raced to challenge the rule. The Plan aims to cut CO2 emissions from power plants by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030. To achieve this goal, states are free to choose the best route to meet their assigned emission level. States can implement either an emission standards plan that applies to all affected sources, or a state measures plan that utilizes a mix of approaches (e.g. renewable energy standards, increased residential efficiency, emission trading). EPA touts the Plan as one that will reduce cost to consumers and promote development of renewable energy. Despite this, 27 states oppose the rule.

Although it is difficult to predict a victor based on oral arguments, the scales seem to be tipping in the Plan’s favor. Both sides boasted a team of attorneys advocating for or against the Plan. The Court, sitting en banc (apart from Judge Garland who recused himself), heard from counsel for state petitioners, non-state petitioners, EPA, state respondents, the power industry, and environmental groups. State challengers attacked the rule from all angles, alleging statutory, constitutional, and procedural issues to show that the plan exceeds EPA’s authority. The bulk of the day, however, was dedicated to the “generation-shifting” argument; in short, EPA interfered with states’ authority by forcing states to transition to energy-efficient economies. Luckily, the Court jumped on this argument, questioning whether the Plan is truly “transformative” given that coal is already being replaced by low-carbon resources—an observation that the power company intervenors agree with. The Court also reminded petitioners that EPA has always had the authority to set pollution performance standards. In fact, the only thing “transformative” is the Plan’s regulation of CO2, which prior case law deemed permissible. The most noteworthy question of the day came from Judge Tatel, who asked, “Isn’t reading generation shifting into the statute necessary to keep the CAA up-to-date and ensure the statute evolves to adapt GHGs, as Congress intended?” Throughout the day, questions and observations like Judge Tatel’s demonstrated an encouraging understanding of the Plan’s purpose in the context of today.

Meanwhile, parties to the UNFCCC ratified the Paris Agreement at a lightning pace over the preceding weeks, and the agreement met the threshold for entry into force on Wednesday. The United States’ pledge to the landmark agreement involves cutting overall GHG emissions by 26%–28% below 2005 levels by 2025. Because the Clean Power Plan is destined to play a major role in meeting those goals, invalidating the Plan would set the U.S. off on the wrong foot in the new and promising era of the Paris Agreement. With the agreement set to enter into force on November 4, hopefully the U.S. does not have to return to the drawing board.


28 countries and almost 42% of global GHG emissions

US CHina ratificationIn the last 10 days, ratification of the Paris Agreement jumped from 25 countries representing a very small amount of global GHG emissions to more than half the countries and 80% of the emissions required to bring it into force.

As we blogged last April after the signing ceremony in New York, the magic numbers per Article 21 are 55 countries and 55% of emissions.   The Marshall Island predicted a few weeks ago that this could be achieved in 2016.  About 10 days ago, on the eve of the G20 meeting, the U.S. and China deposited their instruments of ratification with the UN, thereby binding each country to the Paris Agreement.  Three days ago, Brazil ratified the Agreement domestically.  Although it has not yet deposited its ratification instrument with the UN, it intends to do so next week.  While the UNFCCC website ratification counter still shows 27 counties and 39% of emissions, the World Resources Institute’s tracker has added in Brazil’s ratification, thus ending this week’s progress at 28 countries and 41.56% of global GHG emissions.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is hosting a high level event on September 21 to encourage countries to ratify the Agreement during the UN General Assembly’s annual meeting in New York. Climate Home quotes Ban’s chief climate adviser, Selwin Hart, stating that 20 countries plan to ratify the Paris Agreement next Wednesday, including Mexico and Brazil.  Although the EU could put ratifications over the top, both in terms of countries (28) and emissions (about 12%), EU leaders have indicated since last December that the federation’s ratification process does not move quickly and so has signaled a 2017 ratification, at the earliest. Nonetheless, European leaders currently meeting in Bratislava to plan for a post-Brexit EU say that they are trying to speed up the process.  Jos Delbeke, the European Commission’s director general for climate, says that “We’re all accelerating our procedures. If the leaders could discuss speeding up ratification processes at the national level and if they could agree on a light procedure for the EU ratification, then we could make it by Oct 7. If that happens then the EU will probably trigger the entry of the agreement into force.”


Obama on Climate Change

obama weekly addressIn his weekly address last Friday, President Obama summed up his administration’s record on climate change.  Calling it “one of the most urgent challenges of our time,” he pointed to progress made since 2008.  This includes:

  1. clean energy investment (300% increase in wind power, 3000% increase in solar power),
  2. lowest carbon emissions from energy in 25 years,
  3. continued economic growth,
  4. energy efficiency investment,
  5. changed management of coal mining on federal lands (source of 40% of US coal), and
  6. higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards.

On his “to do” list during the last months of his last term, President Obama put:

  1. implementing new fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles** and
  2. devising plans to achieve the North American goal (with Mexico and Canada) of 50% clean power by 2025.

While the President did not specifically address US ratification of the Paris Agreement, he closed this short “fireside chat” by highlighting US leadership on climate change.  He said: “[T]here’s no doubt that America has become a global leader in the fight against climate change.  Last year, that leadership helped us bring nearly 200 nations together in Paris around the most ambitious agreement in history to save the one planet we’ve got.  That’s not something to tear up – it’s something to build upon.  And if we keep pushing, and leading the world in the right direction, there’s no doubt that, together, we can leave a better, cleaner, safer future for our children.” 

You may watch the short address here.

** These final rules for medium- and heavy-duty trucks came out just after I posted. Heavy-duty trucks alone account for about 20% of US transportation GHG emissions. According to the EPA, these fuel efficiency standards will “lower CO2 emissions by approximately 1.1 billion metric tons, save vehicle owners fuel costs of about $170 billion, and reduce oil consumption by up to two billion barrels over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the program. Overall, the program will provide $230 billion in net benefits to society, including benefits to our climate and the public health of Americans. These benefits outweigh costs by about an 8-to-1 ratio.”

 


Clean cars, clean energy

electric carThis piece in Bloomberg news, The Dirty Road to Cleaner Cars, captures well the conundrum of cleaning up vehicular emissions.  22% of US CO2 emissions come from the transportation sector.  (This number is17% worldwide.)

Tesla set records when it launched its Model 3 in April, racking up more than 400,000 reservations for the $35,000 sedan since then. So it’s clear that there is a level of consumer awareness of, and demand for, reducing tailpipe GHG emissions.

But while electric cars are part of the solution – especially in sparsely populated locations, where mass transit is not feasible (like rural Vermont, where vehicular emissions comprise 26% of our carbon footprint) – they can only be as clean as the source of the juice that fuels them.

Eric Roston writes “with the solar, wind, natural gas, and (still potential) nuclear revolutions, the metabolism of the energy system is accelerating. Electric cars lead the parade.”

For Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, electric cars are just one of three ways of cleaning up the US energy system.  He first points to improving the efficiency of fossil fuel-generated electricity while also increasing zero-carbon power as quickly as possible before plugging buildings and vehicles into this clean(er) electric power grid.  His mantra? “Clean electricity, and electrify everything you can.