2014: The year of climate action
Happy December everyone! I thought I’d take a break from inhaling dozens of latkes (it’s like eating hash browns for dinner every night – why doesn’t everyone celebrate Hanukkah?) to reflect on the year that’s now coming to a close.
In many ways, it’s been the year of bottom-up action on climate and energy. Even the recent negotiations in Lima, where parties decided that every country will submit climate action reports, is less an international success than one that recognizes multiple local and state successes. The agreement also recognizes the inherently local nature of climate impacts, and the fact that different parts of the world can and must address these impacts and future climate risks in very different ways.
Approaching a global climate deal as a collection of individual action and commitments rather than a fully-formed 192-country pact seems like a pragmatic move forward. It takes into account important work the U.S. has already done to forge bilateral commitments with China. For instance: last month our two countries jointly announced emission reduction targets: the U.S. pledged to reduce emissions 26 percent to 28 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2025 and China pledged that by 2030 (if not earlier), carbon dioxide emissions will peak and 20 percent of that country’s energy will come from zero-carbon sources. The Obama administration is also in the midst of working on a climate accord with India – one of the fastest growing countries in the world, and one with current plans to increase coal consumption – that focuses on technological innovation and clean energy production. The U.S. is involved in a number of initiatives with India, including possibly creating an international clean energy finance and technology group to help fund and create emission-cutting technologies.
And then of course there’s all the U.S.-specific actions this administration has taken during 2014 to reduce emissions, most notably requiring states to meet carbon emission reduction goals under the Clean Air Act’s Section 111(d). As I’ve noted before, that plan itself takes a bottom-up approach, allowing states to come up with individual plans to meet targets that take into account each state’s current electricity mix.
The bottom-up approach works because it takes into account the work already being done by cities, states and provinces to reduce their carbon emissions. California is, of course, at the front of this pack. From our ongoing work to implement our signature cap and trade program AB 32, to our decision to bring Quebec in as a trading partner in 2014, to the state’s commitment to stick to the Jan. 1, 2015 deadline to bring transportation fuels under the cap in the face of well-financed and organized opposition, California has maintained a strong leadership position when it comes to fighting climate change. Our Western neighbors may be close behind; Just this week, Washington governor Jay Inslee announced his own proposal for a cap and trade plan that would raise nearly $1 billion each year for transportation and schools. Gov. Inslee’s “Carbon Pollution Accountability Act,” which would place a hard carbon cap on the state’s largest emitters, could ultimately be linked with similar programs in California and British Columbia, creating a regional block with significant power to influence national carbon policy in both the U.S. and Canada.
None of these steps, taken alone, is sufficient to combat climate change and transform our energy economy. But taken together, they represent a groundswell of action that could just possibly turn the tide toward global action in the coming years. Now that’s a worthwhile New Year’s resolution!
Have a great break everyone. See you in January!