It was clear heading into the U.N. climate change conference in Lima that countries would punt all the toughest issues until next year in Paris, when a grand new global deal is due. All they really needed in Lima were a few procedural decisions setting the stage.
So why did it take more than 30 hours beyond the conference deadline to deliver something so modest?
The answer is that even a seemingly trivial procedural issue can be freighted with substantive implications, so countries fret over every nuance, lest they let something slip that will come back to haunt them later. In Lima, like so many times before, their biggest worry was how responsibility will be distributed across developed and developing countries.
At the start of the global climate effort, developed countries were comfortable with a stark division assigning most of the responsibility to them. But 20 years later, China is now the world’s largest carbon emitter, and developed countries no longer accept the so-called firewall between the two groupings.
The 2011 Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, which launched the current round of negotiations, said the Paris agreement would be “applicable to all.” But just what that means was left to be sorted out later, and will likely be the central challenge in Paris.
The handwriting is on the famous firewall – it’s coming down. China’s willingness to stand side by side with the United States last month to jointly announce their post-2020 emissions goals is a tacit acknowledgement of that. The question is what if anything takes its place.
The electric vehicle (EV) market got a jolt of good news this fall with the announcement that dozens of non-profits, schools, and utilities are purchasing electric fleets and installing workplace charging stations.
The challenge is to encourage more fleet operators – and the general public -- to adopt EVs on a similar scale. And that’s not likely without more charging stations that the public can use.
Governments have played a central role in deploying the public EV charging infrastructure we now have, but private investment is needed to get more charging along major highways and at popular destinations, multi-unit residential buildings and workplaces.
A new C2ES report explores the role that state clean energy financing organizations, such as clean energy banks, can play in unlocking private investment to expand EV infrastructure. The analysis is part of a joint project by C2ES and the National Association of State Energy Officials on ways to finance alternative fuel vehicle refueling infrastructure.
The need for more public EV charging is clear. A recent C2ES study noted a lack of access to public charging stations in many parts of Washington state, for example. Despite having one of the largest per-capita charging networks in the country, the study concluded EV drivers in Washington could still have a hard time getting to many locations outside the immediate Seattle area.
Attracting private investment in EV charging has been difficult because the business case for EV charging is very challenging, and high start-up costs have kept potential investors on the sidelines.
The proposed Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants is a long overdue turning point in America’s response to climate change.
EPA’s approach gives the states tremendous flexibility to design strategies that work best for them. States have always been incubators of innovation, and they will drive technological and policy innovation as they encourage low-cost solutions to implement the plan.
We need to encourage that innovation – by cities, states, and businesses -- to show the path forward to a clean energy economy.
C2ES submitted comments today as part of the EPA’s process to seek stakeholder input to the proposed rule before finalizing it in June 2015.
Here are five suggestions that could make EPA’s framework even better.
Negotiators heading to Lima for the annual U.N. climate summit face a certain paradox. There are encouraging signs of growing momentum toward a new global climate deal late next year in Paris. Yet over the next two weeks in Lima, the negotiators may make only modest progress at best.
There are good reasons to be hopeful.
First, recent events and announcements have strengthened confidence in prospects for Paris. These include the U.N. leaders summit in New York, nearly $10 billion in pledges to the new Green Climate Fund, Europe’s decision on a 2030 emissions goal, and the joint announcement by the U.S. and China of their post-2020 targets.
Second, the negotiations throughout this year have been notably civil and substantive. Wide gulfs remain, but rather than succumbing to procedural fights, parties have been putting forward and constructively debating concrete ideas for the Paris agreement.
Third, behind the scenes, there is a fair degree of convergence among key countries on the broad outlines of a Paris deal. This is reflected in a recent report from the co-chairs of Toward 2015, an informal dialogue among officials from 20+ key countries organized by C2ES.
The climate targets announced this month by the United States and China will require a significant effort beyond a business-as-usual scenario for both countries. More details will likely follow in the weeks and months ahead, but here is what we know so far for each country.
China announced a goal for its greenhouse gas emissions to peak by 2030 or sooner. This marks the first time that China has pledged a peak or absolute target for greenhouse gas emissions, rather than an intensity-based target. In business-as-usual scenarios, China’s emissions wouldn’t peak until 2040 or later.
China also announced it would boost its share of zero-carbon energy, which includes nuclear, hydropower and renewables, to 20 percent – up from about 13 percent today. Meeting that goal will require a substantial build-out of nuclear power stations, hydroelectric stations, wind turbines, and solar panels, as well as transmission and other infrastructure. In a separate announcement, China said it plans to cap its coal consumption by the year 2020.
China can’t, as critics claim, sit idly by for 15 years and reach these targets. It will need to significantly restructure its energy system. China will have to add more than 1 GW of zero-carbon power a week for the next 15 years – an amount roughly equal to the entire installed electricity capacity of the United States.