The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions seeks to inform the design and implementation of federal policies that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Drawing from its extensive peer-reviewed published works, in-house policy analyses, and tracking of current legislative proposals, the Center provides research, analysis, and recommendations to policymakers in Congress and the Executive Branch. Read More
Nobody likes waste. And yet when we produce, distribute and use electricity, we’re wasting up to two-thirds of the energy.
Although we can’t eliminate all of these losses, we could reduce waste and increase reliability through “intelligent efficiency”— technology like networked devices and sensors, smart grids and thermostats, and energy management systems.
If we used energy more efficiently, we’d also reduce the harmful carbon dioxide emissions coming from our power plants — and reduce our electric bills.
That’s why energy efficiency is expected to be a critical, low-cost path for states looking to reduce power plant emissions under the proposed Clean Power Plan.
C2ES is pulling together top experts in sustainability, efficiency, and technology from cities, states and business to explore how we can deploy intelligent efficiency to help reach Clean Power Plan emissions targets. (RSVP for our event Monday, May 18, in Washington, D.C.)
Just as technology can instantly connect us with people across the globe or monitor our calories and whether we’re burning enough of them, we have technology that will allow us to network and monitor how we produce, deliver and consume electricity.
In Brief: Legal Options for U.S. Acceptance of a New Climate Change Agreement
By Daniel Bodansky, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University
U.S. acceptance of the new climate agreement being negotiated under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) may or may not require legislative approval, depending on its contents. U.S. law recognizes several routes for entering into international legal agreements. The president would be on relatively firm legal ground accepting a new climate agreement with legal force, without submitting it to the Senate or Congress for approval, to the extent it is procedurally oriented, could be implemented on the basis of existing law, and is aimed at implementing or elaborating the UNFCCC. On the other hand, if the new agreement establishes legally binding emissions limits or new legally binding financial commitments, this would weigh in favor of seeking Senate or congressional approval. However, the exact scope of the president’s legal authority to conclude international agreements is uncertain, and the president’s decision will likely rest also on political and prudential considerations.
The brief is based on the report, Legal Options for U.S. Acceptance of a New Climate Change Agreement, which provides a fuller legal analysis.
Legal Options for U.S. Acceptance of a New Climate Change Agreement
By Daniel Bodansky, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University
The success of ongoing negotiations to establish a new global climate change agreement depends heavily on the agreement’s acceptance by the world’s major economies, including the United States. The new agreement is being negotiated under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a treaty with 195 parties that was ratified by the United States in 1992 with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate. U.S. acceptance of the new agreement may or may not require legislative approval, depending on its specific contents.
U.S. law recognizes several routes for entering into international agreements. The most commonly known, under Article II of the Constitution, requires advice and consent by two-thirds of the Senate. In practice, however, the United States has accepted the vast majority of the international agreements to which it is a party through other procedures. These include congressional-executive agreements, which are approved by both houses of Congress, and presidential-executive agreements, which are approved solely by the president.
The President would be on relatively firm legal ground accepting a new climate agreement with legal force, without submitting it to the Senate or Congress for approval, to the extent it is procedurally oriented, could be implemented on the basis of existing law, and is aimed at implementing or elaborating the UNFCCC. On the other hand, if the new agreement establishes legally binding emissions limits or new legally binding financial commitments, this would weigh in favor of seeking Senate or congressional approval. However, the exact scope of the President’s legal authority to conclude international agreements is uncertain, and the President’s decision will likely rest also on political and prudential considerations.
About 10 percent of Canadian electricity, much of it generated from hydropower, is exported to the United States. With Canada expected to expand its hydropower capacity in coming years, could some states take advantage of this non-emitting resource to meet Clean Power Plan goals to reduce carbon emissions?
A new C2ES report, Canadian Hydropower and the Clean Power Plan, explores this question, including how the proposed plan would need to be adjusted, and how select states could benefit.
While U.S. hydropower is not expected to significantly expand in the near future, hydropower is growing in Canada, where it already supplies 60 percent of the country’s electricity. More than 5,500 megawatts (MW), enough to power about 2.4 million homes, have been added in the last decade. An additional 11,000 MW is either under construction, nearing the construction phase, or has been announced. To put this in perspective, Canada’s entire electricity generation system is about 128,000 MW.
Key Insights from a Solutions Forum
By Jason Ye
States will have tremendous flexibility to choose how to reduce carbon emissions under the Clean Power Plan. One idea states are exploring is putting a price on carbon. The first C2ES Solutions Forum — held on April 15, 2015 — brought together legal and economic experts, state environmental directors, and business leaders to explore the potential use of market mechanisms to reduce these damaging emissions efficiently and cost-effectively.
For more information about the C2ES Solutions Forum, see: http://www.c2es.org/initiatives/solutions-forum
Key insights and highlights from the event on carbon pricing and clean power include:
- Most economists agree that the most efficient way to address climate change is to put a price on carbon.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has given states tremendous flexibility to determine the best way to achieve emission targets.
- Virtually every state is already engaged in some activity that reduces emissions.
- Market-based options available under the proposed Clean Power Plan go beyond creating or joining a cap-and-trade program or instituting a carbon tax.
- States and businesses generally agree that market mechanisms are a proven, least-cost way to reduce emissions.
- States believe support from the business community will be essential to adopting market-based options.
- State and business leaders recognize the need to talk to one another about the best way to reduce emissions.
- States are concerned about having enough time to develop market-based policies.
- State and company representatives see a role for EPA to help states after the Clean Power Plan is finalized.
C2ES will continue the conversation with states and businesses to share insights and innovative ideas that will help us get to a clean energy future. Our second Solutions Forum on May 18 will explore improving energy efficiency, which reduces emissions, through information and communication technologies. Our third event on June 25 will examine how to finance clean energy technology and infrastructure.
|C2ES President Bob Perciasepe moderates a Solutions Forum panel with (l to r): Martha Rudolph, Director of Environmental Programs, Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment; David Paylor, Director, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality; and Janet Coit, Director, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.|
States will have tremendous flexibility to choose how to reduce their carbon emissions under the Clean Power Plan, and one idea they should explore is putting a price on carbon.
The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) recently brought together legal and economic experts, state environmental directors, and business leaders to explore the potential to use market mechanisms to reduce these damaging emissions efficiently and cost-effectively.
Here are three key insights from this Solutions Forum:
Market Mechanisms: Understanding the OptionsApril 2015
Climate change poses a significant risk for a broad range of human and natural systems. Policies to reduce emissions are critical if we are to avoid the most costly damages associated with a rapidly changing climate. Compared to traditional command-and-control regulations, market-based policies can more cost-effectively reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by creating financial incentives for GHG emitters to emit less. Ten U.S. states and many jurisdictions outside the United States have established market-based programs to reduce GHGs. Market-based policies would be among the options available to states to reduce GHGs from power plants under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan. This brief describes the theory behind market-based approaches; their success in cost-effectively reducing GHGs and other emissions; and a range of market-based options, including: a carbon tax, a cap-and-trade program, a baseline and credit program, a clean or renewable electricity standard, and an energy efficiency resource standard.
As the country’s largest landlord, fleet operator, and purchaser of goods and services, the federal government can lead by example in moving the country toward a more sustainable future.
Taking that opportunity, the Obama Administration recently issued a new executive order, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, that builds on energy-saving advances and ups the targets for federal agencies to do even more. Joining in the commitment to cleaner energy and energy efficiency were 14 companies that are major federal suppliers.
A 2009 executive order set a target of reducing federal greenhouse gas emissions 28 percent below 2008 levels by 2020. The March 2015 executive order raises the bar – to 40 percent below 2008 levels by 2025. The goal is expected to save taxpayers up to $18 billion in avoided energy costs.
The order also directs federal agencies to:
- Increase the use of renewable energy sources to 30 percent of total consumption by 2025,
- Reduce per-mile greenhouse gas emissions from federal fleets 30 percent by 2025 and ensure a fifth of the fleet is made up of zero-emission and plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2025, and
- Reduce the amount of water used in federal buildings 20 percent below 2007 levels by 2025.
Complementing the new executive order, 14 large federal suppliers committed to new or expanded emission pledges that would cumulatively reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5 million metric tons by 2020. Several members of the C2ES Business Environmental Leadership Council made commitments:
- IBM will reduce its energy-related carbon dioxide emissions 35 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and buy 20 percent of its power from renewable sources by that year.
- GE will invest $25 billion in research and development in energy efficiency and clean energy and reduce water use and greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent below a 2011 baseline by 2020.
- HP will reduce the emissions intensity of its product portfolio 40 percent by 2020 from a 2010 baseline.
Taken together, the new executive order and the voluntary commitments from federal suppliers will reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 26 million metric tons below 2008 levels by 2025, according to White House estimates.
Figure: Fiscal Year 2013 Federal Government Direct Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Category
Federal direct greenhouse gas emissions totaled nearly 45 million metric tons of CO2e in Fiscal Year 2013. Over 60 percent of emissions are from purchased electricity. Transportation emissions include those from passenger fleet vehicle, vehicles, aircraft, ships, and related equipment.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy (2014), "Comprehensive Annual Energy Data and Sustainability Performance"
A number of analysts have raised concerns that the proposed Clean Power Plan, aimed at reducing power plant carbon emissions, could threaten the reliability of electric power. But a closer look at the U.S. power system and the safeguards in place suggests that these reliability issues are manageable. The greater threat to reliability, in fact, is the rising incidence of extreme weather driven by climate change.
The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), which is overseen by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and government authorities in Canada, is responsible for keeping our power system reliable. NERC develops reliability standards and assesses the power system to anticipate and minimize the risk of disruption. It was established after a 1965 multi-hour Northeast blackout. Since then, the U.S. population has increased by 65 percent and power generation is more than 3.5 times greater with only one comparable blackout, in 2003.
Last fall, NERC issued an initial report identifying reliability issues under the Clean Power Plan that required further investigation. NERC and other analysts have questioned whether our natural gas system can handle more demand if more power plants switch from coal to natural gas. NERC also questioned how the power system will respond to less 24/7 baseload coal generation and more intermittent renewable generation.
Since the NERC report was issued, the Department of Energy, The Analysis Group and the Brattle Group have offered analyses that suggest power plant emissions can be reduced under the Clean Power Plan without compromising system reliability.