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C2ES Wins Award as Top US Energy and Environment Think Tank

Press Release
November 29, 2016
Contact Laura Rehrmann, rehrmannl@c2es.org, 703-516-0621

 

C2ES Wins Award as Top U.S. Energy and Environment Think Tank

WASHINGTON – The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) was named the top U.S. energy and environment think tank in this year’s Prospect Think Tank Awards for helping lay the groundwork for the Paris Agreement.

Prospect, a monthly British magazine specializing in politics, economics, and current affairs, announced the 16th annual award winners November 28 at the House of Commons in London.

The judges praised C2ES for its “extremely influential” Toward 2015 Dialogue leading up to the climate talks in Paris. C2ES organized nearly 100 hours of in-depth discussions among lead negotiators from the United States, China and 20 other key African, Asian, European, and Latin American countries. The resulting report outlined the essential elements for agreement in Paris.

“Many of the ideas discussed at its gathering were eventually replicated in the Paris agreement,” the judges said. “That’s as high impact as it gets.”

Prospect’s Think Tank Awards, founded in 2001, aim to recognize the most original, influential, and rigorous work on the most pressing challenges facing people, governments, and businesses today.

C2ES is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to forge practical solutions to climate change.  It continues to convene informal discussions among negotiators, focusing now on the next round of decisions needed to implement the Paris Agreement and ensure its enduring success.

Learn more about C2ES’s work:

About C2ES: The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to forge practical solutions to climate change. Our mission is to advance strong policy and action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote clean energy, and strengthen resilience to climate impacts. Learn more at www.c2es.org.

 

 

Bob Perciasepe's remarks at Harvard University

Prepared remarks by Bob Perciasepe

President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

Challenges for the New President

Harvard University Center for the Environment

Cambridge, MA

November 15, 2016

I want to thank Doctor (Daniel) Schrag and the Harvard University Center for the Environment for inviting me to speak. And my thanks to all of you for coming to listen. Dan and I have been talking for some time about my coming up from Washington to do a lecture. I’m not sure either one of us had quite this backdrop of current events in mind.

What a week. I know folks are still processing what happened seven nights ago and what happens next. The truth is: Elections have consequences. That’s why it’s so important to exercise our right to vote.

It’s too soon to tell exactly what steps the next administration will take on climate and energy policy. The rhetoric of campaigning doesn’t always exactly match the realities of governing. We hope President-elect Trump and his advisers take some time to study the issues and hear a broad range of perspectives.

They’ll find that a majority of Americans support stronger climate action.

They’ll find that many cities and states are promoting energy efficiency, deploying renewable energy, and supporting alternative fuel vehicles.

And they’ll find that business leaders recognize the rising costs of climate impacts, and also see opportunities in clean technologies. You could say they want to “win” in the growing global clean-energy economy.

This evening, I want to explore three questions:

  • What are the climate and energy realities facing this president, and all of us?
  • What might we expect from a Trump Administration?
  • And what can we do to promote environmentally responsible policies in the years ahead?

To put my remarks in context, it helps to know a little bit about my organization C2ES – the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. C2ES is a nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank. We work to forge practical solutions to climate change. Our mission is to advance strong policy and action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote clean energy, and strengthen resilience to climate impacts.

We believe a sound climate strategy is essential to ensure a strong, sustainable economy. I want to underline that.  It’s a conviction our think tank was founded on.  And it’s a message I hope you’ll leave here with tonight: Environmental and economic progress go hand in hand.

I came to C2ES a little over two years ago because of its reputation:

  • As a Trusted Source of impartial information. We rank regularly among the top environmental think tanks in the world.
  • As a Bridge-Builder. We bring city, state, and national policymakers together with businesses to achieve common understanding.
  • As a Policy Innovator. We explore market-based solutions and other practical policy approaches.
  • And as Catalyst for Business Action. We work with Fortune 500 companies to strengthen business support for climate policy.

The idea of bringing disparate groups together is part of our DNA. Here are four quick examples:

At the international level, C2ES brought together negotiators from two dozen countries for a series of private discussions that helped lay the groundwork for the landmark Paris Agreement.

Our Solutions Forum is fostering collaboration to reduce emissions, mobilize climate finance, and strengthen resilience to climate impacts. That last one -- climate resilience -- is relatively new.  With communities experiencing climate impacts here and now, it’s something we can’t afford to ignore.

We recently partnered with The U.S. Conference of Mayors to create the Alliance for a Sustainable Future, whose goal is to strengthen public-private cooperation.

And our multi-sectoral Business Environmental Leadership Council is the largest U.S.-based group of companies devoted solely to addressing climate change.

That’s who we are and where I’m coming from. Now, let’s look at the some of the realities facing the next administration.

Realities on the Ground

Depending on your point of view, this was either a “Change Election” or a “Fear of Change Election.” What I can tell you is that it wasn’t a “Climate Change Election” because nobody was talking about it.

Climate change didn’t come up once in any of the presidential debates.  The only question about energy policy came from that guy in a red sweater, Ken Bone. Climate change was not top of mind in the voting booth. Asked before the election where climate change ranked among their concerns, voters put it No. 19 out of 23.

But when asked where they stand, the majority of Americans – of all political viewpoints -- support climate action.  A majority of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans support funding renewables research, providing tax rebates for energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels, and regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant.

Americans support climate action because they understand that climate change is occurring, and that human actions are largely responsible.

Here are a few more facts:

  • 2014 was the hottest year globally ever recorded. Until 2015. 2016 has been even hotter.
  • Climate change is a matter of science, but also a matter of dollars and cents. This year, the United States experienced a dozen billion-dollar disasters.
  • Climate impacts like rising sea levels and more frequent and intense heatwaves, downpours, and droughts threaten the way we all live our lives.
     

Another reality is that our energy landscape has already changed. This isn’t your grandfather’s energy system. When I was born, the United States didn’t get any commercial power from natural gas or nuclear. Zero. Now those two sources together are responsible for more than half of our electricity.

Let’s talk a minute about those two. First, natural gas. Thirty years ago, before many of you were born, it was illegal to use natural gas in a power plant.  Now it makes up more than a third of U.S. electricity supply. Coal makes up another third of our energy mix, down from about half 10 years ago.  This change is due in large part to market forces. Natural gas is inexpensive, so utilities have switched to if from coal.

These same market forces are posing a challenge for nuclear energy. Nuclear is responsible for more than 60 percent of zero-carbon electricity in the United States – It’s the biggest source. A number of reactors have been closing prematurely, which could make it even harder to meet our climate goals.

Renewables have been surging as costs have plummeted. Wind and solar generation have grown nearly twelve-fold since 2005. That’s nearly eight times greater than expected.
Thanks to diversifying our energy mix, and improving energy efficiency, power sector emissions have fallen by more than 20 percent in the past 10 years.  We’re moving in the right direction.  The challenge will be to keep doing so.

What to expect

What can we expect from the new administration? I’ve been getting two questions for the past week: What will happen to the Clean Power Plan? And what will happen with the Paris Agreement? So let’s talk about those.

Every new president usually halts regulations that are in the process of being formulated, so we can expect that. For a final regulation, like the Clean Power Plan, a simple stroke of the pen can’t undo it. It’s a process. First, they’d have to do a rule-making, which requires public comment.  Then, they'd need to come back with an alternative plan. That’s because under previous Supreme Court rulings, EPA is still under a legal obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s mandatory. They’ll be sued if they don't.

The Clean Power Plan is currently in the courts. So we could find ourselves replacing the current legal uncertainty with new and different legal uncertainty.

On a positive note, the Clean Power Plan prompted a lot of state environmental officials, public utility regulators and other stakeholders to sit down together for the first time to talk about electricity reliability, efficiency and affordability. We hope those conversations bear fruit.

There’s no doubt that the Clean Power Plan could reduce power plant emissions faster and further than no plan at all. But progress has already been made and I think there are ways it can continue.

Mr. Trump has also said he wants to “cancel” the Paris Agreement. The bottom line is that he could legally pull the U.S. out of it. Let’s think through, practically, how that would work out for us. Consider that virtually every country in the world has committed to taking climate action. The Paris Agreement is a bottom-up, flexible framework. It relies on peer pressure. If we want to hold other countries accountable, we have to hold up our end. If we walk away from our commitments, we also give up being a player in the innovative energy and transportation technologies that can create U.S. jobs. China, Brazil and the US led the world last year in employment in renewable energy.

The Paris Agreement has widespread support among the business community. Eleven major companies we work with, including Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Microsoft, National Grid, and Shell, signed onto a C2ES statement applauding governments for bringing the agreement into force so quickly this month. Businesses say the agreement provides long-term direction, promotes transparency, and addresses competitiveness.

Because the Paris Agreement is flexible, there are a lot of ways for an individual country to tailor its efforts. It was also designed to be durable – It can survive shifts in political currents. The nearly 100 other countries that have already ratified it are reducing emissions for a variety of reasons, including economic opportunities and health benefits to their people. I expect they will remain committed to moving forward.

As for what else we can expect – we’ll have to wait and see. From opening up public lands and offshore areas to more drilling to re-assessing pipelines to appointing agency leaders with very different priorities from the past eight years, we’re going to see changes.

What we can do

So that brings me to my final question tonight: What can we do to promote environmentally responsible policies in the years ahead? Let’s look at four vantage points – federal, state, local, and business.

First: The executive branch has been the focus of climate action for a number of years.  That’s going to change. I want to posit that it may be time to return our focus on the legislative branch. Three areas where bipartisan support already exists are: building infrastructure, incentivizing carbon capture technologies, and preserving the nuclear fleet.

Both presidential candidates talked about the need to modernize our aging infrastructure. That’s not just roads and bridges. We need to modernize our electric grid to move renewable power from where it’s generated to where it’s needed. We need to improve the natural gas pipeline system to reduce leaks. And we need to expand electric vehicle charging. The electric grid should be able to accommodate clean energy technologies like energy storage, time-of-day pricing, and grid-to-vehicle interfaces.

Millions of miles of pipes carrying drinking water and wastewater are nearing end of life.  And it takes a lot of energy to move a gallon of water. The nation’s utilities lose about $2.6 billion dollars annually from trillions of gallons of leaked drinking water.

Infrastructure projects can also help communities be more resilient to extreme weather, make communities more livable, increase property values, and save energy and water. And, of course, infrastructure projects create jobs.

The second area where we could make progress is carbon capture, use and storage, or CCUS. Some of you might be skeptical about this as “clean coal.” The truth is, there’s no scenario for achieving the emission cuts we need globally without carbon capture. We need to keep emissions out of the air not only from coal and natural-gas power plants around the world, but also the industrial sector like steel, chemical, and cement plants. The industrial sector is responsible for more than 20 percent of U.S. greenhouse gases.

Right now, there are bipartisan bills in the House and Senate that would spur carbon capture technology. Imagine Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, on the same bill. It’s true.

A third area where we might get some bipartisan agreement is preserving our nuclear fleet. There’s a bill right now that both Senators Whitehouse and Inhofe support. From a climate perspective, it doesn’t make sense to prematurely close nuclear plants when, in the short- and medium-term, they cannot realistically be replaced by zero-emission power sources. Keeping these reactors operational also buys us time to address energy storage and transmission challenges to support more renewable generation.

Let me add one more area as a possibility where we might see some agreement at the federal level: helping the communities most affected by the transition to clean energy. Remember that market forces – not regulations -- have mainly been driving the decline of coal.  And natural gas will continue to displace coal in our power generation fleet at current prices.  There are no plans for new coal-fired power plants in the United States. What coal communities need is opportunities for new jobs. The United States could be world leaders in manufacturing clean energy and transportation technologies. More Americans work now in the solar industry than work in either oil & gas extraction or coal mining. It will take a concerted effort involving education and training, but we have to help.

Moving to the states, which have always been the incubators of policy, we’ve seen a lot of progress on clean energy. Twenty-nine9 states require electric utilities to deliver a certain amount of electricity from renewable or alternative energy sources. Ten states that are home to a quarter of the US population already have a price on carbon and are successfully reducing emissions. Those states are California and the nine Northeast states, including Massachusetts, in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI has added $243 million in value to Massachusetts’ economy. Massachusetts has also been named the most energy efficient state in the country for the last six years.

Every state has either an operational wind energy project, a wind-related manufacturing facility, or both. Some of the biggest wind energy producers are Texas and Iowa. They won’t want to reverse the economic prosperity they’ve seen as a result. America’s first offshore wind farm has just come online off Rhode Island, launching new industry with the potential to create jobs in manufacturing and the marine trades.

Time and again, we’ve seen leadership at the state level and I expect that will continue.

On environmental policies, so much often comes down to the local level.  Many cities have already taken the ball and are running with it. They’re improving the energy efficiency of buildings, deploying cleaner energy, and encouraging cleaner transportation.

Cities see the real and rising risks of climate change. They’re dealing with the impacts now. They also see opportunities to for energy and transportation systems that are cleaner and more efficient than today. To keep their efforts moving forward, partnership and collaboration will be key, especially between cities and companies.

That’s why we at C2ES recently launched a partnership with The US Conference of Mayors called the Alliance for a Sustainable Future. The main goal is to spur public-private cooperation on climate action and sustainable development in cities. Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales is leading the steering committee. Founding sponsors include JPMorgan & Chase Co., Duke Energy, and AECOM, and the mayors of Austin, Des Moines, New York City, and Salt Lake City.

Finally, business leadership has been and will continue to be crucial in transitioning to a clean energy and clean transportation future. A C2ES study found more than 90 percent of the companies in the S&P Global 100 Index see climate change as a business risk. They see rising sea level and more frequent and extreme heat waves, downpours and drought damaging and disrupting their facilities and operations, supply and distribution chains, and water and power supplies.

More than 150 companies -- from Alcoa to Xerox -- signed the White House American Business Act on Climate Pledge.  They committed to cutting emissions, reducing water usage, and using more renewable energy. Business leaders see opportunities in clean energy and transportation.

Here’s another thing to think about, the power of the consumer. In the past year, three in 10 Americans say they’ve rewarded companies for taking steps to address climate change.

The reality is that we have strong momentum in the right direction.  Our economy has begun decarbonizing. Power sector emissions are down, thanks largely to market forces and to incentives for renewable energy that have strong bipartisan support. Many cities, states and companies, along with a number of congressional Republicans, want to keep that momentum going. Smart investments and technological innovation have started America on a clean-energy transition. Building on that momentum will protect communities from rising climate damages and will contribute to strong and sustained economic growth.

The longer we wait to address climate change, the costlier it will be. I urge all of you to work at the local and state level to support common-sense policies that lead us toward a sustainable future.

An American in Marrakech

For 10 exhausting days, from the moment I arrived in Marrakech for the latest U.N. conference on climate change, I found myself thrust into the uneasy role of unofficial emissary for a country transformed overnight.

COP 22 had started on a high note, as thousands from around the world celebrated the remarkably swift entry into force of the Paris Agreement just days earlier. But then in a flash, with news of Donald Trump’s surprise victory, the historic gains of Paris seemed suddenly at risk of unraveling.

By the time I touched down in Marrakech two days after the election, the initial shock had given way to deep anxiety, with rumors swirling that president-elect Trump would proclaim at any moment that he would pull the United States from the Paris Agreement.

As a strictly nonpartisan organization, C2ES has worked closely over the years with Democrats and Republicans alike. Before and after the election, we made clear our willingness to work with the next administration and others to build common ground.

On the ground in Marrakech, like other veteran COP-goers from the United States, I found myself besieged by delegates desperate for insight into what had happened and, more importantly, what would happen now. I had precious little to offer.

My first instinct was to note that one huge lesson of the entire campaign was the utter unpredictability of political outcomes – and that would be true going forward as well.

True, the incoming president had declared climate change a hoax and vowed to “cancel” the Paris Agreement. But, I’d note, he’d also denied his climate denialism and, back in 2009, he’d signed an open letter in The New York Times supporting climate legislation.  Plus, there were already signs he was tempering his views on other issues like immigration and health care.

At two C2ES-sponsored side events, I was joined by major U.S. companies, a top California official and a Democratic staffer from the Senate (we’d invited a speaker from the Trump transition team but they had no one in Marrakech). We all made the case that the strong momentum in the United States toward a clean-energy transition is bound to continue.

But we could offer no solid assurance that our collective efforts had not just suffered a real blow.

Against that uncertainty, it was heartening to hear country after country reaffirm its commitment to the Paris Agreement and to a low-carbon future. The negotiations, now focused on filling in the details of the new Paris architecture, continued. And in the end they achieved the same outcomes they likely would have.

So for the moment, at least, the world is pressing ahead. But as we all head home from Marrakech, the uncertainty still looms. Should President-elect Trump make good on his campaign promise to withdraw from Paris, there is no denying that the consequences could be grave.

The Paris Agreement is a remarkable achievement. Its pragmatic approach preserves the full sovereignty of nations to decide their own paths forward, while also providing them the means to hold one another accountable. It is precisely the sort of agreement U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have long advocated.

But the agreement will only achieve its full promise if the more detailed rules being negotiated over the next two years are sound. The best way to ensure that is for the United States to remain at the table, honoring its commitments, and providing the kind of leadership that only it can.Flags at COP 22

Lessons learned from climate transparency

One of the key issues at COP 22 in Marrakech was how to implement the transparency provisions of the Paris Agreement through which countries can hold one another accountable for their promises.

The agreement requires that this “enhanced transparency framework” build on parties’ experiences with existing transparency processes under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). A new C2ES brief highlights some of the key lessons countries are drawing from their experiences – lessons underscored by many parties in Marrakech.

The Paris Agreement requires all countries to report regularly on their greenhouse gas emissions and their efforts to reduce them. Their reports will be subject to two levels of international review – first, a review by technical experts, then a “multilateral consideration of progress” where countries put questions to one another. The new system is to provide “built-in flexibility” for developing countries with limited capacity. 

Under the existing system, which sets different requirements for developed and developing countries, the latter have only recently begun to undergo any form of international review. While many initially approached that prospect with trepidation, they’ve discovered more to be gained than feared.

One of the most important lessons shared by both developed and developing countries is that fulfilling their international transparency requirements has produced significant domestic benefits. Collecting the information needed for reporting starts important conversations across sectors and actors, between different levels of government, and among relevant stakeholders. Transparency as a government-wide effort can help identify mitigation opportunities and challenges as well as track and inform domestic policy implementation.

Another lesson is that the processes’ facilitative approach has helped parties overcome apprehensions about reporting and review. The process is more of a technical dialogue than an interrogation where experts judge or criticize parties. This friendly exchange helps parties learn and improve each time they go through technical analysis, since mistakes actually lead to identifying obstacles and areas for improvement as well as capacity-building needs.

Parties also have stressed that building stronger in-country capacity is crucial to effective developing country participation in transparency. Episodic project funding for the preparation and submission of greenhouse gas inventories makes it hard for developing countries to continuously collect data or provide regular training to their inventory experts. In-country capacity helps incentivize key players and institutions and establish a sense of ownership at the national and institutional level.

In Marrakech, seven developing countries went through their first Facilitative Sharing of Views (FSV) workshop under the existing International Consultation and Analysis (ICA) process. FSV is essentially a Q&A between the party or parties being assessed and other parties on the basis of their biennial update reports. 

At a side event, several parties, a technical expert and the secretariat reflected on further lessons from the ICA process. Namibia and Tunisia both said the process helps them improve the quality of their reports and promotes the institutional arrangements needed to form the basis for a national measurement, reporting and verification system. The secretariat noted that even it has capacity issues: with its supplementary budget depleted, its ability to undertake technical analysis is limited.

Like the FSV, the multilateral assessment is another peer review forum where parties are free to ask questions of a party on its biennial report. At COP 22, 24 developed countries went through a second round of Multilateral Assessment based on their second biennial reports under the International Assessment and Review process.

The Paris Agreement established a Capacity-building Initiative for Transparency (CBIT), which will strengthen the institutional and technical capacities of developing countries to meet the enhanced transparency requirements and to improve over time. The CBIT just approved its first set of projects in Costa Rica, Kenya, South Africa, and 11 donors announced pledges totaling nearly $55.3 million. Other countries like Japan have declared their intention to support the fund.

Although no final decisions on transparency were taken in Marrakech, parties have made initial progress in negotiating the details of the Paris transparency framework. If all goes as planned, parties will wrap up their work on these decisions in 2018, to be adopted by the first meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement.

Marrakech Climate Conference - COP 22

Following the rapid entry into force of the landmark Paris Agreement, governments met November 7-18, 2016, in Marrakech, Morocco, to take the next step in the climate talks.

The 22nd Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) included the first meeting of the CMA, the governing body of the Paris Agreement.

Negotiators focused on developing rules for implementing the agreement, including the reporting and review of countries’ climate efforts; a new five-year cycle to assess progress and update parties’ contributions; and the use of market-based approaches. These implementing decisions are expected to be completed in 2018.

The Paris Agreement marks a major turning point in the international climate effort, committing all countries to undertake nationally determined contributions and establishing new mechanisms to ensure accountability and promote rising ambition.

The Marrakech conference caps an extraordinary year of global progress on climate change: the Paris Agreement’s swift entry into force, a new agreement to cap emissions from international aviation and a deal to phase down powerful climate pollutants known as HFCs.

For more information

 

 

Elliot Diringer on COP 22 conclusion

Statement of Elliot Diringer
Executive Vice President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

November 18, 2016

On the conclusion of COP 22, the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Marrakech, Morocco.

The clearest signal from Marrakech is the staying power of the Paris Agreement. Despite the threat of a U.S. withdrawal, governments and businesses alike made clear they remain strongly committed to a clean energy future.

Far from being deterred, governments showed their resolve by setting a clear deadline to complete the Paris rulebook in 2018. It’s important the United States remain at the table to ensure solid rules holding countries accountable for their promises.

We’ve seen over the past year how the signals from Paris are driving decisions in corporate boardrooms and at all levels of society. It’s imperative that governments flesh out the agreement and move forward with policies at home to fulfill their commitments. But success rests just as much on the actions of companies, states, and cities, and their presence in Marrakech shows the momentum is strong.

The Paris Agreement establishes a pragmatic framework that preserves the full sovereignty of nations to decide their own paths forward, while providing them the means to hold one another accountable. It is precisely the sort of agreement U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have long advocated. Having finally achieved it, the United States would serve no one’s interests, least its own, by walking away.  

--

About C2ES: The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to forge practical solutions to climate change. Our mission is to advance strong policy and action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote clean energy, and strengthen resilience to climate impacts. Learn more at www.c2es.org.

Countries chart pathways toward deeper decarbonization

Globally, countries are committing to near-term actions to address climate change and many, including Canada, Mexico, Germany and the U.S., are beginning to look much further ahead to the long-term strategies needed to reduce the significant risks of a changing climate. These strategies highlight options that can yield the necessary reductions to avert the worst impacts of climate change.

In addition, on Thursday the climate champions Laurence Tubiana and Hakima El Haite announced the 2050 Pathways Platform to support other countries in the development of their mid-century strategies. Twenty-two countries have signed up for the initiative, and many have indicated they will work toward their own strategies. In addition, 15 cities, 17 state and regions, and nearly 200 companies have joined the initiative to support national strategies.

All of the plans submitted thus far focus on technology pathways rather than specific policies. Another common element is a focus on changes to land use and forestry that can absorb some of the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere. The strategies also prioritize which sectors of the economy really need to transform: energy, transportation, land-use and forest sequestration, and short-lived climate pollutants.

The decision to release the U.S, Canadian and Mexican mid-century strategies together at COP 22 in Marrakech was made at a joint leaders’ summit in Ottawa in June, building on the countries’ economic ties and shared energy and transport infrastructure.

In the U.S., there are three focus areas for achieving significant emission reductions: decarbonizing the energy sector, improving the U.S. land sink, and reducing emissions of non-CO2 greenhouse gases. The U.S. strategy identifies positive trends over the last decade in each of these areas, and puts forward priorities for strengthening those trends.

These priorities include improved efficiency throughout the energy system, transitioning almost completely to non-emitting energy sources (including nuclear and fossil fuel with capture capture technology for electricity generation), enhancing carbon sequestration on U.S. lands, developing negative emissions technology (BECCS, or Beneficial Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage), and reducing methane, nitrous oxide, and hydrofluorocarbon emissions.

The U.S. strategy does not give a preferred balance between these priorities, but does include model scenarios showing that overachieving on any one priority would mean other priorities would need to contribute less. For example, the analysis that underlies the strategy includes a scenario with no CO2 removal technology. If negative emission technologies do not become available, the U.S. could still meet its 2050 goal by creating a larger land sink and achieving larger reductions in the energy sector.

While the mid-century strategy does not specify policy recommendations, it does note that “a key priority for future policymakers is a transition to efficient carbon pricing over time,” either at a subnational or economy-wide level.

Mid-century strategies can guide the private sector to make long-term investments consistent with the 2050 goals. It may also provide a framework for collaboration between governments and cities, states, and companies around a vision for deep decarbonization. C2ES looks forward to working with businesses and governments at all levels to provide vital input to these strategies.

(Contributing author: C2ES Solutions Fellow Ashley Lawson)

Outcomes of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Marrakech

OUTCOMES OF THE U.N. CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE IN MARRAKECH
22nd Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(COP 22)

November 7-18, 2016

Download the summary (PDF)

Despite looming uncertainties following the election of Donald Trump as the new U.S. president, governments meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, pushed forward with the freshly-minted Paris Agreement on climate change, setting 2018 as their deadline for completing the nuts-and-bolts decisions needed to fully implement the agreement.

Parties arrived in Marrakech buoyed by the agreement’s unexpectedly rapid entry into force, which took place November 4, only to be shocked a mere four days later by the election of Republican candidate Trump, who vowed during the campaign to “cancel” the Paris Agreement.

Questions and speculation about the implications of a Trump presidency dominated hallway chatter and media reporting. But inside the conference rooms and plenary halls, negotiations proceeded apace, with little evidence that the election results significantly altered the outcomes of the Marrakech conference.

In a high-level Marrakech Action Proclamation, parties collectively declared that the “extraordinary momentum on climate change worldwide…is irreversible.” Similar messages were sounded continuously throughout the conference by businesses, cities, states and NGOs, and by heads of state and ministers from Africa, China, Europe, Latin America and elsewhere, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

The Marrakech meeting was the 22nd Session of the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), known as COP 22. It also served as the first meeting of the governing body of the Paris Agreement, known by the acronym CMA.

In the long evolutionary arc of the U.N. climate effort, Marrakech was an important transitional moment, pivoting from the years of negotiation that produced the Paris Agreement to a new phase focused on implementation.

Even apart from the new uncertainties injected by the U.S. election, it was clear in Marrakech that the transition is a challenging one, as perennial issues resurfaced in new guises. Chief among them is the nature of differentiation between developed and developing countries, with some developing nations pressing the kinds of bifurcated approaches that developed countries believed the Paris Agreement had laid to rest.

There was no expectation heading into Marrakech that such issues would be resolved there. Rather, the aim was to better understand the many issues involved in fleshing out the Paris architecture, delineate the areas of convergence and divergence, and adopt a work plan to get to final decisions by 2018 – goals that were largely achieved.

With no clear signal from President-elect Trump or his team whether he indeed plans to abandon the Paris Agreement, parties headed home from Marrakech hoping the United States remains at the table when negotiations resume in Bonn, Germany, in May.

Following are background on the negotiations and a summary of key outcomes:

CONTEXT: FROM AGREEMENT TO IMPLEMENTATION

The landmark Paris Agreement adopted in December 2015 marked a dramatic turn in the global climate effort, establishing a new framework combining “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) with new multilateral mechanisms aimed at ensuring transparency and accountability and promoting greater ambition over time.

Although the agreement was designed to apply from 2020 onwards, the unprecedented political momentum on display in Paris carried into 2016, with countries moving more quickly than anticipated to ratify the agreement and bring it into force. In the case of the United States, President Obama was able to accept the agreement through executive action, without seeking Senate advice and consent, because it elaborates the UNFCCC (which received Senate approval) and is consistent with domestic law, and because countries’ emission targets are not binding.

The threshold for entry into force – formal acceptance by 55 countries accounting for at least 55 percent of global emissions – was reached October 4 and the agreement took effect one month later. By the close of the Marrakech conference, it had been ratified by 111 countries representing more than three-fourths of global emissions.

The agreement defines parties’ basic obligations and establishes new procedures and mechanisms. But for these to be fully operational, their details must be further elaborated. This requires the adoption by parties of an extensive set of decisions known loosely as the “Paris rulebook.”

ELABORATING THE PARIS RULEBOOK

Further decisions are required on a wide range of topics, including mitigation, adaptation, finance, transparency, a new “global stocktake” process, market mechanisms, and implementation and compliance.

The Paris Agreement and an accompanying COP decision assigned responsibility for developing these decisions to multiple bodies, chief among them the newly established Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA). (Others include two standing bodies: the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technology Advice, or SBSTA, and the Subsidiary Body on Implementation, or SBI.)

In most cases, however, the Paris Agreement did not specify a deadline for completing the decisions, saying only that they were to be adopted at CMA 1 – the first meeting of the agreement’s new governing body. With the agreement now in force, CMA 1 had to open in Marrakech, but no decisions were ready for adoption. To finesse this unanticipated procedural wrinkle, parties decided to extend CMA 1 beyond Marrakech. They also resolved that the decisions are to be ready “at the latest” when CMA 1 resumes at COP 24 in 2018. The COP and CMA will meet jointly at COP 23 in 2017 to review progress.

In subgroups, parties engaged in extensive informal consultations on the issues, offering initial, and in many cases conflicting, views of how different provisions should be elaborated. The only concrete outcomes, however, were procedural in nature, with parties adopting work plans for carrying the discussions forward. These will entail new written submissions from parties, technical workshops and facilitated roundtable discussions.

Mitigation

The Paris decision calls for further guidance to parties on: the features of NDCs, the up-front information to be provided by parties when communicating future NDCs, and parties’ accounting of their NDCs. One major challenge is how to develop guidance that takes into account the different types of NDCs parties have put forward (e.g., absolute emission targets, intensity-based targets, etc.). Some developing countries argued that in some areas, such as up-front information, requirements should be different for developed and developing countries, a view strongly opposed by developed countries.

Adaptation

Within the APA, parties began discussing the periodic “adaptation communications” they are encouraged to submit under the Paris Agreement, outlining their adaptation needs and/or efforts. They discussed the possible elements of these communications and their potential links to the transparency system and the global stocktake. In parallel, the Adaptation Committee began considering how developing country adaptation efforts will be “recognized,” and how to regularly assess the adequacy and effectiveness of adaptation efforts and support.

Finance

The Paris Agreement requires developed countries to provide biennial reports on financial support provided or mobilized through “public interventions,” and on projected levels of future support. In Marrakech, SBSTA began considering how to account for public finance. Issues include whether the accounting should apply only to flows from developed to developing countries or to broader flows of public finance.

Transparency

The Paris Agreement establishes an enhanced transparency framework with reporting and review obligations for all parties and “built-in flexibility” for developing countries with limited capacity. This framework is to build on existing UNFCCC transparency processes, which are different for developed and developing countries. A major issue is whether the “flexibility” built into the Paris framework will continue this bifurcated approach – a view advanced by some developing countries and adamantly rejected by developed countries. This promises to be a major point of contention through 2018. A related issue is whether requirements should instead be tailored to different types of NDCs.

Global Stocktake

The Paris Agreement establishes a “global stocktake” every five years starting in 2023 to assess collective progress toward the agreement’s long-term goals. The stocktakes will set the stage for parties’ submission of successive rounds of NDCs. In Marrakech, parties began discussing how to structure the stocktake, including its format, inputs, timeline, duration, and output, and its linkage to other elements of the Paris architecture.

Implementation and Compliance

The Paris Agreement establishes a new 12-member expert committee to “facilitate implementation” and “promote compliance” in a “facilitative” and “non-punitive” manner. The APA began considering issues including:

  • The scope of the mechanism – for example, whether it will consider only parties’ binding procedural obligations or the achievement of NDCs, which are not binding;
  • How the mechanism will be triggered – for example, whether a party can ask the committee to examine another party’s compliance; and
  • How parties’ varied circumstances and capabilities will be taken into account.

Market and Non-Market Mechanisms

SBSTA began consideration of two market-related provisions of the Paris Agreement: a requirement that parties using internationally transferred mitigation outcomes (ITMOs) to meet their NDCs ensure no double counting of transferred units; and the creation of a new mechanism contributing to mitigation and sustainable development that may, like the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, generate tradable emission units. The Paris Agreement also calls for a framework for non-market approaches, and parties began exploring what it could encompass. Ideas included some type of coordination of policies such as feed-in tariffs and fossil fuel subsidy reforms.

“Orphan” issues

One of the most contentious items in Marrakech was how to treat a set of so-called orphan issues that are referenced in the Paris Agreement but not assigned to the APA or another body for further consideration. These issues include whether to establish common timeframes for NDCs (parties adopted different timeframes in the first round); any rules around the adjustment by parties of their NDCs; and the development of a new collective finance goal beyond 2025. Unable to agree on any specific direction, parties simply asked the APA to continue its consideration of “possible additional matters relating to the implementation of the Paris Agreement.”

OTHER MARRAKECH OUTCOMES

Beyond developing the Paris rulebook, parties took actions and made announcements on a range of other issues, including:

Adaptation Fund

One holdover issue from Paris was whether the Adaptation Fund established under the Kyoto Protocol, which provides adaptation support to developing countries, would continue under the Paris Agreement. Although developed countries would prefer to channel support through the newly establish Green Climate Fund, developing countries pushed very hard to keep the Adaptation Fund alive. Parties decided the fund “should serve the Paris Agreement,” pending decisions on governance and other issues.

2018 Facilitative Dialogue

In Paris, anticipating that the Paris Agreement would not be in force for several years, parties decided to conduct an early stocktake through a “facilitative dialogue” in 2018. (The next round of NDCs is due in 2019/20.) In Marrakech, parties asked the presidencies of COP 22 and COP 23 to jointly undertake consultations on how to organize the facilitative dialogue, and to report back at COP 23.

Mid-century Strategies

The Paris Agreement encourages countries to prepare and submit “long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies” outlining the kinds of actions needed to achieve much deeper emission reductions. In Marrakech, Canada, Germany, Mexico, and the United States became the first countries to submit what have come to be known as mid-century strategies. A new initiative called the 2050 Pathway Platform was launched, with support from a broad array of national governments, cities, states, and companies, to help other countries develop their own mid-century strategies.

Finance

Heading into Marrakech, developed countries released a roadmap outlining how they foresee meeting the goal of mobilizing $100 billion a year in public and private finance for developing countries by 2020. In Marrakech, the UNFCCC’s Standing Committee on Finance released its second biennial assessment, showing that total global climate finance increased 15 percent in 2013-14, reaching a high-bound estimate of $741 billion in 2014.

Countries and others announced a variety of new financial pledges, including:

Loss and Damage

Parties conducted the first review of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts (WIM). The mechanism, established as an interim body at COP 19 and subsequently brought under the Paris Agreement, is charged with developing approaches to help vulnerable countries cope with unavoidable climate impacts, including extreme weather events and slow-onset events such as sea-level rise. The next review will take place in 2019, and further reviews will be conducted on a five-year cycle, which could align with the global stocktakes.

FUTURE MEETINGS

Negotiations will resume at the annual Subsidiary Bodies meeting, set for May 8-18, 2017, in Bonn, Germany. Fiji will assume the COP presidency at COP 23, to be held November 6-17, 2017, in Bonn. Poland will host COP 24, set for November 5-16, 2018.

Businesses continue to lead on climate

Business leaders at COP 22 in Marrakech, Morocco, explain how investments in clean energy and efficiency make good sense for everyone. L to R: Elliot Diringer, Executive Vice President, C2ES; Cathy Woollums, Senior Vice President, Environmental Services and Chief Environmental Counsel, Berkshire Hathaway Energy; Nanette Lockwood, Global Director, Policy and Advocacy, Ingersoll Rand; Kevin Rabinovitch, Global Sustainability Director, Mars Incorporated; Tamara “TJ” DiCaprio, Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability, Microsoft.

Businesses have invested billions in clean energy and efficiency because it makes business sense.

At a side event at the U.N. climate talks in Marrakech, Morocco, leaders of major companies reiterated the benefits of those investments – for their companies, customers, the environment and the economy -- and said they will keep moving toward sustainability.

“We see a clear business case for this,” said Kevin Rabinovitch, Global Sustainability Director at Mars Inc. The global food and candy company has committed to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions from its operations by 2040. Working toward energy efficiency helps the company cut costs, he said, but also motivates employees who are working toward a higher purpose.

“These targets, these programs, these goals need to transcend individual leaders, be they in government or in corporations,” Rabinovitch said. “We’re solving long-term problems. We need to put structures and systems in place that are consistent and durable.”

“You’re now looking at decades of investment. Businesses are not going to walk away from this,” said Nanette Lockwood, Global Director, Policy and Advocacy at Ingersoll Rand. The maker of air conditioners and refrigeration systems has committed to invest $500 million by 2020 to develop alternative refrigerants to HFCs and to reduce emissions by 50 million metric tons by 2030. “Once we set a direction and we create value and markets, we continue down that path.”

The C2ES event, co-sponsored with the Edison Electric Institute, featured senior representatives from Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Ingersoll Rand, Mars and Microsoft. They are among the more than 150 U.S. firms that have committed to specific climate actions as part of the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.

“Microsoft is committed to its sustainability goals, to its clean energy goals. Our investments in innovation in this area are good not only for the environment, but also for our business and for the economy,” said Tamara “TJ” DiCaprio, Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability at Microsoft, whose operations have been carbon neutral since 2012. Microsoft uses an internal carbon fee to fund energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainable communities.

As the largest regulated owner of renewable energy generation in the U.S., Berkshire Hathaway Energy has invested more than $15 billion in renewable projects, and has pledged to invest up to another $15 billion going forward.

“We can bring renewable solutions to our customers at very low cost and sometimes no additional cost,” said Cathy Woollums, Senior Vice President for Environmental Services and Chief Environmental Counsel. “It’s a win for the environment; it’s a win for our customers; and it’s a win for us.”

In a C2ES statement released in October when the Paris Agreement reached the threshold for entry into force, 11 leading companies said they are “committed to working on our own and in partnership with governments to mobilize the technology, investment and innovation needed to transition to a sustainable low-carbon economy.” The statement notes that the Paris Agreement facilitates stronger private sector action by providing long-term direction, promoting transparency, addressing competitiveness, and facilitating carbon pricing.

Speakers at the event agreed on the importance of consistency, transparency and partnerships moving forward. The Paris Agreement, with nearly all of the world’s nations committing to move in the same direction, is sending signals that the business and investment community are internalizing in their long-term investing and decision-making. And working together with cities and states, and other companies, helps them share best practices and go further, faster to reach their goals.

A lot of the progress that has been made, especially in the United States, in reducing emissions has been driven by market and technology forces, and those forces will continue even in the absence of federal action on climate change.

Asked what will change under the new U.S. administration, Woollums said, “We need to give the new administration a chance to develop rational policies. The President-elect understands business. To the extent that the things that we’ve been doing make business sense, we will continue to do those things.”

 

Major companies back Paris Agreement

Media Advisory

November 15, 2016

Contact:

US: Laura Rehrmann, rehrmannl@c2es.org, 703-516-0621

Marrakech: Anthony Mansell, mansella@c2es.org, 202-384-0774 (cell) 

Major companies back Paris Agreement

Hear from companies at livestreamed event today

MARRAKECH – At an event today at COP 22 in Marrakech, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) will highlight climate action by business, including a recent statement signed by 11 leading corporations in support of the Paris Agreement.

The event, to be held at the U.S. Center at the U.N. Climate Change Conference, will feature remarks by senior representatives of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Ingersoll Rand, Mars and Microsoft. They are among the more than 150 U.S. firms that have committed to specific climate actions as part of the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.

The event occurs at 4 p.m. Marrakech time (11 a.m. EST) and will be livestreamed. (See details below).

C2ES Executive Vice President Elliot Diringer will highlight a statement organized by C2ES and signed by 11 major companies based or with major operations in the United States welcoming the Paris Agreement's entry into force, and pledging to work with governments to implement their contributions.

The statement, released when the threshold for entry into force was reached in October, says the Paris Agreement establishes “an inclusive, pragmatic and, hopefully, durable framework for progressively strengthening efforts globally to address the causes and consequences of climate change.”

The statement was endorsed by Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Calpine, HP Inc., Intel, LafargeHolcim, Microsoft, National Grid, PG&E, Rio Tinto, Schneider Electric, and Shell.

“As businesses concerned about the well-being of our investors, our customers, our communities and our planet, we are committed to working on our own and in partnership with governments to mobilize the technology, investment and innovation needed to transition to a sustainable low-carbon economy,” the statement says.

It says the Paris Agreement facilitates stronger private sector action by providing long-term direction, promoting transparency, addressing competitiveness, and facilitating carbon pricing.

“Many companies recognize the costly impacts of climate change, and see investment and growth opportunities in a clean-energy transition,” said C2ES President Bob Perciasepe. “These companies are taking action and are looking to governments to help lead the way.”

Read the full business statement: http://bit.ly/Biz4Climate

Watch the livestream: http://www.state.gov/e/oes/climate/cop22/video/index.htm

EVENT DETAILS:

CHARTING A LOW-CARBON COURSE FOR THE U.S. ECONOMY

Tuesday, November 15, 2016, 4 p.m. – 5 p.m. local time (11 a.m.-Noon EST)?U.S. Center, Blue Zone, Marrakech?Livestream: http://www.state.gov/e/oes/climate/cop22/video/index.htm

Senior officials from major corporations discuss ways business leadership can help achieve climate goals in this live-streamed event co-sponsored with the Edison Electric Institute (EEI).

•    Cathy Woollums, Senior Vice President, Environmental Services and Chief Environmental Counsel, Berkshire Hathaway Energy

•    Nanette Lockwood, Global Director, Policy and Advocacy, Ingersoll Rand

•    Kevin Rabinovitch, Global Sustainability Director, Mars Incorporated

•    Tamara “TJ” DiCaprio, Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability, Microsoft

•    Elliot Diringer, Executive Vice President, C2ES

•    Eric Holdsworth, Senior Director, Climate Programs, EEI

For reporters in Marrakech, C2ES will also host a second side event:

Post-Election: The Outlook for U.S. Climate Policy

November 16, 2016

6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

IETA Pavilion, Blue Zone

•    Nathanial Keohane, Vice President, Global Climate, Environmental Defense Fund

•    Josh Klein, Senior Professional Staff, Senate Foreign Relations Committee 

•    Matt Rodriquez, Secretary for Environmental Protection, California

•    Cathy Woollums, Senior Vice President, Environmental Services and Chief Environmental Counsel, Berkshire Hathaway Energy

•    Elliot Diringer, Executive Vice President, C2ES

C2ES Resources

•    UNFCCC Climate Transparency: Lessons Learned

•    Key Issues in Completing the Paris Climate Architecture

•    Linking Non-State Action with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

About C2ES: The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization promoting strong policy and action to address our energy and climate challenges. Learn more at www.c2es.org

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