International

Climate change is a global challenge and requires a global solution. Through analysis and dialogue, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions is working with governments and stakeholders to identify practical and effective options for the post-2012 international climate framework. Read more

 

Elliot Diringer's Statement on Doha Climate Talks

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

December 8, 2012

The Doha deal is unfortunately the best we can hope for at this stage. This is the first year of a four-year negotiation, and what was most important was moving the process forward. This agreement does that.

The countries most vulnerable to the rising toll of climate change understandably pushed hard for more. But it was clear coming into Doha that the major economies were not ready to commit to stronger emission cuts and there would be little new money on the table. We can't expect strong new commitments until 2015, the deadline the parties have set for a comprehensive new deal.

Keeping Kyoto alive for now was essential politically but is merely a bridge to a more balanced agreement in 2015. The fact that it was so hard to achieve even Doha's modest steps underscores how tough it will be to deliver a truly meaningful accord in three years. It's also a reminder that we can hardly rely on the UN process alone to mobilize strong global action. We need to ramp up efforts in other multilateral forums too and, most especially, at the domestic level. International agreements work only if countries have the domestic policies needed to deliver on them. Putting those policies in place remains the highest priority.

It's disappointing the United States was not in a position in Doha to credibly claim that it's on track to meeting President Obama's emissions pledge. An ambitious and durable deal in 2012 will be possible only with stronger U.S. engagement. The administration should move forward right away with sensible rules to cut power plant emissions. And Congress should seriously consider a carbon tax as part of a broader solution to the country's mounting fiscal challenges.

Contact Laura Rehrmann to arrange interviews, rehrmannl@c2es.org or 703-516-0621

About C2ES
The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent nonprofit, nonpartisan organization promoting strong policy and action to address the twin challenges of energy and climate change. Launched in November 2011, C2ES is the successor to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Learn more at www.c2es.org.

Not yet on track to 17 percent reduction

With the latest round of international climate change talks underway in Doha this week, it’s a good time to check in on the United States’ pledge, made three years in Copenhagen, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.  Are we on track to meet that?

The short answer: Not yet. But projections depend on assumptions, so let’s look at a few recent projections.

Shifting gears in Doha

I recently replied to a question on the National Journal blog: “Should international negotiators abandon the top-down multilateral system to confront climate change and find another way?”

You can ready other responses at the National Journal.

Here is my response: True enough, the Doha climate talks will produce no big breakthroughs. Compared to the last three conferences – Copenhagen, Cancún and Durban – Doha is indeed a pretty ho-hum affair.

That is no doubt disappointing to anyone still looking to the U.N. climate negotiations to deliver a quick, decisive response to the challenge of global climate change. In actuality, though, the diplomatic humdrum in Doha marks a long overdue shifting of gears that could, in time, produce a far more practical approach.

U.S. law underscores need for global action on aviation emissions

President Obama’s signature on a law authorizing the Secretary of Transportation to bar U.S. airlines from participating in the European Union’s emissions trading system underscores the urgent need for a global approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the fast-growing aviation sector. 

The new law is the latest salvo in an international brouhaha triggered by the EU’s attempt to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from flights to or from Europe.  Dozens of countries, including the United States, protested the move as an affront to national sovereignty and a violation of international aviation agreements. The EU acted after years of talks within the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) failed to result in a global agreement to reduce aviation emissions.

C2ES to Present New Study of Multilateral Climate Options at Doha Talks

Press Release

November 28, 2012

Contact: Laura Rehrmann at rehrmannl@c2es.org

                                                                             

                                                                           C2ES TO PRESENT NEW STUDY OF MULTILATERAL CLIMATE OPTIONS AT DOHA TALKS

Analysis Outlines Issues and Alternatives for a 2015 Agreement

 

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) released a new report today outlining major issues and options before the world’s governments as they attempt to craft a comprehensive new climate change agreement by 2015.

International law expert Daniel Bodansky, the report’s author, will draw on the analysis in a presentation Saturday in Doha at a Special Event organized by the co-chairs of the new negotiating round launched last year in Durban.  Bodansky, an Arizona State University law professor, will also present the report December 5 at a C2ES side event in Doha.  (See event details below).

The new C2ES report analyzes issues under the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, in which parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) set a 2015 deadline for negotiating a new agreement to start in 2020.  The report reviews past efforts under the UNFCCC in assessing options for a new agreement.

“We’ve now tried both a binding top-down approach and a voluntary bottom-up approach, and neither has delivered the strong global effort we need,” said C2ES Executive Vice President Elliot Diringer.  “The Durban Platform talks are a chance to draw on the best of both approaches to create a more effective and durable agreement.”

The paper, titled “The Durban Platform: Issues and Options for a 2015 Agreement,” contrasts the more top-down approach taken in the legally binding Kyoto Protocol with the parallel voluntary framework established under the 2010 Cancún Agreements.  Formal adoption of a new round of emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol is among the issues to be decided in Doha.

The report identifies three broad options under the Durban Platform: an expanded Kyoto-like approach, legalization of the Cancún architecture, and a multi-track approach in which countries can choose among different tracks.

“In designing a new agreement, parties can draw both on their concrete experiences in the UNFCCC and approaches taken in other multilateral arenas,” said Professor Bodansky.  “The trick is arriving at an approach that enables both strong commitments and broad participation.”

Professor Bodansky has authored or co-authored  previous C2ES reports, including “Multilateral Climate Efforts Beyond the UNFCCC,” “The Evolution of Multilateral Regimes: Implications for Climate Change,” and “Towards an Integrated Multi-Track Climate Framework.”

C2ES also released a second report, “Market-Based Climate Mitigation Policies in Emerging Economies,” summarizing climate-related policies adopted or under consideration in Brazil, China, India, South Africa and South Korea. The report, by C2ES International Fellows Sara Moarif and Namrata Patodia Rastogi, focuses on market-based policies including trading systems, taxes, and different forms of subsidies.

C2ES Executive Vice President Elliot Diringer is available for interviews about the talks, what to hope for, and what to expect. Email rehrmannl@c2es.org to arrange interviews.

 

Special Event Dec. 1 in Doha

Professor Daniel Bodansky is one of two non-party experts invited by the Co-Chairs of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action to present on the contours of a 2015 agreement.  The event, which will include remarks by UNFCCC Executive Christiana Figueres, is set for 1-2 p.m. in the Qatar National Conference Centre (room TBA).

 

C2ES Side Event - The Durban Platform: Issues and Options for a 2015 Agreement

What: A discussion of the new C2ES analysis of issues and options for a 2015 agreement under the Durban Platform.

When: Wednesday, December 5, from 8:15-9:45 p.m.

Where: Side Event Room 8.

Panelists:

Dan Bodansky, Lincoln Professor of Law, Ethics and Sustainability, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University

H.E. Burghan Gafoor, Ambassador and Chief Negotiator for Climate Change, Singapore

Artur Runge-Metzger, Director, International and Climate Strategy, European Commission

H.E. Jo Tyndall, Climate Change Ambassador, New Zealand

Alfred Wills, Chief Negotiator – Climate Change, South Africa

Elliot Diringer, Executive Vice President, C2ES

 

C2ES Side Event - The Role of Global Corporations in Moving the Climate Needle

What: This panel, presented in coordination with the Dartmouth Tuck Business School, will examine how companies are exhibiting climate leadership today, and what would help push the private sector to move the needle further and faster.

When: Wednesday, November 28, from 8:15-9:45 p.m.

Where: Side Event Room 8.

Panelists:

Giles Dickson, Vice President, Environmental Policies & Global Advocacy, Alstom

David Hone, Senior Climate Change Advisor, Shell

Tim Juliani, Director of Corporate Engagement, C2ES

Professor Anant Sundaram, Tuck School of Business

 

About C2ES
The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent nonprofit, nonpartisan organization promoting strong policy and action to address the twin challenges of energy and climate change. Launched in November 2011, C2ES is the successor to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

The Durban Platform: Issues and Options for a 2015 Agreement

The Durban Platform: Issues and Options for a 2015 Agreement

December 2012

By Daniel Bodansky

Download the full brief (PDF)

 

The Durban Platform talks, aiming for a new global agreement in 2015, present an opportunity to assess and strengthen the international climate change effort. Since launching the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change two decades ago, governments have tried both "top down" and "bottom up" approaches. Neither has achieved the levels of participation or ambition needed to reverse the continued rise of global greenhouse gas emissions. Going forward, governments should draw on both models to forge a more effective global agreement.

Daniel Bodansky
0

Market Based Climate Mitigation Policies In Emerging Economies

Market Based Climate Mitigation Policies In Emerging Economies

December 2012

by Sara Moarif and Namrata Patodia Rastogi

Download the full report (PDF)

Press Release

Summary

Used by governments for decades, market-based policies are mechanisms to control environmental pollution at various leverage points. They work by changing relative prices – raising the cost of emissions-intensive activities and/or lowering the cost of lower-emitting alternatives – to provide producers and consumers with a financial incentive to adopt the latter. Policies that can be considered market-based include taxes and fees, subsidies, and the use of pollution control trading systems. Market-based policy instruments provide financial incentive to elicit specific behavior from entities responsible for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, whether consumers or producers.

This brief provides an overview of market-based policies aimed at reducing GHG emissions in several major emerging economies: Brazil, China, India, South Africa and South Korea. By implementing regulatory and marketbased policy instruments across their economies, these countries are seeking to promote cleaner technologies and behavior change while also promoting economic development and growth.

Sara Moarif
0

Australia and Climate Change

Australia's Carbon Pricing Mechanism

Australia’s Clean Energy Future plan is a comprehensive set of national policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and driving investments in clean energy. At its core is a carbon pricing mechanism starting in July 2012 and covering approximately 60 percent of Australia’s emissions. The pricing mechanism begins with a fixed carbon price for the first three years, then transitions to a cap-and-trade program. Revenue generated by the carbon price will be used to ease costs for households and industry and for investment in renewable power, energy efficiency, and other low-carbon alternatives. This brief summarizes the carbon price mechanism and other key features of the Clean Energy Future plan.

 
Australian Government Resource: Clean Energy Legislation

The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency has released a draft of the Clean Energy Legislation Amendment (International Emissions Trading and Other Measures) Bill 2012 and six related bills to inform stakeholders of the way that it proposes to implement linkages to overseas emissions trading schemes, as announced on Tuesday, 28 August 2012. The proposed amendments facilitate the linking of the carbon pricing mechanism with foreign emissions trading schemes, and make minor amendments to the Clean Energy Act 2011 and related acts.

Additional Australia Resources

This page provides links to government climate change pages, emission reduction targets, the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, clean energy plans, and other resources on climate-related policies and actions in Australia.

Policies in Key Countries

 

Australia

Share of global energy-related CO2 emissions: 1.28% (ranked 16th)
Per capita CO2 emissions: 18.8 metric tons (406% of global average)
Per capita GDP: $49,130 (16th globally)

Australia is the world’s largest coal exporter and its economy depends heavily on energy-intensive industries such as mining and oil production. The government recently enacted a Clean Energy Legislative Package with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 2000 levels by 2050. Its policies include energy efficiency measures, a renewable energy target, and a carbon pricing mechanism leading to emissions trading. Australia recently agreed to a new emissions target under the Kyoto Protocol of 5 percent below 2000 levels in 2020 – or up to 20 percent below, depending on other countries’ efforts.

Brazil

Share of global energy-related CO2 emissions: 1.43 (ranked 17th)
Per capita CO2 emissions: 2.3 metric tons (49% of global average)

Per Capita GDP: $10,720 (79th globally)

Over 70 percent of Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions stem from deforestation and land-use changes associated with the expansion of agriculture. (When land use-related emissions are included, Brazil ranks as the fifth largest greenhouse gas emitting country.) In recent years, rapid growth in energy production has increased energy-related CO2 emissions. In 2008, Brazil developed a National Climate Change Policy, including measures related to energy sources, forests and agriculture, ranching, industry, waste, and transport. The policy aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 36 percent to 39 percent below business as usual in 2020.

Canada

Share of global energy-related CO2 emissions: 1.73% (ranked 7th)
Per capita CO2 emissions: 16.3 metric tons (351% of global average)

Per capita GDP: $45,560 (22nd globally)

Canada is one of the world’s largest producers of oil and natural gas, and the leading source of U.S. energy imports. Canada meets most of its electricity needs through hydropower, and while emissions from the oil and gas sector are rising, over greenhouse gas emissions have decreased since 2007. Canada has set a goal of reducing emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and its policies include vehicle emission regulations and a phase-out of coal-generated electricity. Canada signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1998 but formally withdrew from the agreement in 2011.

China

Share of global energy-related CO2 emissions:: 26.18% (ranked 1st)
Per capita CO2 emissions: 6.26 metric tons (135% of global average)

Per capita GDP: $4,940 (124th globally)

As the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, accounting for nearly half of total global consumption, China’s annual CO2 emissions are now the highest of any country. China pledged in the 2010 Cancún Agreements to reduce carbon intensity 40 percent to 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. Its 12th Five Year Plan, adopted in 2011, includes policies to reduce the country’s energy intensity and CO2 intensity 16 percent and 17 percent, respectively, by 2015. Policies include improved greenhouse gas monitoring and reporting, renewable energy targets and incentives, and energy efficiency standards. Seven regional carbon trading pilot projects are being developed, with the goal of gradually establishing a national trading system. Under current policies, China’s emissions are projected to rise 75 percent by 2035.

European Union (EU)

Share of global energy-related CO2 emissions: 11.51%
Per capita CO2 emissions: 7.3 metric tons (157% of global average)

Per Capita GDP: $34,891

The EU includes 27 countries and more than 500 million people. The Climate and Energy Package adopted in 2009 is built around a “20-20-20” for 2020 – reducing emissions 20 percent from 1990 levels, increasing renewables to 20 percent of energy production, and a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency. The EU Emissions Trading System is the world’s largest greenhouse gas trading program, covering over 11,000 power stations and industrial plants. Recently, the EU agreed to a new binding target under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce its emissions 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

India

Share of global energy-related CO2 emissions: 5.34% (ranked 3rd)
Per capita CO2 emissions: 1.4 metric tons (31% of global average)
Per capita GDP: $1,410 (162nd globally)

While India’s economy and CO2 emissions have grown rapidly, per capita emissions remain well below the global average. India’s 2009 National Plan on Climate Change established eight National Missions addressing solar power, energy efficiency, water issues, sustainable habitat, agriculture, the Himalayan ecosystem, land use, and strategic knowledge on climate change. In the 2010 Cancun Agreements, India pledged to reduce emissions intensity 20 percent to 25 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

Japan

Share of global energy-related CO2 emissions: 3.66% (ranked 5th)
Per capita CO2 emissions: 9.2 metric tons (109% of global average)

Per capita GDP: $44,900 (23rd globally)

Japan is the world’s largest importer of liquefied natural gas, second largest importer of coal, and third largest net importer of oil. In 2010, Japan adopted a Basic Energy Plan with the goal of reducing emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below by 2050. With most of Japan’s nuclear reactors offline since the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, the government is reassessing the country’s Basic Energy Plan and may relax its emissions goals. Japan chose not to take a second emissions target under the Kyoto Protocol.

Mexico

Share of global energy-related CO2 emissions: 1.4% (ranked 13th)
Per capita CO2 emissions: 3.96 metric tons (85% of global average)
Per capita GDP: $9,420 (83rd globally)

Mexico’s rapid economic growth has been reflected in increasing fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions. The 2012 General Law on Climate Change established climate change as a long-term priority for the country. In 2007, the National Climate Change Strategy included measures on energy, sustainable development, waste management, agriculture, forestry, land use, and conservation. In the 2010 Cancún Agreements, Mexico pledged to reduce absolute emissions 30 percent below business as usual levels by 2020.

South Africa

Share of global energy-related CO2 emissions: 1.46% (ranked 10th)
Per capita CO2 emissions: 9.47 metric tons (204% of global average)

Per capita GDP: $6,960 (98th globally)

South Africa is a significant coal consumer and exporter, and imports substantial volumes of oil and natural gas. The country’s climate strategy calls for emissions to peak between 2020 and 2025, stabilize for about a decade, and then begin to decline. South Africa pledged in the 2010 Cancún Agreements to reduce emissions 34 percent below business-as-usual levels by 2020 – and 42 percent by 2025, with international support.

Republic of Korea

Share of global energy-related CO2 emissions: 1.46% (ranked 9th)
Per capita CO2 emissions: 11.9 metric tons (257% of global average)

Per capita GDP: $20,870 (53rd globally)

The Republic of Korea is a major importer of coal and natural gas, and its rapid economic growth has led to steadily increasing emissions. The 2009 Framework Act of Low Carbon Green Growth created a legislative framework for mid- and long-term emissions reductions using tools such as cap-and-trade, renewable energy incentives, and tax shifts to encourage low-carbon economic development. South Korea plans to launch an emissions trading system in 2015 covering around 500 companies accounting for about 60 percent of total annual emissions. South Korea pledged in the 2010 Cancún Agreements to reduce emissions 30 percent below business-as-usual levels by 2020.

 

 


 

    

Energy Exchange Series Keynote: Responding to the Major Forces Shaping Energy Today

SPEECH BY EILEEN CLAUSSEN

PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR CLIMATE AND ENERGY SOLUTIONS

ENERGY EXCHANGE SERIES BREAKFAST

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA

OCTOBER 25, 2012

Thank you very much.  It is wonderful to be here in Brisbane.  I want to thank the Energy Policy Institute of Australia and Rio Tinto for bringing us together today for this timely discussion.  This is the fourth breakfast in this series and all of them have been quite well attended, which suggests to me one of two things: Either the event sponsors have done an excellent job putting together some provocative discussions, or all of you really enjoy eating breakfast.

I also want to thank the conference sponsors for allowing me to escape the United States at an opportune moment.  Although Australian politics has its share of vitriol, it is nice to be missing the onslaught of negative presidential campaign ads back home.  A couple of weeks ago, the candidates argued about the fate of public television and the children’s TV character, Big Bird. 

All I can say is this is a perfect example of politics at its most … fowl.

In all seriousness, I know you have spent these breakfasts talking about the future of energy, and I will do that as well.  But I would not do justice to the mission of my organization if I did not focus on the intersection between our energy future and the future of the global climate.

Many of you may have known my organization as the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.  About a year ago, we became the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions – C2ES.  Our focus remains the same: working in and outside the United States to advance policy and action to address the twin challenges of energy and climate change.  We are engaged in this work because we believe real challenges require real solutions.

The real challenge I want to talk about today is, I believe, one of the most important of the 21st century: that is providing safe, affordable and reliable energy for all, while at the same time protecting the global climate.

And the real solution to this challenge?  Simply put, we must transition to a low-carbon economy.  It may sound simple, but it is a very tall order. 

To help put it in perspective, I’d like to do three things this morning.  First, I will highlight the primary forces shaping the energy picture today.  Then I’ll look at what key countries are – or are not – doing to move us toward a low-carbon economy.  And finally I will make some suggestions about what we must do to make this transition real.  

I’d like to begin by restating the challenge we face.  Remember, it’s a two-part challenge – and the trick is dealing with both parts together.  The first part we all get.  We need affordable, reliable and safe energy because millions around the world still lack it, and because we cannot continue to grow our economies without it.  The connection between energy, improved living standards, and economic growth is quite clear.

But what about the second part of the challenge?  Why do we need to protect the global climate?  In short, because the world is getting warmer.  And the reason it is getting warmer is because we continue to produce enormous amounts of greenhouse gases, mostly by burning fossil fuels.

According to most scenarios, global emissions of greenhouse gases would have to peak by 2015 for us to have a reasonable chance of limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius.  That is the goal embraced by the world’s governments, first in Copenhagen in 2009, and again in Cancun in 2010.  

At this stage, I think it would take heroic efforts around the globe to meet that goal.  But if we exceed it, we will be entering very dicey territory. 

Indeed, we are already experiencing the impacts of warming.  Climate change is no longer a theory.  It is here and now. 

The global temperature has been above the 20th century average for 331 months in a row.  That means the last time the global temperature was below average was February 1985.

In the United States, we had the hottest July in 118 years of recordkeeping.  We also experienced some of the worst wildfires in our history and the worst drought in half a century.  

We are not alone.  Here in Australia, you have seen your own heat waves, flooding, wildfires and drought.  And ocean warming and acidification, both caused by growing carbon dioxide emissions, threaten the future of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem.

It is bound to get worse if we cannot once and for all get a handle on greenhouse gas emissions.  Yet they keep rising.

Between 2009 and 2010, worldwide carbon dioxide emissions jumped 6 percent; it was the largest year-to-year increase on record.  Of course, this global increase masks important national differences.  While in most developed countries emissions are stabilizing or on the decline, emissions from China, India, Indonesia and other developing countries are growing rapidly.  By 2035, if current trends continue, China alone will be responsible for one-third of global emissions.

So, with global emissions growing, and with the world already experiencing the weather extremes that scientists have always said would accompany global warming, it is time to face facts.  It is time to jumpstart the transition to a low-carbon economy because it is only through this transition that we can meet both challenges: providing safe, reliable energy and addressing climate change.

So let’s look at the major forces shaping the production and use of energy today, and then drill down (no pun intended) to what governments are doing in key parts of the world to redirect our energy future.  I’ll focus in particular on China, the United States, Europe and Australia.  I also want to touch briefly on what we can hope to see from the new round of international climate talks launched last year in Durban.

We see five forces shaping our global energy future.

The first is rising demand.  Even with the global economy still in recovery, developing countries are growing quite fast (China, in a year of “slowing growth,” still grew by 7.8 percent in the first half of this year.) And with that economic growth comes a rising middle class that wants cars and air conditioners and other essentials of modern life that require energy.  Global energy demand is projected to rise 50 percent over the next 20 years, with more than 80 percent of this growth in developing countries. 

A second major force shaping the world’s energy future is a growing desire for energy security.  Countries are anxious.  They don’t want to be tethered to just one or two sources of energy, especially if it comes from beyond their borders.  So they are enhancing their energy security in three ways: by developing domestic energy sources; by diversifying their energy supplies; and by improving energy efficiency.

A third major force is new technology.  Only recently did hydraulic fracturing advance to a point where it was economical to extract natural gas from the shale formations under large swaths of the continental United States  Now the U.S. is in the midst of a fracking revolution.  Our Energy Information Administration projects that shale gas production in the U.S. will jump 170 percent by 2035, and over the coming decade, the U.S. might become a net exporter of liquefied natural gas.  A dramatic example of how technological breakthroughs can rewrite our energy future. 

A fourth force shaping the energy picture is what I will call the unforeseen.  Think of the Fukushima disaster, which could dramatically reshape the trajectory of nuclear power worldwide.  Similarly, the Arctic is melting faster than we’d anticipated, prompting new competition for its vast energy resources. Not long ago, few analysts would have predicted the sustained high price for oil that has made it worthwhile to unlock the potential of oil sands, making Canada the world’s No. 3 oil producer and changing the geopolitics of the oil market.  It’s impossible, of course, to predict what other unforeseen circumstances we might soon face.  

The fifth important force is policy.  While market forces may predominate, governments around the world are adopting a range of policies to try to meet their current and future energy needs.  I’ll note that, as countries craft these new energy policies, climate change is, more often than not, an afterthought.

I want to focus on this last force – policy – in four parts of the world because, in the end, only through policy can we harness or manage these other forces to deliver the low-carbon transition we need.

First, China.  At your February breakfast, you heard directly from influential Chinese energy policy maker Zhang Guobao (pronounced: Jong Gwoh-Baugh). Mr. Zhang explained how China has surpassed the United States to become the world’s largest energy producer and consumer.

Because of its rising demand, China increasingly is concerned about the security of its energy supplies.  China is the second largest net importer of oil in the world, and this accounts for many of its actions on the international stage.  For example, China is nowhere near the Arctic, but with recent melting opening new possibilities for oil exploration, China is now lobbying for permanent observer status at the Arctic Council. 

China also is looking to diversify its energy supplies beyond oil and coal.  It has set a goal of 15 percent of total energy output from renewable sources by 2020, and invested heavily to lead the clean tech market.  China is now the world’s number-one solar manufacturer and home to four of the world’s top 10 wind turbine manufacturers. 

China is mindful not only of commercial and energy security concerns, but also of the climate.  China, after all, has not been immune to extreme weather.  Since the summer of 2007, it has experienced major flooding and hurricanes.  Heavy snowstorms last winter disrupted travel during the Lunar New Year celebration.  

Increasingly, climate is an explicit focus of Chinese policymaking.  Having pledged in Copenhagen to reduce its carbon intensity 40 to 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, the government effectively legislated this goal through targets and actions in its 12th five-year plan.  Among other things, China is setting up seven local or regional greenhouse gas trading systems, with the goal of moving toward nationwide trading. 

These are impressive steps, but they are hardly enough.  China’s greenhouse gas emissions already exceed those of Europe and the United States combined, and they are projected to rise 45 percent between 2009 and 2020.  The country has doubled its electric generation capacity since 2005, but just 0.2 percent of it is solar.  Meanwhile, coal generating capacity has tripled since 2000, and is projected to grow another 50 percent by 2030.

The next country I want to talk about is the United States.  As I mentioned, we are on the brink of an election, and the outcome could influence the direction of U.S. energy and climate policy.  As Washington’s partisan gridlock has only grown worse, we’ve had no coherent national approach to energy or climate.  Our approach has been essentially ad hoc.

On the bright side, the Obama administration recently issued new fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for vehicles that represent the single largest step ever aimed at reducing U.S. carbon emissions.  As a result, by 2025, we will see 90 percent increased fuel economy and 40 percent decreased greenhouse gas emissions for the average new vehicle.  This is a big deal.

Meanwhile, the state of California, the ninth largest economy in the world, is on the verge of launching a cap-and-trade program.  On November 14th, it will auction off more than 21 million greenhouse gas allowances, each representing one ton of carbon dioxide.  Once it reaches its full scope, California will have the second largest cap-and-trade program, in terms of emissions covered, in the world – behind only the European Union. California intends to link its program with Quebec’s, and is discussing linking with others, including Australia.

So there is some progress on the policy front in the U.S.  Yet, Congress is debating for the umpteenth time whether to pull the plug on a production tax credit that has helped advance wind power, at the very moment that lower natural gas prices threaten to undermine renewables.  And, although the Environmental Protection Agency has moved forward on vehicle emissions, it’s unclear how the agency will regulate greenhouse gases from power plants and other stationary sources.  If re-elected, President Obama would likely ramp up that effort.  Governor Romney, on the other hand, favors stripping the agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases. 

One wild card is the possibility – and at this stage, I’d say the remote possibility – of a carbon tax as part of a broader fiscal package.  You may have heard of our looming “fiscal cliff.”  In fact, there is a slew of looming tax- and deficit-related issues, the resolution of which might be eased by the revenue generated by a carbon tax.  There’s no big public push for this, but a lot of quiet discussion among people from across the political spectrum and from different stakeholder groups, including some from business.  It’s an intriguing possibility, especially since we’ve always assumed a carbon tax was out of the question, but I’m not holding my breath.

I’m afraid that no matter who’s in the White House, the U.S. approach will likely remain ad hoc for the foreseeable future, with partisan politics standing in the way of broader solutions. 

Still, natural gas is now the fuel of choice for new power plants, and older coal plants are being retired, although coal exports are up.  U.S. oil consumption is projected to remain virtually flat for years to come.  Greenhouse gas emissions are down somewhat, although certainly not enough.  And looking as far out as 2035, the U.S. Energy Information Administration doesn’t see them returning to pre-recession levels. 

The third place I want to talk about, Europe, has done the best job so far of integrating energy and climate policy.  Europe 2020, the EU’s overarching growth strategy, spells out specific targets for reducing carbon emissions, increasing energy efficiency and increasing the use of renewable energy.

Europe is a leading producer and consumer of renewable energy.  2011 was the biggest year yet for renewable installations in the EU, with Germany, Italy and Spain taking the lead.  Across Europe, 71 percent of new generating capacity in 2011 was renewable, with solar PV accounting for nearly half.  In all, renewables accounted for almost a third of Europe’s electricity generation last year, a larger share than either coal or natural gas. And the EU will likely over-deliver on its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

The EU’s groundbreaking Emissions Trading System has had its ups and downs, and a lot has been learned along the way.  But the ETS continues to demonstrate the practicality and value of the cap-and-trade approach, and remains the bulwark of the emerging global carbon market.

But Europe is facing stiff economic challenges.  Cash-strapped governments are reducing their support for renewable energy.  The retrenchment in nuclear power following the Fukushima disaster will likely mean increased reliance on fossil fuels.  We’ve counted on Europe to lead the global climate effort for many years now.  It’s not clear at the moment just how strong a leader Europe can remain going forward.

The fourth and final part of the world I want to talk about today is Australia.  As all of you know very well, this nation is blessed with an abundance of natural resources, including large amounts of coal and natural gas.  Australia’s electricity mix reflects these home-grown resources … with 78 percent of electricity coming from coal and about 14 percent coming from natural gas (with the natural gas share rising fast).  What’s more, exports of coal are growing as Asian demand soars.  For the next five years at least, exports are projected to grow an average of 10 percent a year.

Even as Australia remains heavily dependent on coal, though, it has put in place a comprehensive framework to begin the transition to a low-carbon economy.  The goal of the Clean Energy Future plan is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 2000 levels by 2050.  It aims to achieve this in large part through an innovative market-based approach that begins with a fixed carbon price and transitions over time to full-fledged emissions trading.  To those of us in Washington now thinking about a carbon tax, it’s very interesting to see how the pricing system was coupled with tax reforms to benefit not only affected sectors but also households broadly.  There are lessons to be learned here – about both policy design and politics.   And you can be certain that many are watching Australia closely as another important laboratory for carbon trading. 

What happens here, in Europe, in the United States and in China is vitally important to achieving progress in the low-carbon transition … domestic policies are where the rubber meets the road.  But what about the international climate effort?  Twenty years after the first Rio summit, where does it stand? 

From the start, there has been tension between two competing approaches – top-down and bottom-up.  And the UN process has produced examples of both – top-down in the form of the Kyoto Protocol, and bottom-up in the parallel voluntary framework that’s emerged under the Copenhagen and Cancun agreements.  One brings greater rigor – legal and otherwise.  But it encompasses a relatively small and shrinking share of global emissions.  The other is strictly voluntary.  But it has now mustered explicit mitigation pledges from more than 90 countries – including all of the major economies.

Neither approach, of course, is delivering the effort we need.  The new round of talks launched last year in Durban is a chance to see if there might be a mid-way approach that draws on the best of both.  Countries said in Durban that by 2015, they’ll negotiate a “legal agreement…applicable to all” covering the period starting in 2020.  Beyond those basic terms, the Durban Platform is pretty much a blank slate.  Filling it in will require new thinking, and real compromise on issues that have bedeviled these negotiations from the start.  Issues like the balance of responsibility across developed and developing countries, and how to capture that in a quote-unquote legal agreement.

What we should aim for, I think, is an agreement that’s flexible – one that encourages broad participation by allowing a diversity of approaches.  But at the same time, an agreement more rigorous than a strictly voluntary approach, particularly for those who want to play in the global carbon market.

Whatever emerges in 2015, we cannot count on the UN process to drive the global climate effort.  With the right kind of agreement, it can be the place to weave together emerging national efforts, and hopefully encourage a stronger collective effort.  But we need to tackle this challenge on multiple fronts.  And I believe the real drivers for action come not through multilateral talks, but at home.

So far, I’ve talked about some of the forces shaping the global energy future, and the role of policy in facilitating the low-carbon transition, both at the national level and globally.  I want to wrap up by highlighting some key priorities if we are to succeed.

The first priority is increased energy efficiency. This one is a no-brainer.  It saves money, it reduces emissions, and it improves our energy security.  And this is one area where we don’t need to wait for government.  There are huge opportunities here, and smart companies are seizing them.  The bottom line: We need to push efficiency whenever and wherever we can. 

Next, we must take full advantage of natural gas on the way to a low-carbon economy. But in doing so, we must be proactive in understanding and addressing any health and environmental issues associated with fracking.  We must minimize leakage of methane. And we must ensure that increased reliance on natural gas does not come at the expense of the renewable and nuclear sources we also need to get us to a low-carbon economy. 

Third, and in my view, most important, we must finally get serious about carbon capture and storage.  Under any realistic scenario – even if we become masters at energy efficiency – global energy demand is going to rise.  Coal and natural gas might not be inexhaustible, but they are certainly plentiful – increasingly so, in the case of natural gas.  Under any realistic scenario, we are going to continue burning coal and natural gas for a long time.  The bottom line is this: We cannot avoid climate change unless we put in place the technology needed to capture and sequester these emissions.  We must ramp up investment in CCS technologies, and enact strong policies to ensure that they are deployed.

As I said at the beginning of my talk, we face two challenges: providing safe, affordable and reliable energy for all, while at the same time protecting the global climate.

The solution to both is a low-carbon economy.  And to make that transition, we need a mix of policies to move us in the right direction.

These policies include carbon pricing, mandates where necessary, and targeted incentives for critical technologies.

And these policies are vital because climate change is real; we are already suffering its costs in the form of extreme weather; and the costs will just keep rising unless we act. We need to help the public understand this, so that their elected leaders can acknowledge and address the challenges before us.  We need, in other words, to detoxify the issue of climate change.  We all have a role to play here.  And I’m hoping I can count on each of you to play yours

Thank you very much.

Syndicate content