U.S. States & Regions

States and regions across the country are adopting climate policies, including the development of regional greenhouse gas reduction markets, the creation of state and local climate action and adaptation plans, and increasing renewable energy generation. Read More
 

Volkswagen Settlement Funding: What Cities Should Know

Volkswagen Settlement Funding: What Cities Should Know

December 2016

Download the fact sheet (PDF)

In October 2016, the U.S. government granted final approval of a $14.7 billion settlement against Volkswagen (VW) for equipping more than 500,000 of its diesel vehicles to cheat U.S. vehicle emissions tests in violation of the Clean Air Act. Volkswagen will spend $10 billion on vehicle buybacks and $4.7 billion to mitigate the pollution from these cars and invest in green vehicle technology. This latter amount will be split between two investment programs that states, cities, and tribes can use to expand alternative vehicle projects and access to zero emission vehicles (ZEVs). Cities can play a key role, starting now, by identifying local emissions-cutting and zero-emission vehicle deployment projects that could benefit from increased investment and proposing ideas to states and Volkswagen about ways these funds can best be leveraged. 

0

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.

The Alliance for a Sustainable Future

             

The Alliance for a Sustainable Future

A partnership of C2ES and The U.S. Conference of Mayors

U.S. cities and businesses are exploring how to prepare for climate impacts and how to address the emissions that are the cause – by improving energy efficiency and deploying more clean energy and transportation.

Both see sustainability as a smart strategy for the future.

That’s why The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) and Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) formed the Alliance for a Sustainable Future: to bring cities and businesses together to play a more significant role in shaping sustainable communities and achieving climate goals.

 


“Cities are our nation’s economic powerhouses, making them a key proving ground for policies to increase energy efficiency, deploy clean energy, and foster clean transportation.”

- Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, Alliance Co-Chair


 

Cities and businesses are each doing their part to demonstrate climate leadership.

Cities are leading by:

Companies leading by:

  • Investing in clean energy projects
  • Reducing emissions throughout the supply chain
  • Setting an internal carbon price
  • Helping customers reduce their carbon footprint.

 

Together, cities and businesses can accelerate the momentum toward a more sustainable, low-carbon future. The Alliance for a Sustainable Future creates a framework for mayors and business leaders to develop concrete approaches to reduce carbon emissions, speed deployment of new technology, and respond to the growing impacts of climate change.

Goals of the Alliance

  • Empower local leaders to contribute to the design and implementation of state climate plans and other supporting federal, state, and local initiatives;
  • Inform and engage mayors, city officials, and business leaders so that strategic opportunities can be identified and explored;
  • Build new public-private partnerships; and
  • Raise the profile of city and business contributions in accelerating sustainable development, resilience, and climate action to help implement international commitments.  

Through the alliance, city and business leaders will identify barriers to action and share research and analysis on climate and sustainable development solutions. By building crucial links between cities and companies, the alliance aims to spur innovative partnerships.

The alliance will also identify local, state, and federal policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency, and promote renewable energy development, and explore how those policies can produce new partnerships among cities and the business community.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced the alliance at the USCM’s 84th Annual Meeting in June 2016. Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales is leading the steering committee, which consists of founding sponsors JPMorgan & Chase Co., Duke Energy, and AECOM, and the mayors of Austin, Des Moines, New York City, Salt Lake City and West Sacramento.

At the alliance’s first public event Sept. 21, 2016, at Climate Week NYC, a panel of city and business leaders discussed ways cities and the business community can work together to reduce carbon emissions.

Read more about the Alliance for a Sustainable Future

For more information, contact C2ES Director of Sustainability and Engagement Amy Morsch.

Blogs:

RESOURCES

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.”

 

Bob Perciasepe on the results of the 2016 presidential election

Statement of Bob Perciasepe
President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

November 9, 2016

On the results of the 2016 U.S. election:

We urge President-elect Trump to take time to study the issue of climate change and hear a broad range of perspectives. He’ll find that a majority of Americans across the political spectrum support stronger climate action. Many cities, states and businesses are already acting. Business leaders recognize that extreme weather is driving up costs and that clean energy is creating economic opportunities essential to America’s future.

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. The modern infrastructure and advanced technologies we need to cut emissions and strengthen climate resilience will create jobs at home and position U.S. firms to better compete in the emerging clean-energy economy.

Virtually every country in the world has committed to taking climate action and U.S. leadership is needed to hold them accountable for their promises.

As an independent, nonpartisan organization, C2ES will continue to provide evenhanded analysis and is committed to working with our newly elected leaders and with business and other stakeholders to build common ground toward common-sense climate solutions.

--

To talk to a C2ES expert, contact Laura Rehrmann at rehrmannl@c2es.org

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.

 

How the first US offshore wind project holds lessons for carbon capture

Top: Siemens 2.3 MW Offshore Wind Turbines, courtesy Siemens Press.

Bottom: The ADA-ES 1 MWe pilot unit, courtesy US Department of Energy.

This fall, America’s first offshore wind farm will come online off the coast of Rhode Island, launching a new industry with the potential to create clean energy jobs in manufacturing and in the marine trades, attract private investment to New England, and reduce carbon emissions.

In Europe, the number of offshore wind farms grew from zero to 84 in just a few decades. What lessons can we draw from the growth of offshore wind that could help advance carbon capture technology?

State Leadership

New energy technologies often need both state and federal support to be deployed commercially. Rhode Island has been a leader in supporting offshore wind. In 2010, its legislature authorized a state utility to enter into an offtake agreement for offshore wind power. This year, Massachusetts did the same, and New York announced a new Offshore Wind blueprint.

Rhode Island also brought stakeholders together to create an Oceanic Special Area Management Plan outlining multiple uses for the marine environment. These efforts laid the groundwork for Deepwater Wind to develop the Block Island Wind Farm, a 30 MW, five-turbine project that can provide power for most of Block Island’s 1,051 residents.

Similar state policies could help deploy more carbon capture technology as well. A handful of states have clean energy standards that include carbon capture technology, including Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and Utah. This year, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock highlighted carbon capture in his state’s Energy Future Blueprint. Other states could follow this model.

Both the Western Governors’ Association and the Southern States Energy Board have issued resolutions supporting carbon capture technology as did the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners

Financing Support

National policies and early financing support played a role in the success of offshore wind projects in Europe. A report by the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute noted that European nations included offshore wind in national energy policies and established feed-in tariffs to provide incentives for deployment.

Multilateral development banks like the European Investment Bank played a leadership role by lending to early offshore wind projects, paving the way for commercial banks to follow. Once these major factors were in place, then technology development, the establishment of standardized contract structures, and maintaining a certain level of deal flow helped drive efficiencies that brought down costs.

When it comes to financing carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) in the U.S., we have some pieces of the puzzle in place. There is already a basic federal and state regulatory framework for underground storage of CO2, for example.

Still, financing policies are needed to enable investment in carbon capture projects. We should extend and expand commercial deployment incentives like tax credits and open up the use of master limited partnerships and private activity bonds to carbon capture, among other things.     

Regional Approach

A third lesson to draw from offshore wind is that to create new domestic industries, it helps to take a regional approach. Last year, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced funding for a multi-state effort for offshore wind in the Northeast to develop a regional supply chain.  

DOE is taking a similar approach with CCUS and launched seven Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships to characterize CO2 storage potential in the U.S. and to conduct small and large-scale CO2 storage injection tests. Millions of tons of CO2 have already been stored for decades in West Texas as part of enhanced oil recovery operations. The regional partnerships characterized the potential for more CO2 storage in deep oil-, gas-, coal-, and saline-bearing formations as illustrated in the Carbon Storage Atlas. To date, the partnerships have safely and permanently injected more than 10 million metric tons of CO2 in these types of formations.    

Investing seriously in carbon capture technology has economic benefits including for electrical workers, boilermakers, the building trades, and steelworkers. A new CO2 commodity industry could be created to reuse CO2 to make other products.

Carbon capture also has environmental benefits, helping us address emissions from industrial plants, which are the source of 21 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and from coal and natural gas power plants, which currently supply two-thirds of U.S. electricity.

This fall, as we celebrate the beginning of the new offshore wind industry in the U.S., let’s keep thinking big about what is possible with carbon capture technology. With sufficient financial and policy support, we can create skilled jobs, attract private investment, and lower CO2 emissions.  

Building sustainability from the ground up

L to R: Tom Cochran, CEO and Executive Director, The U.S. Conference of Mayors; Daniel A Zarrilli, Senior Director, Climate Policy and Programs, Chief Resilience Officer, New York City Office of the Mayor; Josh Sawislak, Global Director of Resilience, AECOM; Mayor Chris Bollwage, Elizabeth, NJ, Mayor Javier Gonzales, Santa Fe, NM; Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore, MD; Bob Perciasepe, President, C2ES.

 

Mayors know what’s going on in their communities. Businesses know how to get a good return on investment. So it seems like a natural fit to have them work together on innovative ways to finance clean energy, strengthen resilience to climate impacts, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

To promote that collaboration, C2ES and The U.S. Conference of Mayors formed the Alliance for a Sustainable Future, which held its first public forum during Climate Week NYC.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, past president of the conference, told the gathering that cities are where the work is getting done when it comes to addressing climate change. “Nations talk about energy efficiency and climate action, but mayors are doing it every day,” she said.

At the same time, she noted, mayors need tools to get the job done. “We have to do more with less resources. We’re all in this together.”

That’s where business comes into the picture.

Josh Sawislak, global director of resilience for AECOM, a global engineering, consulting and project management company, said businesses want to get involved in building resilience, and they can do more on the local level.

He noted, however, that there needs to be a sound business case for clean energy investments, and for small businesses, the return on investment needs to be immediate.

“Climate change is costing us money. Not investing in these things is costing us money. We’re not doing the math right,” he said.

Some cities are already taking an innovative approach to bridging the gap between the two interests.

Santa Fe, NM, Mayor Javier Gonzales, the alliance’s chairman, explained how his city’s new Verde Fund taps into community needs and business expertise to help low-income residents access clean energy. “More well-to-do people can navigate complicated systems to get rooftop solar on your house,” he said. “The Verde Fund helps disadvantaged residents do the same.”

When low-income residents can save money on their electricity bills by going solar, he said, they have more money to spend on food, clothing and other essentials. The jobs created by these projects benefit the community as well.

Elizabeth, NJ, Mayor Chris Bollwage, whose city’s vulnerability to climate impacts was exposed during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, said some visionary leadership is also needed to imagine today what will be needed tomorrow.

“When we built Elizabeth’s midtown parking garage, we put in five spaces for electric vehicle charging,” he said. “No one used them the first two years, but now three cars are charging there every day.”

In New York City, officials are being proactive in other ways, like working through the city’s OneNYC plan to reduce energy use in buildings, the source of 70 percent of the city’s emissions. Daniel Zarelli, Mayor Bill de Blasio's senior director of climate and sustainability policies and chief resilience officer, said the city’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by 30 percent by 2025 and to retrofit one million buildings so they’re energy efficient.

All the panelists agreed that federal, state, and local policy must become aligned to move in the right direction. One way to do that is by citizens letting both their government and business leaders know that they value sustainability.

Cities and businesses join to build resilience

How does a city become resilient? With more communities facing climate impacts, including more severe storms, heat waves, and sea level rise, it’s a question many city planners are struggling with. And it’s a question best answered through collaborative efforts.

To move its resilience planning forward, the City of Providence brought together state officials, city departments, local businesses, universities, hospitals, utilities, and others for a two-day workshop facilitated by C2ES. At the workshop, AECOM and IBM led city and community officials through the Disaster Response Scorecard where participants discussed the risks they face, strategies in place or needed to lessen those risks, and how they can respond now and in the future to minimize loss of life and damage to critical infrastructure.

Providence has already seen rising sea levels and increased flooding. In Rhode Island, sea level could rise as much as 2 feet by 2050 and 7 feet by 2100. The Third National Climate Assessment says the region will experience heat waves, more heavy downpours, and more coastal flooding.

With its extensive waterfront, Providence is on the frontlines of climate change. As Mayor Jorge Elorza told the Providence Journal, “We simply can’t afford to kick the can down the road. By planning ahead we can make wiser investments … to minimize our risk and enhance resilience.”

Cities like Providence are one of many working to strengthen their resilience to climate change now, rather than waiting for a disaster to occur. C2ES held a similar exercise with the City of Anchorage, and will soon hold resilience workshops with Kansas City, MO, Miami Beach, FL, and Phoenix, AZ.

Cities across the U.S. are looking to change how they prepare for and respond to extreme weather and climate change impacts. Strategies to improve resilience include:

  • Working with community leaders. Cities are working together with diverse community groups to raise citizens’ awareness of climate change and extreme weather. For example, Providence recently held a workshop with faith-based organizations on hurricane preparedness.  
  • Partnering to pool resources. The adage “There’s strength in numbers” holds true. Through memorandums of understanding, cities are partnering with their local businesses and non-profits to prepare for and respond to extreme weather. Some businesses are funding collaborative resilience efforts. PG&E will award $1 million  to local governments in their utility territory that propose resilient solutions, focused on disadvantaged communities, that others can replicate.
  • Visualizing and combining information and data. Mapping of climate change risks can help people understand vulnerabilities. The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council has mapped sea level rise, storm surge, and other risks to coastal communities in the state.
  • Developing innovative solutions. The City of Hoboken, N.J., which experienced devastating flooding during Hurricane Sandy, is partnering with BASF to build a park and parking garage that can double as floodwater storage. Once finished, it could hold at least 1 million gallons of excess water.

Innovative solutions like these could help communities improve their resilience to climate change and extreme weather events, and C2ES will continue to share new approaches and best practices

Cities flex their muscles to improve existing commercial buildings

With up to 70 percent of total global emissions originating within the boundaries of cities, local governments are at the center of the fight against climate change.

One area where local governments are stepping up to meet this challenge is the building sector, which offers a variety of opportunities to reduce energy demand. Local governments have long sought to improve energy performance among new buildings, however, new buildings aren’t replacing older ones at a fast enough rate to put a noticeable dent in commercial building energy use. In response, cities are working to improve the performance of the existing commercial building stock.

The new C2ES brief, Local Climate Action: Cities Tackle Emissions of Commercial Buildings, explores four commercial building policy strategies that leading cities are adopting: energy use benchmarking and disclosure mandates, retro-commissioning, retrofitting, and requirements for building upgrades to meet current codes. The brief offers examples of how these policies are developed, structured, and implemented. We looked at several examples in an earlier blog post.

These policies are showing promise for reducing emissions in cities that adopt them. For example, New York City is pursuing a suite of building actions, including a local law that requires buildings greater than 50,000 square feet to ensure all lighting systems meet current city standards in common areas and non-residential tenant spaces greater than 10,000 square feet by 2025. Those non-residential spaces must also be sub-metered, and energy use disclosed to tenants. The city intends to extend the policy to include buildings between 25,000 and 50,000 square feet. The move is expected to reduce annual emissions by about 60,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (MtCO2e) and cut energy costs by $35 million annually.

As we reviewed these four policy categories, two conclusions became clear:

  1. Although policies like New York’s retrofitting requirement are not common in U.S. cities, replicating them broadly could provide widespread co-benefits in our communities and possibly contribute measurable greenhouse gas reductions at the national level.
  2. A larger energy transformation is needed to achieve the aggressive community emissions targets cities have set, and that won't happen without stronger collaboration.

While a number of federal programs provide cities with technical assistance and funding, additional support could be provided by U.S. states and businesses in the form of complementary programs, private investment, and active engagement in policy development. We’ve already seen more of this kind of collaboration through initiatives like the City Energy Project. The increasing number of businesses publicly committing to climate goals indicates there are many more opportunities.

In addition, the Clean Power Plan requires states to meaningfully reduce emissions from the power sector. Properly designed, state implementation plans for the Clean Power Plan could incentivize utilities and commercial building operators to improve the performance of the building stock.

If the actions of New York City, Seattle, and others are any indication, local governments have the potential to enact policies that foster climate action. These key players must continue taking bold actions to help create a policy environment across the country that promotes high-performing buildings, no matter when they were built. 

Local Climate Action: Cities Tackle Emissions of Commercial Buildings

Local Climate Action:
Cities Tackle Emissions of Commercial Buildings

September 2016

By Todd McGarvey and Amy Morsch

Download the brief (PDF)

As a significant source of emissions, cities have an important role to play in addressing the carbon footprint of activities occurring within their boundaries. Among many actions targeting different sectors, cities are actively pursuing improvements in the energy performance of commercial buildings. This brief explores several policies that leading cities are adopting: energy use benchmarking and disclosure mandates, retro-commissioning and retrofitting policies, and requirements for building upgrades to meet current codes. Our review finds these policies stand to deliver and facilitate emissions reductions in cities that adopt them. However, it should be noted that achieving deep reductions and a true market transformation will require collaboration between cities, state and federal agencies, and a range of non-government entities. The need for such a collaborative approach is applicable not just to addressing emissions from buildings, but indeed is relevant broadly to city efforts to reduce emissions.
 
Amy Morsch
Todd McGarvey
0
Syndicate content