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
This post first appeared today in the National Journal Energy & Environment Experts blog.
As with many aspects of climate policy, there is some truth to the arguments on both sides of the debate over how federal legislation should treat state action and EPA Clean Air Act (CAA) authority. The answer is less about who is right or wrong and more about appropriately balancing the strengths and weaknesses brought to the table by states and the federal government. Both have important roles to play in a strong federal climate and clean energy program.
On March 22, 2010 Governor Bill Ritter signed legislation (HB 1001) requiring that 30 percent of Colorado’s electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2020 – one of the highest percentage requirements in the U.S. The new 30 percent requirement is the second update of the original renewable energy requirement of 10 percent by 2015 that was set in Amendment 37, which Colorado residents passed in 2004. Legislation enacted in 2007 doubled this requirement to 20 percent by 2020, and now in just six years the state has tripled its commitment to renewable energy.
HB 1001 also calls for 3 percentage points of the 30 percent standard to be met by local solar power to encourage distributed generation without the need to construct new and expensive transmission lines.
ANCHORAGE - "Hello. I'm a Republican, and I believe in climate change." These words opened a presentation at the Alaska Forum on the Environment and indicate that, here in Alaska, issues surrounding climate change have often transcended the partisanship that sometimes dominates the issue 3,000 miles away in Washington.
This bipartisanship has evolved because probably no place in America is the evidence of climate change more clearly on display than in Alaska. Climate change’s leading edge is in the Arctic, and temperatures in Alaska have risen 4 degrees or even more depending on location. With warming and its impacts visible to all and being increasingly analyzed on a local level, discussions of climate change, especially as it relates to adaptation, take on a tone all too unfamiliar inside the Beltway.
ANCHORAGE - Alaska is a big state, with big mountains, big wildlife, and big development projects. It’s also a place of big changes: the state has warmed more than 4 degrees, creating tremendous pressures on the natural environment and society. But in a place where the people are always looking for the next big economic driver, like a $40 billion Alaska natural gas pipeline, uncertainty about carbon regulation is an Alaska-sized problem.
On January 14, 2010, the California Building Standards Commission approved the most environmentally stringent building code in the United States for new commercial buildings, hospitals, schools, shopping malls, and homes. The new code, named CAL Green, requires builders to install a number of environmentally friendly features in new buildings, including plumbing to cut indoor water use, efficient heaters and air conditioners, and requires them to divert 50 percent of construction waste to recycling. Local jurisdictions will be able to keep their stricter existing standards, or adopt more stringent versions of the state code.
The California Air Resources Board estimates that the code will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3 million metric tons in 2020. The new code will go into effect in January 2011.
Addressing the challenge of global climate change will require a significant reduction in annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States and throughout the world by 2050. This will necessitate a fundamental shift from an economy predominantly based on traditional fossil fuel use to one based on efficiently managed low-carbon energy sources, including technologies that capture and store carbon dioxide (CO2).
Achievement of this transition depends on both near-term and long-term actions that take advantage of current technologies and opportunities and that also make substantial investments in the technologies of the future. But most of all, the United States needs a clearly enunciated and sustained policy to guide those actions. Too often the debate over GHG emission reductions pits near-term actions against long-term investments in technology, when in fact both are necessary and more effective together.
In 2004, the Pew Center held a workshop (the “10-50” Workshop) to understand the technologies likely to enable a low-carbon future by mid-century (50 years) and identify policy options for the coming decade (10 years) to help “push” and “pull” these technologies into the market. This brief reviews some of the key policies and actions deemed important five years ago and reports on progress against those goals to date; it finds significant progress in pushing low-carbon technologies and underscores the critical remaining need for a policy, such as cap and trade, that puts a price on carbon and “pulls” those technologies into the marketplace.
Click here for more on the 10-50 Solution.
Domestically and internationally, climate action in 2009 laid critical groundwork for potential breakthroughs in Congress and global negotiations in 2010. Yet with an issue as complex and political as climate change, turning groundwork into policy is a challenge. 2010 will undoubtedly be a pivotal year for climate change – but first it is instructive to take a look back at what happened in 2009 and how that shaped where we are today.
We captured these highlights in our annual Year-in-Review Newsletter – a useful compilation of 2009’s big climate change stories and related insights. The year’s major domestic action included passage of the landmark House climate and clean energy bill along with numerous Obama administration efforts to improve our climate and economy. These accomplishments included the stimulus bill’s $80 billion in clean energy-related funding and EPA actions, including the endangerment finding, the greenhouse gas reporting rule, and stricter auto-efficiency standards.
Copenhagen consumed international climate attention in 2009, culminating in the pre-dawn hours of December 19 when final touches were put on an accord directly brokered by President Obama and a handful of key developing country leaders. While many questions remain after Copenhagen, our summary of the conference provides a sound starting point for grasping what transpired at the year’s largest climate event.
The lead-up to 2009’s main events required a great deal of work, and some of the year’s highlights include the detailed Blueprint for Climate Action released one year ago this month by the influential business-NGO coalition U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP). More industry leaders also showed support for mandatory climate action by joining our Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC). And efforts to reach business communities, employees, and families expanded through the Make An Impact program. In partnerships with aluminum manufacturer Alcoa and utility Entergy, we continue to provide individuals with strategies to save energy and money while protecting the environment.
We continued to educate policy makers and opinion leaders, producing reports, analyses, and fact sheets on topics ranging from clean-energy technologies, climate science, competitiveness, and adaptation. Featuring expert insights and thoughtful opinions, we informed broad audiences about the immediate need for climate action. And our timely, relevant work moves forward in 2010 as we seek progress in addressing the most important global issue of our time.
Tom Steinfeldt is Communications Manager
Beginning in mid-January, Québec will enforce vehicle greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards equivalent to those in California. CA’s standard requires that new vehicles, on average, achieve an emissions reduction of 30 percent by 2016. Québec’s regulation will apply to all 2010-2016 model-year cars and light trucks sold, leased or marketed in Québec. The standards will encourage large scale use of more efficient technology as automobile manufacturers are required to ensure their average fleet GHG emissions do not exceed these regulatory levels.
Eleven Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Governors Agree to Collaborate on Regional Low Carbon Fuel Standard
On December 30th, Governors from eleven Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states signed a Memorandum of Understanding(MOU) to develop a regional Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The MOU commits states to work together and establish a regional LCFS framework by 2011. An LCFS is a market-based, technology-neutral policy that requires gradual reductions in the carbon content of fuels. An LCFS program will lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and lessen dependence on imported fossil fuels. If adopted by the states, the LCFS would cover fuels used in vehicles, and potentially fuels used for heating buildings.
Ten of the signatory states are members of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the first mandatory cap-and-trade program in the country. These ten states are: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The eleventh state, Pennsylvania, is an observer of the RGGI process.
COPENHAGEN - Governor Chris Gregoire made a presentation about the successes of Washington state in building a clean energy economy at an official COP 15 side event hosted by us and the World Business Council on Sustainable Development. A packed room listened to how the experience of the Washington out West should provide insight for national policymakers of the Washington in the East.
She detailed how, given an appropriate state policy framework, the private sector has made significant innovations in technology, making Washington a national leader in solar manufacturing and the state with the 5th most wind energy production. All of this development occurred despite the fact that the state does not have large wind or solar energy resources. The lesson here is that the innovativeness and drive of American business should never be underestimated, and there is nationwide potential for growth in a clean energy technology. New and existing American companies will find ways to flourish given the right incentives.
The Governor also spoke about states leading the way in implementing cap-and-trade programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. She pointed out that a multistate and multi-Canadian province effort, the Western Climate Initiative, is underway to enact a cap-and-trade program covering 20% of the US economy - despite the delays in development of a national program. The WCI is the not the only state-level effort underway, with the Midwestern Greenhouse Reduction Accord signed in 2007. Both of these efforts follow on the heels of an ongoing cap-and-trade program in the Northeast, which, as Gregoire pointed out, has proven that cap-and-trade programs can tackle greenhouse gas emissions without damaging the American economy – an important piece of empirical evidence as the nation and the world look towards developing emissions-reduction policy.
Of course, the government cannot do it alone. The people in Washington state have a commitment to technology, whether it’s aerospace, software, clean energy, or coffee. Now its time for legislators in Washington, DC to show the same commitment to technology promotion and emission reduction.
Michael Tubman is the Congressional Affairs Fellow