Climate Compass Blog
|Downtown Charlotte, an example of a city collaborating with the business community to become more sustainable.|
City leaders have been envisioning more livable cities, with low-impact workplaces, efficient neighborhoods, thriving ecosystems, resilient electricity grids, and more. Today, many are ready to begin turning their vision of a sustainable community into a reality.
In the face of ever-present budget constraints, one strategy is collaborating with the business community. Cities are no stranger to partnerships, for example, on large development projects. But in the sustainability realm, partnerships are focusing more on improving coordination among key stakeholders.
A prime example is unfolding in Charlotte, North Carolina, a financial and energy hub of the South. In Charlotte, like many other cities, local public and private leaders have been working to improve the sustainability of their organizations, but have struggled to overcome challenges such as how to engage individuals and track and measure success.
Through a series of conversations between the CEOs of Duke Energy and Cisco, the Mayor of Charlotte, and the head of Charlotte Center City Partners, a local nonprofit, local leaders realized they shared a common vision and common challenges. The idea for a new nonprofit, Envision Charlotte, was born. It was launched in 2010 with public and private leaders on its board, and the first goal was to help Charlotte’s commercial buildings become the most efficient in the country. A super-efficient urban core would give the city a competitive economic advantage, demonstrate its commitment to sustainability, and promote civic pride.
A number of states, cities, and power companies plan to press forward with clean energy efforts despite this week’s Supreme Court stay of the Clean Power Plan.
That’s because the future of carbon regulation is not “if” but “how and when,” and it is too big a question not to continue a thoughtful conversation among thoughtful people.
States to explore options
Officials in states including California, Colorado, Minnesota, Virginia, and Washington have said the court’s temporary stay won’t stop them from continuing to explore implementation options, which include leveraging the power of market forces to reduce emissions. Even states suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been having these conversations, and most will continue to.
For instance, Montana Department of Environmental Quality energy bureau chief Laura Andersen told ClimateWire, "The market forces at play in the region are quite significant and will not go away just because the Clean Power Plan has a stay on it.”
Al Minier, chairman of the Wyoming Public Service Commission, said the stay could give regulators more time to develop strategies that are best for the state.
The Supreme Court’s stay of the Clean Power Plan may slow, but certainly does not stop, progress toward a cleaner power system in the United States.
There’s no telling how the legal challenges to the Clean Power Plan, which were always expected, will ultimately play out. But here are a few important points to keep in mind:
The Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases is settled. The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that EPA has authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases. It affirmed that ruling 8-0 in 2011 when it rejected nuisance suits against greenhouse gas emitters, ruling that “the Clean Air Act and the EPA actions it authorizes displace any federal common law right to seek abatement of carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants.”
What’s at issue is whether the particular way EPA has chosen to exercise that authority in regulating carbon emissions from power plants is appropriate. Because there was little precedent to work from, EPA had to chart the direction, and did so with a very careful eye to the legal defensibility of its approach.
The Clean Power Plan has already generated tremendous learning about the practicalities of decarbonizing our power sector. In crafting the rule, EPA engaged extensively with states, utilities and others (and was widely praised for doing so). The adoption of the rule last summer has triggered similar state-level conversations across the country. Even states that are suing to overturn the rule have been actively considering how to implement it.
As a result, we all know a lot more today about the challenges of cutting carbon and the smartest strategies for doing it cost-effectively. That knowledge will be of tremendous value going forward, with or without the Clean Power Plan.
|Image courtesy International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)|
The new Paris Agreement provides a broad global framework to strengthen efforts to address climate change. Now, governments are working toward another agreement on a critical issue Paris doesn’t directly address – reducing greenhouse gas emissions from aviation.
The Paris Agreement, negotiated under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), ties together national efforts pledged by more than 180 countries to limit or reduce their own emissions. However, international aviation is inherently a cross-border activity, and a global approach to reducing emissions from aviation is being negotiated separately under the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). A new sector-wide agreement is expected this October.
Emissions from the aviation sector comprised 2 percent of global emissions in 2013, but that share is set to expand rapidly by 2050 without policy interventions. In 2010, the aviation industry carried 2.4 billion passengers and 40 million metric tons of goods. By 2050, that could grow to 16 billion passengers and 400 million metric tons of goods.
Image courtesy NOAA
This visualization from NOAA shows much warmer than average or record warm temperatures across much of the globe in 2015, the warmest year on record.
The data are in, and 2015 was officially the warmest year globally ever recorded. We’ve been keeping temperature records since 1880. The last time the record was broken? 2014.
What’s interesting is just how much warmer 2015 was. The observed annual average surface temperature was more than 1.8° F (1° C) above the 19th century average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). That’s already half the warming countries have agreed to as the international limit.
And 2015 was about a quarter of a degree Fahrenheit warmer than 2014. That might seem small, but it’s actually huge when compared to the year-to-year differences observed in the record.
A strong El Niño, when the surface ocean in the Eastern Pacific basin warms, contributed to the record warmth of 2015. But even compared to other El Niño years, 2015 set records. The agencies reporting the data attribute this to the long-term warming trend due to the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
As with all climate and weather data, the 2015 data shows some variability. Not all locations set high temperature records, and parts of the North Atlantic Ocean actually set a cold temperature record.
In the contiguous United States, 2015 was the second warmest year on record, with 2012 still holding the top spot. It was the 19th consecutive year that the annual average U.S. temperature was more than the 20th century average.