Clean Power Plan

Projecting and Accelerating U.S. Greenhouse Gas Reductions

Projecting and Accelerating U.S. Greenhouse Gas Reductions

September 2017

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More than 190 nations representing more than 95 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions offered “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement reached in December 2015. The NDC submitted by the Obama administration on behalf of the United States is an economy-wide target to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The Trump administration is now weighing whether to “suspend, revise, or rescind” policies to help meet this goal, and has announced its intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. President Trump has also suggested the possibility of “re-entry” under revised terms; one option may be a recalibrated U.S. NDC. Analyses suggest that even with some key climate policies rolled back, U.S. emissions in 2025 could range from 14 percent to 18 percent below 2005 levels. In the absence of additional federal policy, stronger action by states, cities and companies can help reduce emissions further. The brief looks at progress in reducing U.S. emissions, how existing and proposed policies may affect emissions through 2025, and additional steps that can achieve stronger reductions.

Doug Vine
Doug Vine
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Achieving the United States' Intended Nationally Determined Contribution

Achieving the United States' Intended Nationally Determined Contribution

Last updated: November 2016

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More than 180 nations representing more than 95 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions offered “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) to the Paris Agreement reached in December 2015. The United States’ INDC is an economy-wide target to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Available analyses suggest that the United States could reduce emissions by more than 22 percent with policies either already in place or soon anticipated. Options for achieving further reductions to meet the 2025 target may include additional policies, technological advances, and stronger action by cities and companies. Concerted efforts across multiple fronts could reasonably produce the reductions needed to meet the goal. Specifically, this paper looks at the progress that has been achieved since 2005, the effect existing and proposed policies will have by 2025 as well plausible steps to fill the gap.

Doug Vine
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Details of the Clean Energy Incentive Program

ceip-details-cover

Details of the Clean Energy Incentive Program

June 2016

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Under its final Clean Power Plan (CPP), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) to encourage early action in meeting CPP objectives. The CEIP is a voluntary program for states to incentivize renewable and energy efficiency projects by giving them assets that will be tradable in Clean Power Plan markets. On June 16, 2016, EPA proposed design details for the CEIP.

This fact sheet has been developed by C2ES in support of the Alliance for a Sustainable Future, in partnership with The United States Conference of Mayors. For more information about the Alliance, see: http://www.allianceforasustainablefuture.com

Fact sheet outlining details of EPA's Clean Energy Incentive Program and compliance options for states.
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Cities need connection for climate action

In Philadelphia, officials collect energy use data from schools, hospitals, labs and office buildings, using the information to identify energy and cost savings.

Cities can be the leaders and heroes in our climate crisis if we can build the right relationships to empower them.

Whether it’s because their governments can be more responsive, or because they are becoming so interconnected, cities are playing a prominent role on the international stage in galvanizing climate action.

Starting with the groundbreaking Mayors Climate Protection Agreement in 2005, city initiatives like the Compact of Mayors and the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance are evolving to connect cities with each other to exchange knowledge and achieve economies of scale for new technologies. This month, mayors around the world announced plans to push for investments in climate-friendly urban infrastructure, particularly in developing nations.

But the transformation we need requires more than connecting cities to one another. Cities also need to be connected to other levels of government and to the business community.

Barriers to Action

Two new reports from C40 Cities (Power Behind Paris) (Unlocking Climate Action In Megacities) highlight obstacles stopping cities from enacting transformative climate solutions. First, cities operate within a larger system of governments that affect their ability to act. Second, they rely on businesses to implement solutions to achieve a low-carbon, resilient local economy.

You could look at these as barriers or simple truths, but either way, the fact that cities rely on external entities is important to keep in mind. To combat global climate change, we cannot expect any institution to do it alone.

The C40 reports point to the need for better vertical integration with governments, and stronger collaborative relationships and practices with the private sector.

Examples of Leadership                                                               

Putting this into practice is difficult but achievable.

For example, to achieve its goal to reduce the city’s carbon footprint, Philadelphia had to address energy use in buildings, the city’s largest source of emissions. To establish its energy benchmarking policy, which collects and publicizes energy use for non-residential buildings over 50,000 square feet, the city had to work with local school officials, universities, and commercial real estate companies. The city collects energy use data from schools, hospitals, labs, office buildings and more that can be used to find energy and cost savings.

The city of Phoenix has set a goal to get 15 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2025. To reach that goal, it has partnered with the private sector, investors, and the state to finance and develop solar power installations on public and private lands, including the airport, a landfill, and a water treatment plant.

Steps like these can help states implement the Clean Power Plan, and help the U.S. close the gap to reach its emissions-cutting goals under the Paris Agreement. Despite this, cities have been largely outside-looking-in when it comes to serious conversations on designing and implementing state, federal and international climate policy.

An Integrated Approach

How much faster could we tackle our climate and energy challenges if we took a more integrated approach? The potential is great; for every Philadelphia or Phoenix there are a dozen more cities that aspire to achieve similar success.

For these reasons, C2ES is promoting collaborative approaches that result in integrated 'ecosystems' of policies and programs. Our Solutions Forum fosters new relationships among cities, businesses, and states on key issues. We are also helping cities work with local businesses to establish climate resilience plans that leverage both public and private resources.

City-city initiatives are critical to galvanize support for and increase understanding of transformative climate and energy solutions. But putting these solutions into practice will take on-the-ground collaboration with other levels of government and businesses.

Secondary Carbon Markets

Secondary Carbon Markets

April 2016

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Many state regulators are considering carbon trading as a compliance option with the Clean Power Plan. An important part of carbon trading is the secondary carbon market—the market among private sector buyers and sellers that arises to provide more efficient price discovery, price-hedging opportunities, and satisfy compliance demand. This fact sheet provides a brief overview of the role of different types of secondary market participants and key policy choices that need to be made to allow secondary markets under the Clean Power Plan.

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How the US can meet its climate pledge

The following was published in March 2016 on the EcoWomen blog. View the original post here.

I let out a cheer when Leonardo DiCaprio mentioned climate change during his Oscars acceptance speech. But concern about climate extends far beyond the red carpet.

Religious leaders, military officials, mayors, governors, business executives, and leaders of the world’s nations are all speaking about the need to address the greenhouse gas emissions that threaten our environment and economies.

Last December, world leaders reached a landmark climate agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21) that commits all countries to contribute their best efforts and establishes a system to hold them accountable. COP 21’s Paris Agreement also sent a signal to the world to ramp up investment in a clean energy and clean transportation future.

The U.S. committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 level by 2025. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Clean Power Plan was touted as a key policy tool to help reach that goal. However, with the recent surprise stay of the rule by U.S. Supreme Court, can the U.S. still meet its climate pledge? Simply put, yes.

We need states to show clean energy leadership

Smart policy often comes from the states, and many states have shown and are expected to continue to show leadership in addressing climate change and promoting clean energy.

The Clean Power Plan stimulated discussions across the country, sometimes for the first time, among state energy and environment department officials, regulators, and energy companies about ways to reduce emissions. And we see momentum to keep those and other conversations going.

Consider some of the many ways states are leading:

Key Insights: Business, State and City Collaboration on Interstate Trading under the Clean Power Plan

Key Insights: Business, State and City Collaboration on Interstate Trading under the Clean Power Plan
 

February 2016

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C2ES facilitated a second private Solutions Forum workshop around the Clean Power Plan in February 2016. More than 50 business leaders, state and city officials, other experts, and representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) participated. The discussion built on previous Solutions Forum events and took a deeper dive into implementation issues states are facing as they consider trading-ready compliance plans. This paper summarizes key insights and remaining questions from the workshop.

The week following our workshop the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a stay of the Clean Power Plan. In our assessment, most stakeholders continue to value answering these questions while awaiting the legal outcome.

More information about the C2ES Solutions Forum

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States, cities, companies support clean power

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.

Clean power progress will continue despite Supreme Court ruling

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.

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