That was a very busy weekend — way more busy than it should be around the middle of December… At least the weather was beautiful for Mid-December.
Anyway, the Paris Climate deal is done although we really don’t know what it will really “should” or “shall” do. It certainly isn’t clear that the agreement is as historic as the initial coverage has portrayed. Full details and links below.
The second major issue comes to a head today when the budget discussions surrounding crude oil exports, refiner credits and tax incentives for renewables hit a deadline. The Senate and House are both in session this week primarily working to complete a $1.1 trillion spending measure to fund the government. Members have until midnight Wednesday to agree to and pass the omnibus spending bill. We are happy to offer the latest thoughts, perspective and timing.
This is really the last week for events around town as before the holidays roll in. Tomorrow, CSIS will host a panel discussion looking at electric vehicle charging infrastructure, including the role that utilities could play in financing, owning, and operating this infrastructure. On Wednesday the Energy Times will interview Perdernales Electric Cooperative CEO John Hewa and discuss his co-op’s innovations in a webcast on Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. Perdernales is one of the nation’s largest rural electric co-ops and emerging as the vanguard of innovators when it comes to engaging and partnering with its member-consumers in supporting their energy goals. also Wednesday, the Wilson Center gets into the just-approved UN Climate plan. Finally, on Friday, former EIA head and current CSIS energy expert Guy Caruso will discuss the current energy state of the play.
So while, the UN climate deal and the Congressional budget deal might seem like big news to us today, we might expect it to be off the radar by Thursday when the new Stars Wars movie rolls out. While there are three world premieres tonight, it will be in already sold-out theaters on Thursday. Speaking of Star Wars, perhaps my favorite Bill Murray song as Saturday Night Live’s Nick Winters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqedbxGxfgE
Call with questions…And May the Force Be With You…
PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT
The Deal – 196 nations agreed to combat climate change and unleash actions and investment towards a low carbon, resilient and sustainable future in Paris over the weekend. For the first time, the accord brings all nations into a common cause based on their historic, current and future responsibilities. The universal agreement’s main aim is to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The Word “Shall” – As you may have seen, there has been wide-spread reporting of the one-word change that was essential to getting an agreement. US negotiators discovered in the final draft text in Article 4 a line declaring that wealthier countries “shall” set economy-wide targets for cutting their greenhouse gas pollution. But the word shall Implied a legal obligation and the as you know, that would force the hand of the President to submit the agreement to Congress.
French Negotiator Rams in Through as Technical Correction –French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius worked the words into the technical changes where the wording was read aloud by a delegate in the plenary hall and lost in a package of other technical revisions. Prior to that Fabius had worked the room on several key negotiating teams and already received approval (or at least no objection to) the change and the deal was inked. Minutes later, French banged his gavel and the most significant international climate change deal in history won the resounding approval of 196 governments, representing nearly every country on the planet.
President Obama Speaks form Oval Office – While this speech was as bold and important as his speech to the nation on terrorism issues last week, President Barack Obama made a statement Saturday Night from the Oval Office. “We came together around the strong agreement the world needed,” Obama said from the White House. “We met the moment. He added “the American people can be proud — because this historic agreement is a tribute to American leadership.”
Chamber Expert in Paris Offers Comment – Stephen Eule, vice president for climate and technology at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy: “The Paris climate conference delivered more of the same—lots of promises and lots of issues still left unresolved. While we are reviewing the final agreement, it’s clear that implementation still faces the same obstacles that we’ve been warning about for years. None of the commitments made, including those by the U.S., are binding, and many aren’t even complete. Moreover, Congress must appropriate any funds that the Obama administration has pledged. The White House’s overall domestic strategy of making energy more expensive and less abundant to satisfy international constituencies, many of whom compete against the United States, should worry the business community, American workers, and consumers. We will continue our efforts to understand how this deal affects the U.S. jobs and growth.”
Not Every Enviro is On Board – While most enviro groups swallowed hard, put on a happy face and supported the agreement, some wouldn’t go so quietly. In response to the final agreement reached, Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute unloaded: “The plain truth is that Paris didn’t produce the strong, just and binding treaty we need to protect the planet’s most climate-vulnerable people and our very web of life from climate chaos. But the summit did highlight the growing power of a global movement for true climate justice.” You can see the full extent of their complaints here.
With the climate agreement, here is some initial analysis.
Historic? No So Much – It is impressive to get 195 nations to agree on anything and clearly a positive to have them all at a table talking about the issue of climate change. I remain skeptical that this is a historic agreement but yet another incremental step that is much less bold and demanding than many advocates would ever have found remotely acceptable. It is clear that nobody is really bound to anything other than to keep trying and reviewing their progress every five years, with no prescribed penalties for missing them.
Signal to Business – Secretary of State Kerry said the deal didn’t need to be mandatory because it still sends a strong signal to business that clean energy is only future. “The result will be a very clear signal to the marketplace of the world, that people are moving into low-carbon, no-carbon, alternative, renewable energy, and I think it’s going to create millions of jobs, enormous investments into R&D, and that R&D is going to create the solutions, not government,” Kerry said. Given the broad and always-changing nature of our energy picture, there may be some truth to his statement, but it is clear not as clear as Kerry says given the volatility of energy pricing, the key questions of infrastructure and reliability and the nature of regional differences in our energy mix.
Temperatures – As for the temperature goal, the vague wording remains as aspirational as ever with little hope of achieving the target through this agreement or any ensuing actions, especially since nobody will be bound to them. Maybe emissions reductions, new technologies or increased political will can meet these goals, but it is unlikely and nearly every one participating in the UN process knows that.
Process is Flawed – This agreement underscores what I have argued since Kyoto in 1997. Only small incremental steps can be achieved in this flawed UN Climate process, unless there is a new global dedication to innovation and technology advancement that is moved to the front and center. Only a bold private-public innovation/technology partnership process like the one detailed at the beginning the Paris conference by world and business leaders can achieve success.
I find the following section intriguing, not to mention the parts in bold seem like great quotes:
1. 17. Notes with concern that the estimated aggregate greenhouse gas emission levels in 2025 and 2030 resulting from the intended nationally determined contributions do not fall within least-cost 2 ˚C scenarios but rather lead to a projected level of 55 gigatonnes in 2030, and also notes that much greater emission reduction efforts will be required than those associated with the intended nationally determined contributions in order to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2 ˚C above pre-industrial levels by reducing emissions to 40 gigatonnes or to 1.5 ˚C above pre-industrial levels by reducing to a level to be identified in the special report referred to in paragraph 21 below;
2. The terms “invites” and “requests,” among others point to the degree to which this agreement lacks teeth.
3. ABC reprinted a summary that provides some interesting information http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/key-points-landmark-paris-climate-agreement-35735723>
Here are some of the key elements of the deal:
—LONG-TERM GOAL: The long-term objective of the agreement is to make sure global warming stays “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and to “pursue efforts” to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). Temperatures have already increased by about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. To achieve that goal, governments pledged to stop the rise in heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions “as soon as possible.” By some point after 2050, the agreement says, man-made emissions should be reduced to a level that forests and oceans can absorb.
—EMISSIONS TARGETS: In order to reach the long-term goal, countries agreed to set national targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions every five years. More than 180 countries have already submitted targets for the first cycle beginning in 2020. Only developed countries are expected to slash their emissions in absolute terms; developing nations are “encouraged” to do so as their capabilities evolve over time. Until then, they are expected only to rein in the growth of emissions as their economies develop. The Paris deal doesn’t make national emissions reduction targets legally binding, so its success will largely depend on the effectiveness of a new system to revisit each country’s progress and raise targets every five years.
—REVIEWING TARGETS: The initial targets won’t be enough to put the world on a path to meet the long-term temperature goal. So the agreement asks governments to review their targets in the next four years and see if they can “update” them. That doesn’t require governments to deepen their cuts. But the hope is that it will be possible for them to do so if renewable energy sources become more affordable and effective. The Paris agreement attempts to lay down new rules to make sure all countries calculate and publicly report their emissions reductions in the same way after 2020, making it possible to keep track of global progress. The US already has a sophisticated GHG tracking inventory and reports annually. But developing countries are still new to international reporting on climate policies as evidenced by reports recently that large and sophisticated developing countries like China have been already underreporting emissions.
—TRANSPARENCY: There is no penalty for countries that miss their emissions targets. But the agreement has transparency rules to help encourage countries to actually do what they say they will do. That was one of the most difficult pieces to agree on, with China asking for softer requirements for developing countries. The agreement says all countries must report on their emissions and their efforts the reduce them. But it allows for some “flexibility” for developing countries that “need it.”
—MONEY: The agreement says wealthy countries should continue to offer financial support to help poor countries reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change. It also encourages other countries to pitch in on a voluntary basis. That paves the way for emerging economies such as China to contribute, even though it doesn’t require them to do so. Actual dollar amounts were kept out of the agreement itself, but wealthy nations had previously pledged to provide $100 billion annually in climate finance by 2020.
—LOSS AND DAMAGE: In a victory for small island nations threatened by rising seas, the agreement includes a section recognizing “loss and damage” associated with climate-related disasters. The U.S. long objected to addressing the issue in the agreement, worried that it would lead to claims of compensation for damage caused by extreme weather events. In the end, the issue was included, but a footnote specifically stated that loss and damage does not involve liability or compensation.
—INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: The business community won on IP issues when direct references to IPR have been banished from the text. But that pleasure is tempered by the language that found its way into the text: “Accelerating, encouraging and enabling innovation is critical for an effective, long-term global response to climate change and promoting economic growth and sustainable development. Such effort shall be, as appropriate, supported, including through financial means by the Technology Mechanism and the Financial Mechanism of the Convention, for collaborative approaches to research and development, and facilitating access to technology, in particular for early stages of the technology cycle, to developing countries.” Translation: We would like for developed countries to give us more money to buy down IPR and, who knows, maybe even provide compulsory licensing.
Enhanced Action Prior to 2020 – The whole section either “urges” or “recognizes.” For example, it “Urges host and purchasing Parties to report transparently on internationally transferred mitigation outcomes, including outcomes used to meet international pledges, and emission units issued under the Kyoto Protocol with a view to promoting environmental integrity and avoiding double counting;”
Can I have a strongly urges? – Resolves to enhance the provision of urgent and adequate finance, technology and capacity-building support by developed country Parties in order to enhance the level of ambition of pre-2020 action by Parties, and in this regard strongly urges developed country Parties to scale up their level of financial support, with a concrete roadmap to achieve the goal of jointly providing USD 100 billion annually by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation while significantly increasing adaptation finance from current levels and to further provide appropriate technology and capacity-building support;
Asks for Another High Level Meeting before 2020 – “121. Agrees to convene, pursuant to decision 1/CP.20, paragraph 21, building on the Lima-Paris Action Agenda and in conjunction with each session of the Conference of the Parties during the period 2016–2020, a high-level event that:”… “Provides an opportunity for announcing new or strengthened voluntary efforts, initiatives and coalitions.”
What Comes Next – First, there will be a signature ceremony on April 22, 2016 that lays out the basic template for “ratification, acceptance, approval or accession,” and sets up a template for future dialogue. Negotiators will meet again in Morocco next year in early November 7, 2016 in Marrakesh. It will be the second time they have been to Marrakesh where the COP was held in 2001. Many delegates never attended the Morocco meeting following the terrorists attacks in U.S. in September of that year. Next year they will focus on innovation and adaption while continuing efforts to limit emissions.
One Significant Success on HFCs, Short-Lived Climate Pollutants – One great success that will probably achieve more than the entire Paris agreement was reached midway through the two week session. Governments and industry leaders in the Climate and Clean Air Coalition committed to further essential advances in reducing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) that have a global warming potential many times that of the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. At the Focus Event on SCLPs Action Agenda at COP21, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), whose Secretariat is hosted by the United Nations Environment Program, committed to double their membership in two key initiatives to reduce these pollutants – in freight and landfills – as well as detailing advances in the critical area of refrigeration. They pushed forward a proposal for hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) to phase down under Montreal Protocol, jointly with many ministers. The Protocol signed in 1987 aimed at suppressing gas harming the ozone layer (CFCs) which have been mainly replaced by hydrofluorocarbon gas (HFCs). Reducing emissions of short-lived climate pollutants – HFCs, methane, black carbon, and tropospheric ozone – is essential to keep the global temperature rise below 2°C and to improve air quality. Action in this area contributes to meet the main international climate change objective, improves public health, saves massive costs on medical care and avoids severe pollution damage to the environment, all at the same time.
AHRI Knows the Value of HFCs, Montreal Protocol – The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, the trade association representing refrigerant producers and air conditioning and refrigeration equipment manufacturers, commented on the topic recently when nations reached agreement on HFCs at 27th Meeting of the Parties of the Montreal Protocol in Dubai earlier in November.
“AHRI is very pleased that the signatories to the Montreal Protocol have agreed to work toward adoption of an amendment in 2016 to include hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants under the purview of the treaty and to work toward setting a schedule to phase down the worldwide use of these refrigerants,” Yurek said “AHRI has supported including HFCs in the Montreal Protocol for many years. Even as other MP signatories have debated the original North American Proposal to do so, AHRI’s member companies — including refrigerant producers and original equipment manufacturers — have proactively been researching potential alternative refrigerants to ensure that the world’s air conditioning and refrigeration equipment manufacturers will have access to appropriate refrigerants. AHRI, U.S. government agencies, and energy efficiency advocacy groups have all worked diligently for many years to ensure a phase-down of these chemicals. This collaboration is an excellent example of what can be accomplished when all parties work together in good faith to achieve a common goal,” Yurek added.
The AHRI research program, known as the Low-Global Warming Potential Alternative Refrigerants Evaluation Program (Low-GWP AREP) has been underway since 2011 and is now in its second phase.
ON THE SCHEDULE THIS WEEK
Forum to Look at Health Impacts, Octane – The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) will hold a briefing today at 1:00 p.m. examining the health impacts of current octane sources and the need for cleaner, cost-effective octane providers. Octane is necessary for vehicle performance and increasing octane volumes would enable highly efficient engines. At the same time, octane-boosters in use today have historically been highly toxic compounds. But cleaner alternatives are available–namely biofuels. Speakers for this forum are DOE’s Reuben Sarkar, Carol Kwiatkowski of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange and former GM engineer Dean Drake.
US AID Head Addresses Climate, Asia Developing Countries – The Stimson Center will hold a forum tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. looking at climate change and developing countries in Asia. USAID Assistant Administrator for Asia Jonathan Stivers will discuss the challenges that climate change and environmental protection pose for developing countries in Asia and the cooperative and leadership opportunities that it creates for the US Rebalance. Stimson’s Brian Eyler will provide regional context and moderate questions.
CSIS to Look at EV Charging Infrastructure – The CSIS Energy and National Security Program will host a panel discussion tomorrow looking at electric vehicle charging infrastructure, including the role that utilities could play in financing, owning, and operating this infrastructure. Sarah Ladislaw, Director and Senior Fellow with the CSIS Energy and National Security Program, will provide introductory remarks.
Forum Focused on Fusion – The American Security Project will host a panel discussion tomorrow at Noon on Fusion Energy. The event will focus on leaders in fusion energy from the private sector and research labs to discuss the significant progress made in advancing fusion and what this clean, safe, and abundant energy source means for America’s national security and energy future. Leading experts in fusion from the public and private sector will discuss the new developments that have been featured over the last several months in major media outlets like Time Magazine, the New York Times, Science and Nature. ASP is the leading think tank detailing a plan for the future of fusion.
TX Co-Op CEO Feature in Energy times Webinar – The Energy Times will interview Perdernales Electric Cooperative CEO John Hewa and discuss his co-op’s innovations in a webcast on Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. Perdernales is one of the nation’s largest rural electric co-ops and emerging as the vanguard of innovators when it comes to engaging and partnering with its member-consumers in supporting their energy goals. In a recent interview, Hewa laid out his vision for crafting effective strategies to achieve advancements in demand response, energy efficiency and increased renewable partnerships in its central Texas territory, including fast-growing regions outside of Austin and San Antonio. You can register here.
Forum to Look at COP21 Results – The Wilson Center, George Mason University, and World Resources Institute will host a forum on Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. to look at the results of the Paris Climate Conference. A panel of experts will discuss how COP21 unfolded and what was accomplished. Speakers will also discuss how the outcomes of negotiations will affect efforts to tackle climate change in the United States and abroad, what was left on table for future discussions, and how any agreement plays out in the continuing evolution of climate change policy. The event is part of the ongoing “Managing Our Planet” series, jointly developed by George Mason University and the Wilson Center’s Brazil Institute and its Environmental Change and Security Program. Speakers include WRI’s Andrew Steer, GMU’s Andrew Light, White NSC advisor Paul Bodnar and Wilson’s Roger-Mark De Souza.
STEM Reception to Honor Efforts – STEM4US! will host a Talk & Congressional Reception om Thursday evening in B-369 Rayburn on investing in STEM. The event will feature executives from some of the most well-known brands in energy, technology/telecom, and health sciences along with Members of Congress and other leaders for a conversation about the impact of their investments in STEM and growing the pipeline of diverse workers in the energy, tech, and telecom fields. Particular focus will be given to initiatives in exciting and inspiring youth about good-paying, sustainable STEM jobs as a way of stemming the spike in violence sweeping the nation. STEM4US! is an advocacy organization formed to provide universities, schools, and parents with the tools to excite and prepare young people for careers in energy, technology, and other STEM fields.
Caruso to Address Energy Economists – The US Assn of Energy Economics will host Guy Caruso, former EIA Administrator (2002-2008) and current senior adviser in the Energy and National Security Program at CSIS, on Friday at Noon for a reflective one-on-one conversation about what he’s seen during his career in energy and what the world of tomorrow will look like.