What a way to come back from the Thanksgiving Holiday. This week is going be crazy and may be the busiest energy/environment week of the year. The major actions include the Paris Climate meetings already under way in France (6 hours ahead), the rollout of the RFS yesterday, energy legislation and GHG regulation action on the House floor, a slate of interesting Congressional hearings and finally the oral arguments on Friday focused on EPA’s mercury rules that were remanded by the US Supreme Court.
Let’s start with Paris…Speeches launched yesterday as world leaders converged on Paris. The action got going with speeches, sidebar meetings between leaders, some protests gone bad and clean energy innovations initiatives. India continues to be a thorn in the side of the talks, leaking a US “confidential note” that was shared with select countries which said the developed/developing countries distinction should be eliminated and developing countries should contribute to the Green Climate Fund. That should make the negotiations later next week fun. A lot more below…
The House of Representatives has a heavy energy hand this week, readying votes to undermine the GHG Regulations that were approved by the Senate prior to Thanksgiving. They will also consider other attempts to undercut the ability of U.S. negotiators to reach an international accord to address climate change in Paris related to the Green Climate Funding and Congressional Review of any agreement. Industry groups issued a letter to all House of Representatives’ offices in support of Congressional Review Act (CRA) Resolutions to strike the EPA’s greenhouse gas (GHG) rules for new and existing power plants. It is a similar Letter that was sent to Senators when they voted on similar legislation prior to Thanksgiving. The House is expected to vote later this afternoon or this evening.
Then tomorrow, the House will move to energy legislation which will dive into bolstering energy infrastructure and promoting liquefied natural gas exports. The legislation Is expected to get more than 70 amendments that will be handled by the Rules Committee today. While that will get Paired down, there may be legislative action on Crude Exports, the RFS, Gene Green’s Cross-Border infrastructure Permits streamlining (in other words fixing woes that dragged down Keystone), rooftop solar and other items.
Congress isn’t only busy on the House Floor. There are a number of important hearings this week, including this morning hearing in the House Science Committee. held a thoughtful hearing on the pitfalls of unilateral negotiations at the Paris Climate Conference. The other important hearing today included FERC Commissioners coming to a House Energy panel to discuss the implications of the Clean Power Plan, electric reliability and many other issues under FERC’s jurisdiction.
Finally, on Thursday The Hill will host a forum on the on the future of energy delivery and Friday oral arguments in the DC Circuit will determine the future of EPA’s mercury rule. With the action in Paris getting more wonky now with world leaders departing, we will likely provide you the next update on Friday. In the meantime, should you have any questions, please call…Best,
DAY TWO MORNING
President Obama Offers Departing Remarks – President Obama held a presser as he prepared to depart climate talks in Paris. Here is a link to the briefing: http://keranews.org/post/president-obama-paris-says-hes-confident-climate-deal-will-be-reached-video
This is a brief summary of the Dec. 1st news conference at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris. Please note that what follows is paraphrased and not an exact transcript:
Opening Remarks: President Obama began by speaking on the subject of terrorism, along with the ongoing Syrian refugee issue. He proceeded to argue that climate change is a profound problem that is a threat multiplier. He further that if action now isn’t taken now, the problem will get worse. According to Obama, “this is an economic and security imperative.” The President argued that businesses and investors need certainty to create a low carbon future. He is “convinced that we are going to get big things done.” Bill Gates is an example of someone who understands that climate change is a moral imperative, but also an opportunity. His optimism and the sense that we can do what is necessary is infectious.
Question and Answer:
The following summary reflects only questions pertaining to climate change:
Q: Unrelated question regarding Syria.
A: We still need a Paris agreement, so my main focus is ensuring that the U.S. is a leader in bringing a successful agreement home. There are a number of components of it. First, the agreement must be ambitious and must seek a low carbon global economy over the course of this century. This means that countries have put forward specific targets and that there is a mechanism with which countries are working on the targets and meeting them. There should be legally binding transparency measures, as well as periodic reviews. Countries should be allowed to update the pledges that they make. We also need a climate fund that allows developing countries to adapt and mitigate. If we hit those targets, then we will have been successful, not because the pledges alone will meet the necessary targets, but because it gets the ball rolling. Changes in say, solar technology, may make it easier to meet even higher targets. Systematically carbon emissions and the pace of climate change can be put downwards. Some of the reporting says that all of the pledges aren’t enough (estimated 2.7 C) increase in temperature. That is too high, but if we have these periodic reviews built in I believe that by sending that signal to researchers and scientists and entrepreneurs we will start hitting these targets faster and we can be even more ambitious. This may result in us meeting the 2 C target. This is not foolish optimism. I sought to double clean energy production when I came into office and our investment allowed us to meet those goals a lot quicker than expected. My expectations were exceeded in regards to solar power. The key here is to set up the structure so that we are sending signals all around the world that this is happening and that we are not turning back. The thing about human ingenuity is that it responds when it gets a strong signal about what needs to be done. The old expression that necessity is the mother of invention is particularly apt. The signal will help us to ultimately meet our goals.
Q: Are you confident that you can hold the U.S. to its commitments under existing treaties with no new vote needed?
A: We already engage in assistance to countries for adaptation, assistance and mitigation. So, this is not just one slug of funding that happens in one year. This is a multi-year commitment that is already embedded in a whole range of programs around the world. My expectation is that we will absolutely be able to meet our commitments. This is part of American leadership and part of the debate that we have to have in the U.S. more frequently. Too often leadership is defined by sending troops somewhere and that is the sole definition of leadership. Our leadership needs to be understood in a broader sense than that. When I made the announcement in Beijing, I was able to do so in part because we led domestically. Whether it is organizing a coalition that is fighting ISIL or dealing with climate change, our role is central, but on large international issues it is not sufficient, at least not if we want it to take and sustain itself.
Q: What happens if another President comes into office, say from the Republican party?
A: After a brief response to the issue, the President referred to the immense global gathering. Whoever is the next president, they will have to think that this is very important because of the emerging global consensus. That is why it is important to not project what is being said on a campaign trail, but to do what is right. The good news is that the politics is changing inside the United States as well. People should be confident that we will meet our commitments.
Q: In terms of sending that market signal you talked about today, do you see a political path back home to putting a price on carbon?
A: I have long believed that the most elegant way to drive innovation and reduce carbon emissions is to put a price on carbon. This is a classic market failure. If you open up an Econ 101 textbook, it will say that markets are very good at determining prices except that there are certain externalities that the market does not price, at least not on its own. Clean air is an example. Clear water or in this case the carbons that are being sent up. If you put a price on it, then the entire market will respond and the best investments and the smartest technologies will begin scrubbing our entire economy. As the science around climate change is more accepted and people start realizing that even today you can put a price on the damage that climate change is doing. When you go down to Miami and see that it is flooding on high tide, there is a cost to that. Insurance companies are starting to see that in terms of how they price risk. It may be that the politics surrounding a cap-and-trade system. I am not under any illusion that this Congress will do that, but eventually it may happen. It is worth remembering that conservatives and center-right think tanks that figured out that this was a smarter way to deal with pollution than command and control. George H. W. Bush did this in regards to acid rain. More than anything, this is the main message that we want to send. Climate change is a massive problem, a generational problem and a problem by definition is just about the hardest thing for any political system to absorb. The effects are gradual and diffuse, so there isn’t a lot of constituency pressure to deal with it right away. There is the problem of the commons, you need everyone to do it. There is a huge coordination problem and the danger of free-riders. On all these dimensions it is harder to come up with a tougher and a more consequential problem. I actually think we are going to solve this thing, in spite of that. If two years ago you mentioned that 180 countries would show up with ambitious targets, people would have said that that is a pipe dream. More R&D dollars are important, which is why the mission innovation announcement was so significant. I am optimistic and I think we are going to solve it. The issue is the pace and how much damage is done before we are able to fully apply the brakes. In some ways, it is akin to the problem of terrorism and the problem of terrorism and ISIL. In the immediate aftermath of a terrible attack like happened in Paris, sometimes it is natural for people to despair, but look at Paris, we can’t tear down Paris because of the demented actions of a handful of individuals. We have to be steady and continue applying pressure to the problem. Most of all, we have to push away fear and have confidence that human innovation and our values, judgements and solidarity will win out. I have been at this long enough that I have some cause for confidence. We went for a month or a month and a half where Ebola was going to kill us all. No one asks me about it anymore. We set up an entire global health security agenda that was part of American leadership to deal with Ebola, but also future pandemics. It is solvable.
Legally Binding? – One of the key remarks from the briefing was the President’s comment about legally binding portions of the agreement. Obama stressed today that portions of the pending climate change agreement that diplomats hope to finalize here this month should be legally binding, a remark intended to tamp down tensions over the structure of the deal. He reiterated his position that the mechanism under which countries review their domestic climate change targets should be legally binding. But Obama’s decision to stress that position comes amid confusion and frustration from some countries toward the United States over the legal nature of any deal that emerges. While it supports making some aspects of the deal legally binding, the administration strongly opposes making the climate change targets themselves binding because that would trigger a requirement to submit the final agreement to the Senate, where its fate would be likely be rejected.
The Hard Work Launches – With the world leaders departing, the real negotiators are getting down to work with spin-off groups, focused on specific issues in the draft agreement, met to talk about issues including technology development and transfer, capacity-building and legal provisions between now and 2020, as well as the deal’s preamble. The groups met to talk about helping countries adapt to climate change and compensating them for loss and damage and reducing emissions. This afternoon and evening, there will be meetings on financial aid, transparency, how to take stock of progress, what to do before 2020, capacity-building, technology, and other general issues.
Leaders to Arrive Early – The UN Climate Change Conference in Paris began Monday with an unprecedented Leaders Event, immediately after the official opening of the COP, where an estimated 150 Presidents, Prime Ministers and Heads of States delivered speeches. These speeches are posted on the “white pages” of the UNFCCC website as they are made available to the secretariat. President Barack Obama made brief remarks aimed at rallying the world to reach a deal to cut greenhouse gases and sealing his environmental legacy with or without Congress’ help. In his speech, Obama quoted Martin Luther King Jr., saying, “There is such a thing as being too late.” “When it comes to climate change, that hour is almost upon us. But if we act here, now, if we place our short term interests behind the air that our children will breathe and the water our children will drink,” Obama said. “Then we will not be too late for them.” Chinese President Xi Jinping followed Obama saying “tackling climate change is a shared mission for mankind. All eyes are now on Paris.” Jinping also called for countries to determine their own best solutions and for an agreement that includes “global sustainable development at a high level and bring about new international cooperation featuring win-wins.”
Actions, Actions, Actions – Heads of State, Governments and others made major climate action announcements Monday and Tuesday at a series of press conferences and at a number of high-level side events. All of the speeches and press conferences took place at the Le Bourget venue and still can be viewed on demand via webcast. Summaries of climate action announcements, with links to the official announcements posted online by governments and key stakeholders, will be made available in the UNFCCC Newsroom. A tentative overview of press conferences, including those of Heads of State and Government, is available on the UNFCCC press page.
Still No Negotiation Observations – In the last pre-COP21 negotiating session in Bonn in October, observers from civil society, business and elsewhere were shut out of the negotiating rooms. It was the result of the Japanese delegation, but was unopposed by the EU and U.S. It did draw criticism from the G-77 and China group of developing countries, who argued that opening the doors would send a sign of transparency.
Obama, India’s Modi Hold Meeting – One of the biggest meetings was between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Obama. Modi said India will fulfil its responsibilities regarding climate change when he met US President Barack Obama on the sidelines Monday. Obama said India had to be able to grow and fight poverty, while Modi pledged to ensure development would be coupled with environmental protection. Modi’s speech held quite a different message though saying India did not create the climate change menace but was suffering its consequences while he delivered a stern message to affluent nations, saying “those with luxury of choices should sharply reduce emissions”. Modi: “Climate change is a major global challenge. But it is not of our making. It is the result of global warming that came from prosperity and progress of an industrial age powered by fossil fuel,” he said while inaugurating the India pavilion at the summit, toughening his country’s stand in the face of US criticism of India. Read the Hindu Times coverage Here.
US Negotiators Note Undermines Developing Countries – Speaking of Indian Press, the Business Standard of India reported that the U.S. wants to eliminate the distinction between developing and developed countries in climate talks. They are circulating a “confidential note” that was shared with select countries, US officials say they wants the successive round of pledges under the proposed Paris agreement to be determined independently by each country and not through a process of international negotiation. The “non-paper” also adds the wall of differentiation between developed and developing countries should be done away and says developing countries should also contribute to the climate funds in future. That should really set a positive tone…
India Leads Solar Alliance Effort – Indian Prime Minister Modi and French President Hollande, along with world leaders, launched the International Solar Alliance on the inaugural day of the U.N. Climate Summit in Paris. The solar alliance brings together key countries and invites over 100 solar-rich countries to propel clean energy and protect the climate. The cooperation demonstrated by both developed and developing countries in launching the solar alliance gives a head start to the collective, flexible cooperation needed to hammer out an international agreement in Paris to sustainably and effectively fight climate pollution. Modi: “We must turn to solar to power our future.” President Hollande praised India’s leadership and called for France and others to mobilize finance and technology to achieve climate justice during the summit. The International Solar Alliance invites countries located between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn to join, including many African and Asian nations, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, France, China and the United States. Prime Minister Modi estimates $100 billion will be needed annually by 2020 to finance the clean power initiative. India’s National Institute of Solar Energy will lead the coordination of the solar alliance initiative for the first five years. The International Solar Alliance is part of India’s effort to advance a low-carbon economy, including domestic targets to install 100 gigawatts of solar energy by 2022. Prime Minister Modi also marked India’s progress, noting that India’s current installed solar energy capacity of 4 gigawatts will jump to 12 gigawatts by the end of 2016.
Key features of the International Solar Alliance
- Collaborate on research and development of new and affordable solar energy technologies
- Share regulatory and policy frameworks
- Exchange best practices for solar energy development and installation
- Promote joint efforts and programs to train a skilled workforce
- Cooperate on common industry standards
- Partner on attracting financial investments and creating innovative financing mechanisms
The launch of the International Solar Alliance shows the flexibility and cooperation needed at the negotiations to achieve a strong agreement to reduce global warming pollution.
Countries Commit to Clean Energy – A group of 20 countries say they will double current spending on clean energy research and development over the next five years. President Obama, French President Hollande and other world leaders announced the new Mission Innovation initiative this morning in Paris. The 20 countries are Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Private Investors to Fund Tech Innovation – While it rolled out late last week, a separate coalition of 28 private large-scale investors also launched a complementary effort to funnel capital into “early stage companies that have the potential of an energy future that produces near zero carbon emissions and provides everyone with affordable, reliable energy.” The group, named the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, is spearheaded by Bill Gates and Includes Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Virgin Founder Richard Branson, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Indian Business mogul Mukesh Ambani, Chinese businessman Jack Ma, Vinod Khosla Indian auto magnate Ratan Tata, HP CEO Meg Whitman, activist George Soros and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, among others.
UN Head Supports 5-Yr Climate Reviews – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says governments’ pledges to cut global warming emissions aren’t enough and should be reviewed before 2020. Ban said he endorsed plans for reviewing targets every five years. While more than more than 180 countries have submitted climate action plans, however, scientific analyses show that even if those plans are implemented man-made warming is likely to reach almost 3 degrees C (5.4 F), which is beyond the 2-degree C (3.6 degree F) goal of the international talks. “It’s not enough. We have to do much more and faster to be able to contain the global temperature rise below 2 Celsius,” Ban said. Still, he said he was encouraged by the recent progress in the climate talks, which for years have been bogged down by disputes between rich and poor countries over who should do what. “It seems to me that all the stars are aligning,” Ban said. “I’m pretty optimistic that we will be able to have a very robust universal climate change agreement.”
McConnell to Leaders: Key GHG Initiative on Shaky Legal Ground – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell writes in the Washington Post that global leaders shouldn’t work with President Obama in Paris based on a domestic energy plan “that is likely illegal … and that his successor could do away with in a few months’ time.”
House Leader McCarthy Challenge Obama on Energy View – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy also published an article in Reuters. He argues that President Obama’s rhetoric “is blind to the true story of American energy.” Please see a copy of McCarthy’s op-ed here.
Downplaying Results – Several reports have said shown the White House and other world leaders downplaying outcomes for the Paris conference talks saying the success of a global treaty being negotiated by world leaders over the next few weeks won’t be determined instantly, but will take years to change course. Only in about 2030 will it be possible to look back and determine whether Paris 2015 was the turning point that world leaders are so avidly seeking here. Will all the world’s nations live up to the pledges they brought? Will they do even more? And will emissions, at long last, be heading down? Statements like these are meant to put a gloss on the widely acknowledged reality that the formal emission pledges received so far are inadequate. Those pledges — by more than 180 countries accounting for at least 95 percent of global emissions – don’t come close to putting the world on a path toward holding global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
Security Risks? Terrorism v. Climate – The White House wants no part of the “terrorism” versus “climate change” threat ranking game despite repeatedly making the argument. Republicans have long pounded top Democrats—including Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Bernie Sanders—for deeming climate change a danger on par with (or ahead of) terrorist attacks, saying their statements underscore a failure to take groups such as ISIS seriously. But when deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes was repeatedly asked on Monday how the two stack up, he refused the premise. “They are both critically important, and we have to do both at the same time,” Rhodes said. “They pose different threats. Obviously there is an immediate threat from terrorism that has to be dealt with to protect the American people, to protect our allies and partners, and to root out the cancer of terrorist networks that we see not just in Iraq and Syria but in different parts of the world. I think over the long-term, clearly we see the potential for climate change to pose severe risks to the entire world.”
Countries Urge a Carbon Price – Leaders from China, Germany, Mexico, Canada and Ethiopia joined French officials yesterday evening and promised to impose a price on carbon. France’s energy transition law, passed over the summer, sets an example by putting the price of carbon on a trajectory to hit €56 ($59.50) per ton in 2020 and €100 ($106) in 2030, the energy minister noted. Carbon pricing will be a divisive issue in the talks.
Who’s Going – The U.N. expects the COP-21 to draw some 10,000 government representatives to the Le Bourget conference center in a northeastern Parisian suburb, plus 7,000 observers per week and 3,000 journalists. Just Last week, more than 1,000 other reporters were cut from the list of accredited media. We will be in contact with several industry people on the ground in Paris and will be happy to provide you their thoughts and posit your questions to them. President Obama arrived Sunday and Just departed this afternoon. Other cabinet members attending: Sect of State Kerry, Interior’s Sally Jewell, DOE’s Moniz, Ag Sect Vilsack, EPA’s Gina McCarthy and NOAA Admin Sullivan. California Governor Jerry brown and Washington state Governor Jay Inslee are attending.
Congress – Several members of Congress will be attending, mostly near the end of the conference. Much is still up in the air because the impending budget deadline on December 10th that will require Congressional action/votes. On the Senate Side there are rumors that Sen. Inhofe will make an appearance at the near the end of week 2. On the D Side, Whitehouse, Cardin, Markey and Schatz are planning to attend. Right now, Pelosi and Whitfield are leading the respective delegations. On the Republican side Jim Sensenbrenner, Pete Olsen and several other E&C members are expected to go to Paris. Key Senate EPW Staffer Mandy Gunasekara and House E&C staffers Tom Hassenboehler and Mary Neumayr will also expected to be attending the conference.
Others Attending – Among those attending the main conference are 20 Sierra Club staff members or volunteers, including executive director Michael Brune and 12 from the World Resources Institute, led by Jennifer Morgan. Main Keystone opponent Bill McKibben is going, along with Britain’s Lord Nicholas Stern and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the former finance minister of Nigeria.
Washington business groups seem to have a smaller presence. There is a large group going with the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, including:
– Lisa Jacobson, Business Council for Sustainable Energy
– Kelly Speakes-Backman Alliance to Save Energy
– Kathryn Clay American Gas Association
– Thad Hill CEO of Calpine
– Dan Chartier Corn Refiners Association
– Dan Delurey Demand Response & Smart Grid Coalition
– Nanette Lockwood Ingersoll Rand
– Grady Crosby Johnson Controls
– Tony Earley CEO PG&E
– Rhone Resch CEO Solar Energy Industry Association
We have heard of only a handful of other D.C.-based business folks who say they will be there. They include:
– Howard Feldman, American Petroleum Institute
– Art Lee, Chevron
– Eric Holdsworth, Edison Electric Institute
– Susan Mathiascheck, Nuclear Energy Institute
– Gene Trisko, United Mineworkers
– Stephen Eule, Institute for 21st Century Energy at U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Think Tanks – There will be a bunch of think tanks going but I will report on the number of conservative groups. CEI will have several people in the second week including climate meeting veterans Myron Ebell, Chris Horner and Harlan Watson. Climate gadfly Marc Morano and Craig Rucker of CFACT will be holding science Conference on December 7th at the Hotel California (where they will be livin’ it up) and the following day, the will premier Morano’s documentary,Climate Hustle. Heritage Foundation treaty expert Steve Groves will also be in Paris. Finally, RFF has a great blog from Brian Flannery and Ray Kopp that raises key questions.
Eule Interview with Bloomberg – Steve Eule, who first attended the Milan COP meeting in 2003 as an official in the Bush administration, talked to Bloomberg about what to expect. Eule said there are very few opportunities to lobby or influence what is going on. Every morning at 9 a.m. there’s a business briefing for groups from all over the world. That’s a great way to find out what is happening, he says, because “a lot of businesses are a lot tighter with their governments (than the U.S.) and they get the skinny.”
“There are a lot of really boring hours, but when it starts to be crunch time, the meetings go behind closed doors,” he said. “Then the rumor mill takes over.”
And don’t expect to take a long tour of the Louvre. “Nobody wants to leave because they are afraid they are going to miss something,” Eule said. “I see the hotel room, the Metro and the venue and that’s about it.”
Security Is High – France is deploying 11,000 additional police during the climate meetings to ensure security for two weeks. The location of the COP-21 conference center Le Bourget is just a few miles from the Stade de France in St. Denis, where a terrorist exploded a bomb on November 13th. France said it will deploy 2,800 police and gendarmes on the conference site itself. Some 8,000 police will be deployed on France’s borders to temporarily re-implement border controls that ended in 1995 with the EU Schengen Area’s creation.
Pre-Conference Protests Go Bad – French riot police fired tear gas at activists protesting as part of global climate demonstrations yesterday. About 200 protesters, some wearing masks, fought with police on a street leading to the Place de la Republique. Paris police chief Michel Cadot told reporters that some demonstrators hurled glass bottles and memorial candles at police. Demonstrators in France were warned not to gather amid the state of emergency enacted after the Paris attacks. But more than 4,500 people formed a human chain around midday. Almost 200 people were arrested using the state of emergency rules. French President Hollande said “everything will be done” to keep violent protesters away from the conference. Some protesters were undeterred by the criticism, chanting, “a state of emergency is a police state.”
Side Events Will Go On – Despite French officials canceling an outdoor climate march due to security concerns in the aftermath of the terror attacks, French and UN officials announced that indoor events organized by civil society during international global warming negotiations in Paris can proceed. One of those events will be NEXT Thursday, December 10th 3:00 p.m. Business Side Event in Room 5 which will offer business perspectives on INDCs. Business groups in Europe, the U.S. and developing nations will discuss implications for domestic and global outcomes from policy, as well as market changes in trade & investment. They will also present experiences with business engagement in developing INDCs and recommend ways to involve business in assessment and /improvement. Another event will be held TOMORROW at 2:00 p.m. at the UNESCO building (125 avenue de Suffren, 75007 Paris) featuring NRECA’s Martin Lowery. Lowery will join cooperative representatives from Germany and France in Paris to discuss the cooperatives’ contribution to developing renewables and increasing energy efficiency at an event sponsored by the International Cooperative Alliance.
KEY ISSUES TO FOCUS ON
Some Key Points – There are several key points to keep on your agenda as you listen to the discussions, reporting and other items related to the Paris Climate meeting. There will be a lot of symbolism and hype and focusing on these key points will allow you to get to the heart of the key issues:
1) Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – The Paris agreement is anticipated to be a bottom-up treaty, with each country setting goals based on their unique national circumstances. These Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs, will form the basis of the country-specific commitments under the new UN climate treaty. It is also expected that periodic review of these commitments will be instituted along with measuring, reporting, and verification to ensure the integrity and ambition of the commitments. While may seem to be making INDCs, there are many questions as to whether countries will live up to these commitments. Even the US commitment is being questions by experts as not adding up to the 26-28% reduction.
2) Green Climate Fund – Financing issues are among the most controversial in Paris, and they could easily derail any agreement. Many developing country INDCs are conditioned on financial support and technology transfer. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was proposed at COP-15 in Copenhagen in 2009, refined in subsequent meetings, and became operational in 2014. GCF aims to provide support to developing country efforts to reduce their GHG emissions and to adapt climate change. However, this breaks down, it is clear that a significant portion of the expected funds—certainly tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars over many years—would be coming from public sources and would have to be appropriated by Congress.
3) Intellectual property – Developing countries have used this provision deftly to justify their attempts to weaken intellectual property rights (IPR) protections, ostensibly to remove the supposed “barriers” to technology transfer raised by IPR. Compulsory licensing and a fund supported by developed countries to buy down IP are two of many proposals being bruited. IPR serve as a fundamental catalyst of innovation, and study after study has shown that it is not a barrier to technology transfer. A weakened IPR regime such as that being proposed above would provide precious little incentive for companies to invest in advanced technologies if after years of research and development and millions or even billions of dollars invested, their inventions could be expropriated outright by companies in developing countries and manufactured and sold around the world at reduced cost. Under such a circumstance, some of the most innovative companies in the developed world would simply abandon the development of advanced energy technologies.
4) Technology Transfer – Tied to INDCs and the Green Fund, Technology Transfer is one fundamental issue that could bridge the gap. It frankly is a better way to move toward a positive goal transforming our energy economy: engage developing countries with advanced technology transfer to help them grow their economies more efficiently and cleanly. Rather than going to Paris and trying to shame everyone into doing, this approach could be an important way to move forward. In fact, we are already doing in many ways. Look at the Clean Coal, Solar and offshore wind technologies that have struggled to catch on here in the US. While we have struggled, developing nations, specifically China, have looked for these opportunities even without the promise of billions in funds (that will likely not ever come).
5) Verification – An issue that does not receive the attention it deserves is measuring, reporting, and verification of climate policies. As things stand now, the system of MRV that is likely to come out of Paris will focus not on whether a country meets its emissions goal, but on whether it implements the policies and measures designed to meet its goal. In other words, MRV is more about process than results. MRV will be especially challenging in developing countries. Transparency is a key to open markets and planning, and businesses will be reticent to invest in developing economies without assurances that its investments in emission reduction and offset projects are real and that government activities in support of INDCs have integrity.
6) Binding Legal Commitments Or Non-binding Political Agreement – In a recently interview, Secretary of State John Kerry said recently the Paris agreement is “definitively not going to be a treaty.” While it has not been finalized, we can already say that the Paris Agreement will be a multilateral international agreement that will include almost every country in the world. In testimony last week, Hofstra Constitutional Law Professor Julian Ku said If the outcome of the Paris Conference is to make these promises to reduce emissions legally binding, it is my view that the Paris Agreement must be submitted to the Senate for approval as a treaty under Article II. This will continue to be a contentious point of negotiating among parties and one that US Senators will be watching Closely. Last week, Senator Barrasso and Inhofe said the any funding for climate initiatives would be tied to Senate review.
OTHER IMPORTANT ISSUES
House Members Weigh In On Green Climate Fund – I mentioned the recent letter from Barrasso and Inhofe on the Green Climate Fund. Last week, more than 100 House members released a letter expressing opposition to Obama’s pledge of $3 billion to the U.N. Green Climate Fund, calling the president’s move “unilateral” and arguing Congress should have oversight. The debate over the fund is one of several expected to arise as Obama tries to implement a potential deal from Paris.
Two Names to Remember – It is likely Poland’s new conservative government will be a skunk at the Paris Climate Garden Party next week. Reports are they is threatening to veto a deal at the Paris climate summit, making clear its determination to protect the country’s large coal industry. Poland’s previous center-right government also fought to dilute EU emissions reductions goals, defending the coal that supplies the bulk of the country’s electricity and accounts for thousands of politically sensitive jobs. The Law and Justice Party (PiS), which this year took control of both the presidency and the parliament, is an even more ferocious defender of Polish coal than its predecessor. Two names to keep an eye on are new Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, a coal miner’s daughter from the country’s industrial heartland.
China Tops for Clean Energy – China, the world’s biggest emitter of carbon pollution, continues to hold the top position as the best developing country in which to invest in clean energy in a study by Climatescope, a research project whose partners include Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the U.K. Department for International Development. The nation scored highest for a second consecutive year in an analysis of 55 emerging market nations including South Africa, Uruguay and Kenya that mapped important progress in the area.
ClearView on the Paris Negotiations – Our friend Kevin Book of ClearView Energy release a report on the talks saying it appears that a main goal of the talks is forging a durable agreement with five-year review periods. In the absence of specific funding commitments from developed nations and transparency measures for all parties, Book says the talks could produce a weak deal. Topics that could slow negotiations down include the questions of how to apply “common but differentiated responsibilities” to the many provisions of an agreement and whether to include “loss and damage” in the deal at all. Even with a durable agreement, economic reversals, international security incidents and other surprises can still overcome best intentions, making the attainment of voluntary greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction goals somewhat tenuous. Future fossil fuel consumption is likely to depend on the implementation of those goals, and our analysis of third-party global energy outlooks found a wide divergence among reports. Coal consumption projections, for example, ranged from a 28% decline by 2030 to an increase of 43%. All of the estimates that we compiled show a growth in natural gas consumption by 2030.
Dueling Polls – There are two new polls out today that underscore why polling on this subject (as well as other environmental subject is always suspect). A new Washington Post-ABC News poll says the number of people who believe climate change is a serious problem facing the United States is declining. The poll shows 63% of those surveyed say climate change is a serious problem facing the country, down from 69% in June. 52% say climate change is a “very serious” problem, down from 57%. About 47% believe the government should do more to deal with global warming, down from 61% in 2008. The poll found 51% of people say there is “a lot of disagreement among scientists” over the existence of global warming, down 11% from 2008. About 43% say scientists agree with one another. Meanwhile, a New York Times/CBS News poll says Americans support the United States joining an international treaty to limit the impact of global warming, but on this and other climate-related questions, opinion divides sharply along partisan lines. The poll says 66% of Americans support the United States joining a binding international agreement to curb growth of greenhouse gas emissions, but a slim majority of Republicans remain opposed. 63% of Americans — including a bare majority of Republicans — said they would support domestic policy limiting carbon emissions from power plants. Again, this seems suspect when you look further into the polling: When considering policies to reduce carbon emissions, Americans generally favor regulating business activity more than taxing consumers. The poll found broad support for capping power plant emissions. Half of all Americans said they thought the government should take steps to restrict drilling, logging and mining on public lands, compared with 45% who opposed such restrictions. Support for limiting mineral extraction on public lands rose to 58% among Democrats. But just one in five Americans favored increasing taxes on electricity as a way to fight global warming; six in 10 were strongly opposed, including 49% of Democrats. And support was not much higher for increasing gasoline taxes, at 36% overall.
Mayor Call for Strong Climate Plan – Last week more than 60 mayors and California Governor Jerry Brown (D) called on the U.S. to take strong action during the Paris conference. Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and dozens of others representing smaller localities made their case to President Obama.
RFA Says Biofuels Reduce GHGs – Biofuels consumed under the expanded Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) have reduced U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 354 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent since 2008, according to a new analysis conducted by California-based Life Cycle Associates. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), which sponsored the study, said the findings have important implications for both the pending final rule for 2014–2016 RFS volumes and upcoming global climate talks in Paris.
EWG says RFA Fudges Numbers – A study released by the Renewable Fuels Association makes the bogus claim that the use of corn ethanol as a vehicle fuel reduced emissions by 240 million tons of carbon dioxide since 2008. EWG’s Emily Cassidy says study after study has shown that widespread use of corn ethanol has proved to be a disaster for the climate. The federal mandate to blend corn ethanol into gasoline has led to the destruction of millions of acres of grasslands and wetlands to suit higher demands for corn for ethanol productions.
Obama Rolls Out Reg Agenda – Prior to the Thanksgiving week and the Paris Climate negotiations, the White House rolled out its fall 2015 regulatory agenda. It is not the first time the President’s regulatory releases, required by law, came out under the cover of holidays:
- Fall 2012 – December 21 (Friday before Christmas)
- Spring 2013 – July 3 (day before Independence Day)
- Fall 2013 – November 27 (day before Thanksgiving)
- Spring 2014 – May 23 (Friday before Memorial Day weekend)
- Fall 2014 – December 22 (three days before Christmas)
- Spring 2015 – May 21 (Thursday before Memorial Day weekend)
The agenda includes over 2,000 regulations are now being written. Of these, 144 are deemed “economically significant”—that is, expected to cost Americans $100 million or more each.
ON THE SCHEDULE THIS WEEK
PARIS UN COP 21 Meeting – November 30th to December 11th
House Floor Debate Launches on Resolution of Disapproval – House Republicans are hoping to send President Obama measures blocking the centerpiece of his climate change agenda as administration officials gather in Paris for the start of international climate talks. The House will vote on two resolutions tomorrow through the Congressional Review Act that would kill U.S. EPA’s carbon rules for power plants. H.J. Res. 71 would block the agency’s rule to lower carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants, while H.J. Res. 72 would eliminate the Clean Power Plan for existing power plants. Before the Thanksgiving break, the Senate approved both resolutions on 52-46 votes. The White House will veto both resolutions because they would “undermine the public health protections of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and stop critical U.S. efforts to reduce dangerous carbon pollution from power plants.” But congressional opponents of Obama’s climate change agenda plan to use the effort to undermine the President’s plan in Paris by undermining his signature compliance measure.
House Science to Look at Climate Meeting – The full House Committee on Science will hold a hearing tomorrow on the pitfalls of unilateral negotiations at the Paris Climate Change Conference. The hearing is a second hearing that is raising doubts about the international climate talks and its outcomes. “The so-called Clean Power Plan will cost billions of dollars, cause financial hardship for American families and diminish the competitiveness of American industry around the world,” Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said at that hearing. Witnesses will be Oren Cass of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Andrew Grossman of Baker & Hostetler and climate gadfly Dr. Bjørn Lomborg.
FERC Commissioners To Visit House Energy Panel – The House Energy & Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power will hold a hearing focused on FERC. Witnesses will include FERC Commissioners Bay, LaFleur, Clark and Honorable. The clean power plan and electric reliability will be a major part of the discussion.
Senate Foreign Relations to Hold Hearing on Energy Nominee – The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will meet tomorrow to consider several nominations including Amos Hochstein appointment to be an Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources.
Panel to Look at Offshore Wind in the U.S. – The Clean Energy Leadership Institute (CELI) will hold a panel discussion tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. looking at offshore wind in the U.S. CELI and panelists from the U.S. Department of the Interior, EDF Renewable Energy, and the American Wind Energy Association, will hold a discussion on the potential benefits of and challenges facing offshore wind. The panel will feature Interior’s Joshua Kaplowitz, EDF Renewable’s Doug Copeland and AWEA’s Hannah Hunt.
Atlantic Council CEO Series Continues with GDF Suez’s Smati – The Atlantic Council will continue its CEO Series with a discussion on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. on the future of power markets and energy technology with Zin Smati, the President and CEO of GDF SUEZ Energy North America. As Chief Executive of GDF SUEZ Energy North America, Zin Smati is tasked with navigating his company through an era of profound change in the world of energy. He brings his perspective to the Atlantic Council to discuss the sweeping energy transition now underway and to assess the future of power markets and energy technology.
NASA’s Chief Scientist Helping Countries Build Climate Resilience – Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. Georgetown University will host NASA scientist Ellen Stofan, who will discuss NASA’s International Programs and how they are using data to help countries develop climate resilience. Stofan was appointed NASA chief scientist on August 25, 2013, serving as principal advisor to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the agency’s science programs and science-related strategic planning and investments.
RFF to Look at Vehicle Fleet, Regs – Resources for the Future will hold a First Wednesday Seminar on where panelists will analyze some of the emerging information, including consumer demand for fuel economy and how lower gasoline prices can affect future fuel savings from the regulations. Manufacturer responses will also be discussed, including how the production of different vehicle sizes and types can affect regulatory compliance strategies, and how the new markets for emissions and fuel economy credits are developing. Speakers will include RFF fellows Virginia McConnell and Joshua Linn, as well as Chris Knittel of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research at MIT and Gopal Duleep of H-D Systems.
Forum to Look at Barriers to Renewables – On Thursday at 2:00 p.m. in 334 Cannon, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and the Center for Climate Strategies (CCS) will host a briefing discussing how all levels of governments in the European Union and United States can expand collaboration on renewable electricity market penetration to meet energy, economic, and environmental needs. The briefing will feature an upcoming report by CCS, funded by the European Union Delegation to the United States, which examines high-priority common challenges and opportunities in the renewable energy sector that are prime candidates for new or enhanced forms of transatlantic collaboration at the regional and Member State/U.S. state levels. Attendees will be invited to provide comments and input for the report; join us to discuss how enhanced transatlantic cooperation can help set the stage for new investments and technologies through greater thought leadership, information sharing, technical assistance, and collaboration.
Mercury Case Arguments Set – The DC Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments to determine the future of EPA’s mercury rule on Friday at the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse. Judges Garland, Judith Rogers and Kavanaugh will hear the case, the same panel of judges who initially upheld the mercury rule 2-1. EPA has suggested remanding the rule without vacating it so it can fix the problem identified by the Supreme Court that it should have considered the cost of regulating when issuing an initial “appropriate and necessary” finding. Late last week, EPA proposed a fix using data collected during the implementation of the rule, and says it can finalize the new finding by next spring. Opponents say the court should make EPA start from scratch, arguing that if the initial “appropriate and necessary” finding was improper then the entire rule must be trashed.