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19 December 2019

How to embrace climate change when your President doesn’t

From most of the coverage of the IPCC meeting COP 25 in Spain last week, you might think that the recalcitrance of the largest CO2 emitters, China, India and the US, and the dismal failure to be in a position to make more ambitious plans for emission reductions, sets the process of renewable energy back several years.

But one presentation, from America’s Pledge, a two-year-old coalition of US states, cities, businesses and other organizations, led by Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg and former Governor of California, Edmund Brown, showed how a society which has a climate change denier in leadership, can make progress towards the IPCC Paris Agreement targets.

The report entitled, “Accelerating America’s Pledge: Going All-In to Build a Prosperous, Low-Carbon Economy for the United States,” was released this week at the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

This organization was started two years earlier by these two guys, and it was achieved by bringing together a coalition of American organizations who are continuing to back the Paris Agreement, including members of the We Are Still In network, US Climate Alliance, Climate Mayors, We Mean Business, and many others.

In essence the US was represented at COP 25 after all and its paper was simple, and to the point – you can instigate climate change from the bottom up in society, by simple agreement and by applying financial and social pressure.

The targets of this group are straightforward – to reach 60% renewable electricity, to shut down all coal plants, to peak and then reduce reliance on natural gas and to reduce fugitive methane from oil and gas facilities by at least 60%.

It says it is on track to decrease coal generation to just 7% by 2030, by which time renewable electricity will increase to 42% and clean electricity to 61%. We assume the difference includes nuclear produced electricity.

It also plans to improve energy efficiency in buildings 2% annually with updated Energy Efficiency Resource Standards and ensure that all new buildings are 100% electric by 2030 and existing buildings install electric appliances at end-of-life.

It wants to improve performance of light-duty vehicle internal combustion engines by 4% annually and ensure that EVs reach two-thirds of new car sales and more than half of light-duty truck sales through zero-emissions vehicle mandates and other supporting policies.

The paper also talks about adopting best-in-class energy management and electric technology, and promoting Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) in industry (well it had to have at least one thig we don’t agree with in there).

It also wants to phase out HFCs, consistent with the global Kigali Amendment and to reduce leaks from existing stock including agricultural methane and nitrous oxide emissions, where this can be done cost effectively.

So far it has convinced quite a few US States to push all this into their internal rules and regulations including California, Washington, New York, Vermont, Maryland, Connecticut and Delaware, and it has a cluster of states that don’t think they can go quite so far, which are referred to as “Fast-follower States,” which they feel they can go about half as far.

The states it represents has 65% of all Americans resident and 51% of all Green House Gas emissions, so it could have quite an effect.

Some people are asking “If Bloomberg can achieve all this in two years with no official position, just his own personal fortune, what could he achieve as President?

The paper concludes that while these bottom-up initiatives can provide the basis for significant progress, the US Federal Government’s involvement could make all the difference in getting back on track for the Paris Agreement and it lays out what would happen if the next US president took the country all in.

The group’s rationale is covered in a single diagram which says they should rapidly scale renewable electricity; retire all remaining coal plants; constrain new gas build out; build a modern electricity grid and reduce oil and gas fugitive methane emissions, starting by making venting and flaring illegal and that all upstream leaks must be identified and declared. It also calls for simplifying requirements for solar PV and storage permitting and installation.

The report makes it clear that a recently released study asserts that the increasing amounts of methane pollution in the atmosphere are largely due to hydraulic fracturing (fracking), much more so than biological sources, suggesting that the US will need to both regulate methane from gas production and move away from gas as a fuel source.

In a separate announcement this week mayors representing 300 cities across the US have signed a letter, released by Environment America Research & Policy Center, calling for a future powered by solar power.

Essentially it wants changes in regulations so that residential solar is encouraged.

“Solar energy is being embraced nationwide at a pace we once thought to be impossible, and America’s cities are at the forefront of this progress,” said Ben Sonnega, Environment America Research & Policy Center’s Go Solar campaign associate. “Local officials are unlocking the power of the sun by taking advantage of millions of available rooftops and broad public support to bring cleaner, greener and more resilient energy to their communities.”