Foreign Policy Blogs » Climate Change | Foreign Policy Blogs http://foreignpolicyblogs.com The FPA Global Affairs Blog Network Fri, 27 Mar 2015 20:47:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Europe Debates its Future Climate Targets http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2014/02/07/europe-debates-its-future-climate-targets/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2014/02/07/europe-debates-its-future-climate-targets/#comments Fri, 07 Feb 2014 19:19:59 +0000 http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=85939 Photo: European Commission

Photo: European Commission

The countries of the European Union tend to be viewed as the main advocates at the national level for developing a more comprehensive and binding global plan to tackle climate change. As the EU pushes forward, other nations have been stuck in neutral or have been retrenching. With the European economy continuously struggling to pick up any momentum and energy costs increasing, there is the view that economic growth has become stunted due to the relatively ambitious climate targets, which in turn places the countries in weaker position to compete in global markets with nations that lack similar regulations. However, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso insists combating the two issues at the same time is not contradictory. Rather, he claims, “climate action is central for the future of our planet, while a truly European energy policy is key to our competitiveness.”

Today, the current European climate/energy policy is known as “20-20-20” targets. In 2007 the EU adopted the policy by setting a 2020 timeframe for all member states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent of 1990 levels, to increase energy efficiency by 20 percent, and to raise the amount of energy produced from renewable sources to 20 percent.

Last month, during a European Commission meeting these targets were reviewed looking deeper into the future with an eye on 2030. The executive body recommended increasing the target to reduce the greenhouse gas emission by 2030 to 40 percent, which must be met by reducing emissions in the EU. The current target can be partially met by financing projects outside the EU.

While many hailed this proposal, the reception was not so warm for the increase of the energy portfolio to reach 27 percent of renewables by 2030. The new renewable energy target would be an EU-wide basis and effectively eliminate the mandate for individual member countries, enabling more flexibility of determining internal energy portfolios. The commission also refrained on energy efficiency as the energy commissioner will first review the current legislation before proposing the next steps and refrained from proposing new legislation to regulate the development of shale gas.

One can surmise that countries not emboldened to embrace renewable energy will now reduce production, while leaving other nations to pick up the slack. Scientists and environmental advocates believe the these targets are actually too lax overall if the EU is to meet the long-term goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by up to 95 percent by 2050 to limit the rise in global average temperature to 2°C above pre-industrial levels — one cannot look beyond the influence of the U.K.’s push for nuclear energy and evaluating its shale opportunities (the U.K. believes the greenhouse gas reduction target is sufficient), and Poland’s large-scale use of coal and potential of shale development.

Nonetheless, Vestas CEO Anders Runevad and Climate Group CEO Mark Kenber believe that the Executive’s proposals could be drivers for clean economic growth.

European Parliament Altered Tact

Despite this influence in the executive, the European Parliament did not embrace all the same recommendations. In fact, on February 5 in Strasbourg, France, members of the legislative body called “on the Commission and the Member States to set a binding EU 2030 target of producing at least 30 per cent of total final energy consumption from renewable energy sources; stresses that such a target should be implemented by means of individual national targets taking into account the individual situation and potential of each Member State.” The final 341 to 263 vote also included calling for the same 40 percent cut in greenhouse gases, compared with 1990 levels and also includes a 40 percent improvement in energy efficiency arguing that impact assessments had shown that it would benefit the bloc’s economy. The members of parliament (MEPs) did not debate amendments for even more ambitious targets, including a proposed 50 percent reduction in emissions and 40 percent renewables target.

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) applauded vote and now estimates that the renewable energy target binding at a national level could provide 570,000 new jobs and save €500 billion ($680 billion) in imports of fossil fuels, with lower energy costs for energy-intensive industries.

The vote is non-binding, but the thought is it will provide a signal to member governments before the EU 2030 climate and energy targets are set to be debated. The ministerial meetings scheduled for March 3 and 4 and at the heads of government summit from March 20–21 will dissect energy and environment policy and its impact on competitiveness. If member states prefer to stick to the executive’s recommendations made last month, without binding national targets, the parliament has no power to reverse that course.

Notwithstanding the U.K.’s known opposition of national targets, Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change said “the right 2030 package will unlock low carbon investment, while keeping consumers’ energy bills down. The vote in the European Parliament is one stage in the process and we are pleased that MEPs have come out in favor of an ambitious climate package for 2030.”

Is the Competitive Argument Fair or Rhetoric?

BP’s chief economist Christof Ruehl said on February 4 that the claims by industrial firms that they would leave the EU over rising energy costs for cheaper costs in the United States are unfounded. Mr. Ruehl continued “the major macroeconomic implication is the balance of trade.” Energy import costs need to be confronted as fuel import cost is predicted to reach €600 billion ($811 billion) annually by 2050.

An important report, “Staying with the Leaders: Europe’s Path to a Successful Low-Carbon Economy,” from the Climate Strategies Group — a nonprofit that works with leading international institutions and experts to provide independent policy and economic research input to European and international climate policy — was released February 6. It concludes that the evidence climate policy weakens European competitiveness is flawed. It actually embraces a complete “180,” and states the bloc risks falling behind its economic rivals unless it embraces more ambitious low carbon policies.

However, the European Commission does not expect to produce a formal legislative proposal until after parliamentary elections in May and a changeover of commissioners later this year.

Restructure of the ETS is needed

For the ability to meet any increased pace of greenhouse gas reductions, the EU’s Trading Scheme (ETS) — a market system where energy intensive businesses purchase offset certificates for the greenhouse gases they have produced – needs an overhaul. Prices peaked five years ago around €30 ($41) per ton of carbon, but recently they have plummeted to €4 ($5.40), partially due to the economic slowdown and reduced industrial activity, thus losing much of its bite to discourage emitters.

A legislative proposal for the ETS calls for the creation of a stability reserve of carbon emission permits. The imbalance is primarily from the excess permits or allowances and the current demand. Part of the two billion surplus permits would be taken out of the carbon market gradually and throughout the trading period, depending on the volume of permits in the system to stimulate the depressed prices. Critics of the new scheme believe it would not be done fast enough to significantly impact the carbon price and would not be a driver for new green investments. On February 6 the parliament voted (306 votes to 276 with 14 abstentions) to begin early implementation of the so-called backloading plan in March; not long after, carbon permit prices rose about seven percent, to about €6.60 ($9). However, the price still needs to rise sustainably to influence business decisions.

German Influence

Regardless of the ETS, it will be interesting to see how much continued influence Germany has as the largest EU economy over subsidies for renewables. The nation has made it policy (known as Energiewende, which translates to energy transition) to move off of nuclear energy after Fukushima and to increase its reliance on renewable energy. To stimulate this transition, it has been spending billions subsidizing the new energies.

Recently, Sigmar Gabriel, Federal Minister of Economics and Energy and Vice Chancellor of Germany, said the transformation could create huge economic, ecological and political benefits, but at the same time was posing risks to Germany as a modern industry. “We need to break the dynamics of ever-rising electricity bills, while ensuring a stable supply of energy for all.” Mr. Gabriel also unveiled a plan to reform the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) and reduce subsidies from €0.17 ($0.23) per kilowatt hour to €0.12 ($0.16) by 2015. German household electricity prices are now 48 percent above the European average, according to McKinsey’s report “Energiewende-Index.” However, it is important to realize that studies have shown that the subsidy rate and retail rate do not have direct correlation.

International Effect

Whatever Europe decides internally will have a major influence on the international debate within the confines of the U.N. climate negotiations (UNFCCC). Slow progress has been made, but there is global agreement to hash out a deal by 2015 in Paris to reduce emissions – this year’s meeting to further lay the groundwork will be in Lima in December. Mrs. Hedegaard hopes their efforts will be viewed as a benchmark and a driver for other countries to reach the 2015 agreement.

Thus far, the EU’s policies have led to its greenhouse gas emissions being reduced by 18 percent compared to 1990, with renewable energy sources contributing to 12.7 percent of the bloc’s energy consumption. According to Connie Hedegaard, the European Commissioner for Climate Action, Europe is on track to reduce its carbon emissions by 24 percent on 1990 levels by 2020. She continued “the direction for Europe has been set. If all other regions were equally ambitious about tackling climate change, the world would be in significantly better shape.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon agrees, saying the “new ambitious proposals are the standard to follow;” World Bank president Jim Yong Kim praised Europe’s “climate leadership and ambition” and U.N. climate chief, Christiana Figueres, called them a “positive signal for a meaningful 2015 agreement.”

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Climate Change Hijacks National Security http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2013/11/26/climate-change-hijacks-national-security/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2013/11/26/climate-change-hijacks-national-security/#comments Tue, 26 Nov 2013 16:16:10 +0000 http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=83029 Haiyan-Relief (Photo by DVIDSHUB Creative-Commons)

Haiyan-Relief (Photo by DVIDSHUB Creative-Commons

Why the Slow Moving Emergency is Resetting the U.S. National Security Conversation

Has climate destabilization already hijacked the national security conversation? Well, not yet – but it should and it will.  To help make my point for dramatic change in national security thought, let’s recall the old frog in boiling water ancedote.

If you put a frog into a pot of hot water, it will try to leap out right away to escape certain death. But, if you put the frog in a pot that is filled with water — that is cool and pleasant — then you gradually heat the pot until it starts boiling, the frog will not become aware of the danger until it is too late. He will gradually become the main ingredient in a slippery and unsavory amphibian stew.

Apparently human beings share this primordial behavioral characteristic with our amphibian friends. We evolved to detect and react to sudden changes and not to slow-moving, hard to perceive events. And so it is with our failure to collectively react in intelligent ways to ongoing climate destabilization that threatens prosperity, peace and life itself.

Mother Nature’s Melt Down

The incremental but significant environmental variability caused principally by industrial carbon emissions has led to global temperature rise that now constitutes a slow-moving emergency that will affect every nation. The devastating impact of Typhoon Haiyan – a remarkable extreme weather event (the U.S. Joint Warning Center clocked wind speeds at 190 mph) is a taste of what is to come. An increasing number of scientists believe that such hyper-meteorological events will become more commonplace, impacting all of us, especially the poor of the world.

Climate Change talks

Climate Change talks

As UN climate change talks in Warsaw, Poland entered their second week, the UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) urged countries to take immediate action on climate destabilization. The committee, comprising 14 aid agencies, argue that extreme weather events such as Typhoon Haiyan follow a growing pattern of threats that points strongly towards devastating climate change.

Though there is unlikely to be unanimity amongst the partisans in the ongoing climate change science versus politics civil war, there is a growing appreciation that the impact of global temperature rise will be considerable and irreversible on a human timescale. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a body endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly, stated in its fourth assessment report, “Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for—and in many cases is already affecting—a broad range of human and natural systems.” The more alarmists among the man-made climate change scientists collectively argue that both rapid onset (e.g. mega storms) and gradual onset (e.g. sea level rise) events have the potential to destabilize entire nations and regions. Scared yet?

Water and food shortages, destruction of property, uncertainty, poor nations blaming wealthy ones for climate-related disasters—these converging factors form the boiling water in our frog analogy. These are impacts that many seem not to want to perceive as serious threats to human wellbeing. Indeed, we are seven billion bipeds being slowly boiled in a closed eco-system by an unacknowledged flame of our own creation. According to the IPCC scientists, 2-3 degrees celsius of global temperature rise is already locked in due to the sins of our past (read: deforestation and carbon emissions). Even if we wised up, and acted collectively to turn off the heat, (i.e. stopped all carbon emissions and really started to hug trees) we would still have to contend with a vengeful Mother Nature angrily returning the abuse we’ve inflicted upon her.

Threat Multiplier

As was the case thousands of years ago, we are now more at risk from nature—albeit an ecosystem we have destabilized—than from the calculated aggression of state and non-state actors. Battleships, F-35 super-sonic fighter jets, ballistic nuclear missiles and all other expensive war machinery will not help to protect even developed nations from the most insidious and potent forces on the planet: storms, floods, droughts, species loss, habitat changes and vector-borne diseases. Nor will loss of livelihood be taken calmly by those most affected.

Was climate change one of the causal factors of  The Arab Spring?

Was climate change a causal factors of The Arab Spring?

In the study The Arab Spring and Climate Change (2013), the authors, Caitlin E. Werrell and Francesco Femia, describe climate change as a “threat multiplier.” In Syria, for instance, they tell us that a combination of  “social, economic, environmental and climatic changes … eroded the social contract between citizen and government in the country, strengthened the case for the opposition movement, and irreparably damaged the legitimacy of the Assad regime.” As with the case of Typhoon Haiyan, one cannot attribute an extreme event (man-made or natural) to environmental shifts alone. Yet it is becoming increasingly clear that environmental impacts can lead to the destabilization of already socially, economically and politically fragile states.

Environmental damage can be slow to hurt (like a delayed hangover) but the pain will come and might be just as  devastating to lives and property as any major terrorist attack or continental war. Unfortunately, the slow-moving emergency is not being debated on CNN, Fox News or on any other main stream media channel so it is hard to say when or if there will be significant public outcry leading to pressure on politicians to mount a defense.  So as the great industrial powers fixate on fighting the kinds of battles they’re used to, extreme weather events like Typhoon Haiyan and less dramatic but lethal shifts (like the decrease in global crop yields, and sea level rise) will converge with other factors to adversely affect more people in more diverse ways – overwhelming the capacities of governments to respond.

Giving the increasing intensity and frequency of Mother Nature’s jabs and hooks to the rib cage of the poor of the world, it is ill-advised for national security decision makers across the globe to confine “security” discussions to traditional threats. An irate Mother Nature demands our attention. In addition, notions of security that have traditionally centered on the axis of Great States conflict can no longer be the dominant framework for understanding and responding to the security challenge. Given this evolving environmental disorder, world leaders’ myopic focus on military and economic primacy must yield to new imperatives imposed by an increasingly upset head of household – Mother Nature.

Revolution in National Security Thought Needed

In the article “Climate Change and U.S. Interests,” Andrew T. Guzman (University of California, Berkeley) and Jody Freeman (Harvard Law School), argue that “Climate change is not simply a problem for the rest of the world. It is far likelier, as current models suggest, to lead to serious negative consequences for the United States. If this is so, the country should take prompt and aggressive action to address climate change, not out of benevolence or guilt, but out of simple self-interest.”

allAmericansIndeed a new framework for understanding security is needed – one that incorporates environmental variability considerations into the national, regional and international security calculus. Despite the mounting evidence of global climate induced disorder, practically all present-day security discussions center on threats posed by adversaries (actual, or hyped) to inflict pain or deny access to the world’s common spaces—ocean, air, space, and cyberspace.  This off-centered focus places climate change in the national security blind spot, leading to poor or non-existent mitigation and adaption policies – further exacerbating existing vulnerabilities.

Climate destabilization should become the long pole upon which the tent of national security is supported. This will not be a palatable paradigm shift for military and political leaders whose old-school notions of national security (and economic security) are inextricably linked to war-making prowess. However, I hope that humans do demonstrate in the near term that we are indeed the superior species on this once greener planet and are willing to act collectively to avoid the fate of slowly boiling frogs.

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President Obama Decides Time is Right for Climate Change Plan http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2013/06/27/president-obama-decides-time-is-right-for-climate-change-plan/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2013/06/27/president-obama-decides-time-is-right-for-climate-change-plan/#comments Thu, 27 Jun 2013 20:36:04 +0000 http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=79134 Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

As immigration legislation is prodded through the U.S. Senate then likely to collect mothballs in the U.S. House of Representatives, and major Supreme Court decisions are announced, the executive branch has garnered a portion of the headlines. Ready to take on another challenge, President Obama laid out his plan to combat Climate Change – a topic largely silent during the first-term of his presidency.

President Obama said during his speech, “As a president, as a father and as an American, I’m here to say, ‘We need to act,’ …I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing.”

However, the legislative atmosphere being as noxious as it is in the U.S., Mr. Obama has decided to act by issuing executive orders to ensure that measures to address climate change will be taken. This process prevents garnering congressional approval, but the executive orders can be repealed by a future president, since they are not law.

Mr. Obama’s strategy is structured in three parts: 1.) reduce carbon emissions 2.) prepare the U.S. for the impacts of climate change, and 3.) lead international efforts to address climate change.

All three pillars are fraught with many challenges and complexities, but ambitious enough that proponents of climate action have praised the announcement though other proponents do not believe the actions will go far enough to attain the internationally desired outcomes.

Critics of the action have focused on the economic impact of new regulations and how that will translate to greater expenses and job loss. To counterbalance his critics, the president believes the details of his plan will foster innovation, thus leading to new jobs and put the economy on solid footing for the future.

To uphold the executive orders in court, the administration needs to craft the minute content carefully, and each word scrutinized and analyzed in order to be able to defend the lawsuits there will undoubtedly be.

Surely the most controversial matter will be the directive for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop new carbon pollution standards for existing and new power plants. Currently, power generation emits one-third of carbon nationally.

“We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water, but power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air for free,” Mr. Obama stated. “That’s not right. That’s not safe. And it needs to stop.” Coal power plants stand be most adversely affected due to the resource being the most carbon intensive of all forms of electric power production.

Coal’s U.S. market share had been receding; its annual share of electric generation declined from 49 percent in 2007 to 37 percent in 2012, according to Bloomberg. Power producers increased electric production from natural gas, which is more efficient and emits about half the emissions to tally 30 percent of the portfolio in 2012. Thus far in 2013, though, energy production from coal has increased to 40 percent and is predicted to continue to increase for the foreseeable future; natural gas has dropped to 26 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

Coal’s scope in the U.S. is still massive with reserves ranking as largest in the world; the reserves tally enough to last 200 years at current production levels, according to the EIA. Senator Joe Manchi (D-WV) said President Obama had “declared a war on coal,” and industry trade associations stated the potential new rules threatened coal’s commercial sustainability and thousands of jobs.

Acknowledging the vast challenges, Mr. Obama set the goal for the plan to reign in emissions from power plants to be finalized by June 2015. The timetable could prove dubious as the directive could be held up by lawsuits.

International Leadership: Fluff or Flourish?

On the international scene, the new question is: whether this promise to lead efforts to address climate change is sincere or is to play catch-up as Mr. Obama was anticipated to breathe new life and spirit to the climate negotiations by much of the world during his first-term.

Regardless of the lack of prior leadership, real leadership is needed now for significant climate action to be agreed to by 2015 (the previously agreed upon date for global climate legislation to be crafted by). Strong direction could lead to China, India and other emerging economies coming to the table with the developed world willing to seriously negotiate. In previous U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meetings, there has been a divide between the developed and developing world on levels of commitments to make.

Following up on his prior international pledge, Mr. Obama recommitted the U.S. to meeting the target he set in 2009 during the UNFCCC negotiations in Copenhagen of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. However, despite emissions dropping last year more than 12 percent from the peak in 2007, they are now predicted to grow by 2.5 percent this year, and continue ascending through 2040, which would basically render his goals useless.

“Internationally, the White House plan contains a number of good intentions which have now to be translated into more concrete action,” said E.U. climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard.

Globally, a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) concluded that global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions set an all-time high in 2012, derailing the world off its path to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2020 – the globally agreed target to stay below. In fact, “The path we are currently on is more likely to result in a temperature increase of between 3.6 and 5.3 C (6.5-9.5F),” IEA chief Maria van der Hoeven said. Following Ms. van der Hoeven’s statement, U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres emphasized that “Once again we are reminded that there is a gap between current efforts and the engagement necessary to keep the world below a 2 C temperature rise.” Can Mr. Obama follow through on his intended leadership and get parties serious to act the unsustainable trend? Time will tell.

China, which will not be confused with a leader on climate issues as it is the world’s largest emitter, has begun to take preliminary steps to challenge climate change domestically. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim stated, “There’s a new spirit in China…it is setting really, really aggressive goals on curbing climate-changing emissions.” It is easy for a skeptic to point to China’s dramatic coal consumption and dismiss minimizing carbon, but one new policy is establishing the world’s largest national carbon market in Shenzhen, which can be a foundation for sustained change. The new market, consisting of 635 companies responsible for 38 percent of the city’s carbon pollution, began trading emission allowances. The program is scheduled to be expanded to six other areas by next year and then to all of China before 2020.

Furthermore, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has proposed setting absolute caps on greenhouse emissions as early as 2016. Approval is necessary from the Chinese Cabinet to go into law. This would be a dramatic action and could provide a potential framework for other countries to model, especially if the economic powerhouse can implement it. As of today, China has pledged to cut its emissions intensity – the amount of carbon it emits per economic unit – by up to 45 percent by 2020.

Dr. Kim concluded, “right now, they’re more serious than any country I know” in terms of acting on climate change.

India, the world’s third largest emitter, has been very non-committal whiling negotiating at UNFCCC meetings. The nation does not want to impede its rapid economic growth by altering its energy landscape. Perhaps Secretary of State Kerry’s visit to India June 23-25 was a precursor of President Obama’s third pillar of international leadership. The secretary conveyed the message that without fully engaging to combat climate change, there could be shortages of food and water, more excessive heat waves, intense flooding, and droughts: all of which could stymy the nation’s essential growth, poverty alleviation, and development. Importantly to remember, the worst effects would be borne by those least able to adapt to them.

Mr. Kerry ended his visit stating, “I am convinced that we can move toward a global agreement that puts us on track to avert the most dangerous climate change, that is sensitive to and respectful of the diversity of national circumstances and capabilities, and that is fair, pragmatic and can actually evolve with changing circumstances.”

Ulterior motive or good faith?

A good question is why did President Obama unveil his climate aspirations now? Did it have anything to do with his trip to Africa, where climate action is seen as essential by most governments, so he can tout a new agenda and hide the fact he has not been as engaged with the continent as its citizens hoped 4 years ago? Or was it that now is the time to “payback” his loyal supporters that helped him win a second-term as president? Or is it simply his desire to act and June 25 was the best day logistically to make the announcement and get to work on implementing this plan?

One can be very cynical, but regardless of the thought process, climate change is on the policy table in the U.S.

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Will Iskandar Malaysia prove to be an eco-city model? http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/12/07/will-iskandar-malaysia-prove-to-be-an-eco-city-model/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/12/07/will-iskandar-malaysia-prove-to-be-an-eco-city-model/#comments Fri, 07 Dec 2012 19:11:37 +0000 http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=71041

Photo: IskandarMalaysia.com.my

As COP 18 in Doha seems to have failed (as of writing) to reach a consensus on how to further climate change action for the future, Malaysia proves to be one developing country with a plan for internal action. The country has set ambitious emission reduction targets: by 2020 it has committed to cut it emission intensity by 40 percent form 2005 levels, as the city continues it economic drive to “developed” country status by 2020.

One specific design to achieve this goal is Iskandar Malaysia. It is the first “smart metropolis” or new green, energy efficient ecocity of Southeast Asia. Iskandar was founded on principles of social integration as well as low-carbon emissions to combat environmental challenges, thanks to leveraging a green economy and green technologies. Planners hope for the city to be a model for smart city planning as cities will increasingly be strained by rapid urbanization, and the associated environmental, social and economic needs.

By 2050, it is estimated that 6 billion of the 9 billion people on earth will live in urban areas. This is challenging on many levels. Assuming business as usual scenarios, over 70 percent of carbon emissions will relate to city requirements. Anticipated urban carbon emissions by 2030 is estimated to equal 36.5 billion metric tons, which represents more than double the urban emissions of 1990.

Iskandar will increase its use of renewable energy to provide for anticipated increased energy demand, including solar and biomass, as well as integrating energy efficiency and waste will be reused. Low-carbon emission buildings, or zero emission, construction will be dramatically increased. In addition, a new public and private vehicle “smart” transportation system will be implemented. The overarching goal will be to emit a volume of emissions lower than nature can naturally absorb and for its actions to be replicated by other cities and nations.

The city itself is located north of Singapore in Johor, Malaysia. It spans over 2,000 square kilometers or about 3 times the size of its southern neighbor. Iskandar, with a current population of 1.3 million, has been planned since its 2006 with the expectation to house 3 million residents by 2025. Demonstrating that green growth can be prosperous and successful, the city already accounts for about 70 percent of the total GDP of Johor. By 2025, Iskandar is estimated to attain a GDP of $193.3 billion and a per capita GDP of $31,100.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said of the city: “Iskandar Malaysia [is] a smart city template – protecting the environment, promoting equitable development and addressing urban development challenges [through] the creation of smart, livable urban communities that will yield an improved quality of life for thousands of citizens, with safer, cleaner, healthier, more affordable and more vibrant neighborhoods, serviced by more efficient and accessible transportation systems – great destinations for businesses.”

Of course, this comes with a price and Iskandar will need to overcome hurdles to achieve its vision. Thus far, more than $30 billion has been pledged for the city, of which 37 percent will come from outside Malaysia. The city is actively pursuing additional foreign investment for added funding and to increase ecotourism.

Malaysia itself is experiencing a successful economic boom. The Prime Minister hopes Malaysia will reach ‘developed’ nation status by 2020 through sustainable development, which can be an example to other ‘developing’ nations. He understands the tough choices in pursuing the goal through environmentally responsible means—80 percent of government revenue comes from oil and gas. The nation’s anticipated development target by 2020 coincides with the scientific consensus that 2020 is the last year to globally be able to stay below 2 degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) limit of temperature rise from pre-industrial levels to avoid catastrophic climate change.

As mentioned earlier, the nation has very ambitious carbon reduction targets. It intends to reach those with a comprehensive plan partly through a solar program including a feed-in tariff, diversifying its economic sectors to increase low-carbon adaption and adapt energy efficiency. The Prime Minister thinks economic opportunities are prevalent mitigating climate change and he wants to capture the opportunity.

“We aim to meet this goal through a variety of measures (building upon its LED lighting and solar panel sectors), all of which increase growth, create new industries and jobs, (lead low-carbon economy of future) and boost prosperity,” the Prime Minister concluded. Through its solar panel manufacturing, LED lighting, and future industries, Malaysia can be viewed

Despite almost uniform calls from developing nations for developed nations to take action for their carbon emissions past and present, and to help provide finance and technology for developing nations to adapt, Mr. Razak feels Asian nations need to prepare to reduce their own emissions with more urgency. He says “doing nothing is no longer an option.”

 

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Round 18: Climate Talks Start in Doha http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/11/26/round-18-climate-talks-start-in-doha/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/11/26/round-18-climate-talks-start-in-doha/#comments Mon, 26 Nov 2012 11:55:39 +0000 http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=70398 UNFCCC) and the 8th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties (CMP) to ...]]>

Photo: AP/Osama Faisal, File

The United Nations climate change negotiations, or the long form: the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 8th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties (CMP) to the Kyoto Protocol, got underway today in Doha, Qatar. The conference, controversially being hosted by a major oil and gas nation that is ranked as the world’s highest per capita carbon dioxide emitter, is being attended by some 17,000 participants, including all UN member states, NGOs, International Organizations, academic institutions, among other actors.

 

This meeting is tasked with expanding on COP 17’s outcomes last year in Durban, South Africa. There member nations agreed to the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, which ties nations to structure a new and binding global climate agreement to reduce carbon emissions. The intent is for the agreement to be reached by 2015 and for the measure to be implemented by 2020 with both developed and developing nations as parties.

 

The EU’s Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard noted, “Doha must build on the breakthrough we achieved in Durban and make progress in preparation of the 2015 legally binding global climate agreement.”

 

Various supporters and activists worry, however, that the conference will not lead to the necessary solutions without strong leadership. The European Union has played that role in the past, but with fiscal difficulties front and center back home, their ability to exert direction for the talks may be dimmed. Compounding the possibility is the double-edged sword that their emission target of 20 percent emission reduction by 2020 was met this year. Adversely, there has been no further commitment, thus locking in internal inaction.

 

In a recent statement, though, the EU’s chief negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger seems to be loosening that stance by saying, “We are ready to step-up our ambition from 20 to 30 percent if other major economies would also move up to the higher end of their pledges.”

 

Many actors consistently hope the United States will play a greater role. On the sidelines in Doha, however, Jonathan Pershing, the United States delegate and deputy climate envoy, said the nation would not increase its prior commitment of cutting emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. He did highlight the substantial strides the nation has taken to slow climate change and to help the poor nations most affected by it. Mr. Pershing stated, “Those who don’t follow what the US is doing may not be informed of the scale and extent of the effort, but it’s enormous.” Specifically he mentioned the Obama administration’s increased fuel efficiency standards, increased renewable energy production and funding of climate finance for less developed countries.

 

The conference comes on the heels of reports by UNEP and the World Bank both warning about the ramifications of a warming planet, the unsustainable emissions today, emission predictions for the future and the widening gap among nations.

 

Through the UN, it has been agreed that a potential treaty must focus upon limiting global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees C (3.6 F) compared to pre-industrial times, which is viewed as the tipping point for increased climatic effects. However, the concentration of greenhouse gases has increased 20 percent since 2000, according to the aforementioned UNEP report. Scientists say that current pledges to mitigate greenhouse gases were falling dramatically short to limit warming.

 

The World Bank’s report concluded that a planet that is 4 degrees C (7.2 F) warmer, which it forecasts is possible with current trajectory of insufficient action and commitments, would see coastal areas inundated and small islands flooded, more common heat waves, food production reduced, species wiped out, stronger cyclones and diseases broaden to new locales.

 

Topping the talks is an extension of the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s only binding pact for curbing carbon emissions, with the first commitment period set to expire on December 31st of this year. The treaty, agreed to in 1997, specifically states for 37 party nations (Annex I Parties) to reduce emissions by 5.2 percent from 1990 levels.

 

It has been a struggle for a consensus on crafting a new commitment period for Kyoto due to differing opinions ranging from defining a time period for action—EU is offering 8 years while the developing world desires a longer commitment—to quantifying the reduction targets to simply what nations are willing to sign on for the next term. Currently neither China nor the United States, the world’s biggest emitters, are party to Kyoto. In addition, it is believed that New Zealand, Russia, Japan, and Canada will not sign an extension, but the EU and Australia would ratify an extension.

 

A consist point of contention during negotiations is the responsibility for action between the developed and the developing world. The developing world says it lacks the resources to adapt to climate change, which they claim has been accelerated by the developing world. In the climate negotiations, the term “common but differentiated responsibility” has become vogue aiming for the developed world to lead action at various commitment levels for climate change mitigation. But details and results have been left clouded. In China, for example, emissions are predicted to rise until 2030, despite its increased green policies.

 

Developing nations consistently lobby for an extension to the agreement citing receiving aid to help minimize the impacts of climate change through an adaption fund and technology transfer. Seyni Nafo, spokesman of the African group of nations said, “Failure to extend Kyoto would leave only national actions, with no legally binding UN framework. The Kyoto Protocol is going to be very important for us…and ambition is very low.”

 

Another topic to follow is the development of the Green Climate Fund. At the Copenhagen climate summit (COP 15) in 2009, developed countries promised to commit $100 billion a year by 2020 for climate mitigation and adaptation, with a $30 billion “fast-start finance” upfront compact for 2010-2012.

 

Actions have not equaled commitments, though. A new study by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) has found developed nations have fallen short on these promises of financial aid to poorer countries in order to help them fight climate change. While $30 billion in new aid was pledged over a two year period ending this year, the report found less than $23.6 billion had been committed, most of it in loans that would have to be repaid.

 

Another study by Oxfam also estimated that only 33 percent of the fast-start finance promised at COP 15 could be considered new. Secondly, developed nations have not made any pledges clear for the the promised $100 billion a year by 2020. The vast majority of the funds were repackaged from older aid commitments. Environmentalists and developing nations say it is a moral obligation for developed nations to fund the aid. They continue that developed nations are most responsible for climate change—they emit 75 percent of emissions while making up 20 percent of the population—and developing nations suffer the most effects with not enough means to combat the challenge.

 

However, the technology, the funding and the policy options to remain below the 2 degrees Celsius goal are achievable, provided that governments and society act to focus on crucial tasks ahead of them to move forward in the global response to climate change while in Doha. Executive Secretary of UNFCCC Christiana Figueres said earlier, “Expert analysis consistently says that we do have the possibility to keep on track and that to act now is safer and much less costly than to delay.” She continued, “but the door is closing fast on us because the pace and the scale of action is simply not yet it must be.”

 

The next two weeks will tell if nations are able to come together to act upon Mrs. Figueres’ message.

 

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Coal Losing Steam http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/06/01/coal-losing-steam/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/06/01/coal-losing-steam/#comments Fri, 01 Jun 2012 15:53:27 +0000 http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=62866 It is abundantly clear that if we are going to conquer our climate change demons, then we’ve got to radically reduce the burning of coal on our splendid but increasingly stressed planet.  Carbon dioxide is still the primary driver of warming and coal is still ...]]>

It is abundantly clear that if we are going to conquer our climate change demons, then we’ve got to radically reduce the burning of coal on our splendid but increasingly stressed planet.  Carbon dioxide is still the primary driver of warming and coal is still the primary source of carbon dioxide from fuel combustion.

Of course, as I’ve written here, besides carbon dioxide there are all sorts of pernicious public health and environmental impacts.  Among the health impacts are scores of premature deaths annually in the US alone from small particulates that lodge deep in the lungs.  In fact, one recent study from a group of top-flight economists estimated that the “gross external damages” (GED) from coal-fired electrical power generation may exceed the value added by as much as five times.

There was a poignant article in the NY Times the other day about the transition away from coal and how it is effecting communities.  As the extraordinary diminution in coal use continues in the US, and hopefully accelerates, the coal-mining industry is fighting tooth and nail to keep its profits and the traditional mining communities are increasingly worried about their economic prospects.  The article highlighted the concerns in Kentucky about the biggest coal-fired fleet operator in the country, American Electric Power, changing from coal to gas.  “The math screams at you to do gas,” said AEP’s chief.  Disappointment among coal-mining communities is understandable.  So is anger.  They truly, deeply hate environmentalists.  Yet, the manifest realities of public health, climate change, and economics mean that coal’s time is coming to an end.  AEP was going to apply for a rate increase to perform upgrades on one big facility in order to meet EPA standards, but then pulled the plug this week.  Perhaps not incidentally, had the Senate seen fit in 2009 to pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act (aka Waxman-Markey), the concerns of American workers caught in a transition would have been very well addressed.  (See Title IV, Subtitle B – Green Jobs and Worker Transition.)  Not so much now.

One aspect of the coal-mining industry’s facing up to the inevitable in the United States is their growing focus on export to Asia.  However, that new modus operandi is up against opposition by citizens and government in Oregon and Washington where the ports would be sited.  Oregon’s governor, John Kitzhaber, wants extensive review before opening up his state’s ports and Seattle’s city council passed a unanimous resolution this week opposing ports and train traffic in their state.

Jeff Goodell, the author of the seminal Big Coal, had an article in Rolling Stone this past March in which he asked Has Big Coal Lost Its Power?  (I use Big Coal in my graduate Energy and the Environment class at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs.)  Goodell notes the fact in his article that in an important energy speech that President Obama made at the time that the word “coal” is never mentioned.  Goodell wrote:  “In the world of energy politics, the sudden vanishing of the word ‘coal’ is a remarkable and unprecedented event.”  Another extremely astute observer, David Roberts at Grist, wrote recently that Big Coal in the US is “flailing.”  Big Coal’s new anti-Obama ad reeks of desperation is how Roberts describes the situation.  (Here’s the ad.)

As Amory Lovins and his colleagues illustrate so eloquently and thoroughly with their recent project and publication, Reinventing Fire, we don’t need coal and, for that matter, we don’t need oil.  The electric power industry in the United States is certainly increasingly sensitive to the former fact.  In other places, like Germany, they are way ahead of the curve on coal.  In China and India, for instance, they may yet get the message.

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The Smart Money http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/05/23/smart-money/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/05/23/smart-money/#comments Wed, 23 May 2012 20:49:04 +0000 http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=62208      I went to a very interesting presentation a couple of weeks ago:  The good folks at the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes and their partners at SAM, a Zurich-based group focused on sustainability investing, took the time to enlighten several of us ink-stained wretches of ...]]>
     I went to a very interesting presentation a couple of weeks ago:  The good folks at the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes and their partners at SAM, a Zurich-based group focused on sustainability investing, took the time to enlighten several of us ink-stained wretches of the press (if I can still characterize myself as such in the age of word processing) on the virtues of using measures of sustainability to gauge whether or not a company is going to be successful.  According to these folks, companies that focus on the “triple bottom line” – profit, people and planet – are run by managers thinking for the long term.  These are precisely the sort of managers, the investment researchers posit, and the numbers support, who are going to make their companies grow and their investors reap the benefits of that growth.  Here’s an example in which the DJSI folks have charted the performances of their listed companies in several areas versus that of those in the general Dow Jones inventory.  In this case, we’re looking at companies outside the US.  (It turns out that the preponderance of companies that make the grade for listing in the sustainability index are in Europe.)
     Here are two documents that flesh out very nicely what SAM does and how they do it:  “Measuring Intangibles” and “Sustainability: The Value of the SAM Value Chain.”
     One thing these smarter and greener companies do is plan and build so as to avoid disasters.  In an economic downturn, that can make all the difference.
     This comports with the findings of the UN’s “Principles for Responsible Investment” (UNPRI) initiative.  They maintain “… that environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) issues can affect the performance of investment portfolios…”  One extraordinary organization, Ceres, has recognized this for a long time and has been actively and very successfully helping to build just this sort of progressive thinking into the day-to-day operations and the long-term planning of major corporations.  The investors who work with Ceres manage many trillions of dollars in their portfolios and continue to find that sustainability equals good business sense.
     SAM partners with KPMG to produce an annual Sustainability Yearbook.  Here’s The Sustainability Yearbook 2012.  Browse it.  It’s got some compelling information to share, including a look at the sustainability leaders in 58 business sectors, from aerospace & defense to water.  (You can also access it here embedded in the post.)
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Did You Connect the Dots? http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/05/13/connect-dots-2/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/05/13/connect-dots-2/#comments Sun, 13 May 2012 21:44:18 +0000 http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=61703 The 350.org folks and all their thousands of friends all over the world had a big event on May 5.   Here’s the video: ]]>

The 350.org folks and all their thousands of friends all over the world had a big event on May 5.   Here’s the video:

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The Melting Cryosphere http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/05/08/melting-cryosphere/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/05/08/melting-cryosphere/#comments Tue, 08 May 2012 22:21:40 +0000 http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=61283 Here’s a look at how the Arctic has been melting.  (Click on the image to go to NASA for a full explanation of what you’re seeing here.) What we’re seeing all over the world is an accelerating rate of the thawing of permafrost, and the melting of sea ...]]>

Here’s a look at how the Arctic has been melting.  (Click on the image to go to NASA for a full explanation of what you’re seeing here.)

What we’re seeing all over the world is an accelerating rate of the thawing of permafrost, and the melting of sea ice and glaciers.  I’ve written about this in the context of the Himalayas several times including here.  To go deeper, as it were, on this global phenomenon and how it is being driven by warming and, to an alarming extent, black carbon, visit Ice Core Perspectives from the Climate Change Institute of the University of Maine.  In the meantime, watch this video from Reuters.

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Connect the Dots http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/05/03/connect-dots/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/05/03/connect-dots/#comments Thu, 03 May 2012 17:48:06 +0000 http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=61063 I wrote the other day about how people are increasingly perceiving the connection between extreme weather and climate change.  They are, in the words of the very good folks at 350.org, “connecting the dots.”  In fact, 350.org is yet again marshaling its extraordinary powers of ...]]> I wrote the other day about how people are increasingly perceiving the connection between extreme weather and climate change.  They are, in the words of the very good folks at 350.org, “connecting the dots.”  In fact, 350.org is yet again marshaling its extraordinary powers of event planning and persuasion to get people all over the world to show the rest of the world that they get it:  that they understand the connection.  The physical risks from our profligacy and the nearly out-of-control climate experiment that it has engendered are being made manifest.  The IPCC, among others, has been warning us for years.  The IPCC issued its special report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) this spring.  We are well beyond the point where we can simply work to mitigate the climate crisis and hope for the best.  We are well engaged now in adapting to the clear and present dangers from the impacts.  As we continue to fight to roll back the tide of greenhouse gases, we need to also learn to adapt.

So you should find an event near you this coming Saturday and get out, make your voice known, and help connect the dots.

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The Climate of Opinion http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/04/28/climate-opinion/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/04/28/climate-opinion/#comments Sat, 28 Apr 2012 20:05:49 +0000 http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=60638 A study, Extreme Weather, Climate & Preparedness in the American Mind, just out from the excellent Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and its partner, the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, purports that “A large majority of Americans believe that global warming ...]]> A study, Extreme Weather, Climate & Preparedness in the American Mind, just out from the excellent Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and its partner, the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, purports that “A large majority of Americans believe that global warming made several high profile extreme weather events worse…”  Coverage in the NY Times reported that the respondents in the study attributed climate change as the cause of heat waves, the unusually warm winter we’ve just experienced, and the record US snowfalls of 2010 and 2011 and Mississippi River floods of 2011.  Anthony A. Leiserowitz of Yale, one of the lead researchers, said:  “People are starting to connect the dots.”  (350.org is organizing a global event next week:  “Climate Impacts Day” to connect the dots.)

Meanwhile, a paper published yesterday in the prestigious journal Science, looks at data from the fifty years between 1950 and 2000 on ocean salinity patterns and reports the expression of “…an identifiable fingerprint of an intensifying water cycle.”  What does that mean?  The NY Times article on the paper says the findings in the paper imply “…that the water cycle could quicken by as much as 20 percent later in this century as the planet warms, potentially leading to more droughts and floods.”  An accompanying article in the same issue of Science is titled The Greenhouse Is Making the Water-Poor Even Poorer.  Here’s the bottom line on the science:  “Theory and models predict that a strengthening greenhouse will increase precipitation where it is already relatively high and decrease it where it is already low.  A new study of the ocean’s changing salinity …confirms that this mechanism of water-cycle amplification has been operating for the past half-century.”

The science is, yet again, being proven by extensive data.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued preliminary findings from its Special Report for Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) last fall.  I reported here at the time that the report “…enumerates a number of key themes, including that climate extremes have been well documented, along with various kinds of attendant weather anomalies, and that these are going to get worse.”  (See this video from the SREX.)

One further note:  The apparently beautifully prepared documentary series running now, Frozen Planet, is devoted to a comprehensive look at conditions in the Arctic and Antarctic.  It explores the wildlife, the people and the increasingly difficult conditions relative to warming that they are experiencing.  However, the series seems to studiously avoid the obvious factor of climate change in producing these dire effects for the denizens of the Earth’s poles and, for that matter, for the whole planet.  This article from the NY Times last week, No Place for Heated Opinions, quotes Anthony Leiserowitz  of Yale:  “Many organizations, and it sounds like Discovery is one of them, appear to be more afraid of being criticized by climate change ‘dismissives’ than they are willing to provide information about climate change to the large majority of Americans who want to know more about it.”  Bill McKibben, of 350.org, had an even more stringent take:  “It’s kind of like doing a powerful documentary about lung cancer and leaving out the part about the cigarettes.”  Ouch.

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Getting a Charge out of Driving http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/04/22/charge-driving/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/04/22/charge-driving/#comments Sun, 22 Apr 2012 17:10:10 +0000 http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=59750 The inherent gross inefficiency of the internal combustion engine surpasses even that of conventional thermal power plants.  About 5% of the energy in the fuel actually moves a typical automobile.  Battery electric vehicles, fuel-cell electrics, plug-in hybrids and others that eschew ICE technology get much ...]]>

The inherent gross inefficiency of the internal combustion engine surpasses even that of conventional thermal power plants.  About 5% of the energy in the fuel actually moves a typical automobile.  Battery electric vehicles, fuel-cell electrics, plug-in hybrids and others that eschew ICE technology get much more bang for the buckCalifornia is proving this, as are many others.

It would follow, of course, that Lower Gasoline Consumption = Lower GHG Output.  Moving to EVs, fuel-cell cars and these others will serve to radically reduce the amount of carbon dioxide coming from our vehicles.  In the US, more than a third of our total greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector.  But, you will not be surprised to learn, the GHG-reduction benefits of a low or zero-emission vehicle depend on the source from which the electricity is derived.  Solar or wind-powered electricity, for instance, is going to greatly boost the environmental benefits of our growing use of these clean technology vehicles.

The venerable Union of Concerned Scientists has just come out with a comprehensive report, State of Charge: Electric Vehicles’ Global Warming Emissions and Fuel-Cost Savings Across the United States, detailing to what extent this is true, including a regional breakdown in the US for what benefits accrue given the source of the power.  Their conclusions include the facts that:

  • Nationwide, EVs charged from the electricity grid produce lower global warming emissions than the average compact gasoline-powered vehicle (with a fuel economy of 27 miles per gallon)—even when the electricity is produced primarily from coal in regions with the “dirtiest” electricity grids.
  • In regions with the “cleanest” electricity grids, EVs produce lower global warming emissions than even the most fuel-efficient hybrids.
  • EVs charged entirely from renewable sources like wind and solar power produce virtually no global warming emissions.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that “Electric-drive vehicles (EVs) also compare well on fuel costs, saving their owners as much as $1,200 a year over the average new conventional internal combustion compact car that gets 27 miles per gallon (assuming the price of gasoline is $3.50 a gallon).”

The implications are pretty big.  We not only can rid ourselves of the oil addiction but we can save ourselves, at the level of the individual consumer and at the macroeconomic level, a truckload of money, not to mention the blood, sweat, tears and toil that come with climate change, conventional air pollution, price volatility, the insecurity of our supplies, and a host of other ills associated with the fact that transportation in the US and in the world relies on oil for 95% of its primary fuel.

How, then, do we fully decarbonize our transportation systems – or at least get ourselves away from oil?  The Rocky Mountain Institute has thought through this question rather at length.  Their recent book, Reinventing Fire, has an extensive discussion of precisely how to do this.  The section devoted to transportation lays it all out in detail:  fit, electrified automobiles; using vehicles more productively; tripling heavy-truck efficiency; enhanced airplane efficiency; and fueling efficient vehicles with diverse options.

Here’s a video with their guiding genius, Amory Lovins, that highlights their approach on a key component – vehicle fitness:

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Smart Grid Video http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/04/20/smart-grid-video/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/04/20/smart-grid-video/#comments Fri, 20 Apr 2012 18:43:28 +0000 http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=60032 Here’s just a quick hitter, bringing you a snappy, very well-informed, entertaining smart grid video from Accenture, the global consultancy.   ]]>

Here’s just a quick hitter, bringing you a snappy, very well-informed, entertaining smart grid video from Accenture, the global consultancy.

 

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100% Renewables (for Germany by 2050) http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/04/14/100-renewables-for-germany-2050/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/04/14/100-renewables-for-germany-2050/#comments Sat, 14 Apr 2012 16:34:14 +0000 http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=59403 I had the opportunity to go to a real stimulating talk the other day.   Jochen Flasbarth, the President of the Federal Environment Agency of Germany, had just been to the big do at the NY Times, the “Energy for Tomorrow” conference.  Flasbarth was on a panel, ...]]> I had the opportunity to go to a real stimulating talk the other day.   Jochen Flasbarth, the President of the Federal Environment Agency of Germany, had just been to the big do at the NY Times, the “Energy for Tomorrow” conference.  Flasbarth was on a panel, moderated by Tom Friedman, with worthies such as Carol Browner; Steve Nadel, head of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy; and Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy.  (You can see the panel’s discussion on energy independence at the conference website.)

Our event was much smaller and more intimate – a salon as it was called.  The discussion was hosted by The World Policy Institute and the Heinrich Böll Foundation.  The Böll Foundation folks have been doing pathbreaking work for years on renewable energy and other clean tech.

Flasbarth talked about how the German people’s antipathy toward nuclear power, which predated the Fukushima catastrophe, along with a lucid recognition of the dangers of climate change, had made the German government, along with industry, science, and the non-profit communities really focus on how to transition to a nuke-free, carbon-free future.  This would be, in essence, a technology-driven energy economy.

He talked about how the government is now aiming toward a 100% renewable electricity supply by 2050.  The press release on this from the agency (from almost two years ago now) quotes Flasbarth as saying that “The results of the study demonstrate that electricity supply can be generated completely from renewable energies by 2050 and that secure supply can be guaranteed at all times.”

Feasible?  It’s already well in train.  In fact, solar PV penetration into the German electric markets is already lowering the price for wholesale electric power at the hours of peak demand by 40% from only very recently.  This recent item from Renew Economy lays out how this is being accomplished.  I asked President Flasbarth to comment on this and he confirmed that this was indeed the case.  Prices during peak demand hours, as you know, have traditionally been way above the average for the rest of the day.  Solar PV is standing this paradigm on its head.  You have high demand on hot sunny days – largely because of air conditioning. But, you are also going to have the highest boost from PV during that same time under those same conditions.  Ergo, with sufficient PV capacity installed, you are going to be able to supply more-than-enough peak power to offset demand and lower prices.

And, my dear friends, the Europeans have been installing PV at astonishing rates.  See this graphic showing new installed (and decommissioned) capacity in Europe in 2011.  (See the full report for 2011 from the EWEA here.)

Asked about public support in Germany for the phasing out of nuclear power and the transition to 100% renewables, Flasbarth confirmed it was very enthusiastic.  For one thing, there is a robust renewable energy industry in Germany which supports nearly 400,000 jobs.  That’s a winning argument.  For more, see this paper from the Heinrich Böll Foundation:  Myths and Facts: The German Switch from Nuclear to Renewables.

I, for one, am chortling in my joy!

]]> http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/04/14/100-renewables-for-germany-2050/feed/ 29 Nordhaus and McKibben – Following Up http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/04/05/nordhaus-mckibben/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/04/05/nordhaus-mckibben/#comments Thu, 05 Apr 2012 18:20:46 +0000 http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=58836 I wanted to note some follow-up discussion to material that I have flagged here recently at the blog.  The first was my post On the Denialists from March 2nd.  The NY Review of Books has printed a reply to William Nordhaus’s refutation of the claims ...]]>

I wanted to note some follow-up discussion to material that I have flagged here recently at the blog.  The first was my post On the Denialists from March 2nd.  The NY Review of Books has printed a reply to William Nordhaus’s refutation of the claims of the climate denialists, that I discussed at earlier post.  Nordhaus responds to their reply.  I will let these speak for themselves.

I wrote more recently, on March 15th, on Bill McKibben’s essay, framed as a book review, on fracking.  In To Frack or Not to Frack, I took exception to some of McKibben’s premises.  Most of all, what I find particularly disappointing in some of the activism these days, particularly in the anti-fracking movement, is the near-total disregard for the efficacy of environmental regulation.  This is part of the argument that John Deutch makes in his response to McKibben’s review.  Deutch, a former top agency official at both Energy and Defense, and also CIA Director, chaired the DOE committee that reviewed fracking’s problems and offered solutions.  McKibben responds to Deutch as well.  As much as I respect McKibben’s work over many years, it really bugs me that he, along with too many others, seems to categorically reject the notion that government can, and has so often proven, get the job done.

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