Climate Change Policy: A World of Varying Approaches

EM – July 2020: This month, EM considers climate change policy at the global, national, and local level, and how future policy might directly affect A&WMA members.
by Gary M. Bramble

The articles that follow explore the climate change policy commitments of the world's two most populous countries — China and India — and that of two U.S. states — Pennsylvania and Oklahoma — as well as keen insights from A&WMA's presence at the United Nations' 2019 climate talks in Spain.

In the first article, David Heitz and Kevin S. Leahy discuss the history of China's participation in climate discussions leading up to its commitments for future years. China submitted its goals to the United Nations in June 2015, in which it committed to hit peak carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2030, increase non-fossil fuels in its primary energy mix to 20%, and lower CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 60–65% from 2005 levels. Readers may be impressed to learn that China is number one in the world in wind, solar, and new nuclear power. However, its total CO2 emissions continue to grow, in large part, due to numerous new coal-fired power plants.

In the second article, Keerthi Palanisamy and S. Rao Chitikela discuss the low per capita emissions of CO2 from India and India's commitment to always keep per capita emissions lower than the European Union and the United States. For perspective, the U.S. annual per capita CO2 emissions are approximately 16 metric tons; China is about 8 metric tons; and India is roughly 2 metric tons. The authors studied in India and revisited India while writing this article.

Next, we move our attention to the United States, which has formally announced that it will withdraw from the United Nations Paris Climate Accords on November 4, 2020. Accordingly, the focus here is not on U.S. federal climate policy, but instead the climate change policy of two U.S. states, by way of example.

First, Megan Uhler describes the flurry of recent initiatives taken by Pennsylvania to reduce CO2 emissions and to prepare for entry in the regional CO2 cap-and-trade program (RGGI). On January 8, 2019, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed Executive Order 2019-01, committing Pennsylvania to reducing the state's net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 26% by 2025 from 2005 levels and to further reduce the state's net GHG emissions by 80% by 2050. Executive Order 2019-01 also establishes energy consumption performance goals for Pennsylvania's state agencies, requires the replacement of a subset of the state's passenger car fleet with battery electric and plug-in electric hybrid cars by 2025, and requires the procurement of renewable energy to offset at least 40% of the state's annual electricity use.

Second, Ken Senour describes how a non-coastal energy state, Oklahoma, focuses on resiliency, adaptation, and mitigation of climate change effects. The author notes that the City of Norman became the first community in Oklahoma to set a goal to transition to 100% renewable energy in city buildings by 2035 and using 100% renewable energy across the board by 2050. He reports that Oklahoma's CO2 emissions declined significantly in 2016 and 2017, even though Oklahoma had no written goals, targets, or commitments to do so.

The final article is by A&WMA Immediate Past-President, Michele Gehring, who has tremendous insights obtained by being an A&WMA Observer at the last two U.N. Conferences of the Parties (COPs) in Poland (2018) and Spain (2019). As an Official Observer, she was able to garner perspectives from Observers from all over the world. In this article, she shares what she learned about three different CO2-emitting sectors—transportation, energy, and industry— and also ponders how the current COVID-19 pandemic may affect the ability of countries to proceed on their near-term CO2 reduction plans.

Continue reading the full July 2020 issue of EM 


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