Climate change policy has finally taken a place on the priority of the mainstream population and politicians and candidates looking to represent them. However, climate advocates can no longer support leaders who pass the bar of saying they support climate action, but rather we need to be debating and choosing the specific types of climate change policies that will work most effectively and most quickly to prevent the worst effects of the climate crisis.
What is it: Policies enacting carbon price allow utilities, industries, and others to continue emitting greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere, but it prices the externalities created and requires the emitter to pay for them. Because the damage from climate change would be economic and for everyone across the world, this method forces emitters to internalize those costs and often creates a business case for installing more efficient and clean equipment.
Is it enacted anywhere: According to the New York Times, carbon pricing is enacted in a variety of places across the globe, including Canada, Mexico, the European Union, Australia, and more, as well as in 10 states across the country.
– Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
– Jerry Brown, former Governor of California
– William Nordhaus, President of the American Economics Association
– Pope Francis
– Karyn Strickler, Vote Climate U.S. PAC
– Jeffrey Ball, scholar-in-residence at Stanford
What is it: Cap-and-Trade is one specific type of carbon pricing mechanism, whereby the price of carbon is set based on market forces. Under a cap-and-trade system, the governing body dictates the level of emissions that are permitted and issue allowances equal to that amount and every carbon emitter would be required to hold those allowances equal to the amount they produce. Emitters that reduce their carbon output below their allowance can then auction their extra allowances to those who exceeded their limit on the open market.
Is it enacted anywhere: According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, cap-and-trade is the form of carbon pricing being used in the European Union, Mexico, and a number of U.S. states.
– Gernot Wager, economist with the Environmental Defense Fund
– Pope Francis
– Warren Buffet, American business magnate
– John Boehner, former Speaker of the House
What is it: Carbon taxes are the other type of carbon pricing, other than cap-and-trade, where the governing body sets the price on carbon emissions and collects that tax accordingly. Whereas cap-and-trade offers defined emission reductions with uncertain carbon prices, carbon taxes offer defined carbon prices with uncertain carbon reductions.
Is it enacted anywhere: According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, carbon taxes are being used in certain parts of Canada, as well as in Boulder, Colorado.
– Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, Inc.
– Ralph Nader, American political activist, attorney, and author
– H. Sterling Burnett, Senior Fellow on Energy and the Environment at the Heartland Institute
What is it: The current fossil fuel landscape sees the government providing the fossil fuel industry (including oil, gas, and coal) with various types and levels of government subsidies, which are financial incentives and rewards for fossil fuel production and generation. These subsidies can appear in a number of different ways, including loopholes in calculating payouts for coal mining on public lands, direct subsidies via fuel tax credit, indirect subsidies like the Last In, First Out Accounting method permitted to oil and gas companies, research grants into new fossil energy technologies, and more. Increasingly, one climate policy position has been to push for the removal of these fossil fuel subsidies, both the outright incentives and the hidden ones, as a way to force fossil fuel generation to compete on a more level playing ground with clean energy sources.
Is it enacted anywhere: The G7 nations (the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the European Union) set a deadline of 2025 for them to collectively eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, though obviously, each participating member of G7 has achieved a varying level of compliance towards that as-of-yet unreached deadline to date.
– Joe Emerson, Zero Energy Project
– Jessica Jewell, et. al, in Nature Journal
What is it: Policies for Renewable Portfolio Standards, or RPS, are mandates that utilities use a given amount of government-defined energy sources (e.g., some states may include nuclear energy as a carbon-neutral source or biomass as a renewable source, while others may narrowly define which energy sources count as renewable). Typically, RPS policies will be escalating over time and require utilities to generate an increasing percentage of its power from qualified resources. RPS standards can be considered a hammer in the clean energy policy toolbox, simply requiring the appropriate amount of renewable energy rather than incentivizing it, though it also ensures all energy providers covered by the RPS are uniformly expected to adapt.
Is it enacted anywhere: According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, 38 states and the District of Columbia have some form of RPS in place.
– Andy Maggi, executive director of Nevada Conservation League
– Michael Greenstone, Ishan Nath, Economists at the University of Chicago
What is it: Feed-in Tariffs represent a policy mechanism that provides economic certainty to providers of renewable energy and thus encourage the investment in such sources by provisioning a set price that these generators receive for their energy (typically based on costs to generate at the moment, meaning less mature technologies receive higher rates) while requiring utilities to purchase a given amount of the generation at this price for a set period. These tariffs thus encourage and support innovation around emerging energy sources and ensure business models for them are given time to flourish.
– Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington and candidate for 2020 Democrat Presidential nomination
– Betsy Egelking, resource planning and bidding manager for Xcel Energ
What is it: Renewable energy tax credits can take the form of investment tax credits (ITCs), which provide tax credit to owners of renewable energy facilities based on the cost of facilities, and production tax credits (PTCs), which provide tax credit to owners of renewable energy facilities based on how much energy they generate. These financial incentives are offered to make it more appealing to investors to take a risk on renewable energy installations where they might have been more hesitant to pour money into technologies that had not yet matured.
Is it enacted anywhere: The United States originally enacted renewable energy tax credits in 1992, which have been renewed and expanded several times between then and the most recent version in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
– The Environmental and Energy Study Institute
– Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss, Scientific American
– Will Morgan, Texas Public Policy Foundation
– Frank Rieger, Sol-Up USA
What is it: While most utilities operate with a regulated monopoly over their customers, increasing amounts of states and countries have deregulated their energy markets to allow for competition among multiple energy providers. Such monopolies mean there’s less incentive for utilities to innovate and adapt to customers’ desires, but over a dozen states have passed legislation allowing competition in their energy markets which lets customers choose among multiple energy suppliers who will provide their generation (transmission and distribution is still covered by the local utility so as not to build out multiple grid systems). Because more customers these days want to know their home is being powered by renewable energy, implementing competitive energy markets is a policy mechanism to incentivize utilities to adapt to these new customer requirements.
Is it enacted anywhere: According to Electric Choice, 17 states plus Washington DC offer deregulated electricity markets.
– Emily Folk, Renewable Energy Magazine
– Jenifer Bosco, National Consumer Law Center
What is it: Vehicle performance standards are requirements for the amount of carbon emissions allowed to be emitted by cars and trucks when they are driven, typically expressed in terms of miles per gallon, or MPG, (since a gallon of gasoline burned will emit a given amount of emissions, so greater ability to drive for the same fuel will reduce overall emissions). As hybrid and electric vehicles have become more evasive, governing bodies have added in a measure of miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) that accounts for the emissions required to generate the electricity that powers these vehicles.
Is it enacted anywhere: The United States has implemented vehicle performance standards since 1975, under the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, with the goal of reducing reliance of foreign fossil fuels after the uncertainty from the Arab Oil Embargo in the 1970s. These standards have been updated many times, with some states also adapting more stringent vehicle performance standards prescribed by California.
– Natural Resources Defense Council
– Julian Morris, Senior Fellow at Reason Foundation and Executive Director at the ICLE
What is it: Because the most harmful part of transportation to the climate is the emissions associated with burning fuel, taxes on gasoline are a common tool to make driving more expensive and thus incentivize people to find alternative forms of transportation and drive personal vehicles less. While gasoline taxes have been implemented as revenue-raising measures for transportation infrastructure longer than they’ve been considered a climate policy, they are an increasingly useful way to encourage transportation emission reductions.
Is it enacted anywhere: According to the Tax Foundation, every state in the nation has a gasoline tax, ranging from as low as 15 cents per gallon in Alaska to 59 cents per gallon in Pennsylvania.
– Alan Mullally, former CEO of Ford
– Emma Boone, Americans for Tax Reform
What is it: Urban mobility is the collection of how people move around a given city in efficient and effective manners, including driving, public transit, walking, and biking. Locally, a focus on climate-friendly urban mobility policy will shift the number of trips taken via carbon emitting measures like personal vehicles towards less carbon intensive (public transit) or carbon neutral (walking and biking) means. Examples of climate-focused urban mobility policies includes funding for public transportation systems, installation of bike lanes, and a focus on minimizing sprawl while maximizing affordable housing close to a city center.
Is it enacted anywhere: Any city or region has its own form of urban mobility policy, with varying degrees of a climate focus turned to it. Examples of clean urban mobility policy include the European Union’s aim to free cities of conventionally fueled cars by 2050, extensive networks of bicycle lanes installed in Oslo, and congestion charges in Stockholm.
– World Bank Group
– Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
What is it: Just like buildings must be to code when it comes to fire preparedness and electrical safety, many jurisdictions have codes for the energy systems installed in residential and commercial buildings. Building energy codes typically cover how airtight the building envelope (i.e., walls, floors, and ceiling) is to ensure efficient use of heating and cooling, lighting installations, and required levels of insulation. The goal is to prevent unnecessarily wasted energy in the stock buildings due to cutting corners, and because once constructed buildings will be operating for at least decades, building energy codes are among the energy policies with the longest time of impact.
Is it enacted anywhere: While there is no singular U.S. building energy code, most states have adopted building energy codes of some level, according to the Building Codes Assistance Project.
-Don Vandervort, Founder of HomeTips.com
– Institute for Market Transformation
– Carla Williams of Williams Brothers Corporation of America
What is it: While building energy codes cover the structure of a building, appliance energy codes instead cover the energy efficiency of products that typically go within buildings. Between federally mandated minimum efficiencies and voluntary stretch goals for the most energy efficient products (such as ENERGY STAR), this type of policy analyzes how much energy common products (e.g., light bulbs, washing machines, ceiling fans) use and push the manufacturers to match the most efficient ones on the market.
Is it enacted anywhere: The United States, through the Appliance and Equipment Standards Program, covers the efficiency of residential and commercial appliances in accordance with a 1975 act of Congress.
– Former President Barack Obama
– Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment
– Ben Lieberman, senior fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute and former counsel for House Energy and Commerce Committee
What is it: As intermittent renewable energy sources, namely solar and wind, become more concentrated on the grid, it becomes imperative that energy storage capacity is built out to allow for power generated during time of peak generation (e.g., mid-afternoon when solar panels are receiving the most sunlight) to be use during times of peak demand (i.e., in the early evening hours when the sun isn’t shining but families are using energy-intensive devices). Public support for energy storage, such as R&D funding, tax incentives, and energy storage prescriptions for utilities, can push the use of energy storage to be more of a pervasive clean energy solution.
Is it enacted anywhere: The Union of Concerned Scientists notes that the U.S. government, specifically through the Department of Energy and Department of Defense, is funding advancement of electricity storage R&D.
A joint demonstration program between DOD and DOE will also be able to utilize existing test-bed infrastructure and provide key field data at both agencies that will help accelerate commercial deployment of long-duration energy storage technologies to increase energy resilience and security”
– Senator Angus King of Maine
– Ross Marchand, policy director at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance
What is it: Net metering, often a lightning rod for debate in the energy communities, is defined as a billing arrangement that compensates on-site producers of energy (such as customers with rooftop solar systems) for any excess generation that they do not use and instead export to the utility grid, though the level and format of the compensation varies by location.
Is it enacted anywhere: According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 17 states have authorized the use of net metering.
– Commissioner of Michigan Dan Scripps
– Bishop W.L. Starghill Jr, Michigan Democratic Black Caucus
What is it: The industrial sector, which encompasses business including (but not limited to) manufacturing, refining, and mining, is an incredibly significant source of energy use globally. The public policy levels that can be used to encourage or mandate efficiency across industry are varied, and include requirements to purchase more efficient equipment, encouraging best practices, and incentivizing retrofits and behaviors that reduce energy use.
Is it enacted anywhere: According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, federal industrial efficiency measures include incentives, technical assistance, and R&D, while some states offer these measures and further some local jurisdictions also provide incentives to industrial efficiency improvements.
“The industrial sector represents a big opportunity for low-cost energy savings from utility energy efficiency programs. In general, investments in energy efficiency lower operating costs for manufacturers, which increases their productivity and improves competitiveness. When these investments are made through utility programs, businesses get the added value of access to technical expertise, project implementation support, and financial incentives that reduce initial costs.”- Meegan Kelly, Senior Research Analyst at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy
“Governments play a vital role in driving industry to adopt energy-saving and low-carbon practices. Most countries now have some kind of energy efficiency policy in place, and efforts are also ramping up in many developing countries that have large, energy-intensive industry sectors”
– Jigar Shah, President of Generate Capital Inc.
“Producers have a much better ability to meet consumers’ demands than any government mandate or subsidy program. Congress should recognize how markets have improved energy efficiency in the U.S. It should:
Prevent new efficiency standards for any new appliances and federal funding for efficiency improvements in manufacturing processes and residential, industrial, and commercial buildings.”- Nicholas Loris, Deputy Director of Thomas A. Roe Institute
What is it: In addition to tackling climate change through improving industrial sector efficiency, policy measures can also directly mandate restricted carbon emissions from industrial players. Such measures can be necessary in tandem with efficiency because they will help to restrict indirect emissions, such as those from the oil and gas production industries, which is accomplished through industry-specific measures (such as covering emissions from oil and gas wells or pollutants emitted by cement kilns) or measures covering all subsectors, such as performance standards for greenhouse gases generally.
Is it enacted anywhere: The United States has covered emissions in the industrial sector through the Clean Air Act, though the current administration has indicated an intent to review and possibly rescind such regulations, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
– Brad Plumer, energy and climate reporter for the New York Times
– American Council for Capital Formation
What is it: The goal of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is to harness the emissions that are emitted at the source (such as when coal is burned or oil is refined but before those emissions are able to leave the plant) and is then stored permanently in underground geological rock formations, typically. Policies to encourage the innovation and use of CCS mainly includes financial incentives through loan guarantees, tax credits, and other similar measures.
Is it enacted anywhere: According to the Brookings Institute, CCS has been incentivized by the U.S. federal government in both the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008.
– Nicholas Stern, former Chief Economist of the World Bank
– Professor Kevin Anderson, deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research
What is it: Generally speaking, one of the most important policy mechanisms the government is able to support is financially through research and development (R&D). R&D support can include funding development of clean energy technology, new and innovative business cases, and moon-shot attempts to provide leaps in the energy industry.
Is it enacted anywhere: The U.S. federal government has long supported R&D in the energy industry, going back to the early days of the U.S. Department of Energy (then the Atomic Energy Commission) and through to today via ARPA-E, the network of National Laboratories, and across individual offices of DOE.
– Bill Gates, Iconic businessman, philanthropist, and climate change advocate
– Todd Radenbaugh, Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks
– Paul Ryan, Former Speaker of the House, 2012 Republican candidate for Vice President
What is it: While most of the man-made emissions come from the production of energy, the industrial manufacture of goods, and from transportation vehicles, the way the Earth’s land is used has a significant impact on total global emissions. In particular, how the use of the planet’s land is changing is a huge driver of the state of global emissions. Massive deforestation in tropical areas removes a natural source of carbon sequestration, drilling for fossil fuels on public lands brings new hydrocarbons into the world’s inventories to be burned, and improper management of land can lead to ecosystem degradation and undue release of greenhouse gases and loss of carbon sequestering greenery. As such, land use policies can be deliberately used to protect and bolster these natural defense’s of the planet against the build up of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Is it enacted anywhere: According to this article in Science Findings, Oregon has protected 1.2 million acres of forest and agricultural land since 1973 and thus maximized carbon storage. On a larger scale, Brazil has enacted policies to try and protect its massive tropical forests with the goal of reducing the emissions that had risen from deforestation.
– Lindsay Bouroine, Director of Policy & Advocacy at Protect Our Winters
– Joe Balash, Assistant Secretary for land and minerals management at the Department of the Interior
What is it: Certain experts look at the market forces at play and find that federal energy policy is no longer necessary to push a clean energy transition away from coal and fossil fuels towards a clean energy future, as the work of previously mentioned policies like feed-in tariffs, tax incentives, and R&D resources has given these technologies the push they need. While localized policies might be necessary by state or local governments to encourage regional adoption of the technologies, the thinking here is that the federal government should instead shift its focus to the bigger picture of what the wider impacts are as the inevitable energy transition takes hold: how will those whose jobs are made unnecessary be retrained and/or propped up, how will we make sure all classes and groups are able to reap the benefits of clean energy, and how will we ensure unintended consequences don’t take hold? These ideas support a focus on a just and equitable transition.
Is it enacted anywhere: According to the Stockholm Environment Institute, some examples of policies in this regard include Canada’s Coal Workforce Transition Fund and Scotland’s Oil Worker Transition Fund.
– Eban Goodstein & L. Hunter Lovins, MBA in Sustainability at Bard College
– Valerie Volvcovici, Reuters
Expert is currently an Energy Analyst at an energy research company, working on U.S. Federal Statistical System publications to vet analyses for data and factual accuracy as well as proofread and copy-edit them for writing quality and accuracy.
Expert is a Research Associate at a research institute – Subject matter expert in the energy industry, particularly as it relates to energy policy, efficiency technologies and initiatives, and the clean energy transition.
Expert is an independent Energy Analyst, Consultant, and Writer, publishing drawing on professional experience and independent research and analysis.
Writes blog posts for an energy solutions company for an environmentally-focused website (topics including clean and renewable energy technologies), and for an energy consulting company (topics including grid management strategies, carbon sequestration policies, and effects of decarbonization of energy systems)
Role which includes evaluating and assessing U.S. companies in the energy industry, providing insights into the companies’ functions, performance, and future outlooks
Conducts market research for a client seeking to evaluate market shares of electric and gas utility energy efficiency programs
Expert was a Senior Consultant at an American management consultancy firm
Worked with a U.S Energy Department in Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy on the Appliance and Equipment Standards Program, supporting the development of energy regulations with a focus on various lighting technologies.
Responsibilities were the following:
Conducting engineering and market analyses of existing technologies on the market;
Creating and analyzing a database of all major manufacturers and product SKUs to discover trends of performance, compliance with current and potential regulations, and comparing prices;
Worked to write, proofread, and edit official policy rulemaking documents in the forms of notices in the Federal Register, Technical Support Documents, test procedures, and final text for the codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register.
Developed presentations and conducted public meetings with stakeholders to disseminate the proposed regulations, answer questions, and solicit feedback;
Assisted with the tearing down and reverse engineering of products to determine their component parts and prices; and
Oversaw the outside testing of products at a testing laboratory to compare advertised performance with advertised abilities.
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