al Jazeera: California leads US states’ anti-pollution fight after Trump snubs Paris Climate Accord
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This declaration is based on the data and concepts presented at the workshop:
Some forms of pollution are part of people’s daily experience. Exposure to atmospheric pollutants produces a broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths. People take sick, for example, from breathing high levels of smoke from fuels used in cooking or heating. There is also pollution that affects everyone, caused by transport, industrial fumes, substances which contribute to the acidification of soil and water, fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and agrotoxins in general. Technology, which, linked to business interests, is presented as the only way of solving these problems, in fact proves incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create others.
O God of the poor,
Help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, So, precious in your eyes. Bring healing to our lives,
That we may protect the world and not prey on it,
That we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Pope Francis, Laudato si’
Statement of the Problem
With unchecked climate change and air pollution, the very fabric of life on Earth, including that of humans, is at grave risk. We propose scalable solutions to avoid such cat– astrophic changes. There is less than a decade to put these solutions in place to preserve our quality of life for genera– tions to come. The time to act is now.
We human beings are creating a new and dangerous phase of Earth’s history that has been termed the Anthro– pocene. The term refers to the immense e ects of human activity on all aspects of the Earth’s physical systems and on life on the planet. We are dangerously warming the planet, leaving behind the climate in which civilization developed. With accelerating climate change, we put ourselves at grave risk of massive crop failures, new and re-emerging infectious diseases, heat extremes, droughts, mega-storms, oods and sharply rising sea levels. The economic activities that contribute to global warming are also wreaking other profound damages, including air and water pollution, deforestation, and massive land degrada– tion, causing a rate of species extinction unprecedented for the past 65 million years, and a dire threat to human health through increases in heart disease, stroke, pulmo– nary disease, mental health, infections and cancer. Climate change threatens to exacerbate the current unprecedent– ed ow of displacement of people and add to human mis– ery by stoking violence and con ict.
The poorest of the planet, who are still relying on 19th century technologies to meet basic needs such as cooking and heating, are bearing a heavy brunt of the damages caused by the economic activities of the rich. The rich too are bearing heavy costs of increased ooding, mega-storms, heat extremes, droughts and major forest fres. Climate change and air pollution strike down the rich and poor alike.
Supporting data are summarized in the attached background section. Climate change and air pollution are closely interlinked because emissions of air pollutants and climate-altering greenhouse gases and other pollutants arise largely from humanity’s use of fossil fuels and bio– mass fuels, with additional contributions from agriculture and land-use change. This interlinkage multiplies the costs arising from our current dangerous trajectory, yet it can also amplify the benefits of a rapid transition to sustainable energy and land use. An integrated plan to drastically reduce climate change and air pollution is essential.
We have already emitted enough pollutants to warm the climate to dangerous levels (warming by 1.5°C or more). The warming as well as the droughts caused by climate change, combined with the unsustainable use of aquifers and surface water, pose grave threats to availability of fresh water and food security. By moving rapidly to a zero-car– bon energy system – replacing coal, oil and gas with wind, solar, geothermal and other zero-carbon energy sources, drastically reducing emissions of all other climate altering pollutants and by adopting sustainable land use practices, humanity can prevent catastrophic climate change, while cutting the huge disease burden caused by air pollution and climate change.
We declare that governments and other stakeholders should urgently undertake the scalable and practical solu– tions listed below:
1. Health must be central to policies that stabilize climate change below dangerous levels, drive ze– ro-carbon as well as zero-air pollution and prevent ecosystem disruptions.
2. All nations should implement with urgency the glob– al commitments made in Agenda 2030 (including the Sustainable Development Goals) and the Paris Climate Agreement.
3. Decarbonize the energy system as early as possible and no later than mid-century, shifting from coal, oil and gas to wind, solar, geothermal and other ze– ro-carbon energy sources;
4. The rich not only expeditiously shift to safe energy and land use practices, but also provide nancing to the poor for the costs of adapting to climate change;
5. Rapidly reduce hazardous air pollutants, including the short-lived climate pollutants methane, ozone, black carbon, and hydro uorocarbons;
6. End deforestation and degradation and restore de– graded lands to protect biodiversity, reduce carbon emissions and to absorb atmospheric carbon into natural sinks;
7. In order to accelerate decarbonization there should be e ective carbon pricing informed by estimates of the social cost of carbon, including the health ef– fects of air pollution;
8. Promote research and development of technologies to remove carbon dioxide directly from the atmos– phere for deployment if necessary;
9. Forge collaboration between health and climate scienc– es to create a powerful alliance for sustainability;
10. Promote behavioral changes bene cial for human health and protective of the environment such as increased consumption of plant-based diets;
11. Educate and empower the young to become the leaders of sustainable development;
12. Promote an alliance with society that brings togeth– er scientists, policy makers, healthcare providers, faith/spiritual leaders, communities and founda– tions to foster the societal transformation necessary to achieve our goals in the spirit of Pope Francis’s en– cyclical Laudato Si’.
To implement these 12 solutions, we call on health professionals to: engage, educate and advocate for cli– mate mitigation and undertake preventive public health actions vis-à-vis air pollution and climate change; inform the public of the high health risks of air pollution and cli– mate change. The health sector should assume its obliga– tion in shaping a healthy future. We call for a substantial improvement in energy e ciency; and electri cation of the global vehicle eet and all other downstream uses of fossil fuels. Ensure clean energy bene ts also protect so– ciety’s most vulnerable communities. There are numerous living laboratories including tens of cities, many universi– ties, Chile, California and Sweden, who have embarked on a pathway to cut both air pollution and climate change. These thriving models have already created 8 million jobs in a low carbon economy, enhanced the wellbeing of their citizens and shown that such measures can both sustain
economic growth and deliver tangible health bene ts for their citizens.
We especially thank the global leaders who spoke at the workshop: Honorable Jerry Brown, Governor of California, Honorable Governor Alberto Rodríguez Saá, the Governor of San Luis, Argentina, Honorable Dr. Marcelo Mena, Argentine Minister of Environment of Chile, Honorable Kevin de León, President Pro Tempore of California Senate, and Honorable Scott Peters of the US house of representatives.
We also thank the contributions of the faith leaders: Rev Leith Anderson, President of the National Association for Evangelicals, USA; Rev Alastair Redfern, Bishop of Derby, UK; Rev Mitch Hescox, CEO of Evangelical Environmental Net– work, USA. We thank Dr. Jeremy Farrar, CEO of the Wellcome Trust for his contributions as a speaker and for thoughtful ed– its of the document.
We acknowledge the major contributions to the drafting of the declaration by Drs: Maria Neira (WHO), Andy Haines (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) and Jos Lelieveld (Max Planck Inst of Chemistry, Mainz). For a list of speakers and panelists at the symposium, please see the agenda of the meeting attached at the end of this document.
We are thankful to the sponsors of the workshop: Maria Neira of WHO; Drs Bess Marcus and Michael Pratt of Institute of Public Health at the University of California at San Diego; Drs Erminia Guarneri and Rauni King of the Miraglo Foundation.
End of Declaration
VATICAN CITY — California has opened a new front in its war on Donald Trump — the Vatican, where Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday sought to enlist the Catholic Church in his effort to undermine the president’s climate policies abroad.
Brown, addressing a somber gathering of scientists, politicians and religious leaders here, rebuked Trump’s rejection of mainstream climate science as a “lie within a lie,” urging religious establishments to help “awaken the world” to efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The conspicuous repudiation of the president, in this center of Christendom on the eve of this week’s international climate talks in Bonn, Germany, served to underscore Brown’s role as one of the most prominent figures in the anti-Trump resistance. But it also highlighted California’s deep antipathy toward the president on a global stage, allying the nation’s most populous state with the international community against the backdrop ofsimmering tension between the White House and Pope Francis on climate change.
The pope, who did not appear at the conference, implicitly criticized the president in October for withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, a decision that weighed heavily over the gathering.
Brown wasn’t the only Californian emphasizing the American divide over global warming — or the state’s determination to blaze its own trail on the issue. Rallying the same audience the previous day, California Democratic state Senate leader Kevin de León cast California’s leaders — and not, explicitly, Washington’s — as the “faithful stewards of God’s creation.”
Daniel Kammen, the University of California, Berkeley, professor who resigned noisily from his role as science envoy to the State Department in August, called Trump’s election America’s “existential crisis” and encouraged efforts to impeach him. And California Democratic Congressman Scott Peters said the relatively large proportion of U.S. Congress members who are Catholic is “one reason why Pope Francis’ commitment to making environmental stewardship a priority of his papacy has such a potential to affect American climate policy.”
The meeting, hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, preceded two weeks of climate talks in Bonn, where Brown and leaders of other Democratic states will seek to persuade the world’s nations that wide swaths of the United States remain committed to the Paris agreement. Trump’s withdrawal from the pact has cast a cloud over the upcoming gathering in Germany.
Still, California’s Democratic governor minimized the significance of Trump’s withdrawal from the accord, saying the decision helped focus public attention on the issue.
In comparison to worldwide efforts to address climate change, Brown said, “The Trump factor is very small, very small indeed.”
Instead, Brown called for a fundamental transformation of people’s way of life.
“It’s not just a light rinse,” Brown said. “We need a total, I might say brainwashing. We need to wash our brains out and see a very different kind of world.”
Yet the Catholic Church’s ability to move American public opinion on climate change remains in doubt. For one thing, relations between Trump and the spiritual leader of America’s more than 50 million Catholics remain cool after Pope Francis criticized Trump on issues ranging from climate change to immigration to refugee resettlement.
“The state of relations between the pope and Trump is not good and has never been good,” longtime Vatican analyst Iacopo Scaramuzzi said in an email. “They are openly at odds on almost every point, from personal style of life to issues as climate change or migrations, from attitude towards China, Iran or Cuba to the concept of ‘people’ and ‘populism.’”
While the pope’s encyclical on the environment served as an inspiration for negotiations in Paris two years ago, many climate activists hoped lobbying by a popular religious figure might also nudge public opinion on climate among conservatives in the United States. There is little evidence that has happened.
Following the encyclical’s release and the pope’s 2015 U.S. tour, researchers at the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication found a short-term increase in the number of Americans who said climate change was a “moral,” “social justice” or “poverty” issue. Soon after, however, they found public opinion returned to pre-encyclical levels.
“It was him coming to the Untied States, where he got 24–7, wall-to-wall coverage …. we saw a significant impact on public opinion,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. “We also found that six months later, that effect had faded away.”
Bob Inglis, a former Republican congressman whose progressive views on climate change contributed to his defeat in a South Carolina primary in 2010, said of the pope’s encyclical, “I do acknowledge that it hasn’t exactly — it hasn’t yet turned into the barn burner that I had hoped that it might have been.”
For conservatives, Francis may be an imperfect messenger, controversial for his relatively progressive views not only on climate, but on marriage and immigration. The pope and Trump traded jabs during the presidential campaign last year about Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and Trump announced his withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement just days after a visit in which the pope handed him a copy of his encyclical, Laudato Si.
“I’ve got a Catholic friend in Congress who will go nameless, who told me that, and he was only halfway joking, that he thinks this pope is the anti-Christ,” Inglis said. “There’s a contingent of American Catholics who really think that the pope has left the reservation.”
Inglis said he is optimistic for the long-term effect of the pope’s advocacy on climate change, as the issue is taught in local parishes and other religious organizations. Climate activist Bill McKibben said the Catholic Church is “one of those bureaucracies through which things work their way kind of slowly,” and he said its effects will likely percolate for years.
But Francis is also suffering in America from a problem that he shares with Trump: a declining base. Though about 1 in 5 American adults are still affiliated with the Catholic Church, their numbers are in decline. A survey last month from the Pew Research Center found a majority of U.S. adults do not think it is necessary to believe in God to be moral. And regardless of religious affiliation, climate change has failed in recent elections to register a top level of concern for most voters.
Jim Nicholson, the former secretary of Veterans Affairs and Republican National Committee chairman who served as ambassador to the Holy See under George W. Bush, said Trump’s relationship with the Vatican “got off to a ragged start” but has improved steadily and is now “pretty good.” He cited Trump’s nomination of Callista Gingrich, the wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, to be ambassador to the Holy See.
“There are obvious differences on some subjects, like climate and immigration and the death penalty, always. But there’s an awful lot of alignment in values — religious freedom and trafficking and life,” he said.
Trump has said he is withdrawing from the Paris agreement because it puts the United States “at a very, very big economic disadvantage.” But he heartened many religious leaders with his appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court and his opposition to funding for nongovernment organizations that perform abortions.For many religious voters, said Mitch Hescox, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network, matters such as abortion and Supreme Court nominations carry more weight at the ballot box than climate change.
“The problem is that [climate change] is not on the radar screen of the reasons they vote yet at this point in time,” Hescox said. “That’s my job, is to help them to see why it is as important as being pro-life. Our No. 1 message is that climate change is a pro-life issue.”
Climate experts stewed throughout the Vatican meeting over global climate projections they described as “horrific,” “terrifying” and “depressing.”
Brown, who left the Vatican for an 80-minute meeting with Arturo Sosa, the superior general of the Jesuits, said Saturday night that he is “going around enlisting allies” in the battle over climate change.
“What it all comes down to is we’ve got to act sooner, and we have to act more decisively, and that’s not happening,” Brown said. “There’s real horror in store for us if we don’t take action.”
Myanmar faces a critical moment for investment decision-making. The Barack Obama administration’s move to lift sanctions on the Southeast Asian country has opened up new opportunities. But the moves that are made today will send political and economic ripples into the future, and the international community must act responsibly.
China wants to finance a 3,600-megawatt hydropower dam called Myitsone — one of the largest in Southeast Asia — with the goal of directing most of the power back to China. This project, however, could compromise peace negotiations between rebel forces in the northern state of Kachin and the Myanmar government.
Construction of the dam stalled in 2011 and presents a critical test for Aung San Suu Kyi’s governing National League for Democracy party.
Villagers in Kachin have expressed extreme opposition to the megaproject, which raises severe environmental concerns and threatens livelihoods. The issue is particularly complex due to geopolitical factors: lucrative financing from China, pressure to improve human rights from the U.S. and international community, and free trade deals with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Proceeding with the dam would diminish the authority of Myanmar to stand up to China and would exacerbate ethnic tensions that already run high between local communities and the national Myanmar government. Past promises from Chinese companies to share the benefits of hydropower development have only displaced villagers and destroyed local livelihoods in Myanmar. This case is no different. A resolute stance against Myitsone could empower local communities — and such empowerment remains critical to developing peace and stability.
Engagement with key stakeholders is necessary for a sustainable and peaceful 21st-century power system that works for the people.
Currently, hydropower planning is a source of conflict, with local villagers excluded from the decision-making process. With the right approach, though, this could become an opportunity to build peace and supply sustainable energy to local communities.
First, a sincere and open dialogue that engages key local stakeholders is necessary for reconciliation and building trust. Secondly, thorough environmental impact assessments with the involvement of local stakeholders would go a long way to improving transparency. Finally, the international community has the power and responsibility to support Myanmar with technical assistance and state-of-the-art science, encouraging bottom-up, small-scale hydropower and distributed renewable energy development.
Electricity access initiatives led by multilateral development banks call for an aggressive push toward 100% electrification by 2030. Currently, only around 35% of Myanmar has access to power, which in many cases does not meet the needs of citizens. The 100% target could be achieved in a cost-effective manner with local resources, including the solar– and small-hydro-based mini-grids that are rapidly emerging across the country.
“Free” has a price
For the past three years, in collaboration with Chulalongkorn University, we have held a series of stakeholder meetings in Bangkok with current and potential investors regarding the prospects for independent power producers, or IPPs, throughout Myanmar. These workshops have shed light on the IPP predicament facing the country and its neighbors. The “free power and free share” model — under which Myanmar is entitled to free electricity and stakes in such projects — fails to deliver prosperity, as fair mechanisms for allocating the benefits are not institutionalized. Often, local communities do not receive electricity and lose out on alternative investments in energy resources that require less transmission and distribution infrastructure.
Banks play a key role in driving such agreements. Until now, IPPs have tried to maximize exports to neighboring countries and minimize financial risk in emerging markets like Myanmar. The lack of credibility among Myanmar’s power utilities enables neighboring countries to take advantage of lax regulations and opportunities for lucrative investment at the expense of local villagers. As the Myanmar government often cannot grant concessions to cross-border IPPs due to a high risk of credit default, the benefits remain unrealized in many cases.
Most of the hydropower development proposals in the Salween river basin during the last decade have not been built. A few large-scale cross-border IPPs currently operate in tributaries of the Irrawaddy River, including Shweli1, which has installed capacity of 600MW, and Dapein1, which has 240MW. While the electricity generated there is mainly exported to China, the IPP agreement grants 10–15% of total project generation and shareholdings for free to Myanmar.
The conventional wisdom is that “free power, free share” remains a prerequisite for concessions by Myanmar. But this concept is inherently flawed.
For example, our field survey in Shweli1 makes it clear that 15% of generated power is provided for free to the state-owned mining company and military camp, while neighboring towns must purchase electricity at 4–8 cents per kilowatt-hour and villages must re-import electricity from China at 20 cents per kilowatt-hour. These tariffs are higher than tariffs on the grid.
To make things worse, the “free” benefits in Myanmar fuel conflict by compounding inequality among civilian groups. One example of this is the Mong Ton dam in Shan State, promoted by the previous military government. Nongovernmental conservation groups held an anti-dam campaign “to urge the government as well as Chinese and Thai investors to immediately stop plans to build dams, as this is causing conflict and directly undermining the peace process,” as Burma Rivers Network put it. Salween Watch, a civil society watchdog, sees the construction of dams as “one of the strategies used by the military regime to gain foreign support and funding for its ongoing war effort” while viewing dams as “a strategy to increase and maintain its control over areas of ethnic land after many decades of brutal conflict.”
With the democratically elected NLD government having taken power in 2015, Myanmar has an opportunity to escape past nightmares and begin to distribute benefits equitably. Certainly, monetary compensation and free power seems appealing to local communities in need of electrification and economic development. However, as the NLD rightly states, it is much more critical to secure livelihoods and the environment by pursuing sustainable development practices.
Villagers depend on income from natural resources, including forest and fisheries products. Our field survey regarding the Mong Ton hydropower development shows that local villagers cite deforestation, river flows and flood damage as their top dam-related concerns. Investigations into the effects of dam construction are critical undertakings that must become part of the hydropower decision-making and planning process. Without them, there can be no trust, and a strong local backlash against the influential, military-tied Ministry of Interior is inevitable.
Start with science
In the past, Myanmar’s government glorified dams while environmental groups vilified them. Neither stance was grounded in rigorous scientific evaluations, and each side’s argument fed the other’s distrust — creating resentment and hampering dialogue.
To move forward, we recommend establishing regulations on environmental impact assessments that include public disclosures. Building reliable institutions to enforce such rules poses a challenge, but doing so could help to bridge the gap between groups and restore trust — something that has been lost in Kachin and Shan states since 2011, as recent flare-ups in violence demonstrate.
The timing is urgent. The peace process remains on the cusp of an agreement. Rural electrification efforts are underway, but we know that distributed mini-grids from local solar and hydropower resources can be built and deployed faster than megaprojects, supporting peace efforts. The opportunity cost of inaction is high. Continuing the Myitsone project as a concession to China, meanwhile, could undo half a decade of peace negotiations and further damage the environment while negatively impacting villagers and their livelihoods.
In short, increased transparency and local engagement could usher Myanmar toward peace and prosperity. At the same time, it is up to the international community to expand the country’s intellectual and institutional capacity. We can support Myanmar’s infrastructure development not only through hard and soft loans, but also with technical assistance.
Myanmar needs environment– and people-friendly hydropower planning. Only then will the projects support peace-building rather than conflict.
Noah Kittner is an NSF graduate research fellow and doctoral student in the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley. Kensuke Yamaguchi is a project assistant professor at the University of Tokyo Policy Alternatives Research Institute. This was developed in conjunction with the Program on Conflict, Climate Change, and Green Development in the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory.
For the article link in Nikkei Asia Review, click here.
This number is shrinking, down by one third since 2000, despite rising population levels, according to an International Energy Agency (IEA) special report on energy access, published today.
The report says that while coal has supplied nearly half of the progress from 2000 to date, its role is set to decline “dramatically”. This is because renewables are becoming cheaper and because the hardest-to-reach people are in remote, rural areas where off-grid solutions offer the lowest cost.
The report shows the number of people without access to electricity will shrink by another third by 2030, with 60% of these gains supplied by renewables. Furthermore, if the world commits to providing universal access by 2030, then renewables would bridge 90% of the remaining gap, the IEA says.
There have been spectacular gains in providing access to electricity this century, cutting the number without it from 1.7 billion in 2000 to 1.1 billion in 2016, the IEA says. Most of this progress has been in Asia, as the charts below show (blue, yellow and green lines and columns).
India has led the way, with 500 million gaining access to electricity. Sub-Saharan Africa now has the majority of people still without access, at 600 million, an increase over the past 15 years due to rising populations. Recently, this number peaked and started to fall (red line and columns).
The rate of progress has been accelerating, the IEA says, rising from 62 million people gaining electricity access each year during 2000–2012 to 103 million during 2012–2015.
Coal has been the main source of this new supply, generating 45% of the electricity used by people gaining access for the first time between 2000 and 2016 (purple pictograms in the chart, below).
There has also been a growing role for renewable sources of electricity, the IEA notes, with particularly rapid growth in decentralised off-grid access (dark green pictograms). From 2000–2012, renewables provided 28% of new access to electricity. This figure rose to 34% during 2012–2016.
There are regional differences in the sources of new electricity connections. In India, for example, coal generated 75% of new supplies, against 20% for renewables. (This pattern is expected to reverse, see below.)
Sub-Saharan Africa has had the most rapid recent improvement in providing electricity access, rising from 9m new connections per year during 2000–2012 to 26m per year during 2012–2016. Most of this acceleration is due to renewables, responsible for 70% of new access since 2012, whereas coal has not supplied any new connections in this period.
Looking ahead, the IEA says the number of people without access to electricity will fall to around 700 million by 2030, under its central scenario.
Asia will reach close to 100% access to electricity by 2030 (lilac, yellow and green lines and columns, below) and India will meet its aim of universal access in the early 2020s (blue). The vast majority of the 700 million still without electricity in 2030 will be in sub-Saharan Africa.
Note that this chart reflects the IEA’s central “New Policies Scenario”. This includes existing policies plus announced policies and intentions. It also reflects assumptions about the costs of different technologies and the rates of population and electricity demand growth.
Around the world, the share of new electricity access supplied by renewables will nearly double to 60%, up from 34% over the past five years (green, blue and yellow columns, below). This pattern is even more extreme in India, where the share of new electricity from renewables will triple to 60%
Coal’s role in providing electricity access “declines dramatically”, the IEA says, providing power to 16% of those who gain access over the next 14 years. This compares to 45% during 2000–2016.
Note that the IEA has been criticised for repeatedly underestimating the rate of growth of renewables, particularly solar. This makes its outlook, in which renewables supply most new electricity access, even more striking.
If the world wants to meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of providing universal energy access for all by 2030, then 90% of the additional electricity connections over and above the IEA’s central scenario will come from renewables, its report suggests.
This reflects the fact that the hardest-to-reach populations are those least likely to benefit from grid expansion. For these people, decentralised systems, predominantly supplied by solar (yellow columns, below), offer the “lowest cost pathway” to electricity access.
The report, for the first time, uses geospatial analysis, at a resolution of one square kilometre, to assess the most cost-effective ways to deliver electricity access to sub-Saharan Africa, whether through grid or off-grid solutions. This analysis takes into account existing and planned infrastructure, technology developments, local resources, population density and likely demand.
It is this new analysis that suggests decentralised renewables will be the cheapest way to provide electricity access for sub-Saharan Africa’s rural poor. Note that research suggests Africa could more than meet its electricity needs, with renewable sources alone.
The IEA puts the cost of providing electricity access to everyone on the planet at an additional $391bn over the period to 2030. This would nearly double total spending, adding to the $324bn already expected to be spent under the IEA’s central scenario.
The energy access-focused SDG also includes provision of clean cooking services. The IEA says this can best be met using liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). As a result, providing universal energy access would increase CO2 emissions by 70m tonnes. This would be more than offset by savings of 165MtCO2 equivalent due to reduced methane and nitrous oxide from biomass used for cooking. The report says:
Achieving universal energy access is not in conflict with achieving climate objectives. The relatively small increase in total primary energy demand and the central role of renewables in our Energy for All Case means that global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions increase by just 70 million tonnes (Mt) relative to the New Policies Scenario in 2030 (0.2% of the global level).
The large numbers of people without access to electricity are a frequent point of contention in debates over how to address climate change.
Some proponents cite China and India’s reliance on coal to bring electricity to their populations. They argue that coal is cheap and must be part of the solution for the remaining 1.1 billion people that still lack access to electricity.
Not everyone agrees on how best to meet the needs of these people, who are mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. In a November 2016 interview, Dan Kammen, professor of energy at the University of California, Berkeley and a former science envoy to the US State Department, told Carbon Brief that coal has been given too much credit as a solution to extreme poverty in Africa.
Coal doesn’t even deliver the thing for which it’s really been touted for, and that is, bringing people out of poverty because somehow it’s this least-cost fossil fuel source…I really cringe a bit when I see people touting mega fossil fuel projects as the obvious, first thing to look at…Distributed clean energy, time and time again today, has proven to be better, cheaper, more socially and environmentally positive.
As a July 2017 World Bank blog explains: “In many rural areas in Africa, impacts on economic development of grid extension in the near term may be very modest, while off-grid technologies can be more cost-effective for meeting the most highly-valued basic household needs.”
In further support of the benefits of off-grid systems, it says:
The major downside of off-grid solar is that the relatively low amount of supplied electricity limits what those systems can do for the productive use of electricity. However, electricity usage patterns in newly electrified areas in rural Africa are often such that solar is able to meet those demands. Even in grid-covered rural areas, households and micro-enterprises use electricity mostly for lighting, phone charging, and entertainment – which can easily be provided by solar panels.
Regardless of these details, today’s new IEA report shows that coal’s role in expanding electricity access is set to decline dramatically. Renewables, both on and off the grid, will provide most new connections, as the population without access falls by another third to 700 million.
If the world hopes to meet its goal of universal electricity access by 2030, then the IEA report suggests it is solar – not coal – that will bridge the gap.
The IEA report defines electricity access as a minimum of 250 kilowatt hours (kWh) per rural household per year. This excludes the more than 23m “pico solar” units sold since 2010. The report explains:
People relying on ‘pico solar’ products, mainly solar lanterns which may include mobile phone chargers, are considered to be below the minimum threshold to count as having [electricity] access. Nevertheless, there are significant benefits for the poor associated with pico solar products.
You can see the range of solutions it considers in its report in the graphic, below.
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The decision earlier this week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to repeal the Clean Power Plan would force the U.S. to cede leadership in innovation and climate change policies to other countries such as China, hurt job growth in the energy industry and fail to prevent a whole range of adverse environmental and health effects, according to experts at Wharton and the University of California-Berkeley. The Obama-era plan, which has been moved from the EPA website to its archives, aimed to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by helping states begin to replace coal with renewable energy sources.
EPA administrator Scott Pruitt described the Clean Power Plan (CPP) as a rule that exceeded his agency’s authority and as one that would cause “devastating effects … on the American people” in a press release. “Repealing the CPP will facilitate the development of U.S. energy resources and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens associated with the development of those resources,” he said. “Any replacement rule will be done carefully, properly, and with humility, by listening to all those affected by the rule,” he added.
Pruitt’s decision was “sad” although it wasn’t surprising, said Daniel Kammen, professor of energy and public policy at the University of California-Berkeley, and founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory. “[We] know the transition to clean energy is not only something we need to do fundamentally and actually will save not only ratepayers money but will also save us in terms of environmental costs — which we are seeing all around us with hurricanes and storms, and here in my home area (California) with fires — and immediate health costs,” he noted. “So it’s a very sad economic choice, let alone the negative signal it sends in terms of environmental protection.”
According to Eric Orts, Wharton professor of legal studies and business ethics, the estimates for various health benefits under the Clean Power Plan include 3,600 deaths that will be prevented, 1,700 heart attacks, 90,000 asthma attacks, and 300,000 missed work and school-days. “That all adds up to long term benefits of about $54 billion.” Orts is also director of the school’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership.
Orts and Kammen discussed the end of Obama’s Clean Power Plan on the Knowledge@Wharton show on Wharton Business Radio on SiriusXM channel 111. (Listen to the podcast at the top of this page.)
The Context for Costs
Orts noted the Trump administration’s claim that repealing the Clean Power Plan will avoid $33 billion in costs verses the original estimate of $8.4 billion. He acknowledged that some costs will be incurred in implementing the plan, but pointed out that policy makers need to keep in mind the larger gains from the Clean Power Plan, such as reducing air pollution costs. “The [Trump] administration has declared war on almost all environmental regulations,” he said. Kammen added that environmental costs in the U.S. were $100 billion in 2012, but they are now more than double that amount, and could even be three, four or five times as large.
According to Kammen, the Clean Power Plan not only showed a clear cost-benefit analysis, but also provided incentives where each state could pick their own most cost-effective path towards energy efficiency, renewables and natural gas. He noted that many states where the Republican Party is dominant had begun to see the benefits of that program.
Ceding Ground to Other Countries
The Trump administration’s stance on climate change and clean energy is in sharp contrast to the policies being adopted internationally, Kammen said. He pointed out that China is investing $360 billion in clean energy, while Bangladesh has the world’s largest battery recycling program for home systems, and Kenya has become a clean energy leader. “These are countries that have decided that the energy and environmental story is important, but so is the economic leadership story,” he said. “[The U.S. policy] is ceding economic opportunity to others for technologies in which the U.S. has been the prime investor for the past decades.”
According to Orts, the debate over clean power or climate change doesn’t really have two sides to it, and “we get caught in a false equivalency in a lot of these discussions.” He said the issue is beyond argument, citing the advice from experts in both the scientific and economic communities. Instead of the Trump promise to “Make America Great Again,” the reversal on climate and energy policy will have the opposite effect, he noted. The Trump administration’s policy is undercutting the gains seen in solar, wind and other renewable power technologies. The shift to support fossil-fuel industries, especially coal, has been shown as “a loser” by numerous studies, he added.
The unwinding of the Clean Power Plan follows the U.S. pullout in June from the Paris Accord, the climate change agreement signed by 197 countries at a 2015 United Nations conference. Orts pointed out that the U.S. is technically still not out of the Paris agreement, and has to comply with a series of requirements to complete its pullout.
“[The U.S. policy] is ceding economic opportunity to others for technologies in which the U.S. has been the prime investor for the past decades.” –Daniel Kammen
States Stepping Up
The “bright side” is that many states have said they would go ahead with implementing the Clean Power Plan’s programs in any case, said Orts. Kammen noted that California, New York and Washington are among those states that have opted to stay in and implement the clean power programs. California has more than half of the solar panels installed in the country, its clean energy policies are as aggressive or more aggressive than those in Europe, and it has seen more job growth from the solar power industry than from traditional utilities, he added. Businesses, too, have been backing the Clean Power Plan “to preserve their competitiveness,” said Orts.
States and companies that might have opted to back clean energy programs would now slow down and lose economic competitiveness to China and other countries, Kammen predicted. He added that in natural disasters stemming from global warming, the poor and minority communities have been the first affected and least prepared. “Pulling back on the Clean Power Plan is an attack on poor and minority communities, above all others,” he said. Those impacts have been well documented in books by Robert Bullard, a professor at Texas Southern University, who is also known as the “father of environmental justice,” he noted.
Orts saw the repeal of the Clean Power Plan opening an opportunity to educate people about the benefits of environmentally-friendly policies. “Long term, I expect the American public to have a change of view,” he said. The hurricanes and wildfires are related to climate change, and most Americans will begin to understand that corrective action has to be taken to cope with those disasters, he added. “You will have a shift back that will be even more serious and will have more political support going forward after Trump.”
Kammen pointed to the eroding feasibility of the coal industry. “The biggest irony in the whole story is that of coal,” said Kammen. The coal industry has decreased in value by a factor of 10 over the past several decades, and is worth an estimated $50 billion to $60 billion. “A Jeff Bezos or a Bill Gates could buy the whole [coal industry] more than once,” he said. He noted that ironically, the Clean Power Plan included an $8 billion retraining, re-education and transition fund for the coal industry. He described that as “an incredibly good deal” for states that are most hard hit by the shift away from coal. By contrast, there is no indication that the Trump administration will invest significantly in such retraining programs, he pointed out.
“Long term, I expect the American public to have a change of view.” –Eric Orts
Kammen hoped the Clean Power Plan repeal is contested all the way up to the Supreme Court. He said that several studies, including those done by his own lab (available on his Twitter feed @dan_kammen), show that the job impact of investing in natural gas, solar, wind and other renewable forms of energy outperforms the coal industry by up to a factor of five to one. “This is a story where the [Trump] administration is simply wrong on the basic economics, let alone sustainability and environmental justice.” (Wharton economics and public policy professor Jose Miguel Abito detailed how the Clean Power Plan would spark investment and efficiency in electricity generation in an interview with Knowledge@Wharton last year.)
Shaky Legal Terrain
Orts pointed out that notwithstanding the Trump administration’s moves to unwind Obama-era actions in environmental protection, the EPA has a duty to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. He expected the EPA to face lawsuits to force it to fulfill that obligation. Ironically, the EPA now could claim – after the repeal of the Clean Power Plan – that it does not have the authority to implement that plan. On the other hand, there could be a legal challenge that forces the EPA to come up with an alternative to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, he added.
In his former role as Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt has sued the EPA several times to block clean air and energy programs. “This is an agency designed to find innovative ways to regulate and set incentives [to protect the environment] and the Clean Power Plan does that,” said Kammen. “But the fact that Mr. Pruitt has been on the business end of lawsuits against that speaks to … a very shallow play by some people to hold on to money.”
Cal Future Forum: Our Changing World
More than ever, California needs to play a proactive role in understanding our global impact and in finding solutions to ensure a vibrant future. In fact, we lead the nation —and the world — in developing a clean-energy economy, ameliorating the effects of global change, and promoting green businesses for the future.
UC Berkeley and the Berkeley Lab have long been leaders in the research needed to understand and respond effectively to humanity’s global environmental impact, from developing energy efficiency standards that are now used around the world, developing technologies for making our cities more resilient to droughts and floods, converting sunlight into modern fuels, assessing the impact of the sixth mass extinction, to forecasting future change. This mission has never been more urgent.
To highlight the latest research findings emerging from UC Berkeley and the Berkeley Lab, we present Cal Future Forum: Our Changing World, an unusual opportunity to learn directly from leading researchers who are developing solutions to the environmental challenges we face.
In May 2017 over a dozen prominent Berkeley researchers provided a synopsis of the state of the planet, a better understanding of the challenges we face, and the solutions being developed at Berkeley – and being implemented globally. This rare gathering of leading Berkeley scientists, engineers, scholars and policy experts was moderated by prominent radio host, Michael Krasny.
Please visit this page for access to all of the talks.
To link too this publication, click here.
Mexico’s recent energy reform (2013) has provided the foundations for increased private participation in attempts to offset or reverse the country’s continued decline in fossil fuel production. This country is currently on path to becoming a net energy importer by 2020. Conversely, in 2015, and for the first time in over 20 years, the United States (US) became a net oil exporter to Mexico. One of the strategies being pursued by Mexico to prevent an impending supply–demand energy imbalance is the development of shale resources using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques. Hence, an evaluation of the inherent risks associated with hydraulic fracturing is crucial for Mexico’s energy planning and decision-making process. This paper draws lessons from the recent ‘shale boom’ in the US, and it analyzes and summarizes the environmental, social, economic, and community impacts that Mexico should be aware of as its nascent shale industry develops. The analysis seeks to inform mainly Mexican policy makers, but also academics, nongovernmental organizations, and the public in general, about the main concerns regarding hydraulic fracturing activities, and the importance of regulatory enforcement and community engagement in advancing sustainability. Furthermore, using the US as a case study, we argue that development of unconventional oil and gas resources in Mexico could lead to a short-term boom rather than to a dependable and sustainable long-term energy supply. Our analysis concludes with a set of recommendations for Mexico, featuring best practices that could be used to attenuate and address some of the impacts likely to emerge from shale oil and gas development.
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