News Archive:

Pontifical Academy of Sciences: Declaration of Health


This dec­la­ra­tion is based on the data and con­cepts pre­sented at the workshop:

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 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.

Prin­ci­pal Findings

  • Burn­ing of fos­sil fuels and solid bio­mass release haz– ardous chem­i­cals to the air.
  • Cli­mate change caused by fos­sil fuels and other hu– man activ­i­ties poses an exis­ten­tial threat to Homo sapi­ens and con­tribute to mass extinc­tion of species. In addi­tion, air pol­lu­tion caused by the same activi– ties is a major cause of pre­ma­ture death globally.

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.

  • Regions that have reduced air pol­lu­tion have achieved marked improve­ments in human health as a result.

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 advo­cate a mit­i­ga­tion approach that fac­tors in the low probability-​​high impact warm­ing pro­jec­tions such as the one in twenty chances of a 6°C warm­ing by 2100.

Pro­posed Solutions

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


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Politico: Jerry Brown’s holy war on Donald Trump


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For the piece in Politico, click here.

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.”

Noah Kittner co-​​authors “Hydropower threatens peace in Myanmar — but it doesn’t have to”

March 22, 2017 
For the arti­cle link in Nikkei Asia Review, click here.

Hydropower threat­ens peace in Myan­mar — but it doesn’t have to

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Dia­logue, trans­parency and for­eign sup­port could help rebuild local trust

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.

National elec­tri­fi­ca­tion

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.

Renewables will give more people access to electricity than coal, says IEA

Around the world, more than a bil­lion peo­ple still lack access to electricity.

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.

Recent progress

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).

Fuelling gains

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.

Future growth

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.

Grow­ing grid

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.

Role of renewables

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.

Note on definitions

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.

Knowledge@Wharton: “Does Repealing the Clean Power Plan Make Economic Sense?”

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 9.34.23 PM

For the pod­cast, click here.

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.

Sil­ver Linings

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.”

Watch the talks from the Cal Future Forum

Cal Future Forum: Our Chang­ing World

Respond­ing to the global impacts of human activity

Watch videos filmed at the live event.

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. 

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New publication on lessons from fracking in the USA and Mexico published in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews

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.

Modeling the Clean Energy Transition in China

2017-9-12-Chengdu-Summit Portrait

Amid grow­ing California-​​China clean energy part­ner­ships RAEL is part­ner­ing with both research and deploy­ment part­ners in China to accel­er­ate the decar­boniza­tion agenda.  In efforts with Tsinghua Uni­ver­sityChongqing Uni­ver­sity, and North China Elec­tric Power Uni­ver­sity, among other aca­d­e­mic part­ners, as well as with local and fed­eral part­ners in China, RAEL is work­ing to accel­er­ate the deploy­ment of elec­tric trans­porta­tion, address air and water pol­lu­tion, and to explore alter­na­tives to the development-​​environmental degra­da­tion nexus.  RAEL doc­toral stu­dent Anne-​​Perrine Avrin, who spoke on here work at a recent RAEL Lunch Sem­i­nar, is cur­rently work­ing with col­leagues in China on elec­tric vehi­cle adop­tion strate­gies (of the 2 mil­lion elec­tric vehi­cles in use world-​​wide, 1 mil­lion are in China and over 200,000 are in Cal­i­for­nia).

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Published in Yale Environment 360: Taking the Long View: The ‘Forever Legacy’ of Climate Change

Tak­ing the Long View: The ‘For­ever Legacy’ of Cli­mate Change

Cli­mate change pro­jec­tions often focus on 2100. But the geo­log­i­cal record shows that unless we rapidly reduce green­house gas emis­sions, we will be lock­ing in dras­tic increases in tem­per­a­tures and sea lev­els that will alter the earth not just for cen­turies, but for mil­len­nia. 


Click here to read directly on Yale Environment360.

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