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International Climate News Mar '14: deforestation progress, 2013 global clean energy data, & more

Jake Schmidt

Posted April 1, 2014 in Solving Global Warming

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Below is a compilation of climate change and clean energy news from around the world. This compilation includes stories from March 2014. You can sign-up to receive these compilations in your email inbox.

DEFORESTATION: MAJOR BRANDS MAKING PALM OIL COMMITMENTS

Major brands have joined the list of companies that have made public commitments to use “deforestation-free palm oil” in their supply-chain:

According to data from WRI, fires in Indonesia have spiked to the highest levels since the June 2013 “Haze Emergency”. Data from Global Forest Watch shows that some of the largest fires are developed plantations, even though the companies that own this land have committed to eliminating fire in their management plans.

GLOBAL CLEAN ENERGY DEPLOYMENT

Global Solar Deployment.pngLast year, at least 37 GW of solar capacity was installed worldwide, according to preliminary data from the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (see here for more data). According to this data, China installed 11.3 GW worth, followed by 6.9 GW, the US at 4.8 GW, Germany at 3.3 GW, and India with 1.1 GW (with Europe as a whole installing at least 10 GW). Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that the solar market will grow by more than 20% in 2014 (CleanTechnica).  Ghana is poised to add almost 30% to its generating capacity and thousands of jobs thanks to some announced solar plans in the country (CleanTechnica) and some news on solar PV in Kenya.

In the U.S., wind power provided 30% of all new electricity generation capacity added in the past five years – with two states producing more than 25% of total electricity production from wind and nine states getting more than 12% of their electricity from wind., and in 17 states, more than 5%. Wind in the UK keeps breaking records.

New data show that three European countries have already hit their 2020 renewable targets (ClimateCentral).

A new International Energy Agency report concludes that integrating “high shares” of renewables like wind and solar PV in power systems can come at little additional cost in the long term (CleanTechnica).

News on battery storage where industry research firm IHS projects that there will be 40 GW of grid-connected energy storage installed globally by 2022. And cheap, modular energy storage is a high priority that many, many a researcher and entrepreneur are trying to create (CleanTechnica). And more locations are starting to provide incentives for energy storage (EnergyWire, sub req), including the U.S., Germany, and now Japan.

NEW NRDC ANALYSIS SHOWS DEEPER CUTS IN CARBON POLLUTION AT LOWER COST UNDER EPA POWER PLANT STANDARDS

NRDC released an updated analysis of our 2012 proposal on how to cut carbon pollution from America’s power plants under the Clean Air Act. Our new analyses shows that the U.S. can cut power plant carbon pollution by 21 to 31 percent in 2020, and by 25 to 36 percent by 2025, compared to 2012 levels of pollution (see figure). Doing so would yield $28 billion to $63 billion in health and environmental benefits, far outweighing the costs. These are much greater reductions than our original analysis.NRDC Power Plant Proposal~2014.png

  • An issue brief on NRDC’s new report and analysis is posted here.
  • A full report explaining NRDC’s 2012 power plant proposal and analysis is here.

E.U. SET TO FINALIZE DOMESTIC ACTIONS ON HFCs & MORE NEWS

The European Parliament voted to cut F-gases (or HFCs) by 79% by 2030, endorsing a proposal put forward by the European Commission. EU member states are expected to back the law in mid-April vote. After this vote the new regulations will become binding across the EU with the first milestone in 2015 (Reuters).

The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) issued its final report reaffirming the safety of the new climate-friendly coolant for car air conditioners called HFO-1234yf (R-1234yf).  The European experts flatly rejected fire risk claims leveled by Daimler (the maker of Mercedes-Benz), concluding that extensive testing “provided no evidence of a serious risk.” Car makers around the world are adopting the new coolant to meet European, American, and Japanese climate-protection standards that require replacement of the current coolant, HFC-134a (R-134a), which is a super-potent greenhouse gas.  The global transition is picking up speed, which is good news as the heat-trapping difference between the old and new coolants is enormous.

CLIMATE NEGOTIATIONS: ROAD TO PARIS 2015 & MORE

With countries agreeing to develop a draft negotiating text coming out of the meeting in Lima, Peru this December, there will be intense focus on what should be the elements of the agreement to be reached in Paris 2015. Commentators at WRI identified six.

A key element of the Paris 2015 agreement will be commitments from countries to further reduce their emissions beyond 2020. With preparations happening in the EU, China, US, Mexico, and elsewhere to lay-out their post-2020 reduction targets, there has been a lot of discussion on two key elements. The first question is should the targets be for only 2030 or also 2025 (or some combination)? There are pros and cons to each of these timeframes (as WRI points out), but in our opinion there are strong benefits of ensuring that 2025 is a real target as it will encourage countries to act now. The second question is what kind of information should countries present when they announce their targets? A submission from the EU identifies an example set of information that should be provided (WRI issued a new report with some thoughts).

In his first “Policy Directive” Secretary Kerry made climate change a top priority. This new directive should ensure that the full breadth of the State Department is mobilized behind action on climate change. I outline some key actions to deliver on that policy where Secretary Kerry will be critical (and ClimateWire provides a bit more detail).

Russia is edging closer to proposing its post-2020 target, but it doesn’t look very aggressive.

US RELEASES STRATEGY TO CURB METHANE POLLUTION

The U.S. released its long awaited strategy to curb methane pollution, as promised in the U.S. Climate Action Plan. The plan is a big step in the right direction since curbing the big sources of methane is essential to meeting the President’s climate protection target. The strategy is a good plan of action, but more needs to be done to bring the promised actions to reality. The plan has domestic commitments and outlines some steps internationally that the U.S. has pursued. (A fact sheet and the full plan are available).

INDIAN BUILDING ENERGY EFFICIENCY: NEW NRDC REPORT

NRDC colleagues discussed increasing building efficiency in India’s states at a high-level meeting held by the Planning Commission, Ministry of Power, Bureau of Energy Efficiency and key state leaders. NRDC issued a new report focusing on how to overcome common barriers to building green Greener Construction Saves Money: Incentives for Energy Efficient Buildings Across India. The reports outlines solutions and incentives to enable Indian developers to take advantage of energy efficiency’s significant savings and the benefits of constructing more sustainable buildings. A central theme of the report and the high-level discussion is the primary role of state initiatives and mandates in accelerating the adoption of energy efficient measures in buildings across India’s cities.

LATIN AMERICAN CLEAN ENERGY DEPLOYMENT

A new report shows that the future of Chile’s energy sector lies with renewable energy. While conventional energy projects –coal and large hydro– linger in judicial appeals and administrative reviews, developers are advancing solar, wind and other renewable projects with gusto. At the end of 2013 there were over 18 GW of renewable capacity on the books – a 39% growth over 2012’s levels. The combined capacity of all the renewable projects operating or in the pipeline at the end of 2013 was more than the installed capacity of the existing grids in the country. 

In Chile, industry and politicians regularly call for more new power plants to feed the energy-hungry mining sector but my colleague points out that if the new government were to undertake a few fundamental changes energy efficiency could be a pillar of the country’s energy mix.

Peru is calling for its citizens, companies and institutions to register climate commitments in the lead up to the climate negotiations to be held in in Lima this December.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto confirmed that Mexico will be able to reach its goal of 35% of energy from renewable sources by 2024 if not earlier.

CHINA COAL CAP, AIR POLLUTION & MORE

China’s Premier Li Keqiang “declared war” on pollution at the opening of the annual meeting of parliament (Reuters). The country will cut energy intensity by over 3.9% in 2014 as outlined in the “government work report” (Xinhua).

China and UK pledge resources to collaborate on research to develop new low carbon manufacturing processes and technologies, low carbon cities and offshore renewables (AsianScientist).

The China Coal Consumption Cap Plan and Policy Study Project that NRDC is organizing continues to advance key research items:

  • The team evaluating the water resources as a part of the project – both the co-benefits of coal consumption cap and the water resource limits on coal consumption – held their kick-off meeting. The team is being led by the Institute of Water and Hydropower Research. The regional availability of water resources is a key limit on coal production and utilization.
  • The team evaluating the public health impacts of coal consumption held their kick-off meeting. The team is being led by Peking University Health Science Center. The team has conducted preliminary calculations of premature deaths and economic costs caused by coal consumption in 2010.
  • The team evaluating the employment impact of coal consumption launched their kick-off meeting. The research is being led by the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

ADAPTING TO EXTREME HEAT IN INDIA

Building off last year's successful launch of South Asia's first-ever extreme heat early warning system and preparedness plan, NRDC's India climate adaptation team joined with partners to develop the 2014 Heat Action Plan. Three new scientific journals have now agreed to include articles from this effort, including: an overview of the Heat Action Plan's development and implementation at the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health; 2) a forthcoming article in the PLOS ONE journal that documents and analyzes the extent of Ahmedabad's severe 2010 heat wave on public health; and 3) a recently-published analysis of the impact the 2010 heat wave had on newborns in Ahmedabad's hospitals, and proactive hospital policy changes moving forward in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health.

U.S. CLIMATE ACTION

A quarter of the Senate had an all-night debate on climate change (called Stand Up for Climate Action) and as my colleague discussed they were #Up4Climate, Down2Act.

The U.S. Department of Energy issued new standards for commercial refrigeration equipment  that will mean big energy savings. These standards will mean that new commercial refrigeration equipment will use up to 40 percent less energy.

MORE ON CLIMATE IMPACTS

The American Association for the Advancement of Science released a new report, video, and other material documenting “What we know” about climate change.

Storm waves and rising sea levels from climate change cost China $2.6 billion and killed 121 people in 2013, according to the Chinese Oceanic Administration (Reuters).

A new analysis found that that across all regions and all crops – including wheat, maize and rice – crop yields will drop by 2% each decade if temperatures increase by 2°C in 2050. And the situation will be worse for certain crops, with wheat and maize in tropical areas experiencing a 40% decline if temperatures increase reach 5°C (The Guardian). And Oxfam points out that climate change will threaten food security.

The U.S. recently launched a new initiative to make data on climate change in the U.S. readily available to the public, local officials, and others via a new web-based tool.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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