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A tragedy with a happy ending? The United States before the Paris Climate Summit

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Opening presentation by Worldwatch Institute's Alexander Ochs for the "Climate change: Implications for technological development and industrial competitiveness” workshop.

Madrid, Spain. 4th November 2015.

Published in: Environment
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A tragedy with a happy ending? The United States before the Paris Climate Summit

  1. 1. 1 4 NOVEMBER 2015 CAMPUS REPSOL, MADRID A tragedy with a happy ending? The United States before the Paris Climate Summit Alexander Ochs Director of Climate and Energy Worldwatch Institute, Washington, D.C.
  2. 2. 2 Overview • US emission trends • US climate policy • Historical milestones (Tragedy, Acts 1-3) • The United States today (Showdown, Act4) • Explanations • What can be expected from the United States in Paris? (Act 5- Happy end?)
  3. 3. 3 Overview • US emission trends • US climate policy • Historical milestones (Tragedy, Acts 1-3) • The United States today (Showdown - Act4) • Explanations • What can be expected from the United States in Paris? (Act 5- Happy end?)
  4. 4. 4 0.00 10,000,000.00 20,000,000.00 30,000,000.00 40,000,000.00 50,000,000.00 60,000,000.00 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2011 2012 MetrictonsCO2e Year Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions, 1990 - 2012 Global U.S. EU China Spain Germany Source: PBL 2014
  5. 5. 5 0 2000000 4000000 6000000 8000000 10000000 12000000 14000000 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2011 2012 MetrictonsCO2e Year Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions, 1990 - 2012 U.S. EU China Spain Germany Source: PBL 2014
  6. 6. 6 0 5 10 15 20 25 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2011 2012 TONSCO2/CAP China U.S. EU Spain Germany CO2 per capita
  7. 7. 7 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2011 2012 KGCO2/1000$ CO2 emissions per $1000 GDP China U.S. EU Spain Germany
  8. 8. 8
  9. 9. 9
  10. 10. 10 Source: EIA 2015 U.S. primary energy consumption by source
  11. 11. 11 Source: EIA 2015
  12. 12. 12 Source: EIA 2015
  13. 13. 13 Overview • US emission trends • US climate policy • Historical milestones (Tragedy, Acts 1-3) • The United States today (Showdown - Act4) • Explanations • What can be expected from the United States in Paris? (Act 5- Happy end?)
  14. 14. 14 USCLIMATE POLICY MILESTONES  1992 President Bush signs UNFCCC  1997 Clinton signs Kyoto Protocol; never ratified by Congress  2001 Bush withdraws from KP, “economic harm”  2009 Obama announces domestic emissions reduction targets: - 17% in 2020, -30% in 2025, -42% in 2030, approx. - 83% by 2050 (all compared to 2005) 2013 Obama outlines Climate Action Plan 2014-15 Domestic and international climate efforts stepped up
  15. 15. 15 “We consider it vital that the community of nations be drawn together in an orderly, disciplined, rational way to review the history of our global environment, to assess the potential for future climate change, and to develop effective programs.” PresidentGeorge H.W. Bush, 1990 Tragedy, Act 1 -The reluctant “environmental president”
  16. 16. 16 “We will mine more, drill more, cut more timber.” "I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns..." James Watt, Secretary of Interior
  17. 17. 17 “If we do it right, protecting the climate will yield not costs, but profits; not burdens, but benefits; not sacrifice, but a higher standard of living.” President Bill Clinton, signing of the Kyoto Protocol (1997) Tragedy, Act 2 -The “environmental president” and the reluctant Congress
  18. 18. 18 “The United States should not be a signatory to any protocol to, or other agreement regarding, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992, at negotiations in Kyoto in December 1997, or thereafter…” (Byrd-Hagel Resolution, 1990) Robert Byrd, Senator (D-WV)
  19. 19. 19 “I oppose the Kyoto Protocol because it exempts 80 percent of the world, including major population centers such as China and India, from compliance, and would cause serious harm to the U.S. economy.” “Some of the scientists, I believe, haven’t they been changing their opinion a little bit on global warming?There’s a lot of differing opinions and before we react I think it’s best to have the full accounting, full understanding of what’s taking place.” (2001) President G.W. Bush Tragedy, Act 3 -The reluctant president – and the reluctant Congress
  20. 20. 20 “As record floods alternate with record ice-storms, as record- breaking hot months are followed by even hotter months a year later, who can afford to wait?” Al Gore,Vice – President 1992-2000
  21. 21. 21 “With all of the hysteria, all of the fear, all of the phony science, could it be that man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? “ Sen James Inhofe, (R-OK)
  22. 22. 22 Overview • US emission trends • US climate policy • Historical milestones (Tragedy, Acts 1-3) • The United States today (Showdown - Act4) • Explanations • What can be expected from the United States in Paris? (Act 5- Happy end?)
  23. 23. 23 “We’re showing that there’s no excuse for other nations to come together, both developed and developing, to achieve a strong global climate agreement next year.” – President Barack Obama (2) “The choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy — it’s a choice between prosperity and decline.The nation that leads the world in creating new sources of clean energy will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy.” Act 4: Showdown
  24. 24. 24 “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.” Marco Rubio, Senator (R-FL)
  25. 25. 25 Referring to climate change, “I think it’s very low on the list. So I am not a believer, and I will, unless somebody can prove something to me, I believe there’s weather. I believe there’s change, and I believe it goes up and it goes down, and it goes up again. And it changes depending on years and centuries, but I am not a believer, and we have much bigger problems.” DonaldTrump, U.S. Republican Presidential Candidate
  26. 26. 26
  27. 27. 27 Overview • US emission trends • US climate policy • Historical milestones (Tragedy, Acts 1-3) • The United States today (Showdown - Act4) • Explanations • What can be expected from the United States in Paris? (Act 5- Happy end?)
  28. 28. 28 Explanations: A highly partisan issue – Governmental gridlock The Role of America, Us AgainstThem, the American Dream, God, Fordism,Technology Will Save Us, Disbelief in Science/Academics/Elites
  29. 29. 29 Overview • US emission trends • US climate policy • Historical milestones (Tragedy, Acts 1-3) • The United States today (Showdown - Act4) • Explanations • What can be expected from the United States in Paris? (Act 5- Happy end?)
  30. 30. 30 OBAMA’S LEADERSHIP  Using Clean Air Act, the Clean Power Plan regulates carbon pollution from existing power plants  Goal: Lower carbon pollution from power plants 32% below 2005 levels by 2030  Sets reduction goals per state; state develops implementation plan to implement by 2030  Many lawsuits have been filed  EPA formalized carbon standards for new, modified, and reconstructed power plants  Allowable emissions of carbon pollution based on best available technology  New or modified coal plants can meet standards with CCS
  31. 31. 31 SUBNATIONAL&CORPORATIONS PUSH  States  California: - 40% below 1990 GHG levels by 2030,- 80% by 2050  Connecticut: 75-85% emissions reductions below 2001 levels;  Massachusetts: 75-85% below 1990 levels  Florida: 80%  Illinois: 60% below 1990 levels by 2050.  Municipalities  NYC: 80% below 2005 levels by 2050.  Seattle: Carbon neutral by 2050.  1,060 U.S. mayors have supported Kyoto goals  Corporations  Dozens of US-based multinational businesses have called to price global carbon, agree to a climate deal, set own decarbonization targets  Silicon valley pushes the energy revolution
  32. 32. 32 12.18 6.42 4.55 4.33 4.22 4.18 2.93 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 Texas California Pennsylvania Ohio Florida Illinois New York %OFU.S.CO2 Top U.S. Emitters, 2011
  33. 33. 33 USSUBMISSIONS FOR PARIS U.S. INDC:  17% GHG below 2005 levels by 2020  26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025 Sector Commitments  Oil and Gas Sector: Curb methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. Adaptation  Pledged $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund
  34. 34. 34 INTERNATIONALAGREEMENTS U.S. – China U.S. – India U.S. – EU G-20 Clean Energy Ministerial Global Methane Initiative Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas
  35. 35. 35 ALEXANDER OCHS, DIRECTOR OF CLIMATE AND ENERGY WORLDWATCH INSTITUTE, WASHINGTON, D.C. AOCHS@WORLDWATCH.ORG ThankYou.

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