China, Europe, (and smart US States) Ready to Lead on Climate
March 29, 2017
Exxon urges Trump to stay in Paris Agreement.
Peter Trelenberg, Exxon’s manager for environmental policy and planning, writes in the letter: “It is prudent that the United States remain a party to the Paris agreement to ensure a level playing field, so that global energy markets remain as free and competitive as possible.” He also argues the US is well-placed to be internationally competitive within the framework of Paris, thanks to its abundant natural gas reserves and its “innovative private industries, including the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors”.
Mr Trump on the campaign trail promised to “cancel” the Paris agreement within 100 days of taking office and has described the science indicating a threat of global warming as “created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive”. Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, on ABC News over the weekend criticised Paris as “just a bad deal”. However other members of the administration, including James Mattis, the defence secretary, and Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon chief executive who is now secretary of state, have been reported to favour remaining in the accord.
Kevin Cramer, a Republican member of the House of Representatives from North Dakota who has advised Mr Trump on energy, has written to the president urging him to keep the US in Paris while scaling back its commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Exxon has been widely criticised by environmental groups for its position on climate change, and faces inquiries for the attorneys-general of New York state and Massachusetts over its past statements on the issue, but it has repeatedly stated its support for the Paris agreement.
China happy to lead new industrial revolution:
China is still committed to the Paris climate change accord agreed in 2015, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an order to dismantle Obama-era climate change regulations.
Trump’s main target is former president Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which required states to slash carbon emissions from power plants – a key factor in the United States’ ability to meet its commitments under the climate change accord reached by nearly 200 countries in Paris.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said climate change was a common challenge for everyone and the Paris agreement was a landmark that came about with the hard work of the international community, including China and the United States.
China is keen to be seen leading the way in reducing climate change which Trump has in the past dismissed as a “hoax”.
“We still uphold that all sides should move with the times, grasp the opportunities, fulfill their promises and earnestly take proactive steps to jointly push the enforcement of this agreement,” Lu told a daily news briefing.
“No matter how other countries’ policies on climate change change, as a responsible large developing country, China’s resolve, aims and policy moves in dealing with climate change will not change,” he added.
In many Republican-led states — ranging from Texas to Illinois — solar, wind and energy efficiency have thrived as a way to cut electricity costs and boost jobs, not as a way to protect the planet. In other Republican states, lawmakers are pressing to roll back existing incentives for renewable energy, saying they want to protect coal and natural gas.
The result is likely “this weird Balkanization of the country where the states that are more coal friendly are going to do nothing,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, a non-profit watchdog organization. But “states that are more likely to deal with air pollution issues are going to continue on their way.”
Cities too are getting in on the act. Thirty cities including New York and Chicago jointly asked automakers for the cost and feasibility of providing 114,000 electric vehicles, including police cruisers, street sweepers and trash haulers, said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is coordinating the effort. That would be comparable to about 72 percent of total U.S. plug-in sales last year.
“No matter what President Trump does or what happens in Washington, cities will continue leading the way on tackling climate change,” Matt Petersen, the Los Angeles chief sustainability officer, said in an email earlier this month.
Despite its Sunshine state moniker, Florida is barely harnessing its bountiful rays for energy. The Solar Energy Industries Association ranks the state third in the US for rooftop solar potential but just 12th in terms of installed capacity. Despite some growth in commercial solar, the number of Florida households getting solar panels is not projected to squeak past 100 a year until 2021, a paltry rate for a state with more than 20 million residents.
The gloom of renewable energy and climate advocates in Florida is exacerbated by envy at the solar boom occurring in the north-east states and out west in California. “You see states with snow and far more cloud than Florida and they have more solar than us,” said Alissa Schafer, communications and policy manager at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “That can be a bit frustrating. These other states are kicking our butt, to put it bluntly.”
This disparity is no longer a mildly diverting quirk. Donald Trump’s administration has been gleefully crushing any federal policy with any whiff of climate change about it, and the president is expected on Tuesday to sign an executive order undoing Obama’s clean power plan. So the urgent task of emissions cuts is starting to depend more heavily upon cities and states. Currently, Florida derives less than 1% of its electricity generation from solar.
In many states, a solar company can lend panels to a homeowner and then sell the cheap power generated directly to the owner. But that isn’t allowed in Florida. Nor is a homeowner able to sell on his or her generated solar power to anyone else, such as a neighbor or tenants.
By Florida logic, anyone with rooftop panels is providing a utility and therefore must be able to provide power 24 hours a day. And as only the state’s vast monopoly utilities, such as Florida Power & Light, can do this on demand, households are barred from this sort of third-party ownership.
“It’s ludicrous that Florida outlaws such a thing,” said Justin Hoysradt, chief executive of Vinyasun. His West Palm Beach company has instead attempted to boost solar sales through loans structured like car or mortgage repayments.
“Places like New York, Massachusetts and California have recognized the jobs and environmental benefit of solar. We have more of a challenge.”
North-eastern states may not be bathed in sunlight as much as Florida is but the ambition for solar dwarfs that of the balmier southern state. This is driven by the retail politics of electricity prices as much as it is of acceptance of climate disruption – while New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, has said warming temperatures are costing the state “not only in dollars but already in lives”, his Florida counterpart, Rick Scott, will be forever saddled by reports that he banned public servants from uttering the words “climate change”.
Generous city and state tax breaks, combined with the plummeting cost of solar, are starting to reap dividends in New York City, where solar panels are popping up in unexpected rooftops in the Bronx and Brooklyn. Installed solar capacity has mushroomed 800% in the past five years, with state efforts to get panels on to churches and schools. In August, Cuomo announced that utilities would be required to source half of the state’s electricity from solar and wind by 2030. Florida has no such target.
“Solar in New York City is finally hitting its renaissance, I think,” said Posie Constable, business development manager at New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation (NYCEEC). “I think we’re at a point now where it was really just a matter of coming up with innovative financing models that allowed New Yorkers to catch up with what’s been happening across the country.”
Europe’s top climate official, European commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete, expressed “regret” about Trump’s executive order rolling back what he called the “main pillar” of U.S. climate policy, the Clean Power Plan, in a statement to The Washington Post.
“Now, it remains to be seen by which other means the United States intends to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement,” said Cañete.
“Despite all the current geopolitical uncertainties, the world can count on Europe to maintain global leadership in the fight against climate change. We will stand by Paris, we will defend Paris, and we will implement Paris.”