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Paris Agreement: A landmark climate change policy architecture reached
cop21_johnbyrne

By Joseph Nyangon
December 16, 2015

“History is written by those who commit, not those who calculate,” declared François Hollande, France’s president, after all nations reached a new climate change policy in Paris. The 21st UN climate conference opened in Paris on November 30, 2015 and ran over its original deadline, closing a day late on December 12. Unlike previous conferences, the mood among the negotiators, ministers and experts from nearly 200 countries was celebratory. A historic consensus, the “Paris Agreement” was struck on the last day, ushering in a new policy commitment to ramp-up climate mitigation and adaptation worldwide.

The Center for Energy and Environmental Policy (CEEP) is an official observer organization and participant in the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process. It participated at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to UNFCCC conference, focusing on “polycentric strategies” to realize just and sustainable solutions to the problems of climate change. Its proposal is based on ideas and models developed at the Center.[1] The CEEP delegation included its director, Dr. John Byrne, and Dr. Job Taminiau (a postdoctoral research fellow). The Center’s position paper submitted to the UNFCCC is titled: “A Polycentric Response to the Climate Change Challenge Relying on Creativity, Innovation, and Leadership.”

The Paris Agreement promises a flexible, ambitious and rule-based climate policy regime that represents a break from the past. The agreement commits all nations—developed and developing—to hold the increase in global average temperature to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels” [2]—a more ambitious goal than had been expected based on efforts outlined in the national pledges on climate action called (“intended nationally determined contributions”). It reflects a consensus built over the previous year among the leaders of China, the U.S. and India, which contributed to the political support needed for adoption of the Paris Agreement. CEEP co-sponsored a side event with representatives from the Climate Alliance of European Cities with Indigenous Rainforest Peoples (or simply “Climate Alliance”), the Global Covenant of Mayors, and others at the COP 21. Climate Alliance works with more than 1,700 cities and municipalities spread across 26 European countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The event discussed the importance of cities in making meaningful contributions towards more aggressive national targets to reduce emissions.

Dr. Taminiau offered CEEP’s perspective on subnational climate change innovation, leadership, and governance. Other speakers at the event included Camille Gira, Secretary of State, Luxembourg European Union Council Presidency; Magda Aelvoet, Minister of State, President, Federal Council for Sustainable Development, Belgium; Tine Heyse, Deputy Mayor of Ghent, Belgium; Josefa Errazuriz, Mayor of Providencia, Chile; Julie Laernoes, Vice-President of Nantes Metropole, France; Marie-Christine Marghem, Belgian Federal Minister of Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development; and Ellý Katrin Gudmundsdottir, Chief Executive Officer and Deputy Mayor of Reykjavik, Iceland.

CEEP also worked with the Climate Change Center (Republic of Korea) to present a side event titled “Preparing Action Plans for a Post-2020 Climate Change Regime in Asia.” Former prime ministers and senior government officers from Asia were among the participants in this well-attended event. Dr. Byrne discussed the “financeability of large urban solar plants” focussing on technical assessment and financing tools to show that megacities can use a modest portion of their rooftops to generate over one-third of their electricity needs. [3] Dr. Duck-Soo Han, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Climate Change Center and Former Prime Minister of Republic of Korea called for stronger cooperation and partnerships in Asia to combat climate change. Richie Ahuja, Regional Director for Asia of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) summarized work in Asian region on clean energy and clean cooking systems as low-carbon solutions. Professor Haibin Zhang of Peking University and a Member of the Global Advisory Board of the Center for Climate and Sustainable Development Law and Policy (CSDLAP) offered a Chinese perspective on climate policy governance. And Dr. Oliver Lah of Wuppertal Institute for Climate (Germany) examined EU-Asia climate partnerships.

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Panel (L-R): Suh-Yong Chung, Climate Change Center; Prof. Haibin Zhang, Member of the Global Advisory Board of CSDLAP; Dr. John Byrne, CEEP Director, University of Delaware; Dr. Oliver Lah, FUB; and Richie Ahuja, Regional Direct for Asia, Environmental Defense Fund.

The Center has actively participated in proceedings of the UNFCCC since Cop 3 in Kyoto, submitting position papers and attending 8 of the COP meetings. In 1998, CEEP pioneered an equity- and sustainability-based strategy for resolving conditions of socioeconomic and environmental inequality if full international participation in negotiating legally binding climate architecture is to be expected. In a journal article, CEEP researchers, Dr. Byrne and Dr. Young-Doo Wang joined Dr. Hoesung Lee (the current chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—IPCC), and Dr. Jong-dall Kim (current president of the International Solar Cities Initiatives) in proposing a global per capita benchmark of CO2 releases to realize aims of sustainability and justice. [4]

Dr. Byrne has contributed since 1992 to Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). His work is published in IPCC assessments which led to greater global awareness of the problem and the award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to the Panel. The Center developed the Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) model to address energy and environmental crises in an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable manner. [5] The U.S. White House in an announcement made by President Obama recognized the Delaware SEU for its successful $70.2 million bond offering which received a AA+ rating by Standard & Poor’s. [6] Dr. Byrne was the architect of this pioneering climate finance structure, and with State Senator Harris B. McDowell III, led the Delaware SEU in adopting this and other innovations to dramatically lower energy and carbon requirements while improving state economic development.

The Paris Agreement marks an unprecedented inflection point in the global response to climate change. Unlike the Kyoto Protocol (adopted for action at COP 3 in Kyoto, Japan), it puts emphasis on registering commitments at all scales—global, national, provincial/state, local, and corporate—and tracks national performance over time. It covers a number of key issues: financing support—including technology transfer and financing amounting to US$ 100 billion annually by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation for developing nations to deal with climate change impacts; adaptation—to strengthen ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change; mitigation—to reduce emissions fast enough to achieve the temperature targets; loss and damage—to strengthen the ability of countries to recover from extreme weather events and slow onset events; and global stock-take—to account for climate action. It also recognizes the efforts of all non-party stakeholders to address and respond to climate change, including those of “civil society, the private sector, financial institutions, cities and other subnational authorities” [2]. Studies conducted by the Center over the years have demonstrated the need for a polycentric policy approach to “bend the carbon curve” as Dr. Byrne often says. Implementing the Paris Agreement will require rethinking the role of cities and sub-national actions for climate finance so that the advantage of decentralized and community driven initiatives is realized.

Notes
[1] CEEP Proposes Polycentric Strategy to UNFCCC. Available at: http://ceep.udel.edu/ceep-proposes-polycentric-strategy-to-unfccc
[2] Adoption of the Paris Agreement, FCCC/CP/2015/L.9/Rev.1. Available at: http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf
[3] Byrne, J., Taminiau, J., Kim, K.N., Seo J., and Lee, J. (2015). “A solar city strategy applied to six municipalities: integrating market, finance, and policy factors for infrastructure-scale photovoltaic development in Amsterdam, London, Munich, New York, Seoul, and Tokyo.” Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment. Available at: http://ceep.udel.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/2015_WIRE_EnergyEnvironment_paper_6-city-solar-financing_jb-jt-knk-js-jl_WENE-182_10.1002_FINAL-1.pdf
[4] Byrne, J., Wang, Y-D., Lee, H., and Kim, J. (1998).“An Equity- and Sustainability-Based Policy Response to Global Climate Change.” Energy Policy. Vol. 26, No. 4: 335-343. Available at: http://ceep.udel.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/1998_ge_sustainability_equity_climate_change_2.pdf
[5] Byrne, J., and Taminiau, J. (2015). “A Review of Sustainable Energy Utility and Energy Service Utility Concepts and Applications: Realizing Ecological and Social Sustainability with a Community Utility.” Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment. Available at: http://ceep.udel.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/2015_ge_WIRE_Energy-Environ_seu-esu_jb-jt_WENE-171_FINAL.pdf
[6] White House recognizes SEU Model developed at CEEP. White House Press Release. December 02, 2011: http://ceep.udel.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/2011_SEU_Oversight-Board_bond_press-release_White-House_excerpt4_Dec-21.pdf

Photos by IISD/ENB

Environmental threat posed by microbeads
microbeads

By Ariella Lewis
December 14, 2015
Small but dangerous: Microbeads in personal grooming products 

Americans are progressively kicking the habit of relying on disposable plastic water bottles for their hydration needs. We tote our reusable water receptacles with pride, aware that we are contributing towards the eradication of our planet’s plastic plague.

But, alas, the plastic plague is seemingly perpetual. Imagine grinding these plastic water bottles that infect our planet into miniscule bits and subsequently cleansing your body with these plastic bead-like fragments. As regressive and perplexing as it sounds, consumers are increasingly being encouraged to follow this detour. The tiny 3D dots sprinkled in many skin exfoliants, soaps, toothpastes and other personal grooming products are small but dangerous.

Like a whisper that is in reality a roar, these “microbeads” pose a bigger environmental threat than a consumer might assume. These beads cunningly evade wastewater treatment systems as they are rinsed off from the body; thereby flowing through pipes and drains, and eventually being discharged into oceans, lakes and rivers. A rainbow of hope is on the horizon, as state lawmakers in the U.S. take steps to ban microbeads in beauty products.

To the naked eye, the Great Lakes appear to be enormous water bodies, not easily polluted by the purchase of personal cleansing products. However, in reality, this is far from accruate. A study conducted by the State University of New York (SUNY) Fredonia on Lake Michigan found approximately 17,000 microbeads per square kilometer in the lake. To accumulate this data, a fine mesh net was hauled every half-hour in the lake to capture items bigger than a third of a millimeter. Another study by SUNY Fredonia with the same methodology at Lake Ontario, found 1.1 million plastic particles per square kilometer. [1]

These tiny plastic artifacts have the incredible ability to soak up tremendous amounts despite their size. Microbeads act like sponges, absorbing immortal toxic chemicals in their environment. Examples of these pollutants include pesticides, flame- retardants and motor oil. The absorbency of these microbeads are so incredible that a single particle can be up to a million times more toxic than the surrounding water. [2] These plastic pollutants resemble fish eggs and are perceived by marine critters as a food source. When eaten, they enter the food web. Yes, this means that we are consuming what we washed from our skin – the toxicity associated with aquatic microbeads is yet another case of pollution from our ‘cleanliness’.

Despite the evidence associated with the threat of microbeads, states like New York struggle to bar this plastic constituent (and eventual pollutant/health hazard). In 2014, legislation was voted on but failed to pass although microbeads were present in 74 percent of water samples taken from 34 municipal and private treatment plants across the state. Additionally, data suggested that the third most populace state washes more than 19 tons of microbeads down the drain annually. [3]

Upon recognizing the hazardous effects of plastic microbeads on our environment and human health, renewed efforts are being made by numerous states to ban them. The first state to implement such a ban was Illinois. In 2014, the adopted regulation banned the manufacture of personal care products containing microbeads by the end of 2017, and its sale by the end of 2018. [4] In October 2015, California became the most recent state in which lawmakers have banned the sale of personal care products containing plastic microbeads. Other states that have passed measures restricting the use of the microbeads include Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. [5]

While progress made by these states is commendable, they contain loopholes that protect stockholders in the hygiene industry. For example, the bans of microbeads often allow biodegradable microbeads to be amalgamated into hygiene products. Although newer plastics are categorized as “biodegradable,” they cannot be broken down through ecological processes; thus, the presence of environmentally harmful plastic microbeads would endure in products and the environment, despite the spike in legislation. California and New Jersey are the only states that include biodegradable plastics in their legislature’s restriction on microbeads. [6]

Legislators sometimes miss the mark in their policy efforts, so it is also up to consumers to demand safer products. The demand for reusable water bottles has decreased despite feeble action by lawmakers. Likewise, when in the skincare aisle, be sure to look for natural alternatives by purchasing personal hygiene products containing ingredients such as apricot shells, jojoba beans, and pumice. Both your health and the environment will be grateful!

Notes
[1] Corley, C. (2014). Why Those Tiny Micorbeads in Soap Pose Problem for Great Lakes. May 14, NPR
[2] Chelsea M. Rochman, Eunha Hoh, Tomofumi Kurobe & Swee J. (2013). Ingested Plastic Transfers Hazardous Chemicals To Fish And Induces Hepatic Stress, Scientific Reports 3, November 13, Article number: 3263
[3] Reilly, K. (2015). New York Politicians Seek Ban On Microbeads In Cosmetics, Cite Water Pollution. Reuters. July 20
[4] Staff Report. (2014). Governor Signs Bill Making Illinois First State To Ban Microbeads. Chicago Tribune, June 8.
[5] Abrams, Rachel (2015). California Becomes Latest State to Ban Plastic Microbeads. New York Times. October 8
[6] Coalition against microbeads: https://takeaction.takepart.com/actions/get-plastic-off-my-face-and-out-of-my-water

Photo: Georgette Douwma/Getty Images

CEEP organizes side events at COP 21
COP21

December 4, 2015

The Center for Energy and Environmental Policy (CEEP) at the University of Delaware co-hosted a side event with Climate Alliance, the Global Covenant of Mayors, and others at the Paris climate change conference. The event raised the importance of cities in making meaningful contributions towards more aggressive national targets to reduce emissions. The event took place on Monday 7th December, 2015.

The CEEP delegation presented the Center’s perspective on subnational climate change innovation, leadership, and governance. Other speakers at the event included:  Camille Gira, Secretary of State, Luxembourg European Union Council Presidency; Magda Aelvoet, Minister of State, President, Federal Council for Sustainable Development, Belgium; Tine Heyse, Deputy Mayor of Ghent, Belgium; Josefa Errazuriz, Mayor of Providencia, Chile; Julie Laernoes, Vice-President of Nantes Metropole, France; Marie-Christine Marghem, Belgian Federal Minister of Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development; and Ellý Katrin Gudmundsdottir, Chief Executive Officer and Deputy Mayor of Reykjavik, Iceland.

The main objective of the first event was to bring perspectives from local actors to the international context and take a detailed look at cities’ leadership in tackling climate change. The event builds on the success of the Covenant of Mayors in gathering more than 6,500 cities across 57 countries to a common and ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction target. The panel explored how local climate action in the frame of a Global Covenant of Mayors could be up scaled, with a focus on climate finance and stakeholders’ involvement.

Additionally, CEEP helped to organize and promote a second side event with the  Climate Change Center (Republic of Korea)  titled “Preparing Action Plans for a Post-2020 Climate Change Regime in Asia.” Other event organizers included Center for Climate and Sustainable Development Law and Policy (CSDLAP) of Seoul International Law Academy and the SUSTAIN EU-ASEAN project. The event took place on Friday 11th December, 2015. Speakers at the event included: Dr. John Byrne, CEEP director; Dr. Duck-Soo Han, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Climate Change Center and Former Prime Minister of Republic of Korea; Richie Ahuja, Regional Director for Asia of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF); Professor Haibin Zhang of Peking University and a Member of the Global Advisory Board of the Center for Climate and Sustainable Development Law and Policy (CSDLAP); and Dr. Oliver Lah of Freie Universität Berlin (FUB) (Germany).

The main objective of the second event was to examine preparations needed in the form of action plans on post-2020 climate change regime in Asia. The event examined transformative innovation strategies for encouraging low carbon growth while reducing climate risk in the Asian region. It also explored compact and connected urban development strategies (e.g. financing options for large urban solar plants) for climate resilient cities and climate action based on advanced partnership between Europe and Asia to seize the global opportunities. Other issues discussed included building inter-ministerial capacities in the implementation of low-carbon development, and the importance of including Asian business leaders, governments and civil society in discussions on low-carbon growth.

The CEEP delegation at the COP 21 was led by its director, Dr. Byrne, and Dr. Job Taminiau (a Postdoctoral Research Fellow). The Paris Climate Change Conference was held from 30 November to 11 December 2015, in Paris, France. The 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) included a plenary session, spin-off groups, and side events on adaptation, finance, mitigation, transparency, capacity building, final clauses, technology development and transfer, and implementation and compliance.

About the Climate Change Center
The Climate Change Center was launched in February 2008 to help unite government, corporations, scholars and civil socially to save our shared future and the planet from climate change. It is based in Seoul, South Korea. Its vision is to become a partner with global citizens in building a harmonious low-carbon society to combat climate change. The main activities of the Center are organized in the areas of education, knowledge networking, policy research and proposal and public aware campaign.

About the Climate Alliance
For more than 25 years, Climate Alliance member municipalities have been acting in partnership with indigenous rainforest peoples for the benefit of the global climate. With over 1,700 members spread across 26 European countries, Climate Alliance is the world’s largest city network dedicated to climate action and the only one to set tangible targets: each member city, town and district has committed itself to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent every 5 years. Recognising the impact our lifestyles can have on the world’s most vulnerable people and places, Climate Alliance pairs local action with global responsibility.

About the Covenant of Mayors
The Covenant of Mayors is the mainstream European movement involving local and regional authorities, voluntarily committing to increasing energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources on their territories. By their commitment, Covenant signatories aim to meet and exceed the European Union 20% CO2 reduction objective by 2020. Out of the 6,000+ cities that have signed the Covenant of Mayors, almost 70% have adopted their Sustainable Energy Action Plan, representing about one fourth of the entire EU population.

About the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy (CEEP)
Established in 1980 at the University of Delaware, the Center is a leading institution for interdisciplinary education, research, and advocacy in energy and environmental policy. In 1993, CEEP was asked to develop a University-wide program for graduate study and research in energy and environmental policy and to expand its mission to formally include the topics of environmental justice and sustainable development. In 1997, CEEP created the first graduate Energy and Environmental Policy (ENEP) degrees in the U.S. The University of Delaware granted permanent status to the ENEP degrees in 2003. From its inception, CEEP has operated a research and advocacy program that is undertaken at international, regional, national, state, and local scales. Typically, CEEP faculty and graduate students accept 15-20 projects each year. Often conducted with partners, the yearly program varies by topic (ranging from climate change to urban environmental justice to water equity and sustainable energy development) and includes several sponsors (e.g., foundations, governments and UN organizations). In certain cases, CEEP chooses to internally support projects of interest to its members. Today, graduate education is offered by the Center in doctoral (PhD-ENEP) and master (MEEP) programs. CEEP is the principal academic and research unit for graduate study in the areas of energy and environmental policy, environmental justice and sustainable development at the University of Delaware. Annually, over 75 students from more than 20 countries study and pursue research at the Center, together with its eight core faculty, seven adjunct faculty and visiting researchers, faculty and activists from around the world.

Two very different perspectives on carbon emissions trading
carbon emissions trading

By Jeongseok Seo
September 27, 2015

In an effort to address climate change, carbon emissions trading schemes (hereafter, ETS) have been widely championed as an instrument for mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Currently there are about 40 countries where a regional or national scheme is in operation, including 31 countries in Europe. Several states in the United States, the world’s second largest emitter of GHGs, are participating in state- or regional-level ETS, such as Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) or Western Climate Initiative (WCI). The world’s biggest emitter, China, also plans to roll out its national ETS in 2016, which is expected to dwarf the EU ETS [1].

Despite its popularity, however, there are concerns about whether ETS is an effective vehicle to reduce carbon emissions as many have claimed. As evidenced in the EU ETS, emission trading has so far failed to meet the core objective of effective emission reduction. For example, recent empirical study finds that the share of emission abatement due to the EU ETS is a mere one-eighth of the total reduction recorded by the EU-25 Member States from 2005 to 2012, but the rest of the region’s emission reduction attributable to the 2008 global financial crisis [2].

With growing risks arising from climate change and the coming 2015 Paris climate change negotiations, it may be timely to evaluate the effectiveness of ETS, potentially its impact on equity and sustainability. To effectively address an unprecedented crisis involving every country, social equity and ecological sustainability would be critical factors to incorporate into our strategies or tools.

Environmental economics is often cited as a supportive theory behind existing carbon emissions trading platforms. Central concepts of this framework are externality and cost efficiency [3]. Externalities occur when a choice made by one person affects other people in a way that is not accounted for in market prices. From an environmental economics perspective, climate change is an example of externalities and a result of market failure. Therefore, this school of thought argues that externalities like climate change can be solved through an efficient market mechanism, and reductions in carbon pollution could be achieved at least cost in carbon markets where polluters can sell and buy their emissions [4][5].

On the other hand, some criticize the ETS model. Byrne and Glover argue that ETS has been used to reinforce the commodification of nature [6]. By treating the atmosphere as a commodity and trading it in the form of pollution permits via a marketplace, i.e. carbon markets, ETS turned the part of the global commons into saleable pieces of property [see also 7]. Heavy polluters like the steel and cement industries often escape the need to actually reduce carbon emissions through mechanism, such as grandfathering or free allowances. This school of thought argues that an institutional reform or ‘techno-fix’ approach wouldn’t be sufficient to address the problems inherent in ETS [8]. Instead, some propose that climate change requires us to tackle the root causes of climate change, such as modernity’s pursuit of “economics first” ideology.

A new global climate regime requires strategies and tools to address the crisis as effectively as possible since we may have limited time [9]. In this vein, there are valid concerns about the social and ecological effectiveness of ETS. Hopefully the Paris talks open the dialogue about such concerns and identify timely and more appropriate actions.

Notes
[1] Reuters (2014). China’s National Carbon Market to Start in 2016 – official. Accessed on 12-06-2014. http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/08/31/china-carbontrading-idUKL3N0R107420140831
[2] German Bel and Stephen Joseph (2015). Emission Abatement: Untangling the Impacts of the EU ETS and the Economic Crisis. Energy Economics Vol 49, May 2015, pages 531-539
[3] John Dixon, et al. (1994). Economic Analysis of Environmental Impacts (London: Earthscan Publications). Page 27
[4] EEA (2006). Application of the Emission Trading Directive by EU Member States. Technical Report No. 2/2006, European Environment Agency (EEA), Denmark, p. 54
[5] UNFCCC. Accessed on 2014-11-30. http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/mechanisms/items/1673.php
[6] John Byrne and Leigh Glover (2000). Climate Shopping: Putting the Atmosphere Up for Sale. TELA: Environment, Economy and Society Series: 28 pp. Melbourne, Australia: Australian Conservation Foundation.
[7] Martin O’Connor (1994). “On the Misadventure of Capitalist Nature,” in Martin O’Connor, ed., Is Capitalism Sustainable?: Political Economy and the Politics of Ecology (New York: The Guilford Press). Page 126
[8] John Byrne and Noah Toly (2006). Energy as a Social Project: Recovering a Discourse. In John Byrne, Noah Toly, and Leigh Glover, eds. Transforming Power: Energy, Environment, and Society in Conflict. New Brunswick, NJ and London: Transaction Publishers. Pp. vii-xii.
[9] IPCC (2014). Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Photo: The Huffington Post

Why the U.S. urgently needs to invest in a modern energy system
QER Report cover

By Joseph Nyangon
September 21, 2015

In a speech commemorating the thirty-fifth anniversary of the International Energy Agency (IEA) in 2009, former U.S. secretary of state, Henry Kissinger recalled how the energy crisis of 1970s awakened the world “to a new challenge that would require both creative thinking and international cooperation.”[1] He explained that as “global demand continues to grow, investment cycles, technologies, and supporting infrastructure will be critical.” As a top U.S. diplomat in the 1970s, Kissinger is credited with promoting energy security as a third pillar of the international order through a trifecta of initiatives to bolster incentives to energy producers to increase their supplies, encourage rational and prudent consumption of existing supplies, and improve development of alternative energy sources. These efforts contributed to the establishment of the IEA in 1974 as a principal institutional mechanism for enhancing global energy cooperation among industrialized nations.

Forty years after the IEA’s founding, the relationship between energy and international cooperation endures, but changes in the energy landscape triggered by a revolution in how we produce, distribute, and consume various forms of energy is affecting the IEA’s fans. The agency interestingly examines the role of sustainable energy options and considers institutional change as often eclipsing conventional supply issues in shaping our energy future. For example, the challenges facing the electric power industry today include the need for diversification of generation, optimal deployment of expensive assets, carbon emissions reduction, and investment in decoupling strategies and demand response. Two key policy imperatives characterize these challenges, notably: the need to adopt policies that combat climate change, and the need for greater energy security due to concerns associated with supply-demand imbalances. Once again, we are at a moment of institutional and industry-wide transformation that calls for strategic investment and partnership to replace, protect, expand, and modernize our energy infrastructure. It is easy to slip into thinking of the nation’s energy landscape as a static challenge. It is not. The boundaries, business models, policies, strategies, and technical solutions have been a function of the incentives and objectives provided by policy.

The U.S. power grid is one of the most advanced energy systems globally, but its growth has been an evolving patchwork of disparate systems, functions, and components. Because of years of inadequate investment, the electric grid is now aging, outmoded, and unreliable to take full advantage of new domestic energy sources and emerging technologies and business models in the sector. In climate, energy, and economic terms, these issues are defined by whether the next wave of energy infrastructure will further the status quo of the path of least resistance and principally continue relying on conventional fossil energy sources or transition to efficient technologies and a clean energy future. In the first-ever Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) of the U.S. energy infrastructure released in April 2015, modernizing the nation’s energy infrastructure, to foster economic competitiveness, create a domestic clean energy economy, improve energy security, and promote environmental integrity, are identified as central policy concerns facing the country in a time of rapid change. President Obama ordered the review when he unveiled his Clean Power Plan in early January 2014.[2]

Here are six key policy recommendations of the QER report.

Improve the capacity of states and localities to identify and respond to potential energy disruptions: The review identifies severe weather events as the major cause of electric grid disturbances. From 2003 to 2012, severe weather caused an estimated 679 widespread power outages in the U.S. costing the economy between $18 billion and $33 billion annually.[3] Low-probability/high-consequence events also caused various types of electric grid disturbances in energy transmission, storage, and distribution infrastructure, including natural gas transmission infrastructure systems such as pipeline and storage leading to safety concerns. These threats and vulnerabilities vary substantially by region with Gulf Coast region being more susceptible to hurricanes, thus requiring regional solutions. The report recommends investing in new technologies like smart meters and automated switching devices to ensure much quicker recovery times from disruptions. It also recommends establishing a multi-year program by the U.S. Department of Energy to support the updating and expansion of state energy assurance plans.

Increase investments in electric grid modernization through expansion of different business models, utility structures, and innovative technologies: The review identifies increased investments in flexible operations and resilience as a more effective and economical solution for serving customer needs by enabling smart growth, in both transmission and distribution systems. Investment in transmission has been on the rise since 2000s, and is expected to grow with improved system reliability and interconnection requirements of distributed generation sources. In 2013, the report explains that investor-owned utilities spent a record high of $16.9 billion on transmission, up from $5.8 billion in 2001.[4] The growing level of transmission investment is needed to replace the aging infrastructure, increase system reliability, and facilitate competitive wholesale power markets. The report recommends adopting new business models, utility structures, and institutions to shape the operation, management, and regulation of the grid as well as optimize and update the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to reflect modern oil markets.

Strengthen regional integration of the North American energy markets: Opportunities for increased integration of markets and policies exist in the North American neighbours: the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. To further energy, economic, and environmental goals, the report recommends developing a common energy market, shared environmental and security goals, and infrastructure that undergirds the three economies. For example, in 2013, energy trade between the U.S. and Canada was approximately $140 billion, while energy trade with Mexico exceeded $65 billion in 2012—a sign of the existing opportunities for integration.[5]

Update and improve quantification of methane emissions from natural gas systems: To enhance the ability of the nation to achieve the targeted environmental goals, the report calls for urgent need to address the direct environmental impacts and vulnerabilities of energy transmission, storage, and distribution infrastructure, more broadly, carbon sequestration infrastructure, long-distance transmission to enable distributed generation and utilization of renewable resources, and smart grid technologies to support energy efficiency. The QER recommends updating greenhouse gas inventory estimates of methane emissions from natural gas systems, increased funding to reduce diesel emissions under the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, and enactment of the proposed Carbon Dioxide Investment and Sequestration Tax Credit, to support carbon capture technology and associated infrastructure.

Improve siting and permitting of energy infrastructure: The QER identifies involvement of multiple federal, state, local and tribal jurisdictions to add the time to siting, permitting, and review process of energy infrastructure projects due to overlapping and sometimes conflicting statutory responsibilities. To enhance credibility of the process, the QER recommends increased meaningful and robust public engagement with local stakeholders to speed up siting decisions, establishment of regional and state partnerships, and enactment and funding of relevant statutory authorities to improve coordination across agencies.

Strengthen shared transport infrastructures: The report calls for strengthening of waterborne, rail, and road transport to move energy commodities. It recommends establishing alternative funding mechanisms, public-private partnerships, and grants for shared energy transport systems.

The energy infrastructure challenges highlighted above can be addressed partly by investing in an assortment of technological innovations. This would repurpose energy sectors to trade energy efficiently in today’s extremely difficult managerial, regulatory, and financial environment. Investing in ‘smart’ energy offers a viable and effective long-term solution that allows the industry to shift its supply sources, build new transmission and storage systems, and increase its energy efficiency goals. Finally, these policy recommendations illustrate a key point: changes associated with modernizing our energy infrastructure and the attendant market solutions may change, interplant or even interfirm efficiency.

Notes
[1] Kissinger, H. (2009). The Future Role of the IEA: Speech for the 35th Anniversary of the International Energy Agency, October 2009. Available at: http://www.henryakissinger.com/speeches/101409.html. Accessed on September 15, 2015
[2] The White House (2014). “Obama Administration Launches Quadrennial Energy Review.” January 9, 2014. Available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/01/09/presidential-memorandum-establishing-quadrennial-energy-review. Accessed on September 15, 2015.
[3] QER (2015). Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) Report: Energy Transmission, Storage, and Distribution Infrastructure, April 2015. Available at: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/04/f22/QER-ALL%20FINAL_0.pdf. Accessed on September 15, 2015, pp. S-10
[4] QER (2015), pp. 3-6
[5] QER (2015), pp. S-22

Photo: Cover of the Quadrennial Energy Review (QER)

Creating sustainable solutions to strengthen food security
Untitled

By Cheng-Hao Shih
Sept. 19, 2015

A recent World Resources Institute’s report titled Creating a Sustainable Food Future provides a comprehensive analysis of the current challenges facing global agricultural and food production industry.

According to the report, global agricultural and food supply need to be readjusted to meet the demand of a growing global population. The agricultural production chain has to supply more food and provide more economic opportunities for the growing global community while at the same time pursuing strategies to reduce its environmental impacts, ecosystem degradation and address climate change.

Regarding economic development and poverty concerns, the report suggests that the current agriculture industry should develop and expand in a way that provides more economic opportunities for the rural poor, especially for women farm workers. The majority of the agricultural workforces in developing countries are women. Increasing women’s income can effectively alleviate hunger and strengthen rural livelihoods, reduce poverty, and enhance food security for the local communities which also addressing gender inequality [1].

In terms of the challenges of land use and biodiversity, the report notes that current expansion of farmland has caused serious ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss. In addition, this growing agricultural production leads to more greenhouse gas emissions and poses a great climate change impact to the global environment.

The technology trend and the modern profit-oriented market system have greatly affected our present agricultural industry. Most of the farmers adopted scientifically bred seeds and chemical fertilizer to increase their yield. This trend has seriously altered our recognition and behavior towards our daily food demand and consumption. Hence, it is critical for the consumer to realize such changes and alter our behavior accordingly.

The challenges of strengthening food security and improving sustainable food production systems cannot be addressed separately as single-aspect issues. They are broad and highly interconnected issues that require interdisciplinary knowledge, supportive policy options, well-developed institutional capacity and adequate investment in order to holistically identify and address the underlying economic, environmental and equity concerns in the agricultural sector. Consequently, to achieve the desired sustainable food future, policy makers should first understand the broadness and complexity of the issue. Through this understanding, we may be able to find sustainable pathways for creating win-win solutions and encouraging governments, the private sector, and civil society to work together with conviction in solving this issue.

Notes
Source: http://www.wri.org/publication/creating-sustainable-food-future-interim-findings

Photo: World Resources Institute/Creating a Sustainable Food Future Report

CEEP Director Featured in NBC News Story on President Obama’s Trip to Alaska
Obama Alaska trip

September 14, 2015

Featured in the NBC News top story Breaking the Ice: Obama Seeks to Cement Climate Change Legacy, CEEP director, Dr. John Byrne, discusses President Obama’s recent trip to the Alaskan Arctic and the administration’s increasingly forceful climate change policy. Dr. Byrne is a Distinguished Professor of Energy and Climate Policy and Director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy (CEEP) at the University of Delaware.

President Obama’s high profile trip to the Alaskan Artic is the first by a sitting president, and represents the administration’s continuing aggressive push to highlight the impact of climate change in advance of a critical United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP-21) meeting in Paris this coming December.

In his first inaugural address, President Obama promised to “restore science to its rightful place” and “roll back the specter of a warming planet.” But as the nation struggled to recover from job losses amid the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, climate change took a back seat. Moreover, the Obama administration’s urgency of cushioning the impacts of global financial crisis and climate change through green jobs in his first term did not fully resonate with the American public and faced congressional challenges.

“The whole green jobs efforts was a response to (the economic downturn),” Dr Byrne is quoted in the article. He notes the administration’s most dramatic actions on climate change in his second term have been largely through executive actions.

“He has changed direction and is speaking much more clearly about the risk that we face,” Dr. Byrne said. “The science has gotten a lot better and the confirming evidence is very strong.”

Dr. Byrne has contributed since 1992 to Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and shares the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the Panel’s authors. He is the architect of the Sustainable Energy Utility and its sustainable energy finance program, which received U.S. White House recognition as part of the nation’s Better Buildings Challenge. The Asian Development Bank has also recommended the model to its member countries.

About the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy (CEEP)
Established in 1980 at the University of Delaware, the Center is a leading institution for interdisciplinary education, research, and advocacy in energy and environmental policy. In 1993, CEEP was asked to develop a University-wide program for graduate study and research in energy and environmental policy and to expand its mission to formally include the topics of environmental justice and sustainable development. In 1997, CEEP created the first graduate Energy and Environmental Policy (ENEP) degrees in the U.S. The University of Delaware granted permanent status to the ENEP degrees in 2003. From its inception, CEEP has operated a research and advocacy program that is undertaken at international, regional, national, state, and local scales. Typically, CEEP faculty and graduate students accept 15-20 projects each year. Often conducted with partners, the yearly program varies by topic (ranging from climate change to urban environmental justice to water equity and sustainable energy development) and includes several sponsors (e.g., foundations, governments and UN organizations). In certain cases, CEEP chooses to internally support projects of interest to its members. Today, graduate education is offered by the Center in doctoral (PhD-ENEP) and master (MEEP) programs. CEEP is the principal academic and research unit for graduate study in the areas of energy and environmental policy, environmental justice and sustainable development at the University of Delaware. Annually, over 75 students from more than 20 countries study and pursue research at the Center, together with its eight core faculty, seven adjunct faculty and visiting researchers, faculty and activists from around the world.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Notes
Breaking the Ice: Obama Seeks to Cement Climate Change Legacy

Metrics for evaluating energy and environmental sustainability: How to improve the current index systems
sustainability

By Joohee Lee
April 21, 2015

Often times, it is not easy to assess performance of energy and environmental policies because it take a long time for the effects to be observed and some of them are simply difficult to quantify. A variety of efforts have been made by intergovernmental organizations, research institutes, and individual scholars to develop global indices for energy and environmental sustainability which enable users to compare relevant policy performance at a country level.

A good environmental index can serve many roles. First, it allows policy makers to fathom a changing trend of the country’s environmental performance over time and navigate future discourses over sustainability issues. It can also encourage countries to take into account trade-offs between different dimensions and develop more balanced policies. In addition, researchers can take advantage of the index by using it as a variable in empirical models and analyses. In this article, two existing indices – the Environmental Performance Index and the Energy Sustainability Index – will be introduced and reviewed in attempt to understand how they are dealing with difficulties assessing a wide spectrum of energy and environmental policies.

Environmental Performance Index
Designed by the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy partnered with other academic and intergovernmental entities, the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) is a metric to measure how well countries implement and perform on environmental policies. The index focuses on two broad policy objectives: protection of human health from environmental risks and protection of ecological systems [1]. The ‘environmental health’ dimension consists of three categories related to human security – health impacts, air quality, and water & sanitation. The ‘ecosystem vitality’ dimension includes categories directly related to environmental integrity – water resources, agriculture, forests, fisheries, biodiversity & habitat, and climate & energy [1]. Each category of the index is scored by one to four quantifiable indicators which reflect the level of execution and accomplishment of relevant national policies. For instance, the ‘Climate and Energy’ category is evaluated based on three indicators – trend in carbon intensity, change of trend in carbon intensity, and trend in CO2 emissions per kWh. In order to make the index fair and comparable, data for each indicator are standardized and weighted to create a policy issue score ranging from 0 to 100 (with 100 being closest to the policy target) [2]. With the overall scores integrating two objectives, the 2014 EPI indexed 178 countries having Switzerland at the top of the list same as the 2012 EPI result.

Energy Sustainability Index
With more focus on energy issues, the World Energy Council (WEC)’s Energy Sustainability Index, also known as the Energy Trilemma Index, is constructed to measure each nation’s energy policy and performance from three perspectives – energy security, energy equity, and environmental sustainability. According to the 2014 Energy Trilemma Index, Switzerland was ranked in the top place obtaining a high evaluation on the environmental sustainability category, followed by Sweden and Norway [3]. Similar to the EPI, it uses country-level data and ranks 129 countries with aggregate scores of the three dimensions. In this way, the index reveals the extent to which the country balances energy demands to deliver more sustainable energy systems [3]. A notable feature of the WEC’s index is the inclusion of ‘energy equity’ issues by measuring energy affordability and accessibility. Finding proper indicators for energy equity can be challenging because goals for energy equity are not usually quantitative and are often not on the priority list of policy makers. The WEC’s index incorporates country’s average cost of electricity (USD per kWh) and population with access to electricity (%) as indicators for energy affordability and accessibility, respectively [4].

For a more comprehensive index system
Both the Environmental Performance Index and the Energy Sustainability Index built on very comprehensive approaches for evaluation of energy and environmental performance. However, as the EPI developers point out by themselves, there is still room for improvement. For example, the current index systems do not address the environmental and social impacts of controversial policies such as nuclear power and carbon capture and storage. Although the relationship between GDP and CO2 emissions (i.e., carbon intensity) is included in both the EPI and the WEC’s index, it does not necessarily capture inequality in burden-sharing of carbon reductions across the population and countries.

By expanding the scope of the current index systems in such a way as to embrace the social equity dimension, the indices will be able to provide more meaningful insights on a country’s performance on energy and environmental policies and projects.

Notes
[1] Environmental Performance Index (EPI). (2014). 2014 Environmental Performance Index: Full Report and Analysis. Retrieved from http://epi.yale.edu/files/2014_epi_report.pdf
[2] EPI. (n.d.). The 2014 EPI Framework & Calculating the EPI. Retrieved from http://epi.yale.edu/our-methods
[3] World Energy Council (WEC). (2014). 2014 Energy Trilemma Index: Benchmarking the sustainability of national energy systems. Retrieved from http://www.worldenergy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/20141105-Index-report.pdf
[4] WEC. (n.d.). The Index Methodology. Retrieved from http://www.worldenergy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Country-profile-how-to-read.pdf

Photo credit: Amy Weinfurter: Yale/CityGreen

Unconventional truth about nuclear power and technological society
Japan Nuclear

By Jeongseok Seo
April 16, 2015

It was four years ago that a single event changed the lives of people in Fukushima completely. The explosion of three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station forced most of the residents to abandon their long-held livelihoods. Sadly, they may not be able to return to their homes soon due to the radiation levels near the power plants which are still well above the allowable limit [1][2]. Concerns have grown further as an increasing number of young children in the region are suffering from thyroid cancer, which is considered a primary health effect from radiation exposure [3][4]. In spite of ongoing and growing problems, however, the Japanese government has been pushing to restart idled nuclear reactors, and the country’s nuclear watchdog has recently approved the restart of two reactors in south-west Japan [2].

Across the East Sea, the regulators in South Korea have also made a similar decision recently. They approved an extension in operation of a 32-year-old reactor at the Wolsong Nuclear Power Complex in southeast region of the peninsula. This reactor, the second oldest among 23 reactors in the country, has been out of operation for the last three years after having completed its design lifespan of 30 years [5]. According to the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission, the Korean government’s nuclear watchdog agency, the restart decision is based on comprehensive evaluations by experts, and the reactor passed stress and other safety tests to see if it could resist disasters, such as earthquakes [5]. However, some local residents and civic groups oppose the decision, citing its closed-door decision process and the failure of the government to disclose vital information [6].

In spite of the consequences of the reactor meltdown in Fukushima and the safety concerns about the Wolsong reactor, the decisions by the Japanese and Korean governments illustrate a characteristic of modern ‘technological society.’ According to Jacque Ellul, who analyzed the phenomenon, technological society is governed by technique, which does not just mean machines or technology but is “the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity” [7]. It is built and maintained based on the principle of rationality and efficiency, and generates a belief that continuous technological advances lead to social progress. In modern societies like as Japan and South Korea, belief in the social benefits of technique is widespread, technical activities often regarded as superior to nontechnical activities, even ones intended to reflect social preferences for constraints on technical progress [9].

One anecdote illustrates how technological society operates. There was no social and economic reason to strive for nuclear power in the 1960s when the technology began use in several countries. In fact, cheaper sources of electricity supply existed with lower social risks. Nonetheless, technological societies, often without social consent, adopted nuclear power. J. Robert Oppenheimer’s remark captures modern thinking on this score: “When I saw how to do it, it was clear to me that one had to at least make the thing. The [hydrogen bomb] program … was technically so sweet that you could not argue about that” [8]. In many ways, the rise of nuclear power has been seen as a logical step in technological progress, too “sweet” at least for experts and political elites to ignore.

Supporters of nuclear power frequently rely on acclaimed values of technique, making nuclear energy an imperative rather than choice. Recent negotiations with Iran, the U.S., China, Russia, the UK and France reinforce the message: nuclear power is to be regarded as a proper desire to modernize a country’s energy system and the challenge is how to accomplish this without also realizing the ability to advance capabilities to produce nuclear weapons. A distinctly modern discourse on progress!

Notes
[1] U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Radiation Dose Limits for Individual Members of the Public. Accessed on March 11, 2015. http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/cfr/part020/part020-1301.html
[2] The Guardian. Japan remembers the 18,000 victims of 2011’s triple disaster. March 11, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/11/japan-remembers-the-18000-victims-of-2011s-triple-disaster-fukushima
[3] Kim I.J. 2015. Child thyroid cancer increases by 200 times. March 11, 2015. http://www.ohmynews.com/NWS_Web/Tenman/report_last.aspx?CNTN_CD=A0002088659
[4] US EPA. Radiation and Health. Accessed on March 11, 2015. http://www.epa.gov/rpdweb00/understand/health_effects.html
[5] Korea Nuclear Safety and Security Commission. Accessed on March 11, 2015. http://www.nssc.go.kr/nssc/notice/report.jsp?mode=view&article_no=16871
[6] Business Korea. Growing Opposition to Decision to Re-operate Wolsong-1 Nuclear Power Plant. March 3, 2015. http://www.businesskorea.co.kr/article/9334/nuclear-power-controversy-growing-opposition-decision-re-operate-wolsong-1-nuclear
[7] Jacque Ellul. The Technological Society. New York: Vintage Books (1964)
[8] Langdon Winner. Autonomous Technology: Technics-out-of-Control as a Theme in Political Thought (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1977)
[9] Byrne J. and Hoffman M., “The Ideology of Progress and the Globalization of Nuclear Power,” in J. Byrne and S. Hoffman eds. 1996. Governing the Atom: The Politics of Risk (New Brunswick, NJ and London: Transaction Publisher)

Smart ideas: Jeju island smart grid test-bed to optimise energy usage through the use of renewable energy
jejus

By Soojin Shin
April 14, 2015

Widespread deployment of smart grids could play a valuable role in achieving a more secure and sustainable energy future. Smart grids are able to handle fluctuations from sources such as solar and wind while also improving demand-side efficiency [1]. Also, smart grids are an important element for expanding the use of a number of low-carbon technologies, including electric vehicles [2].

South Korea’s state-run transmission operator, Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO)’s new campaign “Global Top Green and Smart Energy Pioneer” signals its intention to redefine its business model [3], and one reflection of the new model is the development of a smart grid project that can assist KEPCO in expanding its use of new and renewable energy and encourage use of electric energy efficiency.

KEPCO has set a goal of establishing a national smart grid by 2030. In order to achieve this goal, the company has built successfully and is operating a smart grid test-bed complex on Jeju Island. The project is intended to provide a next-generation power grid that maximizes energy efficiency by incorporating IT in grid operation. Five sectors have been tested to improve power system efficiency and develop output-stabilization technology for renewable energy [4].

Jeju Island is an ideal project area because it is served by a self-contained grid. As well, it was the only site for the company’s installation of smart meters, intelligent power transmission and distribution equipment, and configuration of digital transformation systems which were undertaken in late 2011. Currently it is introducing a real-time pricing system and has installed an electric vehicle charging station, enabling the company to study integration of renewable energy generation and electric vehicle operations into the power network [5].

KEPCO is focusing on four key areas: peak load reduction, reduction in power transmission and distribution losses, integration of renewable energy into the grid and strategies to reduce the number and length of blackouts. The Jeju island test-bed results have led KEPCO to explore new opportunities in overseas markets, offering tailored package product combining standard technologies with intelligent electric power options and business models.

The state-run transmission operator is also preparing a global super grid project for the peninsular to be launched in future. With the successful and widespread development of the smart grids, societies can expect high-quality electric power service, better system reliability and quality of service which maximizes efficiency of energy use and energy savings, and higher penetration and acceleration of the use of renewable to capture environmental benefits.

Notes
[1] Kaygusuz K. (2011). Energy services and energy poverty for sustainable rural development, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 15 (2011) 936–947
[2] IEA, available from http://www.iea.org/topics/electricity/subtopics/smartgrids/
[3] Korea Joongang Daily, available from http://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/news/article/article.aspx?aid=2978780
[4] Korea Electric Power Corporation, available from http://cyber.kepco.co.kr/kepco/KE/I/htmlView/KEIAHP00112.do?menuCd=FN010203
[5] Korea Smart Grid Institute, available from http://www.smartgrid.or.kr/09smart2-1a.php

Photo: Zpryme, Smart Grid Insights. South Korea: Smart Grid Revolution: zpryme

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Center for Energy Environmental Policy
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