Status of carbon pricing worldwide. IETA
Worldwide, carbon pricing has become a cornerstone policy tool for tackling climate change. Regions pricing carbon have grown exponentially since 2009—with the majority of this “bottom-up" growth taking the form of greenhouse gas cap-and-trade programs.
According to the International Carbon Action Partnership's Status Report 2016, 40 percent of global GDP is covered by an emissions trading system (ETS)—a figure projected to increase to 49 percent in 2017. By this time next year, some 16 percent of global emissions will be covered by ETS, up from only 4 percent in 2004. Eyes are especially glued to emerging market developments across the Pacific Rim, including the world's largest GHG emitter, China, which plans to launch a national cap-and-trade program in 2017.
At the international level, additional momentum for carbon markets came with the adoption of the Paris agreement at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Article 6 of the final agreement signals a clear role that markets will play to help countries reach their national post-2020 climate targets (or “Nationally Determined Contributions" in UNFCCC speak). Specifically, Article 6 allows for cooperative efforts or emissions trading among “bottom-up" carbon markets and sets the general framework for a new UN global crediting mechanism to support sustainable development.
Paris also resulted in 18 national signatories, including the U.S., Canada and Mexico, to the New Zealand-led Ministerial Declaration on Carbon Pricing. The joint declaration supports the role of markets in the Paris agreement and will see signatories collaborate to on future market design, linking and common standards, rules and best-in-case tools.
On April 22, a number of countries will reconvene when the Paris agreement officially opens for ratification. This high-level New York ceremony is an important milestone, signaling the dawn of a new era for global climate cooperation and action. But after New York, the real work begins: negotiators now face a mountain of agreement implementation activities (e.g., form and governance of a new UN sustainable crediting mechanism) and governments must now follow through on national measures to achieve promised climate targets.
Today's action-packed North American carbon landscape gives reason for optimism. However, the regional fragmentation—combined with ebbs and flows of policy, politics and macro-economic trends—reminds us that considerable uncertainty remains to (and through) 2020.
The continent is characterized by a “mixed-bag" of subnational carbon pricing policies. In British Columbia, we see a carbon tax alongside a newly-implemented benchmark ETS (with only BC-based offsets) for growing industrial emissions. In Alberta, we see a long-standing, but now swiftly-evolving, benchmark ETS (with only Alberta-based compliance offsets) for facilities emitting more than 100 kt CO2 a year. We also have cap-and-trade programs in California-Quebec (and soon to be Ontario and Manitoba) and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, covering power sector only emissions across nine U.S. North East states.
Nationally, Canada has entered into a brave new climate world with a changing of the guard at the federal level. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with all 10 Canadian provincial and territorial Premiers in early March, resulting in the Vancouver Declaration—an agreement that commits federal and provincial governments to collaborate on a Pan-Canadian climate plan, which includes a future carbon pricing approach. Canadian leaders will reconvene in October 2016 to finalize the plan.
Beyond those listed above, many states are exploring emissions trading (or “trading ready") options to help meet future compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP) rules. But, in a recent blow to some of this state-level momentum, February saw an unexpected decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to “stay" further CPP action by the federal Agency. As a result, states are no longer required to submit their initial CPP compliance plans until outstanding legal questions, namely related to EPA exceeding its regulatory authority, are resolved—questions unlikely to be answered until 2017 or 2018.
In the meantime, developments at the subnational level will continue to define North America's climate landscape:
- Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is moving forward with its comprehensive 2016 program review to map-out post-2020 cap-and-trade program modifications and CPP compliance options. California is also in the midst of exploring potential amendments to its cap-and-trade program for CPP compliance purposes, which are expected to be implemented mid-to-late 2017.
- California is also developing its 2030 Target Scoping Plan, expected to be adopted by late 2016. Alongside this process, the state is considering a suite of amendments to its cap-and-trade regulation while discussing linkage with potential jurisdictional partners.
- Washington will soon release a revised draft Clean Air Rule, expected to be market-based, with trading and offsets to limit carbon pollution.
In late-February, Ontario unveiled its provincial cap-and-trade regulatory proposal and enabling legislation. The province plans to hold its first allowance auction in March 2017, then link to Quebec and California as soon as possible and practical.
Another U.S. federal twist was added when, mere days after the Supreme Court decision, Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the strongest Court opponents to CPP, passed away. The plan's future now becomes entangled with the highly-politicized process of nominating Scalia's replacement amid a heated election year.
Although North America has been slow to embrace emissions trading as a tool to fight climate change, the swell of activity in recent years is encouraging. The fact that more policymakers are turning to markets instead of other pricing instruments is testament to the many virtues of cap and trade, such as lower cost, flexibility and achievement of environmental goals. The stage is set for markets to get even bigger in the Americas and beyond.
Katie Sullivan is the director of The Americas and Climate Finance at the International Emissions Trading Association.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Trump Denies CDC Director's 2021 Timeline for Coronavirus Vaccine ›
- Trump Orders Hospitals to Stop Sending COVID-19 Data to CDC ... ›
- Two White House Staffers Test Positive for Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Admin to Disband Coronavirus Task Force - EcoWatch ›
- Pence Offers 'Prayers' as Hurricane Laura Hits Gulf Coast While ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Every September for the past 11 years, non-profit the Climate Group has hosted Climate Week NYC, a chance for business, government, activist and community leaders to come together and discuss solutions to the climate crisis.
- Covering the 2020 Elections as a Climate Story - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Delays 2020 Earth Overshoot Day by Three Weeks ... ›
By Elliot Douglas
The coronavirus pandemic has altered economic priorities for governments around the world. But as wildfires tear up the west coast of the United States and Europe reels after one of its hottest summers on record, tackling climate change remains at the forefront of economic policy.
- German Business Leaders Call for Climate Action With COVID-19 ... ›
- Climate Activists Protest Germany's New Datteln 4 Coal Power Plant ... ›
By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.