10 climate solutions that will help turn the corner

What will it take to get climate pollution going in the right direction — down — by 2020?

We crunched the numbers, and found we already have the tools we need to turn the corner on climate change. Now, the task is to galvanize partners, policy makers and world leaders to put the following solutions into action.

Limit power plant pollution

The Clean Power Plan, finalized in the summer of 2015, is one of the most significant ways to reduce climate pollution in the U.S.

One of the most significant ways to reduce climate pollution in the U.S. is to target the single biggest source of carbon pollution: power plants.

A solution is in the works. EPA’s Clean Power Plan puts national standards in place, for the first time ever. Renewable energy and energy efficiency are key pillars.

The plan was finalized in the summer of 2015. However, fossil fuel groups and conservative lawmakers will continue to try and block the plan, so we’re fighting hard to keep the standards in place.

pollution from power plants
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Prioritize China's pollution problem

If we can help China reduce emissions, we’ll go a very long way to turning the corner on climate change
China's emissions projections with no change

No climate plan is complete without a systematic strategy for reducing China’s emissions. Fortunately, in 2014, the nation pledged to cap greenhouse gases and increase non-fossil fuel to 20% of its energy mix by 2030.

Reaching this goal will be challenging, yet not impossible—China burns half the world’s coal, but it is also the largest investor in clean energy. In 2013, China installed more solar capacity than the U.S. did over the previous six decades, and 45% of the world’s new wind energy production that same year also took place in China.

Also promising is the nation’s commitment to creating economic incentives to lower emissions. So far, five cities and two provinces have carbon markets underway. In rural areas, emerging programs allow poor farmers to earn income by adopting no-till farming, waste-to-energy and other practices that cut emissions.

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Expand carbon markets worldwide

States, provinces, and cities worldwide are deploying carbon markets like California's in an effort to cut pollution and accelerate low-carbon economic growth.

Carbon markets are powerful tools for fighting climate change, since they create flexible economic incentives for reducing greenhouse gas pollution. They also reward innovators who develop cleaner technologies.

States, provinces, and cities worldwide are deploying them in an effort to cut pollution and accelerate low-carbon economic growth. This momentum is especially welcome given that global and national actions to fight climate change are often characterized by frustratingly slow progress.

“Cities and states are on the front lines of climate impacts, and are leading the charge on climate action,” explains EDF’s Derek Walker, a climate policy expert. “These leaders are beginning to see the multiple benefits of taking action now—and they realize that the future of people and the planet are at stake.”

map of carbon markets world wide

World Bank map of carbon pricing worldwide

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Unleash clean energy in the U.S.

To clear the path for clean energy, we must update laws and open electricity markets to entrepreneurs, innovation and clean energy resources.

In the era of smartphones and touch screens, the U.S. power structure still cannot effectively harness new energy innovations and resources, including wind and solar.

What stands in the way? Obsolete laws governing electric companies. To clear the path for clean energy, we must update these laws and open electricity markets to entrepreneurs, innovation and renewable power.

To help lawmakers see what this means, EDF helped create Pecan Street Inc., a neighborhood in Austin, Texas, where residents live the clean energy future, today. The project has expanded to include thousands of participants nationwide.

Pecan street residents
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End fossil fuel subsidies

Phasing out fuel subsidies would be a major victory in the fight against climate change, and is considered one of the top ways to shift the entire world toward a clean energy economy.
power plant

Photo credit: Roy Luck, Flickr CC

Globally, for every $1 spent to support renewable energy, another $6 are spent on fossil fuel subsidies. These subsidies are intended to protect companies and consumers from fluctuating fuel prices, but what they actually do is keep dirty energy companies very profitable.

We are subsidizing the very behavior that is destroying our planet.

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund

Phasing out subsidies would be a victory in the fight against climate change, and it’s considered critical to shifting the world to a clean energy economy.

But progress is slow, due to the global complexity of the subsidies, and to the lobbyists fighting to keep them in place. As the International Energy Agency explains, “steep economic, political and social hurdles need to be overcome.”

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Unlock the profit of living rainforests

The REDD program keeps forests standing and increases GDP.

Living rainforests have little market value when compared to the value of clearing land for lumber and agriculture. But, deforestation must be slowed, as it accounts for about 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Enter an economic concept known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), which is catching on in the Amazon, Mexico and Indonesia.

In a REDD program, a jurisdiction that commits to reducing deforestation below an established baseline receives valuable credits in a carbon market for its contribution to reducing carbon emissions. In Brazil, a program like this is working—keeping forests standing and increasing GDP.

tropical rainforest

© szefei / Shutterstock Images

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Stop methane leaks

Methane and other short-term climate pollutants account for 1/3 of the warming our planet is experiencing.
Methane is 84x more potent than CO2 in the short term

About 1/3 of the warming we’re experiencing today is due to methane and similar climate pollutants. In the U.S., natural gas production and distribution is the biggest source of methane leaks.

Fixing these leaks is key. Natural gas companies and utilities should improve their own monitoring of natural gas leaks, but a national policy to reduce methane leaks across the supply chain would ensure that all sectors of the natural gas industry are doing their part.

Lawmakers are starting to wake up to the threats of methane. In 2014, Colorado was the first state to adopt regulations for methane pollution. In 2015, the White House announced plans for a federal limit on methane emissions.

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Cut deadly soot

Soot pollution is a major health risk around the world, especially in regions of the world where primitive cookstoves are still used to prepare meals and provide home heating.

Soot pollution is a major health risk around the world, especially wherever primitive cookstoves are still used to prepare meals and provide home heating. Soot can be inhaled, leading to numerous illnesses.

The primary component of soot is black carbon, which harms the climate by directly absorbing light and reducing the reflectivity of snow and ice, and by interacting with clouds, according to a 2010 EPA report.

In developed nations, black carbon is on the decline, largely due to tighter controls on the burning of diesel fuel. The outlook is less certain in developing nations, although awareness of the problem is growing thanks to programs such as the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

Solid fuel cookstove

Traditional solid fuel cookstove

Photo credit: Slow Life Foundation, Flickr cc

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Phase out super-polluting HFCs

Globally, if nothing is done, emissions of this group of super pollutants are expected to increase as demands for refrigeration grow.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are a group of man-made chemicals used for industrial processes, especially air conditioning and refrigeration. Since HFCs do not harm the ozone layer, decades ago companies began using them instead of other chemicals that were known to be damaging.

Unfortunately, HFCs aren’t good for the climate. When it comes to trapping heat, they are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide over the first few years they’re emitted, earning them the name “super pollutants.”

The U.S., China and the EU have agreements to lower the use of these chemicals, buoyed by groups efforts like Greenpeace’s Greenfreeze program. However, globally, if nothing is done, emissions of this group of super pollutants are expected to increase as demands for refrigeration and air conditioning grow. 

air conditioners

Photo credit: David Hall, Flickr CC

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Reduce fertilizer pollution

Fifteen major food suppliers representing 30% of all food and beverage sales are now implementing fertilizer efficiency programs.
Tractor fertilizing

Photo credit: istockphoto

Fertilizer is the engine of agriculture, helping crops grow. But if it’s applied imprecisely, the excess can convert to nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Fortunately, advances in science are allowing farmers to use more precise levels of fertilizer, saving them money and reducing waste. However, it will require broader action to fix the problem fast enough to make an impact on climate change.

To get there, we’re working across the entire grain supply chain—starting with the major retailers who sell mass quantities of grain-based products—and encouraging them to buy only from suppliers who use fertilizer-efficient grains. Walmart is one such retailer with a program like this, and the impact is huge: Fifteen major food suppliers representing 30% of all food and beverage sales are now implementing fertilizer efficiency programs.

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Help us launch these solutions

If these solutions are implemented, they'd help change the trajectory of emissions; so that they finally peak and begin going down—for the first time in more than 200 years.

We know how to reduce climate pollution. If these solutions are implemented, they’d help change the trajectory of emissions; so that they finally peak and begin going down—for the first time in more than 200 years.

What we need to do now is convince leaders to create laws that help these solutions get underway while urging companies to adopt sustainable business practices.

Join more than 1.5 million EDF members. We’ll send you urgent news updates and tell you when your voice is needed, so you can do your part—and help us do ours. (Read our privacy policy.)

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