10 climate solutions that will help us fight back
What will it take to cut global climate pollution, despite an administration in Washington determined to ignore this dangerous threat?
We crunched the numbers and found we already have the tools to make progress. We must demand action from Congress, but we’re also galvanizing partners, policymakers and world leaders to put the following solutions into action now.
Limit power plant pollution
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 major step: the 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, but the Trump administration is trying to kill it — endangering public health. We’re fighting hard to keep the standards in place.
Prioritize China's pollution problem
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 percent of its energy mix by 2030.
Reaching this goal will require sustained efforts from Beijing to transition to low-carbon fuel – 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 percent of the world’s new wind energy production that same year also took place in China. In 2015, China invested more than $100 billion in clean energy, more than double the U.S. investment.
Also promising is the nation’s commitment to creating economic incentives to lower emissions. China is on track to launch a national carbon trading program in 2017, building on the experiences of seven carbon trading pilots that EDF helped design in five cities and two provinces.
Expand carbon markets worldwide
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.
As carbon markets continue to expand, coordination among programs will be increasingly important to ensure environmental integrity and maximize benefits.
States, provinces, and cities worldwide are deploying carbon markets 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 Erica Morehouse, 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.”
Unleash clean energy in the U.S.
In the era of smartphones and touch screens, the U.S. electricity industry is struggling to 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 – particularly at the state level – 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, the largest test bed for smart grid technology – where residents live the clean energy future, today. The project has expanded to include thousands of participants nationwide.
End fossil fuel subsidies
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.”
Unlock the profit of living rainforests
Living rainforests have little market value when compared to the value of clearing land for lumber and agriculture. But, deforestation must be stopped. Halting deforestation and allowing degraded forests to recover could account for 24 percent to 30 percent of global annual 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 could keep forests standing and increase GDP.
© szefei / Shutterstock Images
Stop methane leaks
Fixing these leaks is key. Oil and gas operators should improve their own monitoring of natural gas leaks; state and national policy to reduce methane leaks across the supply chain help ensure that all sectors of the industry are doing their part.
Cut deadly soot
Soot pollution is a major health risk around the world, especially wherever traditional 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 reports by EPA, the United Nations Environment Programme and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
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.
Photo credit: Slow Life Foundation, Flickr cc
Phase out super-polluting HFCs
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are a group of manmade chemicals used for industrial processes, especially air conditioning and refrigeration. Because HFCs do not harm the ozone layer, decades ago companies began using them instead of other chemicals that were known to be damaging.
But 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.”
Fortunately, the United Nations agreed in 2016 to a landmark deal – the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol – to phase down the use of HFCs. Because HFCs have been labeled as the world’s fastest-growing group of greenhouse gases, this is a huge win for the climate. Scientists suggest that this action could prevent up to 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming by the end of the century.
Photo credit: David Hall, Flickr CC
Reduce fertilizer pollution
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: Sixteen major food suppliers representing 30 percent of all U.S. food and beverage sales are now implementing fertilizer efficiency programs.
Help us launch these solutions
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 demand action – from leaders at every level – while urging companies to adopt sustainable business practices.
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