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Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy / Edition 2

Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy / Edition 2


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With the effects of climate change already upon us, the need to cut global greenhouse gas emissions is nothing less than urgent. It’s a daunting challenge, but the technologies and strategies to meet it exist today. A small set of energy policies, designed and implemented well, can put us on the path to a low carbon future. Energy systems are large and complex, so energy policy must be focused and cost-effective. One-size-fits-all approaches simply won’t get the job done. Policymakers need a clear, comprehensive resource that outlines the energy policies that will have the biggest impact on our climate future, and describes how to design these policies well.

Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy is the first such guide, bringing together the latest research and analysis around low carbon energy solutions. Written by Hal Harvey, CEO of the policy firm Energy Innovation, with Robbie Orvis and Jeffrey Rissman of Energy Innovation, Designing Climate Solutions is an accessible resource on lowering carbon emissions for policymakers, activists, philanthropists, and others in the climate and energy community. In Part I, the authors deliver a roadmap for understanding which countries, sectors, and sources produce the greatest amount of greenhouse gas emissions, and give readers the tools to select and design efficient policies for each of these sectors. In Part II, they break down each type of policy, from renewable portfolio standards to carbon pricing, offering key design principles and case studies where each policy has been implemented successfully.

We don’t need to wait for new technologies or strategies to create a low carbon future—and we can’t afford to. Designing Climate Solutions gives professionals the tools they need to select, design, and implement the policies that can put us on the path to a livable climate future.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781610919562
Publisher: Island Press
Publication date: 11/01/2018
Edition description: None
Pages: 376
Sales rank: 345,894
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Hal Harvey is the CEO of Energy Innovation, a San Francisco-based energy and environmental policy firm. He was the founder of ClimateWorks Foundation and Energy Foundation, and served as Environment Program Director at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. He served on energy panels appointed by Presidents Bush (41) and Clinton, and currently serves as President and Chairman of the Board for several financial, science, and philanthropic groups. He is also a Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment at the Paulson Institute. Harvey has B.S. and M.S. degrees from Stanford University in Engineering, specializing in Energy Planning.

Robbie Orvis is Director of Energy Policy Design at Energy Innovation: Policy and Technology, LLC. Robbie has worked with numerous governments on climate and energy policy, including China, Indonesia, Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and Poland, among others. His work has been featured in Forbes, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other publications. Robbie holds a Master of Environmental Management from Yale University and a B.S. from UC Berkeley.

Jeffrey Rissman is the Industry Program Director and Head of Modeling at Energy Innovation: Policy and Technology, LLC. His work has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg, The New York Times, and other publications. Jeffrey holds an M.S. in Environmental Sciences and Engineering and a Masters of City and Regional Planning from UNC Chapel Hill.

Read an Excerpt


Putting Us on Track to a Low-Carbon Future

As outlined in the Introduction, significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. But how much effort is needed? What types of reductions and emissions pathways are needed in order to avoid the worst parts of climate change? And how we do know where to focus our efforts? This chapter tackles these questions and highlights the sectors where our efforts will have the greatest impact.

Avoiding the Worst Impacts of Climate Change

The level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is measured in parts per million, or the number of greenhouse gas particles per million particles in the atmosphere. The impact of gases other than carbon dioxide is measured by equating those gases to an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide, called carbon dioxide equivalent (COe). The equivalence of gases ranges widely. For example, 1 molecule of methane equals about 30 molecules of carbon dioxide, whereas other chemicals such as fluorinated gases, used primarily as refrigerants, are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide per molecule. Notably, the equivalence value varies based on the timeframe over which the gas is evaluated (methane has a higher equivalence over 20 years than over 100 years, for example) and as the science of climate change advances. The total amount of COe in the atmosphere includes CO as well as all the other gases that contribute to climate change.

There is broad consensus that preventing the worst impacts of climate change requires keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius through the end of the 21st century. To have at least a 50/50 chance of limiting warming to two degrees, we must limit concentrations of COe to 500 parts per million by 2100, although some overshoot of this target in previous years is okay. Yet in 2015, COe concentrations measured 485 parts per million, and they have been increasing at a rate of 2–4 parts per million per year. To achieve the 500 parts per million target by 2100, immediate on-the- ground action is needed. But what does this mean in terms of emissions?

Climate change and the warming that drives it are a function of the total amount of carbon in the atmosphere. In other words, it is a stock problem, not a flow problem, as discussed in the Introduction. Therefore, it is useful to think of emissions, and necessary emission reductions, in terms of cumulative totals rather than annual amounts. Significant action to reduce emissions will be needed throughout the 21st century, but for simplicity and given the growing uncertainty in years further out, we focus on the necessary reductions between now and 2050.

Without additional action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, just over 2 trillion tons of COe will be emitted between 2016 and 2050. Although climate models vary, they show that in order to meet the 500 parts per million target, cumulative total emission reductions of 25 to 55 percent relative to a business-as-usual scenario are necessary between 2016 and 2050.

For this book, we rely on modeling completed in 2013 as part of the Low Climate Impact Scenarios and the Implications of Required Tight Emissions Control Strategies (LIMITS) exercise. In particular we rely on the modeling done by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Joint Global Change Research Institute using the Global Change Assessment Model, evaluating emissions between 2010 and 2050. More information on the Global Change Assessment Model, the LIMITS study, and emission scenarios from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is provided in Appendix II.

The results of the LIMITS study suggest that to have a 50/50 shot at staying under two degrees of warming we need to reduce cumulative greenhouse gas emissions by at least 41 percent between 2010 and 2050 (Figure 1-1).

This value is global; emission reductions needed from individual countries will vary, depending on their development status. For example, the most industrialized countries will need to achieve significantly deeper reductions than the 41 percent global number to compensate for other emerging economies with high rates of economic development. It's also worth noting that a 41 percent reduction in cumulative emissions entails much greater annual emission reductions in later years as emission reductions are phased in. In 2050, global annual emission reductions of 65 percent relative to business-as-usual will be necessary, with the more economically developed regions needing to achieve reductions of 70 percent or more.

This book evaluates potential reductions at a global scale. According to the Global Change Assessment Model results discussed earlier, we need cumulative greenhouse gas emission reductions of just over 40 percent between 2020 and 2050 relative to business as usual to give ourselves a 50/50 shot at staying under two degrees of warming. This is the target we aim for in this book.

The Paris Agreement: A Good First Step

In December 2015, 189 countries responsible for nearly 99 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions signed the Paris Agreement, in which they agreed to make an effort to limit emissions over the next 10 to 30 years. The centerpiece of the Paris Agreement is each country's specific emission reductions targets.

If the targets are all met, they would collectively move emissions a good share of the way to the two-degree pathway. As shown in Figure 1-2, the Paris Agreement commitments, on their own, move the emission curve about a third of the way to the two-degree pathway relative to business-as-usual. If existing policies and the Paris pledges are extended to 2100 with the same degree of effort, the emission curve moves about 80 percent of the way to the two-degree pathway. Despite the United States' decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, commitments from remaining countries still cover more than 80 percent of the world's emissions today. Furthermore, U.S. states, cities, and businesses have expressed their commitment to meeting emission reduction targets, which will help reduce U.S. emissions.

The commitments enshrined in the Paris Agreement represent a significant diplomatic accomplishment and provide a very important impetus to move the global economy in the right direction. However, the existing commitments do not themselves add up to the two-degree pathway. And, perhaps more importantly, the pledges on their own will not result in on- the-ground emission reductions. Domestic policy is needed to drive change in the power plants, factories, buildings, vehicles, and forests. These shortcomings raise two important questions: First, how can policymakers close the gap between the existing Paris commitments and the two-degree pathway? Second, how can policymakers translate the targets into real-world emission reductions?

Focus on the Highest-Emitting Countries

Although the Paris Agreement encompasses nearly 99 percent of global emissions (not including the proposed U.S. withdrawal, which drops it down to about 82 percent), just 20 countries account for nearly 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (Figures 1-3 and 1-4). The top 20 emitting countries all submitted pledges in 2015 (although, as noted, the United States has announced its withdrawal since then), but many of these countries have the potential to significantly strengthen their commitments. For example, Climate Action Tracker, an independent group that tracks and evaluates climate policy, rates the following countries' pledges as "Inadequate": Russia (4th largest emitter), Indonesia (5th largest emitter), Japan (7th largest emitter), Canada (8th largest emitter), Australia (12th largest emitter), South Korea (13th largest emitter), and South Africa (17th largest emitter). Even the two largest emitters, China and the United States, have only "Medium" ratings for their pledges. The weak contributions from many of the top- emitting countries, including 4 of the top 10, suggest that targeting these countries for additional reductions could make a positive impact on global emissions and help move global commitments closer to the two-degree pathway.

Energy and Industrial Processes Drive Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The second and perhaps more important question is: How do countries translate pledges, which are simply high-level emission targets, into actionable policy that will achieve real-world emission reductions? Answering this question requires an assessment of what sources are responsible for greenhouse gas pollution.

Energy and industrial process (including agriculture and waste) emissions are by far the largest driver of COe emissions globally (Figure 1-5). Energy- related emissions account for just under 74 percent of global emissions, and industrial processes account for nearly 20 percent. Together, they total nearly 94 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In some countries, such as Indonesia, Brazil, and Nigeria, deforestation and other land use change emissions are significant sources of greenhouse gases.

The sources of industrial process emissions are well documented, and specific policies targeting those emissions are discussed in Chapter 12 ("Industrial Process Emission Policies"). Given the fact that energy is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, the next logical question becomes: What drives energy-related greenhouse gas emissions?

Energy-related greenhouse gas emissions are concentrated in the electricity, transportation, building, and industry sectors, with power plants generally being the largest source (Figure 1-6). These emissions come primarily from burning coal and natural gas to create power and heat and burning petroleum products to power vehicles.

A Roadmap to a Low-Carbon Future: Focus on the Biggest Sources in the Top Countries

The sector-by-sector math of CO2e emissions, overlaying the 20 countries that are the largest sources, sheds light on where to focus efforts. Quite literally, there is no path to a low-carbon future other than the list below. Every policy idea must be measured against its contribution to one or more of these goals.

Reduce Electricity Demand in the Building and Industry Sectors

Demand for electricity is driven by buildings and industry, and increasing their efficiency is a large-scale, cost-effective strategy. Efficiency is typically the most cost-effective way of reducing emissions, with initial investments paying dividends for years via reduced fuel costs.

Reduce the Carbon Intensity of Electricity Generation

Electricity sector emissions can also be lowered by reducing the carbon intensity of electricity generation. Using fossil-free technologies such as wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, and nuclear to generate electricity can avoid the emissions (and also the air quality problems) that come from burning fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas.

Reduce Transportation Emissions through Efficiency, Electrification, and Urban Mobility

The transportation sector is a large and growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. The top ways to reduce pollution from transportation are to improve vehicle fuel economy, electrify vehicles (and to simultaneously reduce the carbon intensity of electricity generation), and provide alternatives to personal vehicle travel via smart urban planning and public transit.

Reduce Non–Electricity Industry Sector Emissions

Non–electricity industry sector emissions are another large source of greenhouse gas emissions. These include primarily industrial process emissions (e.g., the chemical processes involved in cement manufacturing or natural gas venting and flaring) but also energy used for heat, as in the iron and steel industry.

Reduce Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Tropical Forest Nations

In tropical forest nations where a large share of emissions come from land use, land use change, and forestry, policymakers should aim to reduce deforestation and forest degradation. A handful of options exist to achieve these goals, including legally protecting forests through the creation of designated protected areas, payments to landowners for providing ecosystem services, and payments to landowners to remove forested land from timber production.

Although land use is an important sector for emission reductions, this book focuses on energy and industrial process emission reductions. The science, the policies, and the actors for reducing emissions from land use are very different from those for energy and industrial processes, and they deserve separate treatment from experts in land use policy.


The Paris Agreement targets, if fully achieved, get us about one-third of the way to the two-degree goal, meaning further reductions will be necessary. But more important, the commitments under the Paris Agreement are targets, and unless they are converted into highly effective, sector-specific national policies, they will achieve little. The aim of this book is to help guide that process.

The starting point is to evaluate where emissions are coming from. Energy and industrial processes are the dominant sources of greenhouse gas emissions in most economies. Within the energy sector, emissions are evenly spread across the electricity, industry, transportation, and building sectors. This assessment suggests that to reduce emissions, policymakers need to focus on reducing electricity demand in the industry and building sectors, reducing the carbon intensity of electricity generation, improving the efficiency of vehicles while providing cleaner alternatives, and reducing process emissions in the industry sector. In certain economies, a strong focus on reducing emissions from land use change is also necessary.

Now that we know what we need to do reduce emissions, the next question is: How do we achieve these goals? To examine this question, we turn next to the four essential types of energy policy.


Energy Policy Design

We have now evaluated the size of reductions necessary to put us on a path to meeting the two-degree target and examined the key sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing energy-related emissions from electricity, buildings, transportation, and industry and industrial process emissions is the only way to achieve deep decarbonization.

But how can policymakers target reductions from these sources using policy? To answer this question, it is first important to understand the four types of essential energy policy and how they reinforce and interact with one another.

Essential Energy Policy

Many policymakers understand the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gases and mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, but they need data to help sort through the many types of policies that can help. Different policies are best suited for different circumstances, and some policies that look good on paper fail to perform in the real world. Despite this complexity, a practical consensus about what works is emerging, and it combines performance standards, economic signals, and research and development (R&D). In addition to these fundamental policy types, other enabling policies are also necessary, such as strategies that can lower the financial risk for deploying emerging low- and zero-emission technologies.


Excerpted from "Designing Climate Solutions"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Hal Harvey, Robbie Orvis, and Jeffrey Rissman.
Excerpted by permission of ISLAND PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


PART I: A Roadmap for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Chapter 1. Putting Us On Track to a Low-Carbon Future
Chapter 2. Energy Policy Design
Chapter 3. How to Prioritize Policies for Emissions Reduction

PART II: The Top Policies for Greenhouse Gas Abatement
SECTION 1: The Power Sector
Chapter 4. Renewable Portfolio Standards and Feed-In Tariffs
Chapter 5. Complementary Power Sector Policies
SECTION 2: The Transportation Sector
Chapter 6. Vehicle Performance Standards
Chapter 7. Vehicle and Fuel Fees and Feebates
Chapter 8. Electric Vehicle Policies
Chapter 9. Urban Mobility Policies
SECTION 3: The Buildings Sector
Chapter 10. Building Codes and Appliance Standards
SECTION 4: The Industry Sector
Chapter 11. Industrial Energy Efficiency
Chapter 12. Industrial Process Emissions Policies
SECTION 5: Cross-Sector Policies
Chapter 13. Carbon Pricing
Chapter 14. Research and Development Policies
Chapter 15. Policies for a Post-2050 World

Appendix 1. The Energy Policy Simulator
Appendix 2. Methodology for Quantitative Policy Assessment
About the Authors


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