Climate Change mitigation

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					issue Brief                                     The Council of State Governments                                          november 2007

Climate Change mitigation
  Global warming’s potential to impact          themselves to confront the matter. They
local and regional communities is vast.         have done so through myriad policies
The impacts could include an increased          such as renewable electricity standards,
number and intensity of severe weather          joining and/or forming climate initiatives
events such as hurricanes, flash floods or      with other states, and promoting the de-
heat waves; the decreased productivity          velopment of green buildings and other
of crops; or fewer days available to spend      energy efficiency measures.
on the ski slopes. The impacts could po-          This policy brief provides an overview
tentially run the gamut from economic to        of the most prevalent strategies for com-
environmental and from health to public         bating climate change. It weighs the pros
safety, affecting water supply, businesses      and cons to provide state policymakers
and the health and well-being of citizens.      options that best meet the needs of the
  Due to federal inaction on climate            state and constituents.
change, the states have taken it upon

the States Respond

Renewable electricity Standards                 found that an equal amount of electricity
                                                generated by new power plants would
                                                                                                spending on transmission by the federal
                                                                                                government has decreased by $115 million
  Renewable electricity standards (also         yield only half the new jobs created com-       a year from 1975 to 2000. The siting of the
known as renewable portfolio standards)
                                                pared to increased production through           lines has also proved difficult for states to
set a minimum amount of electricity that
                                                renewables. Further, money that is spent        accomplish. In order to increase the use
utilities must provide from renewable
                                                on renewable electricity typically stays in     of renewables, transmission challenges will
energy sources such as wind, solar, geo-
                                                the community.                                  need to be overcome.
thermal, incremental hydropower and
                                                  Downsides to the standards exist, how-
biomass. Renewable electricity standards
are usually represented as a percentage of
                                                ever. Costs for energy may increase slightly,   energy efficiency Resource Standards
                                                with the Energy Information Agency esti-          Similar to renewable electricity stan-
total electricity sold, and so far 23 states
and the District of Columbia have enacted       mating a rise of approximately 1 percent        dards, energy efficiency resource stan-
renewable electricity standards generally       over a 20 year period in retail electric        dards stipulate that a certain percentage
ranging from 10 percent to 20 percent.          rates. Another significant challenge to re-     of electricity generated must come in the
  Renewable electricity standards can pos-      newable electricity standards is the time       form of savings from enhancements to a
itively impact the climate by reducing the      it takes to implement them, generally as-       utility’s delivery system, generation and
amount of electricity generated from coal,      sumed to be five years.                         end-use. In essence, energy efficiency
and thus the total amount of emissions            Perhaps the most significant challenge        resource standards require utilities to
generated from the power sector. Ancillary      to renewable electricity standards is the       squeeze more energy out of what is
benefits of these standards include re-         state of our nation’s energy infrastructure     already generated rather than increase
duced reliance on foreign sources of oil        and the funding allotted for its upkeep         generation. In some states, these stan-
and gas (which comprise approximately           and enhancement. According to the news          dards are bundled as part of an overall
20 percent of electricity generation), sta-     source Greenwire, “there is a dearth of         renewable electricity standard.
bility in the supply and cost of electricity,   transmission lines to move energy from            Energy efficiency resource standards are
and the creation of high-tech “green” jobs.     remote wind farms and solar panels to           immediately available for every state and
A recent University of Tennessee study          customers in cities and suburbs.” Further,      can come online quickly. These standards
permit states to moderate demand growth                       ing for these programs. Approximately                cies representing myriad interests and re-
in electricity and reduce greenhouse gases                    half the states have public benefit funds            sponsibilities, “found that the financial ben-
while establishing a renewable energy
infrastructure. According to Bill Prindle
                                                              for various programs.
                                                                Eight states—California, Connecticut,
                                                                                                                   efits of green buildings are 10 times larger
                                                                                                                   than the average additional cost of building       Due to federal inaction
of the American Council for an Energy
Efficient Economy, “Since 1970, energy ef-
                                                              Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey,
                                                              Pennsylvania and Texas—have energy ef-
                                                                                                                   them.” In addition, numerous reports have
                                                                                                                   cited the improved health and productiv-           on climate change,
ficiency has met 77 percent of new energy
service demands in the U.S, while new
                                                              ficiency resource standards.                         ity results for students and workers that
                                                                                                                   have accompanied green buildings.                  the states have taken
energy supplies have contributed only 23                      green Buildings                                                                                         it upon themselves to
percent of new energy service demands.”                         States are also adopting Green Globe               Climate action initiatives
Thus energy efficiency resource standards
have vast potential. They also serve to fos-
                                                              or LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy
                                                              and Environmental Design) standards
                                                                                                                     Climate initiatives such as the
                                                                                                                   Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas
                                                                                                                                                                      confront the matter.
ter job creation, stabilize electricity prices                                                                     Initiative and the Western Regional
                                                              for public buildings as a way to mitigate
and provide an opportunity for states that                                                                         Climate Action Initiative, involve a co-
                                                              climate change and save on energy costs.
have fewer renewable resources to impact                                                                           alition of states in combating climate
                                                              According to the EPA, buildings in the
energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.                                                                           change. These programs seek to reduce
                                                              United States contribute approximately                                                                Manitoba. The Western initiative’s goal                        resulting in emissions that are still gener-                   permitted to request waivers for more
  However, a report prepared for the                                                                               greenhouse gases on a regional scale and
                                                              38 percent of the nation’s total carbon                                                               is “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions                         ated beyond the desired level. By work-                        stringent air quality controls under the
Edison Electric Institute, which represents                                                                        will attempt to do so through the use
                                                              dioxide emissions. Thus, buildings repre-                                                             in the West to 15 percent below 2005                           ing cooperatively, states can minimize                         Clean Air Act, though other states are free
investor-owned utilities, cautions that ap-                                                                        of cap-and-trade programs. A cap-and-
                                                              sent a significant source from which to                                                               levels by 2020.”                                               the potential for leakage.                                     to adopt California’s measures. If California
propriate financial incentives need to be                                                                          trade program limits the total amount of
                                                              reduce emissions.                                                                                       Since electricity is often imported by                                                                                      is successful in its waiver request, 14 other
in place when pursuing efficiency. These
mechanisms, such as decoupling, should                          And green buildings are affordable. A
                                                                                                                   greenhouse gas emissions for the entire
                                                                                                                   economy or a sector of the economy,
                                                                                                                                                                    one state from another, regional ini-                          California’s Request to                                        states have indicated they will adopt the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  regulations as well. According to the
not penalize utilities for producing and                      study conducted in Minnesota found that
                                                              green buildings generally pay for them-
                                                                                                                   typically from electricity producers or
                                                                                                                                                                    tiatives serve to minimize the impact
                                                                                                                                                                    of leakage that often results when
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Cover greenhouse gases                                         Congressional Research Service, together
selling less electricity.
  One measure to offset the cost of                           selves within three years. Even though
                                                                                                                   fuel suppliers. Allowances equal to one
                                                                                                                   unit of emissions (1 ton CO2) are then
                                                                                                                                                                    single states attempt to address climate                       from motor Vehicles                                            with California, these states account for 44
                                                              green buildings often cost 2 percent                                                                  change. Leakage occurs when a state                                                                                           percent of the total U.S. population.
implementing energy efficiency resource                                                                            allocated or auctioned, not to exceed                                                                             California has requested a waiver from
                                                                                                                                                                    limits greenhouse gases from electric-                                                                                          The program—which applies to fleet
standards is through the use of public                        more to build, a report commissioned for             the sector cap limit. Producers that can                                                                        the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
                                                                                                                                                                    ity producers within its borders, but                                                                                         averages, not individual vehicles—would
benefit funds, which are small charges to                     California’s Sustainable Building Task Force,        maximize efficiency and reduce their                                                                            to control greenhouse gas emissions from
                                                                                                                                                                    imports electricity from another state,                                                                                       require model year 2009 vehicles and
customers’ utilities bills that provide fund-                 a composition of more than 40 state agen-            emissions at low cost (relative to the                                                                          motor vehicles. California is the only state
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  later to limit emissions to approximately
                                                                                                                   cost of the allowance) would be able to                                                                                                                                        30 percent below 2002 emission levels by
                                                                                                                   trade their remaining allowances for a                                                                                                                                         2016. Since transportation accounts for the
                           States with Renewable electricity Standards                                             profit to producers that generated more                      States looking to adopt Ca greenhouse gases emission controls                                                     second highest percentage of emissions
                                                                                                                   emissions than their allowance. This kind                                                                                                                                      (following electricity generators) and is
                                                                                               NH                  of trading provides companies flexibility                                                                                                      NH                              the fastest growing source of greenhouse
                                                                                                                   in choosing how to meet the program                                                                                                     VT
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  gas emissions, these regulations take into
                                                                                                              RI   goals, and was very successful in reduc-                                                                                                                 MA
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 RI               account a sizeable portion of U.S. green-
                                                                                                          CT       ing acid rain from sulfur dioxide (SO2)                                                                                                                   CT                   house gases.
                                                                                                                   and nitrogen oxide (NO x) emissions in                                                                                                               NJ
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The benefits to requiring the regula-
                                                                                                    MD             the 1990s.                                                                                                                                                                     tions across fleet averages, according to
                                                                                                                     The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative                                                                                                                                       the Congressional Research Service, is
                                                                                                                   is comprised of 10 Northeast and mid-                                                                                                                                          that “they provide substantial flexibility,
                                                                                                    RES States
                                                                                                                   Atlantic states and will utilize a cap-                                                                                                             States Looking to Adopt
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       CA GHG Emission Controls   including credit generation from alterna-
                                                                                                                   and-trade program initially on power                                                                                                                                           tive fuel vehicles and averaging, banking
                                                                                                                   plant emissions. The Western Regional                                                                                                                                          and trading of credits within and among
                                                                                                                   Climate Action Initiative is similar to the                                                                                                                                    manufacturers.”
                                                                                                                   Northeast initiative and involves Arizona,                                                                                                                                       On the downside, automobile manu-
                                                                                                                   California, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah                                                                                                                                           facturers claim that having different re-
  Source: FERC Map, June 2007. Accessed from
                                                                                                                   and Washington, as well as the Canadian            Source: Congressional Research Service. California’s Waiver Request to Control Greenhouse Gases Under the Clean Air.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  quirements in different states creates an                   provinces of British Columbia and                  Updated August 20, 2007. James E. McCarthy.                                                                                 undue burden and makes it difficult to

  Climate Change mitigation                                                                                                        The Council of State Governments                                                                                                                  
                                               Renewable electricity standards, energy efficiency measures,
                                               climate initiatives and motor vehicle greenhouse gas emission
                                               regulations are all steps states have taken to decrease the
                                               impact of climate change.

manufacture and sell vehicles. If 14 states    renewable energy could reduce carbon                    tions exist, including promoting energy
adopt California’s measures, however,          emissions from electric producers by 46                 efficient products and acquiring hybrid
some of these manufacturing concerns           percent over a 20 year period. Over an                  fleets. To quote the U.S. Supreme Court
could be alleviated.                           even longer period, Alan Nogee, direc-                  in Massachusetts v. EPA: “Agencies, like
                                               tor of the Clean Energy Program for the                 legislatures, do not generally resolve
Conclusion                                     Union of Concerned Scientists estimates                 massive problems in one fell regulatory
  Renewable electricity standards, energy      that number could jump between 60 per-                  swoop. … They instead whittle away at
efficiency measures, climate initiatives and   cent and 80 percent. Similarly, according               them over time, refining their preferred
motor vehicle greenhouse gas emission          to the Congressional Research Service, if               approach as circumstances change and
regulations are all steps states have taken    the 15 states that have indicated an intent             as they develop a more-nuanced under-
to decrease the impact of climate change.      to regulate motor vehicle emissions do so,              standing of how best to proceed.”
The potential for these sources to impact      reductions in greenhouse gases from tail-
                                                                                                       —Doug Myers is an energy and
global warming is vast. For example, the       pipes could total upwards of 200 million
                                                                                                        environmental policy analyst at
Interlaboratory Working Group, a col-          tons of carbon dioxide annually.
                                                                                                        The Council of State Governments.
laborative between five U.S. Department          There is no silver bullet for climate
of Energy Laboratories, estimates that         change. Many measures will be utilized
a combination of energy efficiency and         to repair the earth’s climate. More op-

         Trends in America
                                                          the most dominant characteristic of the 21st century is not just change, but the rate of
                                                          change. Understanding change is the first step toward identifying and implementing
                                                          effective responses. trends in america issue Briefs are designed to help state leaders
                                                          promote positive change through forward-looking policies and strategic investments.