Two useful pieces of information:

1. A summary of the US stance on climate change as announced by Obama.This has been put together by the Climate Institute.

2.  Laura Kelly from CANA adds some commentary about the Bonn meeting in June.

Both of these issues need to be more widely covered so please pass them on.

United States steps up action on climate change

On Monday 2 June  United States President Barack Obama is expected to announce new rules to reduce carbon pollution from American coal and gas power plants. It’s the latest effort by the world’s largest economy and second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases to make significant cuts in its carbon emissions.

The new rules will add to existing federal regulations, state-based carbon pricing and renewable energy investment which have helped US emissions fall 10 per cent since 2005. Nonetheless, rising gas prices have driven increased use of coal-fired power, resulting in a 2.4 per cent increase in emissions from energy use over the last year. These actions and others in the pipeline are necessary to put the US on track to achieve its target to cut national emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020.

Obama uses regulation to cut fossil fuel emissions

The Obama Administration is making progress on the national Climate Action Plan the White House launched last year, which includes development of the following:

  • Next week’s proposed emission limits on existing fossil fuel power plants, currently producing one-third of total U.S. emissions. These limits are expected to reduce carbon pollution from more than 1000 coal and gas generators while allowing states to develop their own strategy to achieve this goal. For example, emissions may be avoided through energy efficiency and renewable energy. The rules are to be finalised within a year, and states have a further year to develop their strategies.
  • Emission limits on new coal and gas plant, which will require any new coal generators to include carbon capture and storage. These rules will be finalised in January 2015, but will apply to any construction starting after the date of proposal (September 2013).
  • Stronger regulation to reduce methane emissions (25 times more potent than carbon dioxide) from oil and gas production.
  • Emission standards for heavy trucks—responsible for 20 per cent of American transport emissions—for implementation by 2018.
  • Reducing the use of super-potent hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) through regulation and developing climate-friendly substitutes in air conditioning, refrigeration and other uses.
  • Strengthening energy efficiency standards for equipment and buildings.
  • Requiring all federal agencies to source 20 per cent of their electricity from renewables by 2020. The federal government, the single largest energy consumer in the US, has already cut its emissions by 15 per cent since 2008.

These actions build on earlier efforts, including rising emission standards for passenger vehicles and light trucks, tax credits for renewable energy and stimulus spending that financed more than $90 billion in clean energy investments.

Renewable energy is a booming industry

Twenty-nine U.S. states have mandatory renewable energy targets, while another eight have voluntary targets. Twenty have binding energy efficiency targets. These, combined with private sector investment in new areas like solar panel leasing, electric vehicles, smart grids and electricity storage, are driving growth in renewable electricity production, clean technologies and energy efficiency.

For example, in 2013 the U.S. added more than 4.7 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic capacity, a 41 per cent increase over the previous year (and about 1.5 times Australia’s total solar PV capacity). In the past five years, wind and solar power use has more than doubled; renewables now contribute 13 per cent of U.S. electricity.  With a new home installing solar panels every four minutes, solar jobs have risen to 120,000, nearly a quarter of an estimated 600,000 renewable energy jobs. Energy efficiency services employ another 380,000 Americans.

Carbon markets gather momentum

Nine northeastern states are members of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cap-and-trade system that limits electricity emissions. Since it began in 2005 the RGGI has reduced electricity emissions by 40 per cent and raised $1.5 billion, which is used for renewable energy programs, assisting consumers with power bills and adding to states’ general funds. In January 2014 the RGGI tightened the limit on emissions by 45 per cent, which has increased permit prices by one-third—from $US3 to $US4 per tonne (no permits are provided free).

California, the world’s eighth largest economy, launched its emission trading scheme in January 2013, and this year linked it with the ETS operating in Quebec, Canada. Californian carbon prices average about $US11.50.

New federal rules for power plant emissions are expected to spur more states to explore carbon trading to meet their obligations at lowest cost.

Military prepare for climate ‘conflict catalyst’

The defence establishment is sounding alarms about the security risks of climate change. The Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review 2014 warns climate change is a “catalyst of conflict” that aggravates global instability and puts greater demands on military operations and military facilities.

The military has also put significant efforts into reducing its own emissions. It is researching advanced biofuels, improving its energy efficiency and installing renewable energy at military bases. These moves also reduce costs and improve energy security, particularly in environments where fuel transport can put troops in danger.

A powerful minority resists climate action

Polling results show a majority of Republican and Democrat voters support reducing fossil fuel use and increasing renewable energy. Threats to energy and mining interests and ideological opposition to government intervention mean much of the US Congress, members of fossil fuel industries and a number of coal-reliant states oppose climate action. Groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council are working to unwind states’ renewable energy targets.

Table 1. Recent U.S. climate developments 
The US Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (comprising nine northeast states) tightens limits on its cap-and-trade program by 45 per cent
California formally links its carbon market with that of Canada’s Quebec province.
United States and China agree on work plans for their five joint initiatives (vehicle emissions, smart grids, carbon capture utilisation and storage, managing emissions data, energy efficiency in buildings and industry). The plans identify specific agencies in each country to lead various tasks, as well as deadlines for each task. They also agree to share information on new post-2020 emission targets due internationally by April 2015.
Obama Administration launches seven “climate hubs” to help farmers and rural communities adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Investors including the New York State Comptroller, with combined assets of over $200 billion, file shareholder resolutions requiring ten energy companies such as Exxon Mobil to disclose their exposure to constraints on carbon emissions.
President Obama directs federal agencies to develop higher fuel standards for medium-sized and heavy trucks by March 2016. Heavy-duty vehicles are responsible for about a quarter of the carbon emissions from U.S. road transport.
Massachusetts requires a new gas-fired power plant to meet declining emissions limits and set a date for plant retirement as conditions of construction.
Colorado becomes the first state to require oil and gas companies to control or capture 95 per cent of their emissions.
President Obama announces a $US1 billion fund to boost resilience to climate change through helping coastal communities at risk of storm flooding, researching sea-level rise and boosting buildings’ energy efficiency.
US EPA announces plan to phase down the use of high-emission HFCs in vehicle air conditioning, commercial refrigeration, plastic foam products and aerosols.
Obama Administration releases its methane reduction strategy, which includes strengthening regulations of emissions from oil and gas production.
United States, China and the European Union agree to cooperate on the global emissions reduction agreement to be finalised in 2015.
New York announces $US1 billion in incentives for solar PV systems through to 2023 to expand the state’s solar energy industry.
US Energy Department announces energy-efficiency standards for certain light bulbs will increase by 13 per cent over current levels.
White House releases National Climate Assessment, an expert report on the current and future impacts of climate change on the United States.


US EPA proposes standards to reduce emissions from existing fossil fueled power plants
Table 2. Comparison of United States and Australia
United States of America
% global emissions
Per capita emissions
(t CO2-e)
GDP (int. $ PPP) per capita
$43, 818
Emission targets –  2020
~17% reduction by 2020 on 2005 levels
(~21% reduction on 2000 levels)
5-25% reduction by 2020 on 2000 levels
(10-30% reduction on 2005 levels)
Legal status
Voluntary international commitment
(20 states and DC have emission targets)
Binding domestic legislation and binding international commitment
Carbon price
Regional/state-based emissions trading. California (trading at ~$US11.50/tonne) and Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont (trading at ~$4/tonne). California has linked with the Quebec market.
Government plans to repeal national carbon price of $24 covering ~66% of domestic emissions and legislation to transition to an emission trading scheme in 2015. Proposed replacement mechanisms still under development.
Renewable energy target
Federal tax credits for renewable energy (29 states have binding renewable energy targets)
Government is reviewing the Renewable Energy Target of at least 41,000 GWh by 2020 (~22-26% electricity by 2020)
Energy efficiency targets
Federal target to double energy productivity by 2030; commercial and residential building codes. 22 states have their own efficiency energy targets
National appliance and building standards; reporting requirements for largest energy users (Energy Efficiency Opportunities program) are set to be repealed by the government. State-based energy efficiency targets in NSW, Vic and SA. Victoria is terminating its scheme in 2015.
Emission standards
Mandatory passenger vehicle efficiency standards (147 gCO2/km by 2017 – currently   228 gCO2/km)
New fossil fuel fired power plants can emit no more than 455kg CO2/MWh (~no more than gas-fired plant). State-based power standards already exist in California, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Illinois.
Voluntary passenger vehicle efficiency standards (222 gCO2/km)
Land sector policies
Several initiatives at sub-national level, notably a land sector offsets scheme in the Californian emissions trading scheme.
Carbon offset scheme (Carbon Farming Initiative)

Dear all,

The Bonn climate talks are next week and on Monday, Obama will unveil his plan to cut US carbon pollution. This is something we should push coverage of here, and I’ll be following up with groups planning media to ask them to share their top-line messaging and media releases to CANAchat.

Below are some stories on Obama’s plan and the role of the Bonn climate talks. Australia will not be sending Bishop to Bonn and will again send ambassador Dr Justin Lee. There are also stories below on agreements around the Green Climate Fund – the infrastructure has basically been signed off, to allow countries to begin pledging funds to it. And Mexico joining an increasing group of countries including India, China on increased RE pledges.

Obama to unveil historic climate change plan to cut US carbon pollution:

• Proposed regulations could cut carbon pollution by up to 25%

• President still faces potential opposition from Republicans

• Q&A: why the carbon proposal could make climate history

The proposed regulations Obama will launch at the White House on Monday could cut carbon pollution by as much as 25% from about 1,600 power plants in operation today, according to those claiming familiarity with the plan. Power plants are the country’s single biggest source of carbon pollution – responsible for up to 40% of the country’s emissions. Read more here.

Why do next week’s UN climate talks in Bonn matter?

By Liz Gallagher

Coming off the back of the Abu Dhabi Ascent, and the jubilation at the recently announced agreement in the Green Climate Fund (GCF) meeting, Bonn looks to be just another stage post en route to Paris in 2015.

But the Bonn intercessional this June is more than just a normal negotiation.  Ministers have no sooner disembarked from their transportation out of the luxury oasis of the desert, to step back in it to reach the not so glamorous Maritim Hotel, Bonn.