A 10-Point Plan Toward a Low-Carbon Future

Karl Hausker, WRI.On May 27, 2015, the World Resources Institute (WRI) hosted an event at the National Press Center in Washington, DC. WRI’s Karl Hausker presented a working paper on “Delivering on the U.S. Climate Commitment: A 10-Point Plan Toward a Low-Carbon Future.
Hausker and his colleagues found that “with a comprehensive approach using existing federal laws and state action” the United States could achieve its goal of reducing green house gas (GHG) emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by the year 2025. According to Hausker and his colleagues, the United States can achieve this reduction through two sets of tasks: a) “expanding and strengthening some current and proposed policies and standards”; b) “taking new action across emission sources that are not yet addressed.”
Hausker and his colleagues modeled three low-carbon pathways, each of which reflects a different mixture of policies and the resulting reduction in emissions. Hausker then presented a 10-Point Action Plan, which provides “steps that federal agencies and states can take to achieve the necessary reductions.”
10-Point Action Plan (as presented in the working paper):
1. Strengthen the Clean Power Plan both in the near term and over time to fully reflect cost-effective renewable energy and energy efficiency potential.
2. Scale up programs for residential and commercial energy efficiency.
3. Continue and expand programs to reduce hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions.
4. Use emissions standards and voluntary programs to improve industrial energy efficiency.
5. Set methane emissions standards for new and existing natural gas and oil infrastructure.
6. Extend and strengthen GHG and fuel economy standards for passenger cars while reducing travel demand.
7. Extend and strengthen GHG and fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.
8. Accelerate air travel management and establish standards for new aircraft.
9. Reduce methane emissions from landfills, coal mines, and agriculture through standards or other measures.
10. Reduce emissions from other sources while increasing carbon sequestration from forests and other land types.
Emissions-Reduction Pathways, Copyright 2015 World Resources InstituteMuch of the panel discussion that followed related to the Clean Power Plan step. Rick Duke, Associate Director for Energy and Climate Change at the White House, explained that each state has significant latitude in deciding how it wants to implement the Clean Power Plan. One might wonder, however, if providing states with the flexibility to tailor the Plan to fit their specific priorities and standards could ultimately undermine the Plan’s effectiveness.
While it is true that WRI has yet to release the data used in the report, Hausker offered compelling arguments and reasoning. Furthermore, the panelists seemed to corroborate the findings presented in the working paper. That said, panelist John Coequyt, Director of Federal and International Climate Campaigns at Sierra Club, said that although the US has the intention and commitment to achieve its emission reduction target by 2025 (using the 10-Point Plan), strong opposition could result in a delay. New York’s Chairman of Energy and Finance Richard Kauffman agreed and added that “the electricity sector is operating in vinyl in the age of the iPod.” He explained that the fact that New York’s energy grid is inefficient in terms of both energy and capital is due not to a lack of technology but to the regulatory structure.

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