Twice a month, we’re compiling the most relevant news stories from diverse sources online, connecting the latest environmental and energy economics research to global current events, real-time public discourse, and policy decisions. Keep reading, and feel free to send us your feedback.
Here are some questions we’re asking and addressing with our research chops this week:
As the European Union moves toward implementing a charge on carbon next year, how can nations maintain a level playing field for international trade?
Over the summer, the EU Parliament voted to amend its emissions trading system to phase in a carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM), starting in 2023. With a CBAM, the European Union would impose a charge on manufactured goods imported from nations that have less stringent climate policies. The goal of the CBAM is to protect EU industries from competitors in nations where carbon costs less to emit and to encourage trading partners to adopt more stringent climate policies. As 2023 nears, however, questions remain about whether the EU CBAM discriminates against developing nations and is compatible with World Trade Organization rules. In a new blog post, Resources for the Future (RFF) Visiting Fellow Brian Flannery suggests that a proposed greenhouse gas index (GGI), a methodological tool that can standardize the determination of emissions associated with manufactured products, could help ensure compatibility with international rules. “Because the GGI is based on international standards and explicit criteria,” says Flannery, “the use of the GGI as a common metric could alleviate some of those concerns, especially in the context of determining the greenhouse gas emissions associated with specific [imported] products.”
How is the implementation of carbon prices around the world changing across regions and over time?
Ireland has proceeded with a planned €7.50 hike (to €48.50) of its carbon tax despite recent pressure to postpone the increase due to high energy prices. In Canada, a motion to suspend the planned increase of the federal carbon tax because of affordability concerns was voted down in the Canadian House of Commons—for now, the carbon tax will increase gradually as planned. Both Ireland’s and Canada’s carbon taxes fall under the umbrella of a set of policies known as “carbon pricing,” an approach to mitigating climate change that makes emitting greenhouse gases more expensive and, consequently, incentivizes the reduction of fossil fuel use. As nations attempt to reach their decarbonization goals, carbon pricing policies have become more prevalent, but a lack of standardized, detailed data has made studying the policies more difficult for researchers. A recent blog post from Geoffroy Dolphin, a former postdoctoral fellow at RFF, illuminates a new World Carbon Pricing Database as a tool that addresses this lack of detailed data. “The World Carbon Pricing Database,” says Dolphin, “is the most comprehensive attempt at providing a systematic sectoral breakdown of carbon pricing among jurisdictions.”
What measures can governments take to improve air quality in cities?
In Verona, Missouri, the US Environmental Protection Agency has decided to install a set of monitors to measure how much of the pollutant ethylene oxide (a carcinogen that can lead to lymphoma and breast cancer) is present in the local air. The decision comes in the wake of a nationwide investigation into the prevalence of toxic air pollutants, which has revealed that 74 million Americans are exposed to air pollution levels that are higher than the levels allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Air-quality monitors like those that will be installed in Verona help governments allocate resources to affected communities and take measures to reduce air pollution, as a recent report from the Health Effects Institute shows. Pallavi Pant, the head of global health at the institute, joined the Resources Radio podcast this week to discuss the report and what measures can improve air-quality levels in cities. “Progress generally takes time when it comes to air pollution,” says Pant. “We need long-term, sustained resources and funding to keep doing it.”
With Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, Supreme Court Reconsiders Regulatory Scope of Clean Water Act
The first case that the US Supreme Court is hearing in this year’s term is Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Sacketts, a married couple from Idaho, are challenging a stipulation of the Clean Water Act, which states that they would need EPA authorization to develop a section of their property that overlaps with federally designated wetlands. In doing so, the Sacketts also are challenging the classification of isolated wetlands as “waters of the United States,” which are protected by the Clean Water Act. Isolated wetlands constitute about half of all US wetlands.
If the Supreme Court decides that wetlands do not qualify as waters of the United States, the ruling could have implications for communities near wetlands. “Wetlands provide a wide array of benefits to society, including flood mitigation, water purification, climate regulation, wildlife habitat, and recreation,” says Hannah Druckenmiller, a fellow at RFF. “Many of these services flow to others in the community; you don’t need to own wetlands to benefit from the clean water they produce.” Wetlands also have significant economic value, says Druckenmiller: “In a recent paper, we estimate that the approximate value of US wetlands to society for flood mitigation is $1.2–$2.9 trillion.”
On Thursday, October 20, RFF will host the Net-Zero Economy Summit, which will explore the type of decisionmaking that can deliver on two goals: net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and the advancement of economic well-being. Leading voices in government, business, academia, and the media will examine solutions across major sectors of the economy, including electricity, transportation, industry, and land use.
RFF President and CEO Richard G. Newell joins Axios for a hybrid event on Tuesday, October 11, to discuss energy security, reliability, and independence on a global scale. Along with Newell, Axios will speak with David Turk, the deputy secretary of the US Department of Energy, and Neil Chatterjee, a former chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. To join the event in person or online, RSVP here.
In a recent episode of Resources Radio, Alex Gilbert discusses new developments in nuclear energy innovation, policy, and deployment, including the types of nuclear technologies in the development pipeline and how recent policies, such as the Inflation Reduction Act, are incentivizing the deployment of those technologies. “Most of these bills have been bipartisan,” says Gilbert. “Both parties are supporting nuclear right now. They see it as an area that both of them can work on together because of clean energy and the carbon potential.”
🎨 Climate in the Culture 🎵
On the coast of Galway in Ireland, artists and scientists have teamed up to install Línte na Farraige (“Lines of the Sea”), a visual light project that illustrates how much sea levels could rise due to climate change. In Galway, the ocean has risen by 25–30 centimeters since 1842. “The goal of the project,” says Zoë Roseby, one of the scientists involved, “is to provoke a dialogue around rising sea levels and demonstrate that the future is still in our hands.”