Tomorrow is the 53rd Earth Day. Every day at Resources for the Future, we aim to improve environmental, energy, and natural resource decisions through rigorous economic research and policy engagement. Since last year’s Earth Day, the United States has passed the largest climate bill in US history, and the implementation of many of the programs in the law is underway. While acknowledging that we have a ways to go on the climate challenge, we hope you’ll celebrate the past year of progress with us, today and in the year to come—starting right now, by catching up on RFF’s latest research.
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.
How could a growing share of electric vehicles on US roads affect how transportation infrastructure is funded?
The US Environmental Protection Agency has proposed standards that would limit the amount of carbon dioxide that an automaker’s production line of passenger vehicles can emit. According to the agency, compliance with the standards could significantly increase the number of electric vehicles sold by automakers and eliminate over 7 billion tons of emissions. But these tightened standards also could reduce the amount of funding for transportation infrastructure, says Daniel Raimi, a fellow at Resources for the Future (RFF): taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel fund the bulk of government expenditures on roads, bridges, and other projects. “The current model for funding transportation infrastructure is broken,” says Raimi in a recent blog post on alternative funding models. “New policies that improve fuel economy and accelerate the shift to electric vehicles are needed … but these changes will need to be accompanied by new revenue policies to ensure that transportation infrastructure is funded adequately and equitably.”
Which communities qualify as “energy communities” under new guidance from the Biden administration, and how much will the tax credit for these communities bolster a transition away from fossil fuels?
The US Department of the Treasury and the US Internal Revenue service have clarified which areas in the United States can qualify for a bonus tax credit in the Inflation Reduction Act. The credit incentivizes developers to build clean energy projects in so-called “energy communities,” which historically have depended on fossil fuels in their local economies, by offering an additional 10 percent tax credit for siting an energy project in one of these areas. Communities near coal mines, coal-fired power plants, and polluted lands are among the areas that qualify. RFF Fellow Daniel Raimi, who has evaluated the energy communities tax credit with RFF colleague Sophie Pesek, unpacks the new federal guidance in a recent Common Resources blog post. “If the goal of the ‘energy communities’ policy was to provide a bonus tax credit of 10 percent across large swaths of the United States, then I think the policy has done that,” says Raimi. “If the goal of the policy was to specifically target the most vulnerable energy communities, I don’t think it’s accomplished that goal.”
How do government pledges to slash carbon emissions compare to the actions that will be necessary to limit global warming to 2°C?
The Group of Seven, an informal forum that includes government representation from seven of the world’s leading economies, announced new pledges for clean energy technologies after meeting in Japan last week. The pledges include targets for offshore wind and solar energy generation, along with a general acceleration of phasing out fossil fuels. The group’s announcement, which also acknowledges tensions over energy security and continued reliance on coal and natural gas, comes ahead of the first “global stocktake” conducted by the United Nations. The stocktake will review the progress that signatories of the 2015 Paris Agreement have made toward their emissions-reduction pledges, says Lara Aleluia Reis on a recent episode of the Resources Radio podcast. Reis, a scientist at the RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment, discusses whether nations’ pledges—if fulfilled—can limit global warming to 2°C. “In the end, we would find temperatures … between 1.6°C and 1.8°C,” says Reis.
Evergreen Time Machine
RFF research from our archives offers historical background and possible solutions for the challenges in today’s news.
I witnessed that the modern environmental movement took off running on bipartisan legs. I subsequently learned that the movement is sustained by building new economic interests like, for example, finding more jobs in protecting the environment than in destroying it.
Earth Day serves as a rallying point to engage people, communities, leaders, and organizations across the globe and promote awareness among our youth, and efforts toward solutions and action must be sustained to foster needed changes. Outcomes depend on the collective choices made by each of us—big and small, and as individuals to nations.
This week: Since its inception in 1970, Earth Day has inspired those who celebrate it in diverse ways. On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020, folks at RFF reflected on how nature and the environmental issues that Earth Day highlights have shaped their lives and commitment to the environment.
In Focus: Causes for Climate Optimism
Earth Day is a time when we can reflect on the climate crisis and the future of our planet. We have a ways to go to achieve a healthy environment and a thriving economy; in the meantime, what can we be hopeful about? In the latest installment of In Focus, RFF Research Analysts Emma DeAngeli, Emily Joiner, Sophie Pesek, Nicholas Roy, and Zachary Whitlock share what makes them optimistic for the future of climate and environmental research.
The New York City government wants to reduce the carbon footprint of the city’s nightclubs. In a special Earth Day episode of the Resources Radio podcast, Amer Jandali, founder and CEO of Future Meets Present and a consultant to the New York City Office of Nightlife, discusses how the nightlife industry can adopt sustainable business practices. “What I’m more excited about is when we can transcend the impacts and solutions in our own [carbon] footprint and pull our social and cultural levers to a place where nightclubs can be a source of policy advocacy,” says Jandali.
In a new journal article, Soheil Shayegh examines possible pathways for the development and use of direct air capture technologies in member states of the European Union. Shayegh is a scientist at the RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment. “While switching to alternative domestic fossil fuel sources such as coal in some member states has put the European Union’s climate ambitions in jeopardy, it has also provided new opportunities for upscaling renewable technologies … such as direct air capture,” says Shayegh.
The Biden administration issued an executive order in 2021 that requires all federal agencies to address issues of environmental justice in agency work. In a recent working paper, RFF Fellow Hannah Druckenmiller outlines how NASA can use eEarth observations—satellite data—to increase the impact of the agency’s scientific outputs on these issues of environmental justice. “NASA can play an important role in informing these discussions,” says Druckenmiller. “The agency’s data products provide unique opportunities to measure environmental justice at highly local scales.”
Climate change can create significant risks for banks, investors, and the economy. In a new explainer for RFF’s Climate Finance and Financial Risk Initiative, RFF Fellow Yanjun (Penny) Liao describes a process that is known as climate scenario analysis, which can help financial institutions evaluate their vulnerability to climate risks. “Climate scenario analyses are designed for regulators and banks to gauge the significance of climate risks on the financial health of both individual institutions and the overall financial system,” says Liao.
Resources for the Future and the US Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently cohosted a discussion on the updated guidelines for conducting benefit-cost analyses of federal regulations and the significance of these guidelines for US policy and decisionmaking. RFF President and CEO Richard G. Newell led the panel discussion in concert with Richard Revesz, administrator of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs; Zachary Liscow, chief economist at OMB; and Sally Katzen, a former administrator of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Watch the full recording of the RFF Live event.
🎨 Climate in the Culture 🎵
An Earth Day edition of solitaire offers players facts about nature and how human actions affect the environment. Flip the eight of clubs to find out that 70 percent of the world is covered by water, yet freshwater comprises only about 2.5 percent of it. Flip the ace of spades, and learn that a quarter of bottled water sold may in fact be tap water. The queen of hearts gave at least one author of this newsletter a shock—half of the carbon dioxide that humans have added to the atmosphere was emitted in the last 35 years.