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.
One more note: On the Issues will take a break for the holidays and return January 19. We wish you a happy holiday and a good jump into the new year!
Here are some questions we’re asking and addressing with our research chops this week:
A proposal at the 28th Conference of the Parties (ongoing through December 12) would incentivize the protection of tropical forests. What types of strategies for protecting forests are most effective?
At the 28th Conference of the Parties, also known as COP28, Brazil has proposed a global financing framework that would compensate residents and landowners to help preserve tropical forests around the world. These funds would offer an economic alternative for citizens in tropical areas who otherwise might rely on income from sources that lead to deforestation, such as mining. That Brazil’s proposal prioritizes the prevention of deforestation is an important distinction for policymakers who are trying to meet climate goals in the near future. On a recent episode of the Resources Radio podcast, David Wear, a nonresident senior fellow at Resources for the Future, discusses new modeling of carbon sequestration in US lands and forests. His recent coauthored work suggests that avoiding deforestation would enable forests to capture more carbon dioxide in the short term than planting new trees. “The benefits of avoiding deforestation are greater than the benefits of new afforestation over the next 40 years in every ecoregion in the United States,” says Wear.
How do the attitudes of Native nations toward energy development vary, and how are these communities engaged in determining the future of energy development on Native lands?
This summer, the Biden administration banned new oil and gas leasing on over 330,000 acres of land that surround Chaco Culture National Historical Park in Arizona, which some Native nations in the region consider sacred. While many Tribal members support the ban, several leaders within the Navajo Nation oppose the ban because of the lost potential revenue from oil and gas production. These differences in opinion exemplify the diversity of Tribal attitudes toward fossil fuel production, along with the importance of autonomy regarding energy development, says Daniel Raimi, a fellow at RFF. In a new article on the Common Resources blog, Raimi and coauthors Monika Ehrman and Andrew Curley discuss how Native nations are working to determine their own energy future. “Primarily because of the efforts of Native peoples, the number of opportunities is growing for Tribes and their members to participate in, and benefit from, energy development,” they say.
How are the private and public sectors facilitating a transition to zero-emissions vehicles in the United States?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) has signed an executive order that will require Michigan to transition the state vehicle fleet to zero emissions. Light-duty vehicles will need to reduce their emissions to zero by 2033, with medium- and heavy-duty vehicles following suit by 2040. Automakers have invested heavily in the production of electric vehicles (EVs), which dominate the market for zero-emissions vehicles in the United States in Michigan and other Midwestern and Southern states. The growth of the EV market “is a once-in-a-century transformation of a major sector that is happening, present tense,” says Cathy Zoi, the former CEO of EVgo, one of the nation’s largest developers of fast-charging EV stations. Zoi joined RFF President and CEO Richard G. Newell at a recent Policy Leadership Series event to discuss ongoing and future efforts to electrify the US transportation sector. Listen to the discussion on a new episode of RFF’s Policy Leadership Series Podcast.
New Rule from the US Environmental Protection Agency Uses Updated Social Cost of Carbon
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will implement more stringent limits on emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Notably, the agency updated their proposed estimate of the social cost of carbon in regulatory analysis when the methane rule first was proposed last year; EPA finalized their estimate of the figure this week. The social cost of carbon is an estimate of the cost to society of emitting an additional ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
“That EPA is using this new estimate of the social cost of carbon is a big deal,” says Brian C. Prest, director of RFF’s Social Cost of Carbon Initiative. “The new estimate is $190 per ton of carbon dioxide, which is more than three times larger than the previous estimate and very close to what RFF and our partner institutions have estimated. Federal agencies use the social cost of carbon in benefit-cost analysis of regulations, so a higher estimate for the social cost of carbon tilts the balance in terms of increasing the monetary benefits of reducing emissions. In other words, a higher social cost of carbon makes the argument much stronger for reducing emissions. The agency has grounded the estimate in rigorous research, too, which may inform the decisions of other federal agencies about whether to adopt EPA’s estimate—and help the estimate endure any future legal challenges.”
In Focus: EU Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism
The European Union recently put into place a carbon border adjustment mechanism, which imposes a fee on imported goods based on the amount of greenhouse gases emitted during the production of those goods. Now, as COP28 continues into its second week, and similar bills are introduced in the US Congress, international interest in climate and trade policies is at the fore. Milan Elkerbout, a fellow at Resources for the Future, discusses the EU Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism and the potential effects of the policy within the European Union and abroad.
Resources for the Future Launches Search for New President and CEO
In September, RFF President and CEO Richard G. Newell announced that he will transition out of his leadership role at RFF within the year. RFF now has begun accepting applications for the position, in collaboration with Russell Reynolds Associates, a search firm that advises organizations in hiring for executive and leadership roles. The ideal candidate will bring a sophisticated understanding of environmental, energy, and climate policy issues within academia, government, and the private sector; fundraising prowess; operations and management skills; and an ability to build consensus. Learn more about the position and the application process.
As the transition to a clean energy system continues in the United States, concerns have arisen over the lack of coordination among market operators in the power sector. Coordinated planning and targeted investment can help operators achieve decarbonization goals while improving the reliability of the electric grid. In a webinar hosted by the World Resources Institute on December 13, RFF Senior Fellow Karen Palmer will join a panel discussion about how decisionmakers at the state level, market operators, and other stakeholders can build a more reliable grid. Register to attend the webinar.
Border adjustment mechanisms are policies that impose a fee on imported goods based on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that were emitted during the production of those goods. These policies are becoming more common: the European Union implemented a border adjustment mechanism for the bloc in October, and two US senators recently introduced bills that incorporate border adjustment mechanisms. In a new report, RFF scholars Milan Elkerbout, Raymond J. Kopp, and Kevin Rennert compare elements of the EU border adjustment mechanism with the proposed US legislation. “The first goal [of these three border adjustment mechanisms] is to protect the competitiveness of domestic industries engaged in international trade while they take actions to reduce their emissions,” the authors say.
In 2014, voters in Los Angeles County rejected a ballot initiative that would’ve helped fund the county’s department of parks and recreation. The failed vote pushed the department to center equity, community engagement, and data collection in future work. In a new episode of the Resources Radio podcast, host Margaret Walls explores insights about improving equity in urban park systems in Los Angeles County and across the United States with Norma García-González, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, and Catherine Nagel, executive director of the City Parks Alliance. “There was a lot of critical data, but what really happened is we created this movement that was centered in community,” García-González says.
While the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) promises to deliver key reductions of carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector, the law’s ultimate effects are yet to be identified. In a recent journal article, a host of RFF scholars and collaborators analyze the impact of the IRA on investments in the power sector, emissions, and costs. “Our analysis illustrates how IRA helps to bring projected US power-sector and economy-wide emissions closer to near-term climate targets; however, no models indicate that these targets will be met with IRA alone,” the authors say.
Recent climate policies such as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law have provided the US Department of Energy (DOE) with large amounts of funding to take on new responsibilities and create new programs. However, capacity within the agency to evaluate the success of these programs can be limited. In a recent report that builds on an RFF workshop, researchers Lucie Bioret, Yuqi Zhu, Alan Krupnick, and Aaron Bergman offer recommendations for how to operationalize and institutionalize evaluation systems at DOE. “DOE leadership should be actively involved in establishing an evaluation culture and institutionalizing practices within divisions,” they say.
Data: CICERO Center for International Climate Research. Chart: Tory Lysik / Axios Visuals
The world produced less than 24 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide per year when nations met at the first Conference of the Parties (COP) to discuss climate change. By COP26 in 2021, global emissions of carbon dioxide had risen to more than 37 gigatonnes per year. COP28, the largest COP yet, currently is underway in Dubai through December 12. While global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels have continued to rise despite the agreements that nations have signed at various COPs, the rate at which these emissions have increased has slowed. This year, formal negotiations will address the gap between national climate goals and progress toward those goals. Resources for the Future is hosting a series of events in Dubai that will bring RFF experts together with global leaders at COP28.