Domestic Implications of U.S./China Climate Deal

Last week, President Obama and China’s President Xi announced—in their first joint statement about global climate action—a new plan to begin tackling greenhouse gas emissions from their countries. Learn more about the agreement in the first post in this series. This post will focus on the domestic implications, as well as the role of Connecticut, the northeast, and CFE/Save the Sound.

President Obama is likely to face some tough criticism from the incoming class of senators, as well as the House of Representatives. As he has already shown, however, executive action can be an effective way within a divided government to accomplish his climate goals.

Photo credit: The Energy Collective.
Photo credit: The Energy Collective.

The national Climate Action Plan, launched early in the president’s second term, focuses on cutting carbon pollution and preparing for the impacts of climate change nationwide. Guidelines like the Clean Power Plan under the EPA would reduce emissions from existing power plants under the Clean Air Act. Greater efficiency standards for heavy trucks and appliances—both encouraged by President Obama—also will begin to have an impact here at home in meeting our mandate with China. Other actions, however, which will likely need Congressional approval, are almost certain to be required in order to meet these new goals.

The agreement also bodes well for lowered prices for clean energy here at home. In order to reach their goal of flat-lining fossil fuel use by 2030, China will need to invest substantially in producing cheaper clean energy technologies like solar panels and fuel cells. In today’s global economy, those investments will result in increased competition and innovation, as well as cheaper prices for consumers here at home. And with the state of Connecticut as a global leader in fuel cell technology, our state is in a strong position to capitalize on the agreement.

Like the rest of the world, the state of Connecticut is endangered by climate change. In our state, sea level rise poses perhaps the greatest threat. And rising sea levels make storm surges even higher—massive coastal flooding was seen all along the Connecticut shoreline during recent storms, including Superstorm Sandy. Seasonal behavior changes in animals mean that migration and nesting are happening at different times than in the past. This may not seem to be a big deal, but if fish, for instance, arrive at their spawning grounds earlier than in prior years, the animals that rely on them for food might miss out later in the season. Ocean acidification is another threat from climate change, harming shelled creatures like oysters in Long Island Sound that play an important role in the food chain and are a key component of resident livelihoods.

But we have also begun to take action to address climate change, and with the announcement of this historic agreement, are in a good place to continue moving in the right direction. Here in the northeast, we’re part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the first regional cap-and-trade program in the United States to help reduce emissions. The statewide Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (now known as The Green Bank) and the state’s energy efficiency fund both offer opportunities to finance green projects.

The state has been commended by the National Climate Assessment for developing climate adaptation plans, both at state and municipal levels, including examples like Guilford’s Community Coastal Resilience Plan that was adopted with guidance from The Nature Conservancy’s coastal resilience program. The state, while still working to mitigate climate change, also realizes that action to protect communities from the changes we’re already “locked into” is perhaps equally important. The Northeast chapter of the National Climate Assessment covers dangers and mitigation options.

At CFE/Save the Sound, we have played a significant role for years in working on clean energy, efficiency, and climate change in the region. We helped to draft the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act, which requires Connecticut to reduce total emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 10% below 1990 levels by 2020 and to at least 80% below 2001 levels by 2050.

We have successfully advocated in the legislature for many clean energy, including expanded access to solar power and the end of a moratorium on wind turbine construction. Climate legislation in Connecticut includes “an act concerning clean cars” that CFE helped to pass which adopts the strong California vehicle emissions standards. In the next legislative session, we will continue to work with allies to broaden solar access and distributed generation of solar power, among other important clean energy priorities.

Posted by Sarah Ganong, media coordinator at CFE/Save the Sound. 

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