Highlights of Climate and Energy Policy Changes from Summer 2015:

Alberta: The Climate Change Advisory Panel was appointed and a consultation process begun, based on the Climate Leadership Discussion Document . The Pembina Institute issued a backgrounder, Opportunities to Improve Alberta’s climate strategy (Aug. 21)   and convened a Alberta Climate Summit on September 9  including a variety of stakeholders.

In late summer, a Royalty Review Advisory Panel was appointed to examine and lead public discussion concerning royalties for crude oil and liquids, natural gas, and oil sands.

British Columbia: A review of the Climate Leadership Plan began in July, with the release of a Discussion Paper. In December 2015, a draft Plan will be released for public comment, with a final Climate Leadership Plan promised for Spring 2016. Also in July, a consultation period began re proposed regulations under the Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Act , expected to come into force in Fall 2015.

In a special session of the Legislature in July, the B.C. government passed controversial legislation which sets the terms for the $36 billion Pacific Northwest LNG project at Lelu Island.

British Columbia, as a member of the Pacific Coast Collaborative (PCC), joined with California, Oregon, and Washington, to launch the West Coast Electric Fleets initiative , “a toolkit for public and private fleet managers to quickly assess opportunities for ZEVs and access useful incentives and resources to assist with procurement.”

Nova Scotia and British Columbia signed a Memorandum of Understanding on July 21, pledging to share research and technology related to tidal energy.

Nova Scotia discontinued its Community Feed-in Tariff (COMFIT) program for local renewable projects on August 6. A DeSmog blog article provides background and details.   The government promises a new electricity policy, including for renewables, in Fall 2015.

 

Ontario: In July, Ontario and Quebec jointly hosted the Climate Summit of the Americas, which resulted in the signing of a Climate Action Statement    by Ontario and 22 other states and regions.

Feeling the Heat: Greenhouse Gas Progress Report 2015  was released by the Acting Environmental Commissioner on July 7, stating that, although Ontario met its GHG reduction targets for 2014, it is unlikely to achieve its 2020 targets with the current policies in place.

Ontario Climate Change Lab: Solutions for   Ontario’s Climate Challenge  reports on a one-day multi-stakeholder workshop that produced a series of actionable recommendations for the provincial government to include in its climate change strategy.

Quebec: On September 11, Quebec and Ontario signed Memoranda of Agreement regarding increased trade in electricty, and collaboration on the cap and trade system currently under development in Ontario. They also committed to attend COP21 in Paris, to which end, the government of Quebec, on September 17, proposed Canada’s most ambitious target for greenhouse gas emissions reduction – 37.5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030. The proposal follows the recommendations of the Climate Change Advisory panel , tabled in the Legislatureon the 17th. (in French only).

In August, Quebec, California, and The Netherlands announced the launch of the International Zero-Emission Vehicle Alliance (ZEV Alliance) to accelerate global adoption of electric vehicles. The press release states that the number of ZEVs registered in Quebec has increased by 134 percent over the last 16 months, thanks largely to government incentives and a well-developed public charging infrastructure.

Atlantic Provinces and U.S. Governors : Adopted a regional target of shrinking carbon pollution by 35% – 45% below 1990 levels by 2030  at the 39th annual meeting of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers (NEG/ECP).

And around the World:

Australia:  Bipartisan agreement brought about the new Renewable Energy Target legislation  on June 23, after an 18 month review. A new GHG reduction target of 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 was announced on August 11, and is included in the Australian government INDC submission to the UNFCC in advance of the Paris climate talks.  The New Scientist  compares this to the U.S. pledge of 41 per cent by 2030, and the UK by 48 per cent (converting to Australia’s 2005 baseline year).  The  Climate Action Tracker website analyses the goals  and ranks them “inadequate”.

At the end of June, the Australian Climate Roundtable  was formed through the alliance of major Australian business, union, research, environment, investor and social groups, including the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Industry Group, the Business Council of Australia, The Climate Institute, the Energy Supply Association of Australia, the Investor Group on Climate Change and WWF Australia.

On September 14th came the stunning news that Tony Abbott had been replaced as Prime Minister by Malcolm Turnbull. However,  the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported on September 15 that Turnbull has signaled no change to Australia’s climate policies.

China :   China submitted its climate action plan to the UNFCC on June 30,   vowing to peak its emissions by 2030 at the latest, to cut its carbon emissions per unit of GDP to 60-65 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, to increase renewable and nuclear power to 20 percent of the country’s energy portfolio, and to increase its forest cover by 4.5 billion cubic meters from 2005 levels by 2030.

European Union:  The EU restructured its Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) as part of the renewal of its Energy Union Strategy .The European Commission announced changes to the Emission Trading Scheme on July 15 . Under the new plan, only 50 economic sectors (including heavy industries such as steel and cement manufacturing) will receive free allowances, down from the current 177.

France: The Energy Transition for Green Growth legislation was approved on July 22, with far-reaching provisions: a goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% between 1990 and 2030 ; to halve the country’s energy usage by 2050, with a reduced share of fossil fuels in energy production, a cap on nuclear power at 63.2 gigawatts and a goal of 32% of energy production from renewables , and a four-fold increase of the carbon tax on fossil fuel use, to €56 per ton in 2020 and €100 in 2030.

The Netherlands: On Sept. 1, the Dutch government announced it will appeal the Courts’ June decision in the landmark Urgenda case.

United Kingdom:  The U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change announced surprising cuts to its renewable energy programs, including solar PV, biomass conversion, and a consultation re changes to the Feed-in-tariff program. Cuts to subsidies to off-shore wind farms had been announced in June  . As a result, “UK drops out of top 10 renewable energy ranking for first time”  according to the latest quarterly report of EY consultants on September 16. Meanwhile, fracking    continues to gain government favour in the U.K., with the third of a series of task force reports released on September 17. And on September 17, the U.K. government announced that Prime Minister David Cameron has appointed a former consultant to major oil and gas companies as his key adviser on energy and environment policy heading into the U.N. Paris climate talks.

This, in spite of the fact that 24 of Britain’s learned scientific societies issued a joint communique on July 23, urging the British government to curb greenhouse gas emissions through drastic reductions in the burning of fossil fuels, and a shift towards energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Two substantial reports on climate change risks and policy were tabled in the House of Commons over the summer: Reducing emissions and preparing for climate change: 2015 Progress Report to Parliament   (June 30)  ; and Climate Change: A Risk Assessment .

Mandatory Emissions Trading Scheme for China

China’s Ministry of Finance has announced a plan to launch a mandatory national emissions trading scheme sometime between 2017 and 2020. The country has chosen seven regions where carbon market pilots will begin in the meantime. Eleven regions across China have been conducting pollution trading pilots since 2007, partly modelled after the EU emissions trading scheme. While pilots to date have focussed on carbon dioxide (CO2), the national scheme is expected to include sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrous oxide (NOx) as well. One billion metric tonnes of CO2 will be covered under the pilot programs, smaller only than the EU emissions trading scheme.

See “China aims to launch pollution permit market within 3 years” from Reuters at: http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/03/24/china-pollution-idINL4N0ML1OU20140324. By 2020, China has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP by 40 to 45 percent from 2005 levels.

EU Proposes New Emissions Targets for 2030, Weak Regulation of Fracking, and No Extension to the European Fuel Quality Directive

After hard-fought negotiations, the members of the European Union finally agreed on January 22 to a compromise Framework proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, and a goal of producing 27% of all energy from renewable sources by 2030. The European carbon emissions trading system (EUTS) will be reformed, and the goal of improving energy efficiency by 25% by 2030 will be an “indicative target”, not legally binding. Fracking will also be governed by non-binding recommendations rather than regulation. Most significantly for Canada, the Fuel Quality Directive will not be renewed after its expiry in 2020 – a move away from the support of biofuels, and which might allow for Alberta oil to enter the European fuel supply chain. The Canadian government has lobbied actively for such a change.  

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See “EU May Scrap Green Fuel Law in Boon for Tar Sands Industry” at Inside Climate News http://insideclimatenews.org/content/eu-may-scrap-green-fuel-law-boon-tar-sands-industry, and for background, the Natural Resources Defense Council blog, Canadian Tar Sands Exports to Europe could Grow from a Trickle to a Flood Undermining Europe’s Climate Goals (Jan. 2014) at: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/aswift/canadian_tar_sands_exports_to.html

The European Council will consider the framework proposals at its spring meeting in March.

From the EU Commissioner on Climate Action: “…The details of the framework will now have to be agreed, but the direction for Europe has been set. If all other regions were equally ambitious about tackling climate change, the world would be in significantly better shape.” Read the analysis from The Guardian (U.K.)(Jan.22) at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/22/eu-carbon-emissions-climate-deal-2030 and the New York Times (Jan. 22) at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/23/business/international/european-union-lowers-ambitions-on-renewable-energy.html?hp. The press release, with links to official documents, is at the European Commission website at: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-54_en.htm.

Environmental groups disagree with the positive spin: according to the Friends of the Earth Europe, the negotiators “…seem to have fallen for the old-think industry spin that there must be a trade-off between climate action and economic recovery. This position completely ignores the huge financial cost of dealing with the impacts of climate change and the €500 billion the EU is spending every year on oil and gas imports”. (at: https://www.foeeurope.org/2030_climate_energy_plan_220114). About fracking, the FOE had this to say: “… attempts to regulate the fracking industry have been undermined by heavy corporate lobbying and pressure from certain member states intent on fracking their lands.” … “With the heavy support from José Manuel Barroso, the United Kingdom, Poland, and Romania have all played a leading role in undermining shale gas legislation, with allies Hungary, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Slovakia.” See https://www.foeeurope.org/shale_gas_framework_220114. An article in The Guardian (Jan. 14) offers a detailed analysis of the significant role played by the U.K. to weaken the fracking regulations (see at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/14/uk-defeats-european-bid-fracking-regulations).