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President Aims for Carbon Neutrality - NRDC/E2 Meets with Costa Rican Government
President Aims for Carbon Neutrality
"An ounce of prevention is worth a gallon of crude." - President Óscar Arias
On June 7, Óscar Arias, President of Costa Rica, announced his goal to make the country carbon neutral by 2021, the year of its 200th anniversary. Europe, Japan and California have discussed plans for 20 to 30 percent reductions of carbon emissions by 2020. Scientists believe the world needs to reduce global emissions by 80 percent by mid-century. An NRDC/E2 delegation arrived in Costa Rica on June 19 for a series of meetings over five days to discuss with President Arias, members of his cabinet, representative from the ministries, energy companies, and local entrepreneurs how Costa Rica could achieve these reductions and become a model for the rest of the world. This article presents the situation in Costa Rica, how it compares to the U.S. and how the two countries can help one another.
In April 2006, E2 members Bob Epstein and Wendy Neu participated in an NRDC trip to Costa Rica to understand the potential threat of Harken Energy drilling for oil off the Caribbean coast. During that trip, a local environmentalist suggested that, instead of constantly fighting drilling (currently there is no oil production in Costa Rica), we should encourage the country to focus on developing alternatives to oil and a policy of carbon neutrality. In May 2006, NRDC attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. wrote a letter to President Arias on the occasion of his inauguration, suggesting a goal of carbon neutrality was feasible and that NRDC and E2 were available to help develop a plan.
Over the last year, NRDC’s International Program, led by Jacob Scherr with Elizabeth Beall as project manager, have worked with people throughout Costa Rica and interacted with E2 members to assess the opportunities. Our motivation was based on our belief that:
Costa Rica’s energy and climate change profile
Transportation: Nearly all transportation in Costa Rica uses petroleum, with diesel being the most popular fuel. Vehicle ownership is on the rise with over one million vehicles now and an additional 50,000 added each year. The vehicle fleet is much older than that of the U.S. due to an import tax structure that favors older vehicles. Approximately one-third of passenger vehicles run on diesel.
In 2005, emissions from electricity and transportation were estimated to be 5 million metric tons of CO2 (MMTCO2).
Other emissions: Preliminary data from 2005 showed emissions from landfills, agriculture, livestock and industrial sources totalled approximately 7 MMTCO2.
Land use: Over the last 10 years, the government has managed an active program of reforestation that has increased the proportion of total public and private lands that have forests from 40 percent to almost 50 percent. More than 25 percent of Costa Rica’s land is protected by a system of national parks and reserves. Costa Rica currently uses tax revenues, some of which are derived from a tax on fuels, to pay for the preservation of some private forestland and to plant new areas. They expect this program to be expanded with the adoption of a carbon offset program (see Costa Rican plan below). Estimated emissions from changes in land use in 2005 was 1.5 MMTCO2. However, 3.5 MMTCO2 was sequestered in (i.e. absorbed by) new forests, resulting in a total net benefit of 2 MMTCO2 removed from the atmosphere.
Similarities and Differences
Costa Rica and the United States face some of the same challenges in addressing climate change. Among the similarities are:
There are also significant differences:
Costa Rican Plan
During our trip, we met with over 30 people representing members of the government and its agencies, local groups and several local entrepreneurs. It seems likely that Costa Rica can become carbon-neutral primarily with existing technologies. The country will need to initially pursue efficiency measures to reduce long-term demand on electricity and transportation fuels. Concurrently, it will need to grow its biofuels industries to supply most of its liquid fuels and will need significantly more electricity from renewable sources. The country has sufficient biomass, solar and wind resources to meet its electricity demands.
Peak electricity demand is currently met by diesel-electric generation with a cost approaching US $.30 per kilowatt hour (at least three times more expensive than other sources). This occurs mostly in the dry season when there is reduced hydroelectric capacity. Both solar and wind power are significantly less expensive than diesel-electric at optimal production in the dry season, and with the proper incentive structure they could displace the use of diesel. In particular, we believe the country should explore solar and wind power and the use of energy storage (by pumping water uphill into storage facilities) during periods of surplus electricity.
Minister Roberto Dobles, who is responsible for the carbon neutral strategy, expects to have a draft report in July that NRDC and E2 will review. Concurrently, E2 members are developing several proposals for the financing and acceleration of energy efficiency and renewable energy efforts in the country.
Once the final carbon-neutral report is issued, we anticipate a long-term collaboration through NRDC to help Costa Rica achieve its goals.
Our thanks go to Elizabeth Beall, who coordinated our trip and much of the research that lead to the development of the strategies.
E2 New York's Albany Advocacy Trip
On June 5, seven E2 New York members traveled to
Clean Vehicles Incentive Program (A9003) - This bill was introduced in the Assembly the week of our trip and was referred to the Environmental Conservation Committee. The bill, modeled after a similar bill pending in
Tire Efficiency Bill (S5982-A and A8718) - This bill establishes fuel-efficiency ratings and standards for replacement tires. It would allow consumers to purchase replacement tires as efficient as the original tires that come on new cars - achieving near-term oil savings. As of June 21, the bill passed the full Senate, but ran in to roadblocks in the Assembly and will not move forward this session. It’s very unusual for a bill to pass in one session in
We met with the following offices:
E2 New England Update
E2 New England members know a thing or two about many topics and this month they proved it. On issues that ranged from the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS), to safer alternatives for toxic chemicals and comprehensive ocean management, E2 members displayed their wide range of interests and expertise by testifying at the Massachusetts statehouse.
On May 30, John Harper and Berl Hartman made the economic case for a long-term upward adjustment of the RPS target, pointing out that investors need the certainty of long-term goals and financing in order to take on the risks of renewable projects. John is the founder and principal of Birch Tree Capital, an independent financial advisory firm that assists clients in financing renewable power projects, with a focus on wind, solar, and biomass projects.
On June 11, Don Reed, Tedd Saunders and Berl Hartman argued that taking action to replace toxic chemicals with safer alternatives will help Massachusetts be more competitive and create economic, health and job benefits. In his role as a principal with Ecos Corporation, Don has over 10 years of experience working with the chemical industry on the business opportunities in inherently safer materials. Tedd also spoke from personal experience, as the Executive Vice President and Director of Environmental Affairs of the Saunders Hotel Group. He described his and other hotels’ experiences implementing healthy alternatives and the business benefits that accrued.
On June 13, Susan Goldhor, Jay Baldwin and Berl Hartman testified in favor of the Massachusetts Ocean Management Bill, arguing that a comprehensive system of ocean management and planning will encourage sustainable development while supporting a healthy ecosystem. Susan, a marine biologist and consultant who works with municipalities to reduce waste and maximize value in fisheries, drew upon her work to illustrate the problems caused by the failure to take an ecosystems-based approach. Jay, a principal with Wind River Capital Partners, brought to bear his years of experience as a green industry investor to discuss the advantages of protecting, maintaining and restoring healthy ocean ecosystems.
In other activities, Berl Hartman joined forces with Brian Thurber of Clean Water Action, to co-author an op-ed published June 24 in the Boston Globe, titled "Global warming and economic growth." The article called on New England’s governors to spark regional collaboration and take the lead on global warming.
2007 National Cleantech Report Released
On June 5, the Cleantech Network and E2 released "Cleantech Venture Capital: How Public Policy Has Stimulated Private Investment." The cleantech industry encompasses a broad range of products and services - from alternative energy generation to wastewater treatment to more resource-efficient industrial processes - and it is now a leading investment category in the public markets. The report found that investments in the clean technology sector soared in 2006, as venture capitalists increased investments by 78 percent to $2.9 billion. Experts say the market is hot amidst concern about global warming, higher energy prices, improved technology, and public policies enacted at the state and national levels. The report also found that cleantech is now the third largest venture investment category, ahead of telecommunications and medical devices. Venture capital investments in the cleantech sector are projected to exceed $19 billion by 2010 and create up to 500,000 new jobs. However, further public policy initiatives, such as cap-and-trade, a national renewable energy standard, and increased public funding for research and development, are likely to accelerate cleantech investments.
Report Shows California's Global Warming Law Will Create Jobs, Growth
On June 1, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, NRDC, and Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) released "A Golden Opportunity: California’s Solutions for Global Warming." The joint report shows how specific strategies will enable the state to reduce carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollution to 1990 levels by 2020, a nearly 30 percent reduction compared to business as usual. The specific strategies include cleaner cars and trucks, low-carbon fuels, smart growth, energy efficiency, renewable energy and cleaner power plants. It also explains how market-based mechanisms designed to reward smart companies for quick action can reduce pollution, cut overall costs and complement the state’s regulatory efforts. California is already in a strong position through a combination of regulatory and market-based policies and through business efforts that are proving to be a laboratory for clean technology development. The report outlines how the state’s plan to implement the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32, Núñez-Pavley) is taking shape already, and offers case studies of companies developing clean technologies and adopting clean energy strategies on the ground.
Congratulations to Teryn Hanggi, Devra Wang and Eric Wanless - E2’s and NRDC’s co-authors of the report.
Saving Energy, Growing Jobs
David Goldstein, co-director of NRDC’s Energy Program and MacArthur Fellow, has published a new book, "Saving Energy, Growing Jobs: How Environmental Protection Promotes Economic Growth, Profitability, Innovation and Competition." This month, he led E2 focus briefings in New York and Cambridge to announce the book. In his talk, David emphasized the important role well-designed environmental policies have in enhancing economic development, creating jobs and providing guidance to the marketplace. David cited examples from his decades-long work on energy efficiency at NRDC, as well as his recent experience with remodeling his home kitchen, to show that energy efficiency is the cheapest, fastest, and easiest way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels. From his analysis, David also showed how early energy regulations, such as the building and appliance efficiency standards set forth in California in the late 70’s and early 80’s, have helped lower that state’s energy demand, while the national average edged upwards. Lastly, he stressed the importance of passing strong federal energy policy and shared his perspective on the current energy bill debate in Congress.
Business Involvement Critical to Successful AB 32 Plan
On May 30, E2 members and guests gathered at the Google campus in Santa Monica to discuss "Creating California’s Clean Energy Future Today," an EcoSalon featuring E2 Co-Founder and ETAAC Vice-Chair, Bob Epstein, and E2 Climate Campaign Director, Diane Doucette. E2 member Jon Slangerup opened the evening’s discussion and highlighted E2’s critical role last year in lobbying targeted legislators to ensure the passage of AB 32. Diane provided an insider overview on the AB 32 campaign and the critical need for businesses to participate in the AB 32 implementation process. Bob discussed the role of ETAAC (the Economic and Technology Advancement Advisory Committee) to inform the state about incentives to stimulate investment in new low-carbon technologies. Attendees were encouraged to take an active role in this campaign by joining the California Business Climate Network List Serve (CBCN). To learn more about E2 and the CBCN, please contact Danielle Valentino at firstname.lastname@example.org.
E2 would like to thank Google and Google.org for graciously hosting and co-sponsoring this event.
The Clean Tech Revolution
E2 members Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder, both affiliated with Clean Edge have co-authored and published a new book, The Clean Tech Revolution: The Next Big Growth and Investment Opportunity. The book explains why developing clean technologies is no longer just a social issue championed by environmentalists, but also now a money-making enterprise moving into the business mainstream. Click here for more information.
Fortune Features NRDC's Work with Corporate America
On June 15, NRDC’s media team scored a major coup with the story "The Wizards of Ozone." Featured in the June 15 edition of Fortune magazine the article states that NRDC has "morphed from a small law firm into one of the country’s most powerful players in corporate America’s efforts to go green." It reflects the great work being done by NRDC’s Climate Center as well as many other policy experts.
Senate Passes First Fuel Economy Increases in Decades
On June 21, for the first time in decades, the Senate passed by voice vote a compromise amendment to increase fuel efficiency standards. In doing so, it defeated efforts by the auto manufacturers and their supporters in the Senate to dilute CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) standard increases written into the energy bill. While historic, the Senate’s vote doesn’t mean that CAFE will increase tomorrow. The bill still needs to pass the House, which will not be easy. NRDC will be watching the votes very carefully to make sure that some key amendments on biofuels pass, and to prevent further attempts to attach negative provisions to the bill. Kudos to Ann Bordetsky and all of NRDC’s staff working on fuels, vehicles and global warming.
Report Ranks States Most Vulnerable to Gas Price Hikes
On June 19, NRDC released "Addicted to Oil: Ranking States’ Oil Vulnerability and Solutions for Change," a report that ranks states based on their vulnerability to high gas prices and on policies that protect consumers, safeguard the environment and reduce vulnerability to oil price increases. As peak summer driving season fast approaches, this report underscores that America’s addiction to oil continues to threaten our economic viability, national security and global environmental health.
The report shows that while oil dependence affects all states, some are hit harder economically than others. Generally, the most vulnerable states are in the South and the least vulnerable are in the Northeast. Citizens in the most vulnerable state, Mississippi, spend an average of more than 6 percent of their per-capita income on gasoline - two-and-a-half times more than the 2.5 percent spent by residents of Connecticut, the least vulnerable state. When oil prices go up, families in vulnerable states are hit the hardest. A second ranking shows that Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming are the states doing the least to reduce their oil dependence. In contrast, California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington are doing the most.
Warnings on Oil Substitutes in New Report
On June 11, NRDC, Western Resources Advocates and the Pembina Institute released "Driving It Home" - a report arguing that the mounting quest for oil alternatives may lead to increases in global warming pollution and severe impacts on habitats across the United States and Western Canada unless clear safeguards are adopted quickly. The warning comes as lawmakers are facing growing pressure to give generous new subsidies and other incentives to companies involved in turning coal, oil shale and tar sands into transportation fuels - processes that can not only destroy landscapes but also consume vast quantities of fresh water and result in fuels that emit higher levels of global warming pollutants than even gasoline. The report also warns potential investors of looming liabilities and steep financial risks if project developers continue to ignore the prospect of new emission rules and other environmental safeguards. To avoid these risks, the report recommends establishment of a low-carbon fuel standard for all new oil alternatives, regardless of what they are made from. It also urges lawmakers to improve fuel economy performance standards for vehicles, and increase the use of biofuels like cellulosic ethanol, to achieve a future energy supply that is both clean and sustainable.
Ann Bordetsky, Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, Deron Lovaas and Elizabeth Martin-Perera were the NRDC authors of the report.
Calendar of Events
Thursday, May 8, 2014 (7:00 PM - 9:00 PM EDT) SpecialEvent
NRDC NY Council's Farm to Table Dinner at La Plaza Cultural Community Garden (New York City)
Join NRDC NY Council for the 4th Annual Farm to Table dinner scheduled for May 8th at the La Plaza Cultural community garden at 9th Street and Avenue C in NYC. We are looking forward to a great night and hope to see you there! For tickets, please click here: www.nrdc.org/nycouncilfarmtotable2014.