So what are policy makers actually doing? In our latest OECD Observer Roundtable, we asked a representative range of lead policy makers:
What concrete actions is your government taking to combat climate change and promote a low-carbon economy?
Three actions for environmental democracy
Pablo Badenier Martínez, Minister of Environment
As examples of our current efforts in addressing the challenges of climate change in Chile, I would like to highlight three actions. Firstly, as proposed in the Government Programme of President Michelle Bachelet we have strengthened our climate institutional framework by setting up an inter-ministerial decision body on climate change, called the Council of Ministers for Sustainability and Climate Change; this brings the climate agenda to the highest decision level. Our recently announced Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) and previously our National Adaptation Action Plan were both reviewed and approved by this committee.
Secondly, in close co-ordination with the finance and energy ministries, a carbon tax of USD$5 per tonne of CO2 emitted to thermal generation sources above 50 megawatts is due to be applied in the country from 2017. Chile was the first country to set a tax of this kind in South America and in this regard, in October 2015 President Bachelet expressed Chile’s support to the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, to be launched at COP21 in Paris.
Thirdly, the Ministry of Environment is leading the building of the country´s next National Climate Change Action Plan (2016-21). This action plan will be built upon a participatory approach open to actors from all sectors and fields, following Chile’s commitments on environmental democracy. The plan will have a strong emphasis on implementation, with a special focus on those measures needed to fulfil Chile´s INDC.
Of course, our work is not limited to these areas and measures. We are taking forward an ambitious agenda in other key areas, such as adaptation, greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories and regional best practice sharing. We are working for a global agreement in COP21, but Chile’s work will not end in Paris: we are fully committed to a long-term climate agenda.
Exceeding its pledge
Barbara Hendricks, Federal Environment Minister
From 1990 to 2013 Germany achieved a significant cut of 24% in its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, thus exceeding its pledge under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions by an average of 21% between 2008 and 2012 compared to 1990. Moreover, in 2007 Germany had already set itself the goal of cutting emissions by at least 40% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. This is substantially more ambitious than the target for the EU as a whole.
On 3 December 2014 the German government adopted the Climate Action Programme 2020, comprising more than 100 individual measures in all sectors, to ensure that the target is achieved by 2020.
One of the programme’s key elements is the National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (NAPE), which focuses on raising energy efficiency in buildings, energy saving as a business and earnings model, and individual responsibility for energy efficiency. NAPE instruments include a competitive tendering scheme, support for contracting, further development of existing energy efficiency programmes and co-operating with trade and industry associations to set up energy efficiency networks for companies.
The strategy on climate-friendly building and housing is primarily geared to the long-term target of climate-neutral buildings by 2050, but it also lays solid foundations for 2020, incorporating energy efficiency into other climate measures. In the transport sector we are promoting climate friendly modes for goods and passengers, such as rail, public transport and bicycles, the use of electric drives, and engine efficiency in motor vehicles.
To achieve the necessary reductions in the energy industry, besides the necessary reform of emissions trading, the Climate Action Programme 2020 focuses on the expansion of renewable energy, combined heat and power generation, and other measures in the electricity sector, in particular those aimed at lowering consumption.
In 2014, for instance, the share of renewable energies in gross electricity consumption rose to 27.4%, and helped avoid around 110 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents, with wind energy, biomass and photovoltaics playing the most important roles.
Less than a year after the adoption of Germany’s Climate Action Programme 2020, the first government report has shown that implementation planning for nearly all the adopted measures is either well-advanced or already complete.
A decisive factor for achieving the government’s climate targets is the participation of all stakeholders and target groups. The Climate Action Alliance, comprising representatives of all civil groups, will support the German government in the implementation of adopted measures and help identify further areas for action, notably towards the Climate Action Plan 2050.
Renewable energy and efficiency are pillars
Tamayo Marukawa, Minister of the Environment
COP21 marks a turning point in the challenge of climate change, symbolising the beginning of the world’s commitment to the long-term efforts to create a low-carbon and climate-resilient society. Japan is devoted to the success of COP21 with the adoption of a new, fair and effective legal agreement applicable to all.
A Paris agreement should deliver a signal for the world to accelerate actions for transition to a low-carbon society and achieve the 2ºC goal. From this viewpoint, it is important to establish a review system which effectively ensures implementation of each country’s contribution and to progressively increase the ambition over time, taking into account the outcome of the 2015 G7 Summit supporting the upper end of 40-70% reductions by 2050 compared to 2010.
Japan’s intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) strives for reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 26% by the fiscal year (FY) 2030 compared to the FY 2013 (25.4% compared to the FY 2005). Japan will develop a plan to combat climate change as soon as possible to achieve this target.
Renewable energy is a pillar of mitigation. Renewables are to increase to 22-24% of total power generation by 2030. Solar energy will increase sevenfold. Wind and geothermal energy fourfold. INDC requires the proper implementation of a feed-in tariff (FIT) and the further development and demonstration of new renewables, including floating offshore wind turbines.
Energy efficiency represents another pillar. Japan aims to reduce its total energy consumption by approximately 50 million kL (crude oil equivalent) by 2030, through the promotion of next-generation motor cars, improved energy efficiency in buildings and housing using energy saving standards etc.
Japan is already implementing the Joint Crediting Mechanism (JCM) to reduce GHG emissions through the use of leading low-carbon technologies. Currently, there are 52 projects in the pipeline in 15 partner countries. We are pursuing further implementations of JCM projects.
In May 2016, I will host the G7 Environment Ministers’ meeting in Toyama, a beautiful and environmentally friendly city. I look forward to hosting discussions on various environmental issues including climate change. As chair, I will seek to lend support to both individual and collective actions, paving the way to a sustainable society.
Playing to its strengths
Tim Groser, Minister Responsible for International Climate Change Negotiations
We’re blessed with an abundance of renewable electricity (already 80%, and we’re aiming for 90%), but half our emissions arise from biological processes, where the options to reduce them are limited. Our answer is to play to our strengths: we’ve pledged to reduce emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. Coal-fired power generation in New Zealand will cease by 2018, with the planned closure of generators at our largest power station. Geothermal energy has more than doubled over the past decade and, for the first time in 40 years, contributed more electricity than natural gas in 2014. We’re exporting our geothermal expertise around the globe, from Indonesia to Africa, and we’re focusing NZ$100 million (US$65 million) in climate finance on helping Pacific Islands make the shift from diesel to clean energy.
Agriculture’s our second key strength. Building on our proud history of innovation in agricultural science and policy, we initiated a Global Research Alliance of 46 developed and developing countries to collaborate on ways to grow more food without growing emissions. The results from initial trials are exciting, with a new compound seeing methane reductions of 30% to 90% in the sheep tested.
We phased out agricultural subsidies in the 1980s, and now, we’re applying what we learned by leading a coalition of governments calling for the elimination of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. With oil prices low, and the momentum of COP 21, the logic is undeniable: we can’t on the one hand call for a price on carbon, and on the other pay subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption and tilt the playing field against renewables. Subsidy phase-out would deliver health benefits and cut global emissions by 10%. We’ll deliver a well-supported communiqué promoting this on Leaders’ Day in Paris.
Our fourth strength lies in carbon markets, where we’ve had an emissions trading system (ETS) in place since 2008. We’re working hard with the many countries who’ve signalled that the international transfer of units will likely help them meet their national targets. Carbon pricing schemes are a reality, and will grow. The significance of China’s plan to create a national ETS next year can’t be underestimated. We need to design systems to efficiently channel investment, maximise mitigation outcomes and capitalise on the co-benefits markets deliver, such as technology transfer. Setting standards to ensure environmental integrity and no double-counting is essential, and we’re a driving force behind this.
Accelerating the clean energy economy
Gina McCarthy, Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency
The United States is cutting the pollutants that fuel climate change and seizing opportunities to drive our clean energy economy at the same time.
In 2013 President Barack Obama issued a Climate Action Plan to accomplish these goals by cutting carbon pollution, boosting the country’s resilience to climate impacts and leading international efforts to address this as a global challenge. Over the past several years, the US administration has taken a host of steps to deliver on that plan.
We’ve set historic greenhouse gas (GHG) and fuel efficiency standards that will send our cars twice as far on a gallon of gas by the middle of the next decade–saving US families at the pump and revitalising our auto industry at the same time.
The US is now generating three times as much wind power and 20 times as much solar power as we did when President Obama took office–and our solar industry is creating jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy.
We’ve also made unprecedented investments to cut energy waste in US homes, buildings and appliances–actions that will save consumers billions of dollars. And the US private sector is stepping up, including by making more than US$4 billion in commitments to scale up investments in clean energy innovation.
Over the past year, we’ve taken steps that will cut consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which have high global-warming potential, by the equivalent of more than 100 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide through 2025. And US companies are hard at work developing the next generation of cost-effective alternatives that will be brought to market.
In August 2015 the US Environmental Protection Agency issued an historic Clean Power Plan that puts our country on track to slash carbon pollution from power plants 32% below 2005 levels by 2030. In addition to major health benefits and cost savings for US families, the plan will drive innovation by empowering states to use low-carbon electricity generation technologies to meet its requirements.
Addressing climate change brings tremendous opportunities to improve public health and drive a clean energy economy. With each step we’re taking, the United States is seizing those opportunities.
©OECD Observer No 304, November 2015
Corrected: 30 Nov 2015