Energy & Environment

Image result for image earth apollo 8

Timeline of Recent Developments

  • Oct. 24:  Government Accountability Office Report says the cost to taxpayers from natural disasters made more severe by climate change could amount to more than $1 trillion by 2039 unless the federal government starts taking steps to slow global warming and prepare for its effects.
  • Aug. 13:  Draft released of the U.S. Global Change Research Program Climate Change Science Special Report (CSSR)
  • Aug. 10:  Politico:  last year confirmed as planet’s hottest year, again; greenhouse gas concentrations are higher than ever recorded; and sea levels are the highest they’ve every been since recording began. 
  • Aug. 11:  NYTimes: Critics of Scott Pruitt, who heads the E.P.A., say he is deploying extraordinary secrecy as he rolls back regulations, closes offices and eliminates staff in his push to dismantle the agency’s environmental mission
  • Aug. 7:  The Guardian publishes USDA memo advising staff to avoid using the term “climate change” in their work.
  • June 15: Trump Administration to close Energy Department Office of International Climate Change and Technology.
  • June 1:  President Trump announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
    • Link to Paris Agreement
    • Excerpt from CRS analysis of the Paris Agreement (PA): “The PA creates a structure for nations to pledge to abate their GHG emissions, set goals to adapt to climate change, and cooperate toward these ends, including financial and other support. The negotiators intended the PA to be legally binding on its Parties, though not all provisions in it are mandatory. Some are recommendations or collective commitments to which it would be difficult to hold an individual Party accountable. Key aspects of the agreement include:
      Temperature goal. The PA defines a collective, long-term objective to hold the GHG-induced increase in temperature to well below 2o Celsius (C) and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5oC above the pre-industrial level. A periodic “global stocktake” will assess progress toward the goals.
      Single GHG mitigation framework. The PA establishes a process, with a ratchet mechanism in five-year increments, for all countries to set and achieve GHG emission mitigation pledges until the long-term goal is met. For the first time under the UNFCCC, all Parties participate in a common framework with common guidance, though some Parties are allowed flexibility in line with their capacities. This largely supersedes the bifurcated mitigation obligations of developed and developing countries that have held the negotiations in often adversarial stasis for many years.
      Accountability framework. To promote compliance, the PA balances accountability to build and maintain trust (if not certainty) with the potential for public and international pressure (“name-and-shame”). Also, the PA establishes a compliance mechanism that will be expert-based and facilitative rather than punitive. Many Parties and observers will closely monitor the effectiveness of this strategy.
      Adaptation. The PA also requires “as appropriate” that Parties prepare and communicate their plans to adapt to climate change. Adaptation communications will be recorded in a public registry.
      Collective financial obligation. The PA reiterates the collective obligation in the UNFCCC for developed country Parties to provide financial resources—public and private—to assist developing country Parties with mitigation and adaptation efforts. It urges scaling up of financing. The Parties agreed to set, prior to their 2025 meeting, a new collective quantified goal for mobilizing financial resources of not less than $100 billion annually to assist developing country Parties.”
    • CRS Legal Sidebar: Can the President Withdraw from the Paris Agreement?
    • CRS Report: Withdrawal from International Agreements – Legal Framework, the Paris Agreement and the Iran Nuclear Agreement (Feb 9 2017)
    • Excerpt from CRS analysis: “Historical practice suggests that, because the Obama Administration considered the Paris Agreement to be an executive agreement that did not require the Senate’s advice and consent, a future Executive may unilaterally withdraw from it without seeking approval from the legislative branch. By its terms, however, the Paris Agreement does not allow parties to submit a notice of withdrawal until November 2019. Should a future Executive seek a more expedient method of exit, withdrawal from the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—the parent treaty to the Paris Agreement—would also terminate the United States’ participation in the subsidiary Paris Agreement. Because the UNFCCC received the Senate’s advice and consent in 1992, an effort by the Executive to terminate that treaty unilaterally could invoke the historical and largely unresolved debate over the role of Congress in treaty termination.”
  • May 23 – President’s FY 2018 Budget released calling for 30% reduction in EPA funding.

 Background Reports on Energy

 Background Reports on Environment, Climate Change