COP-21 News: Aug. 14th Updates on the Road to Paris

July 31, 2015

Read below for news and updates about the UN climate negotiations happening in Paris at the end of this year.  What’s happening in your country?


During Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s visit to Washington, she and US President Barack Obama signed an agreement committing both nations to sourcing 20 percent of their electricity from non-hydro renewable sources by 2030. Brazil has also committed to reforesting an area the size of England, and to making non-hydro renewables 28-33 percent of its total energy use by 2030, which includes transportation and other direct power.

Brazilian NGOs have pegged their country’s commitment as unambitious, arguing that the country was on the path towards 20 percent renewables anyway, and that existing legislation covers deforestation. The fact remains though: with forest protection and other actions that amount to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by around 40 percent below 2005 levels, Brazil cut more GHG emissions than any other nation between 2005 and 2011.


China has submitted its intended commitment for the UN climate negotiations, known as an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (or INDC). The basics of the commitment are:

  • to achieve peak CO2 emissions around 2030 and make best efforts to peak early;
  • to lower CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65 percent from the 2005 level;
  • to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20 percent; and
  • to increase the forest stock volume by around 4.5 billion cubic meters above the 2005 level.

China plans to achieve this all by 2030 through a long list of transformative policies, and all commitments are thought to be achievable, perhaps even sooner than 2030.


Per the updated targets under the National Solar Mission, India aims to have an installedsolar power capacity of 100 GW by 2022. The original target under the mission was 22 GW by 2022. 100 GW capacity will include 40 GW rooftop solar power capacity and 57 GW utility-scale solar power projects; India had an operational solar power capacity of around 3 GW when the upgraded mission targets were announced earlier this year.

For the current financial year, the ministry has set a target of adding 200 MW rooftop solar power capacity. This is supposed to increase to 4.8 GW in the next financial year (2016–17). In 2017-18, capacity of 5 GW rooftop solar power projects has been envisaged, with a 1 GW additional target up to 9 GW in financial year 2021–22.

The rooftop solar power projects are expected to be commissioned mostly by the state governments through their own solar power policies.

The ministry expects 1.8 GW of utility-scale solar power capacity additions in the current financial year, followed by 7.2 GW in financial year 2016–17. Capacity addition targets for financial years 2017–18 to 2019–20 are 10 GW each, while a total of 18 GW capacity would be added in financial years 2020–21 and 2021–22.

To set up utility-scale solar power projects, the central government as well as the state governments shall organise competitive auctions. These will include auctions for ultra mega solar power projects as well. The government has announced plans to set up 25 such projects, which will have a capacity of up to 4 GW each. They are expected to have a cumulative installed capacity of 20 GW.

Aug. 14th:

United States

Obama’s final rule for power plants is intended to push electric utilities to invest more quickly in renewable sources, raising to 28 percent from 22 percent the share of generating capacity that would come from such sources (the previous released version would have allowed states to lower emissions by transitioning from plants fired by coal to plants fired by natural gas, which produces about half the carbon pollution of coal.”  In its final version, the rule retains the same basic structure as the draft proposal: It assigns each state a target for reducing its carbon pollution from power plants, but allows states to create their own custom plans for doing so. States have to submit an initial version of their plans by 2016 and final versions by 2018.   The final rules are explicitly meant to encourage the use of interstate cap-and-trade systems, in which states place a cap on carbon pollution and then create a market for buying permits or credits to pollute. The idea is that forcing companies to pay to pollute will drive them to cleaner sources of energy.

The anticipated final climate change regulations have already set off what is expected to be broad legal, legislative and political backlash as dozens of states, major corporations and industry groups prepare to file lawsuits challenging them.  Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, has started an unusual pre-emptive campaign against the rules, asking governors to refuse to comply. Attorneys general from more than a dozen states are preparing legal challenges against the plan. Experts estimate that as many as 25 states will join in a suit against the rules and that the disputes will end up before the Supreme Court. Leading the legal charge are states like Wyoming and West Virginia with economies that depend heavily on coal mining or cheap coal-fired electricity. Emissions from coal-fired power plants are the nation’s single largest source of carbon pollution.

The rules take into account the fact that some states may refuse to submit plans, and on Monday, the administration will also unveil a template for a plan to be imposed on such states. That plan will include the option of allowing a state to join an interstate cap-and-trade system. The rules will also offer financial benefits for states that choose to take part in cap-and-trade systems. The final rules will extend until 2022 the timeline for states and electric utilities to comply, two years later than originally proposed. But states that begin to take actions to cut carbon pollution as early as 2020 will be rewarded with carbon reduction credits — essentially, pollution permits that can be sold for cash in a cap-and-trade market.

Mr. Obama’s pledge that the United States would enact the climate change rules was at the heart of a pact that he made last year with President Xi Jinping of China, committing their nations, the world’s two largest carbon polluters, to substantially cut emissions.  “It’s the linchpin of the administration’s domestic effort and international effort on climate change,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, a research organization. “It raises the diplomatic stakes in the run-up to Paris. He can take it on the road and use it as leverage with other big economies — China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia.”

While opponents of the rules have estimated that compliance will cost billions of dollars, raise residential electricity rates and slow the American economy, the administration argues that the rules will save the average American family $85 annually in electricity costs and bring additional health benefits by reducing emissions of pollutants that cause asthma and lung disease.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was founded in 2010 and aims to leverage $100 billion per year in public and private money (starting in 2020) to help developing countries mitigate, adapt to, and prepare for climate change. Late last year, the GCF raised $10 billion to capitalize the fund and begin pilot projects, with the US pledging $3 billion over four years. President Obama has requested $500 million for the fund for fiscal year 2016.

In a big win for the GCF, an amendment was recently passed in the Senate Appropriations Committee stating that it would not be necessary to pass a separate bill to authorize funds for the GCF – a requirement that would have allowed opponents to block funding.  Solar outpaces jobs in all other energy areas, but this is little-covered in the press.

Job-creation-by-energy-source-570x427 in the US.

Meanwhile, clean energy is outcompeting fossil fuels on cost, according to a just released report by NextGen.

Clean energy outcompeting Alt-vs-conven-570x369

China leads in new investment in renewable energy:




South Africa to target 34% carbon cuts by 2025 and if South Africa receives support to help it invest in cleaner forms of energy this 2025 goal could be boosted to 42%.