Advance Market Commitments Worked for Vaccines. They Could Work for Carbon Removal, Too.

“we need a gigaton-scale portfolio of permanent carbon removal solutions, and those solutions don’t yet exist. The technology that exists is nascent at best. A growing number of innovative new carbon removal approaches are being tried — from using giant fans to pull CO2 out of the air, to growing kelp in the open ocean and then sinking it, to turning agricultural waste into bio-oil and putting it back underground. But it’s early days, and it’s not yet clear which approaches will be viable, let alone scale quickly.

A key reason permanent carbon removal is behind is that there has been legitimate uncertainty about whether anyone will pay for it. New technologies are typically expensive at first and get cheaper as they scale. Today, carbon removal solutions face a chicken-and-egg problem. As early technologies, they’re more expensive, so they don’t attract a critical mass of customers. But without wider adoption, they can’t scale production to become cheaper.

The uncertainty is particularly large for carbon removal because potential purchasers do not currently have a direct motivation to buy it. Governments and companies might consider carbon removal to fulfill their net-zero emissions pledges, but there are cheaper options that satisfy commitments as they are written today. So even though permanent carbon removal is critical to meeting climate goals, current guidelines do not explicitly reward it.

Carbon removal is thus in urgent need of a bold assist — and an “advance market commitment” could be the solution. This approach, in which money is provided to guarantee a market for a product, is modeled after a program successfully piloted a decade ago that incentivized the development of vaccines for poor countries at a time when pharmaceutical companies weren’t sure that countries could pay for a large volume of vaccines if they were developed.”

“Here’s how it could work. Companies and governments with net-zero pledges could fund the AMC by formalizing and pooling their financial commitments to buy carbon removal over a specified period of time — essentially turning ambiguous net-zero commitments into net-zero contracts to buy carbon removal. The AMC, run by technical experts acting on behalf of contributors, would buy carbon removal from high potential companies. When tons of CO2 get removed, the AMC would pay suppliers and issue credits back to buyers.

A large AMC for carbon removal would be transformative. Large contracts to purchase frontier carbon removal send a much stronger market signal to entrepreneurs and investors than fragmented companies making net-zero commitments, where innovators face substantial uncertainty about how the commitments will be met and whether the companies will choose to invest any resources in permanent carbon removal as opposed to other strategies.

An AMC has the further advantage that the demand signal can be sent now, without needing to pick a winning technology. A diverse set of technologies can be developed, while incentivizing inventors to meet rigorous standards that ensure they deliver real, permanent carbon removal.”

“Sustaining a market of this magnitude will undoubtedly require policy to regulate emissions. But policy takes time and tends to respond to emerging technologies rather than kickstart them. An AMC for carbon removal would help the field make progress while critical policy work happens in parallel. Furthermore, this early assist increases the likelihood that large amounts of permanent carbon removal will even be available at a reasonable price.”

How humans could live two years longer

“When we burn fossil fuels, not all the resulting pollution goes up high into the atmosphere. Some of it accumulates in the air that we breathe every day.

And it kills us. A lot of us. The Global Burden of Disease study, a common benchmark for public health work, estimates that 3.4 million people die prematurely every year due to air pollution. More recent research puts the total even higher, at 10 million a year. A recent paper suggested that 90 percent of the world’s population lives in areas with air pollution higher than World Health Organization guidelines (guidelines that the organization itself is toughening).

The particles in question here are invisible to the naked eye — but their effects are anything but.”

“Air pollution is a tough problem, but the good news is that we can help solve it by solving another tough problem. Actions to combat global warming can also dramatically cut air pollution deaths.”

The downside to Biden’s electric vehicle charging plan

“to build 500,000 chargers with half the budget, the Biden administration will have to opt for slower chargers. (The faster the charger, the more expensive it is to install.) The Biden administration’s plan, which draws on funds from the recently passed $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, prioritizes chargers that take hours to fully charge an electric car — a potentially hard sell for Americans who are used to filling gas tanks from empty to full in minutes. And while more chargers are great, the plan is an indicator of just how watered-down Biden’s energy policies have become over the last year. Democrats still haven’t been able to agree on a clean energy plan, and without one in place, those EV chargers could just end up getting their energy from fossil fuel sources.”

“There are currently three different types, or levels, of electric vehicle chargers. Level 1 chargers plug into a regular 120-volt power outlet and deliver power to electric cars at a glacial three to five miles of range per hour. At that rate, it would take a couple of days for most cars to go from empty to fully charge. Level 2 chargers convert the 120-volt connection to about 240 volts, charging cars around 10 times faster than Level 1 chargers and bringing a battery to full within a few hours. Level 3 chargers, also called DC fast chargers, are the fastest of the lot. They add anywhere from three to 20 miles of range per minute.That means your car can be about 80 percent charged in the time it takes you to use the bathroom and grab a cup of coffee at a rest stop.”

“industry experts say, we don’t really need every charger to be a fast charger — which is why the Biden administration’s charging framework just might work.
“There’s a temptation to recreate the gas station model, where we say, ‘Oh I’m low on fuel, I need to go fill up now and be on my way in five minutes,’” Joe Britton, executive director of the Zero Emission Transportation Association, told Recode. “That would be a mistake.” (Just don’t tell Harris, who said charging the Volt was “just like filling up your car with gas.”)

Instead, Britton said, it’s important to consider how most people actually use their cars on a regular day. Most folks aren’t driving hundreds of miles each day; they’re driving between home and work or running errands around town. For those folks, Level 2 chargers would work just fine. They can charge their cars at home, drive to a grocery store, plug in at the parking lot, and drive back home with a full battery. So while the Biden plan does include strategically installing faster chargers along highways and in rural areas, the focus on building lots of Level 2 chargers in local communities is a way to stretch that $7.5 billion a long way.”

“Despite being home to EV pioneers like Tesla and GM, the US lags far behind Europe and China in electric vehicle sales. The majority of American EV sales are also concentrated in major metropolitan areas, with nearly half of all EV sales in California alone.”

“Studies have shown that electric cars drawing power from coal-heavy grids can actually be worse for the climate than hybrids. And so far, the president’s attempts to clean up the grid have been repeatedly thwarted by Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who single-handedly gutted a proposal to replace coal- and gas-powered plants with solar, wind, and nuclear energy. Most of the energy policy that remains in Biden’s signature Build Back Better bill revolves around tax credits for clean energy, with few penalties for continued pollution-heavy energy production.”

John Kerry calls for investing ‘trillions’ to get big emitters to quit polluting

“If the world is to “avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis,” said Kerry, the challenge boils down to changing economic policy in a small group of large countries that he said were not doing enough to lower their greenhouse gas emissions.

He called them out by name: “China, Russia, India, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, South Africa and Saudi Arabia.””

“France, Germany, the U.K., U.S. and the EU agreed — pending the outcomes of a task force — to shift an initial $8.5 billion to assist South Africa to retire its fleet of coal-fired power plants and retrain mine workers. South Africa in turn significantly raised its 2030 climate target ahead of the COP26 climate summit.
Kerry said the South Africa model was “a pretty damn good template.”

Timmermans told a POLITICO event on Wednesday that other countries “like Indonesia, and indeed, India” were interested in similar deals.

But South Africa’s position was unique. The financial woes of public power utility Eskom meant it had a “unique problem” for its partners to solve, said Kerry. “Every place is going to have its own set of challenges.””

“China, on the other hand, is being approached altogether differently. The world’s second-largest economy and largest CO2-emitter is an equal and a rival — there will be no buying off Beijing. Kerry wants China to fund other countries’ renewable energy sectors, but he didn’t invite China to partner in any of the specific deals the U.S. and Europe are working on.

Relations between Beijing and Washington are tense. The Trump administration’s backtracking on the Paris Agreement has China questioning whether the U.S. will stick to its renewed climate commitments if a Republican wins the presidency in 2024.”

The Build Back Better Bill Will Give You $12,000 for Buying an Electric Car. Unless It’s a Tesla.

“As part of Biden’s plan to rein in carbon emissions, the bill contains a provision which would provide a $7,500 tax rebate to any consumer who purchases an electric vehicle (EV), including both all-electric and plug-in hybrids. However, that amount increases by $4,500 if the car was manufactured in a unionized U.S. factory, as well as by an additional $500 if the vehicle contains a U.S.-made battery.

Ostensibly, this provision is part of Biden’s “Buy American” policy of incentivizing or mandating purchases to be made domestically. In practice, the order has simply carried over the protectionism of the Trump trade policy and increased costs to taxpayers. The EV credit proposal, though, is much more egregious, in that it not only incentivizes a particular type of product, but incentivizes particular brands, as well.

If enacted as written, the bonus $4,500 in EV credits could only apply to cars made by Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler). In other words, a driver who wants to purchase a hybrid Toyota Camry, which U.S. News & World Report ranks as having “Great” reliability, does not qualify for the extra money, even though the car is manufactured in Kentucky. But if that same shopper elects to purchase a Chevrolet Bolt, which recently halted production because the batteries were catching fire, they would receive the extra rebate. As a matter of fact, out of more than 50 EVs currently on the market, the only vehicles which currently qualify for the extra money are two variations of the Bolt.

This is what is most pernicious about this policy: Rather than simply a blanket advantage for American companies (which would be bad enough), it is a clear giveaway to the United Auto Workers (UAW).”

How ‘Climate Migrants’ Are Roiling American Politics

“Kissimmee gained a whopping 10,000 new residents between 2017 and 2020, according to census data. Osceola County, where Kissimmee is located, and neighboring Orange County saw their combined Puerto Rican population jump more than 12 percent. The changes were so profound that González found herself competing with two other Puerto Rican candidates to become Kissimmee’s mayor.

“Hurricane Maria … served as a reintroduction of the Puerto Rican population into Central Florida,” said Fernando Rivera, director of the Puerto Rico Research Hub at the University of Central Florida. Now, “we’re seeing growth in the leadership [of Puerto Ricans].”

The concept of climate migration — population shifts forced by destructive weather changes — has been studied for years. But most Americans still think of it as something that happens elsewhere, or a future doomsday scenario about people flocking to North Dakota to escape extreme weather along the coasts. But experts are saying it’s happening in subtler ways already, forcing people to make moves as dramatic as the influx of Puerto Ricans to central Florida and as mundane as people in tidewater Virginia choosing one county over another to live in to avoid a possible flood plain.

But as evidenced by González’s election, such changes are significant enough to start scrambling the political map, with experts foreseeing a cascading effect of changes to come.”

The infrastructure law aims to clean up pollution in your community

“a bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes $350 billion to address long-ignored environmental threats. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is the largest sum in recent memory directed at cleaning up pollution, from replacing lead pipes to capping methane-spewing oil wells.
The funding could make a serious dent in air and water pollution for certain communities by preventing runoff from abandoned mines and cleaning up old, toxic manufacturing sites. People who live near busy roadways, airports, and ports may benefit from the boost to electric vehicle charging stations, school buses, and cranes that will replace gas- and diesel-burning cars and equipment.

Other investments will improve public health more indirectly: One of the law’s major provisions includes expanding transmission that can move more clean energy across the grid. By increasing the mix of renewables, states and the utilities they regulate ultimately would need to burn fewer fossil fuels to power the economy.

The biggest criticism of the new law is what it leaves out: Environmental advocates say the funding only meets a fraction of the nation’s needs for addressing water and air pollution, and falls far short of the transformative change Biden promised on the campaign trail.

This is also not the transformative climate bill that climate activists had hoped for.”

What the world did and didn’t accomplish at COP26

“The final agreement, dubbed the Glasgow Climate Pact, was endorsed by nearly 200 countries, and presents a set of principles and goals for action on climate change. While there is no enforcement mechanism, the agreement serves as a lever for international political pressure.

For the first time, UN climate negotiators specifically called to draw down use of fossil fuels, which scientists say is necessary to meet climate targets. Many countries and corporations have fiercely resisted ending their reliance on oil, gas, and coal — the dominant sources of greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere.

More than 130 countries also said they will zero out their impact on the climate in the next half-century, and most countries strengthened their pledges to cut emissions. At the beginning of the two-week conference, India announced a target of net-zero emissions by 2070. That means the world’s three largest greenhouse-gas emitters — China, the US, and India, together accounting for nearly half of global emissions — are now aiming to stop contributing to climate change completely in the coming decades. India, however, weakened some of the language on ending coal power in the final hours of the meeting.”

“the true test of the negotiations will be the actions countries take to make their pledges real — not just in terms of reducing emissions, but also restoring ecosystems, switching to clean energy, and addressing the historic injustices around climate change.”

How Biden’s infrastructure win falls short in one big area

“The bill, H.R. 3684 (117), is historic in its scope with $550 billion in new money funneled into hard infrastructure, from overhauling bridges to supercharging Amtrak’s most popular rail corridor in the Northeast. But it falls far short of Biden’s original vision, which promised to dramatically reduce the climate impacts of transportation, the single largest source of pollution. In the end, the final product was the victim of the bipartisan focus it took to get the bill done and is an example of the razor thin governing majority Democrats must navigate.”

Biden’s Plan B for the climate crisis, explained

“If Congress fails to enshrine key climate policies as federal laws, Biden’s Plan B includes executive orders and major regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, the New York Times reported.
The problem is that executive actions aren’t an ideal substitute for federal laws, and may last only as long as Biden’s presidency. EPA regulation also “tends to lag [behind] the technological realities,” meaning it may only modestly nudge the economy in a new direction, Jesse Jenkins, an environmental engineering professor at Princeton University, told Vox. It’s also vulnerable to intervention by the Supreme Court.”