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National Climate Policy Progressed in the Last Decade, Despite Stalled Global Negotiations

April 15, 2013

New Study Explores Climate and Energy Policy Challenges in Brazil, China, EU, India, U.S.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The implementation of policy relevant to climate change, and its impact, accelerated markedly over the last decade, despite the slow pace of international climate negotiations, says Climate Policy Initiative in a new report, The Policy Climate. The study, released today at an event at The Brookings Institution in Washington DC, presents three decades of evidence from five key economies – Brazil, China, India, the EU, and the U.S. — which together contain slightly more than half of the world’s population and account for nearly two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“In spite of stalemate at the global level, there have been real climate policy accomplishments at the national and subnational levels, particularly in the last decade,” said Thomas C. Heller, Executive Director of Climate Policy Initiative. “Our job now is to learn from and build on this experience.”

Policy deployed across the world at the national, provincial, and local levels provides a wealth of experience for policymakers to use to inform further programs to tackle climate change. While there is ample experience to help guide further policy development in land use, renewable energy, and energy efficiency, the report identifies a particular need for more policy that supports innovation globally.

The report offers lessons and insights from each region:

Brazil has seen marked success in climate-related policies and may be a good model for other emerging economies. Roughly half the slowdown in deforestation in the late-2000s was a result of deliberate government policy, while better land productivity has led to increased agricultural output.

China has pursued aggressive climate and energy policies with particular focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Closure of inefficient coal-fired power plants saved the equivalent of more than 100 million tonnes of coal, while renewable electricity in China grew 661% between 2000 and 2010. Still, renewable electricity sources in China only produced the equivalent of 1.368% of the electricity from conventional sources by the end of 2010. Between 2000 and 2010, China represented 68% of the increase in global energy-related CO2 emissions.

The European Union has been successful in reducing emissions in the last decades through a combination of the umbrella EU Emissions Trading System and targeted policies, but now faces an economic crisis that challenges its decarbonization goals.

India has aggressive renewable energy targets and industry energy efficiency policies, but faces significant infrastructure challenges, which may derail otherwise good policy. India is growing rapidly and represented 8% of the increase in global energy-related CO2 emissions between 2000 and 2010.

The United States has created a “messy but useful” combination of incentives, regulation, persuasion, and innovation at the federal and state level, which has contributed to a recent decline in emissions. Sustaining and escalating this emissions decline while creating more cost-effective policy in the face of tightened government spending is the next challenge.

The Policy Climate includes summaries of emissions, economic trends, and key policies in the following sectors — Buildings, Power, Industry, Transport, and Land Use.

To download The Policy Climate and explore the interactive version of the study, visit www.ClimatePolicyInitiative.org.

Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) is a global policy effectiveness analysis and advisory organization.  Its mission is to assess, diagnose, and support nations’ efforts to achieve low-carbon growth.  An independent, not-for-profit organization supported by a grant from the Open Society Foundations, CPI’s headquarters are in the U.S., with offices and programs in Brazil, China, Europe, India, and Indonesia.

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Contact: Ruby Barcklay, +1 510 612 5180, ruby@cpisf.org

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Select Facts from The Policy Climate:

Brazil

  • Roughly half the slowdown in deforestation in the late-2000s was a result of policy.
  • In Brazil, large scale deforestation declined much more rapidly over 2000-2010 than small scale deforestation. Deforestation in tracts larger than 1000 hectares declined by 98.81% in that time period, whereas deforestation in tracts less than 25 hectares declined only 48%.
  • From 1970 to 2006, land productivity (defined as agricultural production per hectare) in Northern Brazil (the Amazon region) increased little, following a similar pattern to Sub-Saharan Africa, compared with land productivity in Central-West Brazil which increased significantly, following a pattern similar to Asia. From 1970-2006, Central-West Brazil’s agricultural productivity increased 400%, whereas Northern Brazil’s productivity improved only 180%.

China

  • Between 2000 and 2010, 68% of the increase in global energy-related CO2 emissions came from China.
  • After 2002, growth rates in energy consumption in China increased dramatically, with growth rates in industrial energy consumption approximately tripling, and growth rates in electricity generation increasing by approximately 1.5 times.
  • Even though renewable electricity in China grew 661% from 2000-2010, these sources still only produced the equivalent of 1.368% of the electricity from conventional sources by the end of that period.
  • Closure of inefficient coal-fired power plants saved more than 100 million tonnes of coal equivalent.
  • From 2005 to 2010, increased enforcement of energy building codes in China saved an estimated 60 million tonnes of coal equivalent per year, more than all other building energy efficiency policies in China combined.

India

  • In the last ten years, 8% of the increase in global energy-related CO2 emissions came from India.
  • In India, as with China, most new generation since 2000 came from conventional sources, though the past decade saw exponential growth in renewable energy generation (especially wind, which grew 1250% from 2000-2010).
  • From 2005-2010, Indian states phased in Renewables Portfolio Obligations for their electricity markets. As of 2010, these statewide targets translated to an approximate 5.5% nationwide target for renewable energy.

Europe

  • In the buildings sector, improvements in fuel efficiency, fuel switching, and consumption patterns were significantly offset by an increasing population and a decline in occupants per household. Annual household emissions fell by 22 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent.
  • Fuel switching from coal to renewable energy contributed to a 10% decline in the power sector’s average emissions factor from 2000 to 2010.
  • European fuel taxes have been flat since 2000, with diesel taxes remaining the same on average, and gasoline taxes falling by 6.5%. Their impact on emissions may have diminished, given their percentage of the final consumer-facing price during the same time period has fallen by over 20%.

U.S.

  • Between 2000 and 2010, a number of factors reduced the emissions intensity of power generators. The 1980s and 90s saw improvements due to increased nuclear output largely offset by increased use of coal-fired power. In the 2000s, all factors, including renewable energy and natural gas, helped reduce emissions intensity.
  • U.S. federal renewable energy tax incentives, as well as state-level renewable portfolio standards, accounted for significant increases in U.S. renewable energy capacity between 2000 and 2010.
  • Despite increases in engine and transmission efficiency, U.S. passenger vehicles only improved their emissions intensity by about 2.5% from 2000 to 2008, due to increased vehicle size and weight. As a sector, transport improved its emissions intensity by just over 5% from 2000 to 2006 – assisted by domestic air travel, which improved almost 20% during that time period.