As the world struggles to adjust to the harsh new reality of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the most recent instalment of the Sixth IPCC Report slipped out almost unnoticed.  And that is worrying, since the assessment in this section of the Report is even starker than previous assessments – noting in particular that in order to avoid global temperatures increasing by greater than 1.5 degrees C above preindustrial levels, the world needs to halve its emissions this decade: a reduction that the world does not currently appear to be remotely on course to do.

However, whilst the IPCC Report and the Russian invasion of Ukraine are not linked, Russian aggression in Ukraine may serve as a catalyst to speed up the European energy transition and accelerate its retreat from dependency on Russian gas and exposure to volatile international oil markets, which could in turn deliver a more rapid reduction in European emissions.  In the process, perhaps setting the world on a path to achieving an outcome that currently seems unattainable.

Continue Reading The IPCC and The Ukraine Crisis

The European Commission (the “Commission”) formally adopted on 27 January 2022 its new Guidelines on State aid for climate, environmental protection and energy (CEEAG). The CEEAG replace the guidelines that were in force since 2014 (EEAG) and integrate the new objectives of the EU Green Deal of a reduction of 55% net greenhouse gas emissions compared to the 1990 levels by 2030 and of carbon neutrality by 2050. The Commission has estimated that achieving the new 2030 target would require EUR 390 billion of additional annual investment compared to the levels in 2011-2020, an investment that cannot be borne by the private sector alone, and would therefore require public investments.

Continue Reading The Commission adopts its new Climate, Energy and Environmental Aid Guidelines (CEEAG)

As the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (“COP”) in Glasgow has drawn to a close, with seemingly mixed messages and a somewhat ambiguous conclusion, it is worth reflecting on the overall trajectory of the climate issue, societal expectations, and the accomplishments that — with time — Glasgow is likely to represent.  COP26 highlighted the fragility of the planet, as well as the fragility of the global consensus-based United Nations approach to protecting it.  It highlighted the sweep of global climate-induced challenges and the scale of transformation needed to address them.  With rising temperatures has come a rising global focus on climate and a far greater set of emerging societal expectations for meaningful responses by government and the private sector.  Despite the risk that the global agreement forged in Glasgow is seen by climate activists as all talk and no action — what they referred to as “blah, blah, blah” — I believe that a number of features will endure as important accomplishments.

Continue Reading Report from Glasgow COP26: Assessing the United Nations Climate Conference

On 19 October, alongside a number of other important strategy documents (over 2,000 pages in total), the UK Government published its ‘Net-Zero Strategy’ (NZS) which will help achieve the UK’s interim five yearly carbon targets leading up to net-zero by 2050.

Continue Reading The UK’s Net Zero Strategy

The D.C. Circuit issued a decision in Vecinos para el Bienestar de la Comunidad Costera v. FERC, which faulted FERC for failing to consider whether the social cost of carbon (SCC) is a “generally accepted” analytical tool for assessing the significance of greenhouse gas impacts under NEPA.  The decision is likely to result in

On July 14, the European Commission presented its legislative proposal for a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (“CBAM”).  This long-anticipated tool is intended to make importers pay for the greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions embedded in the covered goods that they market in the EU.  A Covington webinar on the main elements of the proposal and related policy considerations is available here.
Continue Reading Will the EU CBAM Cover More Than What You Think? Complex Goods, System Boundaries, and Circumvention Under the Commission’s CBAM Proposal

This is the twenty-fourth in our series, “The ABCs of the AJP.”

In 2020 alone, the United States suffered 22 separate extreme weather and climate-related disasters that each caused at least $1 billion in damages, for a total of more than $100 billion in losses.  That staggering statistic is not an anomaly, as climate change continues to result in more and more extreme weather events every year.  For example, the Texas freeze that rocked the state earlier this year and killed more than one hundred people, also shut down the state’s significant petrochemical industry, disrupting supply chains nationwide, and caused an estimated $80 billion to $130 billion in direct and indirect economic losses.  Hundreds of deaths are attributed to the unprecedented and record-breaking heat wave of the Pacific Northwest, and a British Columbia village where the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada was devastated by wildfire.  Taking into account these and other weather-related tragedies, the losses become inestimable on a human scale.
Continue Reading X-Treme Weather and the Need for Climate Resiliency

This is the twentieth in our series, “The ABCs of the AJP.”

As discussed in an earlier post, the American Jobs Plan adopts an expansive definition of “infrastructure” to address systemic inequities and benefit society as a whole. However, the AJP also addresses what is typically called “core infrastructure” by proposing substantial investments to repair and modernize our nation’s roads, highways, bridges, airports, ports, and railways. As with other aspects of the AJP, the President’s investments seek to address climate and sustainability concerns and the creation of American jobs by, among other things, using sustainable and innovative building materials that are made in America.
Continue Reading Tackling Transportation, Traffic, and Transit Troubles

This is the 18th in our series, “The ABCs of the AJP.”

In August 2020, a wildfire broke out along Route 70 in Glenwood Canyon, a major thoroughfare across the Rocky Mountains in central Colorado. The fire quickly burned through vegetation on either side of the canyon, loosing rocks that shut down Route 70 for two weeks. As the fire spread, it temporarily shuttered the Shoshone Generating Station, a hydroelectric power station that controls water flow in the upper Colorado River, and forced residents of several communities to evacuate to Glenwood Springs, a nearby town of 10,000. By the time the fire was put out in December, it had burned over 30,000 acres and cost over $30 million to contain.
Continue Reading Readying for Resilience through Infrastructure