The Paris Agreement of 2015 was enacted at the Paris Climate Conference in December 2015 by the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Agreement is a formation of many articles, the most essential of which states that all parties seek to keep the global temperature rise this century to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to additionally pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5°C. To achieve these goals, the Agreement emphasizes that the parties should aim to start reducing GHG emissions as soon as possible. The Agreement also requires that all parties report regularly on their emissions and on their implementation efforts. This refers specifically to the Nationally Determined Contributions which countries must prepare, work towards, and then report on every five years. According to the UNFCCC, developed countries should continue to take the lead by undertaking economy-wide reduction targets, while developing countries should continue enhancing their mitigation and adaptation efforts. Developing countries are also encouraged to move toward economy-wide targets over time (UNFCCC n.d.).
It is difficult to measure progress from the Agreement since it was only enacted recently, but there are some measures that indicate it has helped push the world towards sustainability. One of these measures is the number of non-state actors that have pledged their support of the Paris Agreement as well as the member parties. In the U.S. alone, more than 2,500 mayors, governors, businesses leaders, and investors have pledged their support to the Paris Agreement (Hobert 2017), including multiple New Hampshire towns: Hanover, Lebanon, Keene, Portsmouth, and Nashua (Greene 2017).
Another measure of progress is the global investment in renewable energy. As a result of the Paris Agreement, wind power is now less expensive than other forms of energy in many locations. In addition, new renewable energy capacity installed worldwide in 2016 reached 161 gigawatts, which is a 10 percent increase from 2015 (Hobert 2017). However, there have been setbacks as well, including the U.S.’s announcement to pull out of the Paris Agreement. Ultimately, progress will be determined in 2023 when the first “global stocktake” occurs in which the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement take stock of the implementation of the Paris Agreement and assess collective progress towards achieving the purpose of the Agreement and its long-term goals. This progress will continue to be measured every five years after 2023 (UNFCCC n.d.).
UNDER 2 MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING
The Under 2 Memorandum of Understanding (The Climate Change Group 2018) was founded by 12 initial members in 2015. Now known as the Under 2 Coalition, the memorandum represents a legal agreement in which parties involved do not form a legal commitment. The founding members include: Acre, Baden-Württemberg, Baja California, British Columbia, California, Catalonia, Jalisco, Ontario, Oregon, Vermont, Wales, and Washington. By committing to the Under 2 Coalition, parties agree to conceive and implement a plan to help limit global warming to 2°C. The goal of the Coalition is to reduce GHG emissions to 80-95 percent of 1990 levels, which translates to limiting emissions to 2 MTCO2e per capita per year by 2050. The plan has grown to over 200 members on six continents and 43 different countries in the three years since its founding. These members constitute 1.3 billion people and $30 trillion in gross domestic product (GDP), which constitutes 43 percent of the global economy (The Climate Change Group 2018). The reason that the Under 2 Coalition has so many members is that it allows local governments who want to do something about climate change to join, instead of having to wait for their federal government to join a formal agreement like the Paris Agreement. Because this coalition is relatively young, it is challenging to determine its effectiveness at this point, but its climb in membership bodes well for future success.
- Build Back Better Plan
- Infrastructure Bill
- CORPORATE AVERAGE FUEL ECONOMY STANDARDS
- EPA'S SMARTWAY TRANSPORTATION PARTNERSHIP
- 25 x ’25 INITIATIVE
Build Back Better Plan
In 2021, the Biden Administration proposed the “Build Back Better Plan” legislation aimed at rebuilding the middle class in the United States, which includes provisions outlining climate goals and the goal of cutting GHG pollution by well over one billion metric tons (15 percent of total emissions) by 2030. The Build Back Better Plan passed the House of Representatives on November 19, 2021 but has failed to be approved by the Senate as of April 2022. The Biden Administration instead aims to split the bill up into smaller sections and pass them in chunks instead of all at once.
The Build Back Better Plan includes sections intended to combat climate change while benefiting middle class Americans. There are four main points that this plan focuses on. One section plans to provide rebates and tax credits to middle class families shifting to clean or renewable energy in an effort to reduce costs and encourage Americans to switch their energy sources. The legislation also aims to grow domestic supply chains for “solar, wind, and other critical industries'' with the intention of creating more jobs and bolstering the economy in addition to creating renewable energy technology such as solar panels, wind turbines, and electric cars. Another segment targets environmental justice and provides funding for projects such as port electrification and the deployment of cleaner transit. The last climate-oriented section of the plan will provide resources to farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners to support their continuing efforts to reduce emissions.
On November 15, 2021 the Biden Administration signed an infrastructure bill into law, which contains many climate-oriented goals relating to infrastructure. This bill focuses on improving and rebuilding our country’s infrastructure, from rebuilding roads and bridges to reworking public transportation. One main effort aims to incorporate transportation drawing on clean and zero-emission vehicles as the infrastructure is replaced, with a specific focus on electric buses. This legislation also approves $7.5 billion to build a network of electric vehicle chargers across the country and $65 billion to upgrade the power infrastructure in the U.S. in order to “facilitate the expansion of renewables and clean energy, while lowering costs.” Lastly, the bill allocates $21 billion to clean up “Superfund and brownfield sites, reclaim abandoned mine land and cap orphaned oil and gas wells,” which will address legacy pollution issues.
CORPORATE AVERAGE FUEL ECONOMY STANDARDS
Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards, commonly known as CAFE standards, were enacted in 1975 by Congress. These standards “reduce America’s consumption of oil, save consumers money at the gas pump, and protect public health and the environment by curbing global warming pollution. They also help spur investments in new automotive technology, creating jobs and helping sustain the recovery of the American auto industry” (Union of Concerned Scientists 2017). CAFE standards are updated regularly based upon a five-year projection of automobile fuel efficiency. The standards are based on the average efficiency value of a fleet of cars per manufacturers. Efficiency in automobiles in the United States is measured in miles per gallon. For example, the 2017-2021 CAFE standards require manufacturers to have a fleet wide average of 40.3-41.0 miles per gallon for passenger cars and light trucks. When the 2017-2021 standards expire, a revised set of CAFE standards will be created for 2022-2025.
In August 2021, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it would propose new fuel economy standards, a reconsideration of the fuel economy standards set in 2020. The new standards would increase fuel efficiency 8 percent annually for model years 2024-2026 and increase the estimated fleetwide average by 12 miles by gallon. These changes would reduce GHG emissions by 1.8 billion tons over the next three decades.
EPA'S SMARTWAY TRANSPORTATION PARTNERSHIP
The SmartWay Transportation Partnership is a voluntary public-private program started by the EPA in 2004 that helps companies advance supply chain sustainability by measuring, benchmarking, and improving freight transportation efficiency. The program was developed in response to the scale and growth of emissions from heavy-duty diesel trucks in the U.S. This program provides a system for tracking fuel use and freight emissions across supply chains, helps companies identify efficient freight carriers to improve supply chain sustainability, and reduces GHG emissions from the movement of goods (EPA 2017).
SmartWay also works to improve the relationship between the EPA and the transportation sector. Since its start, SmartWay has grown from 50 partners to currently more than 3,700 partners and affiliates. It has helped its partners save 215.4 million barrels of oil and has eliminated 103 million tons of air pollution (EPA 2018b). In addition to having a positive environmental impact, SmartWay has led to significant economic savings. SmartWay has helped U.S. trucking companies save $29.7 billion in fuel costs, and trucking is an industry that represents 8 percent of U.S. GDP. (EPA 2018b).
25 x ’25 INITIATIVE
“25x’25” is a movement by the United Nations, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Energy Foundation which calls for more renewable energy in the U.S. Specifically, it sets a goal that by 2025, the U.S. will be producing 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and biofuels. The 25x’25 goal has been endorsed by nearly 1,000 partners, 35 current and former governors, 15 state legislatures, and Congress through the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Since the launch of the 25x’25 vision, the U.S. has increased renewable energy production by almost half. In 2013, 11.2 percent of energy consumed in the U.S. came from renewable energy sources. To achieve the 25x’25 plan, the U.S. needs to reform certain practices. These include increasing production of renewable energy, working on its efficiency and productivity, and delivering and expanding to markets.
If the U.S. is able to achieve these goals, between 4 and 5 million new jobs will be created. Additionally, the U.S. will have cleaner air through reduced urban smog and pollution in the atmosphere. This plan will also bring new technologies to the market and help to save consumer expenditures while reducing dependency on oil from Middle East such as Saudi Arabia. These changes will produce $700 billion in new economic activity annually and reduce CO2 emissions by 1 billion tons. So far, the U.S. is on track to procure 24 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025 (25x’25 Initiative 2018).
REGIONAL GREENHOUSE GAS INITIATIVE
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) implemented in 2009, is the first mandatory market-based program in the United States to reduce GHG emissions from power plants. It is a cooperative effort among Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New Jersey (RGGI 2018).
The program limits how much CO2 power plants can legally produce and requires them to pay a fee which is proportional to the amount of CO2 they produce. Furthermore, RGGI requires that states use the money to invest in the most feasible renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in their states. This usually includes customer rebates and efficiency projects. The system provides incentives for power plants to become more efficient while simultaneously creating jobs and infrastructure for renewable energy production.
To craft a viable plan, RGGI had to ensure that the economic damage of lost power plant revenue (caused by limiting CO2 production and charging fees) was offset by the stimulation of the economy in the form of new energy-efficient projects (RGGI 2018). There has been $3 billion worth of economic growth due to RGGI since it officially began in 2009 and because of RGGI, public health concerns have been alleviated (especially in low income communities). Further, the price of electricity has fallen, and nearly 30,000 job-years have been created. These results incentivize states to remain in the agreement (Ropeik 2018).
The RGGI cap represents a budget for CO2 emissions from the power sector among the participating states. In short, the states gave themselves until 2014 to reach a cap of 91 million short tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere. The plan then was from 2015 to 2020 the cap was to decline by 2.5 percent every year (RGGI 2013).
RGGI’s goal in 2005 was to reduce power plant CO2 production by 10 percent by 2018. As of January 2018, member states had cut CO2 production by 40 percent (Ho 2017). Due to the program’s success, RGGI standards are becoming more demanding. The RGGI plans to lower the CO2 cap and increase the price of CO2 allowances, also known as Carbon Certificates, which are tradable coupons that are redeemed for the right to generate CO2, by the ton. Member states expect to see a collective $3.95 billion dollars in economic growth and 34,000 job-years (Ho 2017).
NEW HAMPSHIRE STATE DEVELOPMENT PLAN
The New Hampshire State Development Plan, “New Hampshire in the New Economy: A Vision for Expanded Prosperity,” (NHSDP) was proposed in 2000 and describes changes that New Hampshire must make in order to keep its economy successful. This plan focuses on providing a better-quality workspace for its workers. To achieve these goals, it is imperative that New Hampshire work towards having a cleaner and safer environment.
According to the NHSDP, the State of New Hampshire must lay out a need for “a commitment to investing in education, worker training, health care, environmental protection and modernization of state government” (State of New Hampshire 2000:4). With this commitment in mind, New Hampshire aspires to “ensure a prosperous future; one in which all its residents are afforded the opportunity to succeed” (State of New Hampshire 2000:4). New Hampshire recognizes the various aspects of this plan, including controlling the environmental needs and impacts of agriculture, business, and transportation.
The NHSDP features energy conservation as a key sector to ensure continued economic prosperity. A relevant goal is that the state aims “to assist schools in becoming more energy efficient and to educate students about renewable energy” (State of New Hampshire 2000:40).
RENEWABLE PORTFOLIO STANDARD
New Hampshire’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) was created in 2007 after an economic analysis by the University of New Hampshire (UNH). The UNH study looked at the success of other states in the region after enacting RPS legislation and concluded that establishing an RPS for New Hampshire could be beneficial for its economy and environment. The RPS was submitted to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and Public Utilities Commission. The purposes of New Hampshire’s RPS are to provide fuel diversity to New Hampshire and the larger New England region, to lower the local dependence on fossil fuels, and to stabilize and lower energy costs. The RPS also encourages investment in renewable or low emission technologies to stimulate the local economy. This investment will help combat climate change and raise emission standards by ensuring that a larger share of the electricity consumed by residents of the state is produced using renewable methods.
The RPS achieves these goals by requiring that all electric service providers in the state purchase or generate Renewable Energy Credits (RECs). One REC is equivalent to the generation of one megawatt-hour of renewable electric power generation. Power companies can buy RECs from a company or individual who is producing electricity using renewable energy. RECs allow companies to support renewable energy efforts without having to generate the energy themselves. Power companies may also choose to get RECs by building their own renewable power generation. The target for renewable energy generation started at 4 percent in 2008 and has gradually risen each year.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated the total renewable energy production in New Hampshire to be at 55,989 British thermal units (BTUs) and the total renewable energy consumption to be 69,075 BTUs by 2019 (EIA, n.d). New Hampshire is ranked 13th in the U.S for renewable energy as a share of statewide energy. New Hampshire’s Renewable energy accounted for 19.5 percent of New Hampshire’s electricity portfolio in 2019 (NHPUC, n.d.). New Hampshire’s RPS target of 25.2 percent renewable power generation will be reached by 2025.
NEW HAMPSHIRE CLIMATE ACTION PLAN
The New Hampshire Climate Action Plan (NHCAP) was enacted in March 2009 by the New Hampshire Climate Change Policy Task Force.
The goal of the NHCAP is twofold: to lower current GHG emissions to 80 percent below the 1990 GHG emission levels by 2050, and to stimulate the state’s economy. In order to do this, NHCAP has identified energy efficiency, renewable energy, and lowering car dependence as the most effective ways to reach their goal. The State also says that maintaining its forests is critical to preserving carbon storage and tourist attractions. New Hampshire plans to implement education and outreach programs (DES 2009).
To increase energy efficiency, the NHCAP aims to improve efficiency in existing buildings, and change building energy codes to reduce environmental impact. In an effort to increase the use of renewable energy, New Hampshire plans to promote the generation of electric and non-CO2-emitting energy, and to produce energy through the use of biogenic waste sources such as wastewater, food waste, and animal manure. As the State attempts to cut down on car usage, which will decrease GHG emissions, New Hampshire plans to improve bus and train services on local and regional levels, build more infrastructure for bikes and pedestrians, and implement more park-and-rides (DES 2009).
The NHCAP includes actions specifically designed to reduce GHG emissions associated with schools throughout the state. The actions recommended in the NHCAP that address schools include GLA 2.6, which reads “Promote Public School Siting and Building Aid to Reduce Energy Use” and RCI 4.1, which reads “Include Energy Efficiency and Conservation in School Curriculum” (DES 2009:23-24).
TOWN OF HANOVER
RENEWABLE ENERGY COMMITMENT
In May 2017, the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire voted on a community goal to transition to 100 percent renewable energy. The goal currently states that Hanover will have 100 percent renewable electric energy by 2030, and 100 percent renewable heating and transportation energy by 2050 (Levy 2017). Hanover is the first town in New Hampshire to commit to the Sierra Club’s “Ready for 100” goal, a national movement led by the environmental organization working to help cities convert to running on 100 percent renewable energy. The 69 cities who have already committed to the “Ready for 100” goal, range from smaller towns such as Blackburn, Virginia, to large metropolises such as San Diego, California and Orlando, Florida (Sierra Club 2018).
Members of the Hanover community made the decision to commit to the Sierra Club’s campaign during a vote at a town meeting, making Hanover the first municipality in the United States to have a renewable energy goal both voted on and approved by community residents (Town of Hanover 2017). The Sustainable Hanover Town Committee, which endorses the transition to clean and renewable energy, proposed the idea for committing to the Sierra Club’s campaign. The Town plans to spend $50,000 per year on energy-efficient improvements (Sears 2018). Hanover has been working with the Concord Energy Committee and plans to find more opportunities for solar power in the area.
The Sustainable Hanover committee has launched a multi-year initiative that demonstrates ways to minimize environmental impacts with home landscaping and maintenance practices that mimic natural ecosystems. By applying principles of permaculture, it hopes to reduce water runoff, and air and noise pollution, to improve biodiversity, create natural habitats for wildlife and to require less maintenance.
Weatherize Hanover, launched in 2019, is a key component of Hanover’s goal to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. Weatherizing homes involves making physical home improvements such as insulation and air sealing to reduce energy costs, improve comforts, and resolve issues such as ice dams, moisture, mold, cold spots and drafts. Weatherize Hanover provides resources on weatherizing and provides cost estimates by qualified contractors to weatherize homes.
The Hanover community is currently developing a sustainability master plan in accordance with New Hampshire’s statutes relating to master plans. The sustainability master plan will guide the town to a more sustainable future.