Post-Paris: Our INDC and the Clean Power Plan

The Paris Agreement is a huge deal, and we should all take a moment to celebrate.

Ok. Was that fun? Good, because now begins the hard work of following through on the US’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, or INDC. An INDC is a country’s own roadmap for cutting emissions. Instead of dictating terms to countries, the UNFCCC invited countries to submit their own plans. To date, the UNFCCC has received 158 submissions reflecting 185 countries (including the European Union member states).

US emissions INDC
source: http://www4.unfccc.int/submissions/INDC/Published%20Documents/United%20States%20of%20America/1/U.S.%20Cover%20Note%20INDC%20and%20Accompanying%20Information.pdf

Climate Action Tracker reviewed INDCs from the world’s heaviest emitters and rated most plans ‘medium’ or ‘inadequate.’ The US scored ‘medium.’ Climate Action Tracker judged the US’s plan to be “at the least ambitious end of what would be a fair contribution,” adding that if every other country were only as ambitious as the United States, “global temperature increase would be well above 2°C.”

But INDCs are meant to be revisited and, ideally, tweaked to be more ambitious. Like an orthodontist tightening braces, the plans can be adjusted.

The US pledged a 26-28% emissions reduction from 2005 levels by 2025, and a key part of reaching that goal is the Clean Power Plan. When the Senate scuttled cap-and-trade in 2009, Obama needed a new environmental strategy. The Clean Power Plan uses the EPA’s authority to limit smokestack emissions. States have until 2018 to devise plans to cut emissions any way they’d like, but if states don’t comply, the EPA will draw plans for them.

Twenty-six states, including North Carolina, joined in a lawsuit to contend the EPA overstepped its authority. The D.C. circuit may not rule on the case until late next year or 2017, and if the case ends up in the Supreme Court, as some watchers predict, we may not have a final ruling until 2018. In the meantime, several states are pursuing a policy of simultaneously challenging the plan and preparing for it.

All of which brings us back to post-Paris and that INDC. The US’s plans are ambitious but need to go further. State-level policymakers, meanwhile, need to see that the public, including industry, is behind meaningful emissions cuts. NC officials will host three public hearings this week on the Clean Power Plan, and I encourage locals to read more about the plan and to lend their support this week:

  • 6 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center Chamber, 600 East Fourth St., Charlotte.
  • 6 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Archdale Building, Ground Floor Hearing Room, 512 North Salisbury St., Raleigh.
  • 6 p.m. Jan. 5, 2016 at the Roland Grise Middle School Auditorium, 4412 Lake Avenue, Wilmington.

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