Subnational action Then and now

Since signing the Montreal Declaration, sub-national governments throughout the world have met and exceeded the commitments outlined in the document. States and regions have expanded partnerships in China and India. They have also become test beds for new low-carbon technologies.

In California, we have seen both the urgency of dealing with climate change and the opportunities that low-carbon policies represent at the sub-national level. Governor Schwarzenegger set aggressive greenhouse gas reduction targets in 2005 to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. In 2008, he signed those targets into law through Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. Assembly Bill 32 establishes a comprehensive programme to achieve real, quantifiable and cost-effective reductions in global warming pollution.

California is already implementing an array of programmes and initiatives to ensure that the targets are met. One example is the California Solar Initiative, a ten-year US$2.9 billion programme announced in January 2006. This initiative provides rebates to make solar more affordable to consumers. The goal is to increase the amount of installed solar capacity on rooftops in the state by 3000MW by 2017. Moreover, California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), issued by Executive Order in 2007, calls for a 10 per cent reduction in the carbon content of the state's transportation fuels. The standard is expected to reduce greenhouse gases by 15 million metric tonnes in 2020 and decrease dependency upon petroleum.

In July 2008, California redoubled its energy savings efforts by establishing new targets for the years 2012 through 2020 for regulated utilities. Within investor-owned utility (IOU) service areas, these goals are expected to save over 4500MW: the equivalent of over 9 major power plants, and over 16,000GWh of electricity savings and 620 million therms. Combined with recent goal setting by California's publicly owned utilities under Assembly Bill 2021, these goals provide an aggressive contribution to state-wide energy savings targeted under Assembly Bill 32.

And it doesn't stop there. On 18 September 2008, the California Public Utilities Commission adopted the California Long-Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, which includes four 'big bold strategies' as cornerstones for significant energy savings with widespread benefit for all Californians. All new residential construction must be zero net energy by 2020, and commercial construction by 2030. The heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) industry will be reshaped to deliver maximum performance HVAC systems. Finally, the California EPA has initiated a Low-Income Energy Efficiency (LIEE) programme in which all eligible low-income customers will be provided cost-effective energy-efficiency measures in their residences by 2020.

Many other sub-national governments around the world have taken innovative steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Colleagues in Canada are amongst those leading the way. British Columbia, for example, a mountainous province on the west coast of Canada, is the first North American jurisdiction to introduce a revenue neutral carbon tax. All carbon tax revenue will be recycled to British Columbians through tax reductions. British Columbia also requires that all new electricity projects have zero net GHG emissions and is the first state in North America to legislate the requirement for the public sector to be carbon neutral by 2010. Manitoba, a prairie province in the heart of Canada, has been harnessing geothermal technology. As a result of innovative incentives and loan programmes, Manitoba is the North American leader in ground source heat pump installations, quadrupling sales in recent years.

Ontario, the most populated province in Canada, is undertaking a coal phase-out initiative - shutting down coal-fired plants by 2014 - which will reduce GHGs by up to 30 million tonnes. Ontario is also protecting at least 225,000 square kilometres of the Far North Boreal Region, giving priority protection to key ecological features such as endangered species habitat. Ontario and Manitoba are also partnering to establish and protect an interprovincial wilderness area covering more than 94,000 square kilometres. Canada's French-speaking province of Quebec has implemented a duty on gasoline and fossil fuels that will ensure Cdn$200million (US$168 million)

per year to fund actions to meet its target of reducing emissions to 6 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. Moreover, Quebec is targeting a 300,000 tonne reduction of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) from the agricultural sector through Cdn$24 million (US$20 million) in funding for technologies such as biogas capture and processing at liquid manure installations.

Regional governments in Europe are also moving quickly to address this pressing issue. Brittany, a large peninsula in the north-west of France, aims to generate 1000MW of energy from land-based wind farms in 2010 and an additional 500MW from offshore turbines by 2015. The Basque Region in Spain is developing a renewable portfolio standard that will deliver 3.75GWh annually by 2012, and in Germany, Bavaria has set the ambitious goal of doubling its primary energy consumption from renewables - from 8 to 16 per cent - by 2020.

The autonomous community of Catalonia, located in Spain on the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula, is promoting cleaner transportation policies. Through its CO2 per kilometre-based car matriculation tax, people are provided with the incentive to buy cleaner, less polluting vehicles. A similar approach has been taken in Flanders, Belgium, where the regional government will now be able to collect car registration taxes and annual road tax for passenger cars, both having been adjusted so they promote the purchase of environmentally friendly cars.

North Rhine Westphalia, the westernmost and most populated federal state in Germany, is undertaking an initiative called 'North Rhine Westphalia saves energy'. This aims to achieve a 20 per cent reduction in overall primary energy consumption across the economy by 2020 compared to 2006. The government encourages energy refurbishment of residential and social-sector buildings through consultancy-type services to citizens and businesses as well as vast investment programmes. For example, 130 million Euros (US$165 million) will be injected in order to renew the energy infrastructure of schools and day-care facilities for children.

Scotland has set some ambitious targets that include a goal of 50 per cent total renewable energy generation by 2020 to become a zero waste society and to increase forest cover by 25 per cent by 2050. Moreover, with the aim of improving energy performance and investing in renewable energy, the Wallonia government, Belgium, is granting subsidies to local authorities to improve the performance of public lighting and of municipal, provincial and regional buildings such as schools and hospitals. At the same time, all Welsh Assembly government-influenced projects are required to meet the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4. The Welsh Assembly also aims for all new buildings in Wales to be zero carbon from 2011.

In Australia, states and regions are also jump-starting climate change policy. South Australia will soon be home to the largest single rooftop photovoltaic installation in Australia with 10,000 square metres of panels saving around 1400 tonnes of GHGs each year. Victoria's energy efficiency efforts are set to reduce GHG emissions by 8.1 million tonnes and deliver annual average household energy savings of 45 Australian dollars (US$30). Also, since 2004 all new homes built in Victoria have been required to reach a 5-star energy rating standard.

Right here in the US, colleagues also are actively taking up the challenge. For example, in 2007 energy-efficient investments in Connecticut resulted in a US$4 return on every US$1 invested and lifetime savings of 4.3 billion kilowatt hours and 2.6 million tonnes of CO2. And in 2008, New York announced its goal of cutting electricity usage by 15 per cent by 2015 through its Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (EEPS).

As briefly mentioned above, the California Clean Car standard is an excellent example of a regulatory measure that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California and the 14 other states that have adopted the same standards. The standard requires a 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks by 2017, which makes up nearly 20 per cent of the overall reduction goal in California alone. Just one measure that targets the transportation sector can make a huge dent in the problem.

Significant progress in reducing GHG emissions has also been made at the sub-national level in China and India and other emerging economies. Guangdong, the richest and second most populated province in China, has been dealing with energy pollution and severe energy shortages over the past decade. As a result, the province is placing great emphasis on improving energy efficiency and is already the least energy-intensive province in China. In India, Maharashtra, the largest industrial state, is delivering energy saving benefits through its Energy Conservation Plan that far outweigh the costs of implementation.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil's most populated state, a number of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects have been developed, including biogas to energy initiatives in landfills, breweries and farms. The Bandeirantes Landfill, for example, generates 20MW from the scheme and saves about 1 million tonnes CO2e per year. Over on another continent, the province of Western Cape, located in the south-west of South Africa, is working to ensure that renewable energy technologies such as solar heating are being mainstreamed within all public buildings.

Unfortunately, there are still states and regions that have yet to commit to acting on climate change. What these sub-national governments need to take into account, apart from the ethical implications of inaction, is that they will be at a competitive disadvantage economically if they maintain a business-as-usual or 'wait and see' attitude. The economy is shifting under our feet, and these states and regions are not taking the opportunity to properly position themselves to take advantage of the opportunities of a low-carbon economy.

While there is still much work to do, the momentum from other subnational governments around the world who have embraced the need to act now is truly inspiring and hopeful.

Getting Started With Solar

Getting Started With Solar

Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.

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