Wednesday, November 29, 2023

COP 28

The United Nations Climate Change Conference – COP 28 will begin today November 30, 2023 in Expo City, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The conference is scheduled to run until December 12, 2023. Pre meetings have been ongoing since November 24th.  President Biden will not be attending. The United States will be represented by Special Envoy Kerry.

Officials are expecting some 70,000 climate advocates, diplomats and other green groupies will attend the event in Dubai, one of the gleaming modern cities of the middle east built on wealth that fossil fuels have brought to the region. The fact that the world’s most important climate gathering will be hosted by a leading oil producer has sparked outrage among environmentalists and I expect a certain showmanship in the protests. Most people will be restricted to the “green zone” where all the climate theatrics will take place. Access to the blue zone (and true participation in the meeting) is restricted to delegates, admitted observer organizations and accredited members of the press and media. Delegations from all 199 Parties to the UN Framework negotiated in Paris in 2015 are expected to attend.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, every country agreed to work together to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees and aim for 1.5 degrees, to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate and to make money available to deliver on these aims to countries not able to afford the costs of adapting to a changing climate. The parties to the agreement committed to create national plans setting out how much they would reduce their emissions called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and agreed that every five years they would update their plans.  

The achievement by a party of its NDC is not a legally binding obligation, nor is a country bound to any particular policies to achieve its target. It can, at any time, revise those targets and policies without legal ramifications. 

from the Global Carbon Project

The problem is that China's CO2 emissions are now more than 230% of the United States and growing rapidly. India's emissions are almost equal to the 27 members of the European Union. Neither nation has any plans to reduce emissions. The United States (by executive order and administrative action) has set a goal to reach 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035 and net zero emissions throughout the economy by 2050. The President by Executive Order also pledged an interim goal of a 50-52% reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution by 2030. 

from the Global Carbon Project

Though China has far surpassed the current CO2 emissions of the United States, our per capita carbon footprint is still one of the highest on earth.

The U.S. carbon emission target is ambitious and would require a carbon-slashing overhaul of the U.S. economy.  The EIA is forecasting that we will not achieve that goal.  Despite the fact that the carbon emissions have been generally trending down since 2005 there is no pathway to reach the 2030 goal. The misleadingly named Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) includes many programs designed to remake the climate impact of the entire U.S. economy. The Congressional Budget Office assigned $391 billion cost to climate programs based on their estimate of the spending from the law's programs related to climate and clean energy. It is a very loose estimate because the law's major environmental tax incentives have no caps. Several investment banks have estimated the true cost of the environmental programs at near or more than a trillion dollars or more. Implementation of the law and its impact will matter. 

Here at home the energy needs of the Commonwealth are changing and growing. Virginia is already the data center capital of the world, and the industry is exploding along with the demand of 24 hours a day 7 days a week power needed to run them. According to Dominion Energy the demand for electricity in Virginia is growing at 7% a year to power the data centers. At the same time under the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) has the Commonwealth on a short timeline to decarbonize the grid and electrify transportation and heating.

Dominion Energy in its 2023 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) filed with the SCC this past summer did not have a viable pathway to decarbonize the grid. The picture they paint is that Dominion cannot both meet the power demand of the exploding number of data centers in Virginia and the mandates of the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). The United States as a whole and Virginia has a mismatch in goals and actions. The time for magical thinking and greenwashing is past.  

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