From Ann Arbor to Paris, We Can All Combat Climate Change

On December 12th, more than 190 countries came together to adopt a historic agreement to combat climate change.  The Paris Agreement established a long-term global framework to reduce carbon emissions, with all countries committing to developing specific targets and reporting their progress.

This new global framework lays the foundation for all countries, large and small, developed and developing, to work together to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius. It sets forth an ambitious vision to go even farther than that, recognizing that in order to meet the target, countries must aim to peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible. The Agreement also provides a mechanism to assess collective progress on global mitigation action and increases transparency among nations requiring countries to report on greenhouse gas inventories and mitigation progress while establishing a technical review process with agreed upon standards.

While the Paris Agreement is both historic and ambitious, curbing climate change is dependent on all of us.  The Agreement depends on complementary actions by state and local governments, businesses, investors and entrepreneurs, and an engaged public. Here in Michigan, we are seeing both action and inaction at the state and local level:

Clean Power Plan:

This summer, the EPA released its finalized Clean Power Plan- placing the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from America’s power plants. The Rules will cut carbon pollution by 32 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2030. This is the largest step even taken in the US to curb climate change and is the biggest public health initiative in decades.

The work is now put into the hands of the states to create state implementation plans to meet the new standards.  Governor Snyder has committed to the development of a state implementation plan, and will begin the stakeholder process to develop that plan in early 2016. The development of our own state plan provides the greatest opportunity for taking advantage of Michigan’s unique assets and promoting jobs in the emerging clean energy industry. In addition, it provides the opportunity to develop projects that benefit local communities and address their needs, like reducing health-harming pollution in low-income communities.  The Ecology Center will continue to advocate for a strong clean power plan for Michigan that emphasizes renewable energy and energy efficiency while improving the health and economic opportunity in our communities. 

Michigan’s Energy Policy:

After over two years of public debate, stakeholder meetings, numerous bill introductions, and hours of legislative hearings, the Michigan Legislature ended 2015 taking no action to move Michigan’s energy policy forward.  The result of this inaction is that the renewable energy standards set forth in P.A. 295 of 2008 have now expired, capping the requirements that the utilities generate energy from renewable sources at 10%.  The energy efficiency standards remain in place at 1% per year, a level that is unambitious and inadequate and does not take advantage of the easily achievable energy savings that are currently available.  Numerous pieces of legislation have been introduced that would move us backward, eliminating renewable and efficiency standards, redefining renewables to include incineration of toxic waste and protecting utilities’ interests rather than public health.  There is also legislation that would increase the renewable and energy efficiency standards.  We must ensure that we adopt those energy policies that move us forward and protect Michigan families.  The legislature will come back into session in early 2016, and energy policy will once again be at the forefront of the policy debate.  The Ecology Center will continue to advocate for policies that will move us toward expanded renewable energy generation and energy efficiency, and we will need your help.  We will need you to engage with your friends and neighbors to ensure that our leaders create an energy future for Michigan that creates jobs, reduces pollution, protects public health and makes Michigan a leader in the clean energy economy. 

Ann Arbor Climate Partnership:

The Paris Agreement reminds us that combating climate change is a global effort that requires engagement at all levels.  Local action is critical to global progress.  An understanding of the science and strong belief that each individual can make a difference is at the core of the Ecology Center's local climate work. Climate solutions require innovation, and innovation usually starts on a small scale -- like right here in our own backyard.

The City of Ann Arbor has committed to being a leader in the fight against global climate change. In December 2012, the Ann Arbor City Council passed the Climate Action Plan (CAP), an ambitious multi-strategy vision to reduce our community-wide emissions. The CAP was developed by City of Ann Arbor staff and City Commissions, in cooperation with a broad range of local stakeholders and leaders, including the Ecology Center. Now we are coordinating the A2 Climate Partnership to implement Ann Arbor's Climate Action Plan

Throughout the year, the Ecology Center has been working with the city, stakeholder groups and engaged citizens to educate the public and hold our leaders accountable by advocating for local policies and programs that will implement the Ann Arbor Climate Action Plan.  Ann Arbor residents have demonstrated that they want to take action on climate.  Almost 1,000 people participated for a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050 at the recent Ann Arbor climate march.  The A2CP is working to reduce emissions through various strategies and sectors including energy, transportation and waste reduction and we will be ramping up our efforts in 2016. Join us in the fight by getting involved in local efforts to reduce emissions and combat climate change. 

The Paris Agreement was historic, but it can only work if we join together to combat the global threat of climate change.  Working together, we can make sure the goals of the Paris Agreement become a reality.  We can all make a difference.  We can make this happen.