Moniz says Paris goals already achievable, but more cuts needed

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, May 9, 2016

The United States can reach its Paris climate goals with current and emerging technologies and today’s suite of policy signals, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said.

Speaking at an event hosted by the European delegation to the United States, Moniz said the Climate Action Plan that President Obama introduced three years ago could deliver on the U.S. pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions between 26 and 28 percent compared with 2005 levels by 2025 when coupled with technology improvements that are already in the pipeline. But new laws will be needed to put the United States on a path to contribute to Paris’ goal of keeping warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius.

“Eventually, we are going to need an economywide legislative approach,” Moniz said.

“I think personally, eventually, some administration will be working with Congress on a more comprehensive legislative solution,” he added.

In the meantime, Moniz said, policymakers and private-sector innovators are doing what they can to spur the development and deployment of new technologies to reduce the carbon emissions spewing into the Earth’s atmosphere.

One of Moniz’s top private-sector collaborators has been Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who in Paris helped unveil Mission Innovation — in which 20 countries pledged to double research and development funding for low-carbon technologies and the private sector pledged assistance.

Gates recently said he doesn’t think a tax on carbon emissions will be the way the United States addresses warming.

But Moniz said virtually all the policy options to address warming would price carbon emissions, advantaging lower-carbon technologies over more emitting ones.

“We need that,” he said.

Moniz spoke immediately after returning from a meeting of the Group of Seven nations in Paris, where implementing last year’s climate deal was on the agenda. The countries all favor speedy entry into force for last year’s agreement, he said, and issues of energy security were treated in the context of efforts to bring more low-carbon electricity onto the grid.

Many of these same issues will be discussed early next month at the Clean Energy Ministerial in San Francisco, he said, where industrial energy efficiency will be the focus.

The CEM agenda, he said, “is very much focused on deployment of existing technologies, of which we’ve made considerable cost-reduction progress.”

The two-day meeting draws 24 countries from around the world to swap best practices on energy efficiency, this year including events and perspectives from Silicon Valley.

“I think we are still at the very beginnings of IT writ broadly into the whole energy system,” Moniz said yesterday. “I think that will be quite transformative.”