Mike Rann: What states and regions can do for the Clean Revolution

14 June 2012

Hon. Mike Rann, Former President of South Australia and CNP Fellow for Democracy and Development blogs about what the world's states can do to drive a Clean Revolution, as part of his series of posts for CNP. 

In my first blog in this series, I wrote about how South Australia, a dry state with no hydropower, had embraced renewable energy moving in less than ten years from no wind power to having 26% (compared to 3% nationally) of its electricity derived from wind, now exceeding coal generation for the first time. I also mentioned how we followed California and Washington in changing our emission intensity standards to effectively preclude the building of future coal fired power stations.

Later this week I will be travelling to Rio de Janeiro to attend The Climate Group’s Clean Revolution Leadership Summit. The Clean Revolution, launched by Tony Blair and Mark Kenber in New York last September, is promoting a swift and massive scaling-up of clean technologies and infrastructure as well as changes in design and behaviour, to boost energy efficiency and achieve the most sustainable use of our natural resources. While the plan aims to secure steep reductions in CO² emissions, the Clean Revolution would simultaneously create jobs and boost the green economy. The Climate Group is acting as a bridge between governments and industry worldwide in embracing a lower carbon economy, by encouraging policy changes and new profitable business models for the future.

In Rio, I will also be chairing a session of The Climate Group’s summit of leaders from States and Regions around the world. For some years these regular meetings have shared best practice policies to enable jurisdictions to adapt ‘ideas that work’ to their own circumstances. While media attention often focuses on the climate policies and international negotiations of nations, or more locally the greening of cities, the role of state, regional and provincial governments is critical to progress. A number of studies have shown that the majority of decisions affecting the environment are made at the regional level. Increasingly state governments are also working closely with cities to help them reduce their carbon footprints.

In Rio, I expect sub national governments to again set the agenda for nations in not only planning but implementing innovative ways of tackling climate change, just as we did in Copenhagen in 2009 with our ‘1 billion trees’ initiative.

There are already some outstanding examples.

Last October, the First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, was awarded The Climate Group’s international leadership award. It was well deserved.Scotland has committed to reduce its emissions 42% on 1990 levels by 2020. Scotland has a big commitment to onshore and offshore wind, wave and tidal power, as well as carbon capture and storage. Right now, Scotland is producing 35% of its electricity from renewables. It is aiming for 100% by 2020. With the potential to massively exceed its own domestic needs, Scotland is now planning to become a huge exporter of renewable energy with enormous dividends for its economy.

At The Climate Group’s meeting in Cancun, Mexico, in December 2010 sub-national governments honored Quebec Premier Jean Charest for his extraordinary leadership in tackling climate change. At that meeting Quebec, like Scotland, committed to plant an extra 100 million trees. Quebec is now delivering a range of innovative policies to reduce its emissions by 20% by 2020 from 1990 levels. This would be a first in North America and is similar to the EU target. Given 97% of Quebec’s electricity comes from hydro, most of its emissions need to be cut in the transport, housing and industry sectors. The province is now implementing a world leading Electric Vehicle Action Plan with the vision of achieving full ‘sustainable mobility’. Quebec aims for plug-in hybrids or all-electric vehicles to comprise 25% of new light passenger vehicle sales by 2020.

In Manitoba hydroelectricity currently provides 97.4% of the province’s energy needs. Its Premier, Greg Selinger wants to go further by making local power plants more efficient. Manitoba Hydro’s energy conservation programs have already saved over 500 megawatt hours of electricity with big savings in emissions.

In California, where 40% of the state’s emissions come from transport, its Advanced Clean Cars program is also spurring dramatic improvements in battery, fuel cell and related technologies. New rules require that one out of seven new vehicle sales in California be zero-emission by 2025. On the east coast not only has New York collaborated with neighbouring states in the development and implementation of the United States’ first cap and trade emissions scheme, but has now helped launch the Northeast Electric Vehicle Network to promote clean vehicles and fuels, and electric vehicle charging stations.

La Reunion, the French island region off the coast of Africa, is investing in experimental marine thermal pilot projects and providing €3,000 energy cheques to households for the installation of photovoltaic panels with smart storage batteries. In Brittany, the Regional Council has committed to cut growth in energy consumption by a third with a big investment in renewable energy, including solar, marine, wind and biomass.

Upper Austria has a strong network of 160 companies, employing 7,200 people, actively involved in the business of renewable energy and energy efficiency. In a big boost to Upper Austria’s economy this innovative cluster is now exporting to more than 60 countries. In neighbouring Germany, North Rhine-Westphalia is a leader in energy research, with around 400 medium sized companies and research institutes working on fuel cell technologies and hydrogen fuels. It is also a leader in energy efficient construction and wind energy. Its geothermal sector has generated nearly 5,000 jobs.

Jämtland, a province in central Sweden, aims to be fossil fuel free by 2030. Already less than 8% of its carbon footprint comes from energy, and none from coal, oil or gas. It is a big exporter of excess renewable energy to other parts of Sweden and Europe.

In Wales, innovative policies are improving the energy performance of homes, particularly in disadvantaged areas, and in doing so boosting jobs, skills and economic regeneration. In partnership with energy companies and social housing providers, Carwyn Jones’ government is working to improve home insulation as well as promoting the installation of solar panels and solar hot water systems. Last year, around 25,000 Welsh homes were improved and made cheaper to heat through upgrades to boilers and windows as well as other energy saving initiatives.

In Spain, the Basque Country’s Appliance Replacement Scheme has seen, since 2008, around 30,000 old appliances replaced with much more energy efficient alternatives. This is saving households in their energy costs as well as reducing thousands of tonnes of CO² emissions each year. Catalonia, like South Australia, has embraced voluntary agreements with companies, local government and other institutions as a key mitigation tool in public climate policy.

In 2009, São Paulo in Brazil became the first state from an emerging economy to enact climate legislation introducing an absolute emission reduction target of 20% by 2020 and is a leader in aligning its climate change policies with all government practices. It is setting mandatory CO² reduction targets and its comprehensive Transportation Plan looks to improve the energy efficiency of vehicles and fuels including bioethanol and biodiesel.

Guandong province is a clear leader in China in pursuing a low carbon future. Earlier this year, its strategic plan for emerging industries was approved by the Chinese Government and is likely to become an exemplar for other regions in reducing its carbon intensity.

In South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal is developing a wide ranging Green Economy Strategy that includes a procurement policy that favours purchasing from ‘green companies’ as well as increasing the supply of renewable energy.

In Rio, members of The Climate Group’s States and Regions Alliancewill continue their important role of sharing ideas and acting as ‘laboratories’ for a lower carbon future. I am hopeful that in Rio sub national governments will jointly commit to an action plan for the future that will inspire the leaders of nations around the world to make a big step forward in the Clean Revolution.

See what The Climate Group did at Rio.

Learn more about the Clean Revolution.

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