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  • The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) is expected to be the most important meeting on climate change since the 2015 Paris Agreement.  Since rejoining the Agreement, the Biden-Harris Administration has pledged to reach net zero emissions by no later than 2050, and committed to working with global leaders to tackle the crisis.  As the effects of climate change intensify, the Administration has prioritized clean energy innovation as essential to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve climate resilience.

    Amy Myers Jaffe, managing director at the Climate Policy Lab at Tufts University, is a leading expert on global energy policy and sustainability.  On the road to COP 26, she provides a scholarly perspective on the future of energy, how clean energy innovation is altering international dynamics, and how the United States can ensure economic competitiveness and national security through sustainable energy.  Jaffe is the author of Energy’s Digital Future.


MODERATOR:  Good morning and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center briefing on harnessing clean energy innovation for climate resilience.  My name is Jen McAndrew and I am today’s moderator.   

The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference is expected to be the most important meeting on climate change since the 2015 Paris Agreement.  As the effects of climate change intensify, the Biden-Harris administration has prioritized clean energy innovation as essential to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve climate resilience.   

In the leadup to COP26, our briefer today is Amy Myers Jaffe, managing director at the Climate Policy Lab at Tufts University and a leading expert on global energy policy and sustainability, and author of the new book Energy’s Digital Future.  Today she will make a scholarly perspective – she will provide a scholarly perspective on the future of energy, how clean energy innovation is altering international dynamics, and how the United States can ensure economic competitiveness and national security through sustainable energy.  We thank her for sharing her expertise today with the foreign press. 

And now for the ground rules.  This briefing is on the record.  The views expressed by briefers not affiliated with the Department of State are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of State or the U.S. Government.  Participation in Foreign Press Center programming does not imply endorsement, approval, or recommendation of their views.  We will post the transcript of this briefing later today on our website, and our briefer will give opening remarks and then we’ll open it up for Q&A. 

And with that, I will pass it over to Amy.  Over to you. 

MS JAFFE:  Thank you very much, Jen.  Well, it’s a pleasure to be here and answer your questions.  I’m going to start out by giving sort of an overview and then I’m going to do a slightly deeper dive on what’s happening in energy innovation, especially in the digital space.  

So this year has been a dramatic year for many different reasons, but especially because of the exponential increase in catastrophic events related and linked to the effects of climate change.  It’s becoming clearer, I think, around the world but especially in the United States how large a problem this is and the nature of it as a global challenge.  Over 70 percent of Americans now want to prioritize climate change policy, and so it’s been a very big feature in recent American politics.   

In terms of climatic events and dislocation – economic and human – it’s been near universal this year.  We’ve seen problems in oil producing countries, we’ve seen terrible problems in the global south, and then, of course, also big impacts in Europe and the United States and the rest of the OECD.  So that really leads up to the importance of the meetings at Glasgow coming up next month. 

As many of you know, the United States has announced that it is committing to a 50 to 52 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and carbon-free power generation by 2035.  These are big order targets and there’s a bill, as many of you have watched in the news, in front of the Congress with a lot of give-and-take negotiations on how to achieve those targets, especially the close-in targets.  But I think the bottom line is to get to where we need to be globally and also in the United States, that’s going to require new technologies and the application of existing cross-cutting technologies.   

The United States has in the past focused on prioritizing clean energy innovation and in the past decade, without a stop, federal spending on clean energy has been very consistent because of bipartisan support in the Congress.  But, of course, there’s a belief that we need to accelerate what we’re doing both in the United States and globally.  The IEA, International Energy Agency, has suggested that something to the order of $350 billion a year needs to be spent to accelerate energy innovation.   

To put that into context, in 2019 here at Climate Policy Lab, we’re one of the premiere organizations that tracks spending on global energy innovation and R&D.  In 2019, the total aggregate was $20 billion, of which the United States share was 7 billion.  And so the process of raising the U.S. commitment and then having the United States lead in encouraging other countries to raise their commitments is on the agenda in the United States political arena.  But, of course, Europe has been very leading in its green stimulus and some other countries, so a lot going on in the world.  

That means that the United States must invest in this space to keep itself economically competitive.  The International Energy Agency (IEA) latest report on technology said that over 50 percent of the technologies they see needed to get to net zero by 2050 are not yet commercialized and therefore require deep acceleration.  The International Energy Agency focuses a lot on a few technologies like carbon sequestration and storage, but there are other opportunities that are coming because of new computer-assisted digital technologies, and those come into several spheres. 

One is greater electrification of the energy system.  The second thing that could be facilitated by new technology would be to develop better and more efficient and long-duration hydrogen and battery storage and other storage technologies.  We’re going to see a great – we already have seen a great enhancement of energy efficiency through optimization and efficiency, so think about e-commerce delivering goods to people in ways that are optimized by big data and require a lot less transportation fuel to get products to market.  We’ve studied that in the United States, and actually there’s less carbon emissions if Amazon or one of the other big vendors brings you your e-commerce stuff.  That actually is more energy efficiency than every individual person using their own transportation to go to the store or the mall, so some potential there. 

And I think one of the most challenging things we’re seeing is the sort of disagreement among the environmental community and others about the place for carbon sequestration in the final solution.  I know there’s debates about that in Europe.  We’re having debates about that in the United States. 

One of the interesting things that I wrote about in my book, Energy’s Digital Future, is how do we not create new path dependencies as we put in new digital infrastructure.  So as we go to 5G, as we go to automated vehicles and other kinds of new technologies – battery systems – how do we do that in a way that lowers carbon emissions and doesn’t increase carbon emissions?  We’re already having the challenge of retiring existing energy infrastructure, some of which is the same technology we were using in the early 1900s.  And so modernizing infrastructure and energy infrastructure in particular is already a challenge, and so we don’t want to make that worse by adding in drones and self-driving taxis and other kinds of equipment that could really lower emissions but have them go in the opposite direction, which was happening prior to the pandemic with some of the ride-hailing services in major cities in the United States. 

So California has been very leading in this area.  This week, in fact, they just passed a landmark law requiring automated vehicles to be zero emissions by 2030 to operate in the state of California.  This is a big deal.  For those of you who watch the digital sector closely, you know that a lot of the digital companies coming in with autonomous vehicles are located in California.  They’re testing those vehicles in California.  They’re trying to provide those services in California.   

And California also has a leading role for a U.S. basis, very similar to Europe, where they are – have passed a bill to prohibit gasoline and hybrid power vehicles for new sales – I’m sorry.  For gasoline vehicle, new sales are going to end in 2035, so a ban on IC engines, basically, and diesel.  And under the new AV law, gasoline and hybrid power AVs are not going to be allowed to operate in California.  California also has a zero emissions target for commercial trucks and vans.  I think that’s probably going to be something we’re going to see in the United States federally over time as the pressure comes to clean up the lower carbon emissions further beyond the power sector.   

And I’ll just mention, because I know that there is some interest in how – given Glasgow is upcoming, how would the United States lower its emissions.  Many countries are having difficulty lowering their emissions.  That’s been really brought to the fore in the last couple of weeks with disruptions to renewable energy in Europe and in China, where the drought lowered hydroelectric power.  We’re seeing a shift back to coal in some places, so this is a big challenge globally. 

In the United States over the last 14, 15 years, we’ve been able to eliminate 800 million tons of carbon emissions equivalent through the shifting to natural gas.  There is an intention in the United States to enhance that by moving much more quickly to renewable energy, though that is still the largest – new installations in the United States are all renewables.  Big effort in the East Coast of the United States and now possibly California looking at deep offshore wind.  

Right now, 38 percent of U.S. power generation is carbon-free.  Eighteen percent of that is renewables.  Twenty percent of that is nuclear energy.  And the power sector is about a quarter of all U.S. emissions. 

So in front of the Congress right now, there is a provision in one of the various bills that are going through reconciliation at this time called the Clean Electricity Payment Program.  That program seems to not be one of the big sticky points for how to get a bill through Congress, so that could be good news for the United States commitments that could be committed to this round of climate talks.  And that is a interesting, innovative system where utilities will be able to get credits if they increase their clean energy share above a certain threshold that would be determined based on their past practice and trajectory, but then also putting in penalties for utilities that are lagging and have carbon-intensive generation capacity. 

So with that, I think I’ve given you a little bit of an overview of the landscape, but happy to field your questions and talk to you about the outlook for climate policy in the United States. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  So we will now begin the Q&A for today’s briefing.  And if you would like to ask a question, you can please raise your hand using the raise hand function or submit it in the chat. 

We did have one advance question submitted, which I will read now.  And this is from Katharina Kort from Handelsblatt in Germany, and her question was:  “What does the infrastructure bill mean for clean energy in the U.S., how important is e-mobility, and what role should hydrogen play?” 

MS JAFFE:  So, excellent question.  The bill is very important for the development of clean energy in the United States.  It attempts to mirror some of the great policies coming out of the EU for its clean energy initiative.  I wish I could say that the United States has a very robust, forward policy in this bill, but it remains to be seen what they’ll keep in the bill and what won’t stay in the bill.  But ultimately, the U.S. Government is definitely focused on providing public funds to promote energy storage through the Loan Guarantee Program, and also in R&D.   

There’s some discussion and debate, a little pushback from the Republican side on whether or not tax credits could be extended to battery storage.  It’s a very important technology getting a lot of momentum in the United States.  The United States would like to be a leader – is kind of a leader in that field. 

We have a lot of American firms that are operating around the world putting in a very innovative technology.  I call it virtual power plant.  That’s what it’s called in the United States.  So where we – instead of having a traditional utility-scale wind farm or solar farm where there’s a battery associated with that at the utility scale, new programs are where you take a housing community or an apartment building or New York City is looking to do it more broadly and individual homeowners or businesses have a smaller battery that is in their facility, and that battery is aggregated with 100 batteries or 300 batteries in the same geographic area.  And a utility vendor, a vendor that works with the utility is able to tap the electricity stored, the excess electricity stored in that battery beyond the needs of the individual owner of the battery, and that can be aggregated to supplement renewables when the wind isn’t blowing or when there’s a heat wave, and so you have a peak, demand is higher than normal. 

That technology has a lot of promise.  Very leading companies in the United States working on that, installing that technology in the United States.  It’s a great exportable technology.  With automation, with inverters that – for solar, that can cut a system off from the grid and make it independent in times of disruption.  So a lot of technology is coming in that regard.  And the same with hydrogen; it’s very important technology.   

And the question I think in the U.S. that we’re at least studying on the academic side is whether, like, Denmark and Northwest Europe – could the United States be leading in development of green hydrogen from offshore wind, and what would be the linkage and how would that be done? 

In the United States, in the natural gas industry, tremendous amount of interest in blending hydrogen into existing infrastructure.  So we have our main think tank that looks at technical testing has shown that in the U.S. system, under certain kinds of high-level pipelines, it’s safe to blend 5 percent hydrogen into the natural gas system.  All the leading companies are doing some pilot or another on hydrogen.  One of the most interesting ones is by Dominion Energy out of Utah where they’re working with a utility, local utility, to raise the level of hydrogen blending to lower emissions of a power station, and the idea is that at some point with the efforts in California in transportation, you could have a hydrogen network throughout the U.S. West that could be linked with renewable energy in California, in the Southwest, and start to build a hydrogen business in that part of the country.  That could be a hub.  You also have businesses in Houston where there is already an active hydrogen pipeline network looking to see how that network could be expanded to allow companies to do CCS and hydrogen for big, industrial users.   

So a lot going on on the ground in hydrogen without the intervention of the federal government, and I think with a little bit of a push in assistance from the federal government, we could see that accelerate.   

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  We do have a — 

QUESTION:  Thank you. 

MODERATOR:  — hand raised from Pearl Matibe, NewsDay Zimbabwe.  Pearl, you can now unmute yourself and ask your question. 

QUESTION:  Thank you very much, Jen.  My question, Amy, is I’m going to start it with a little bit of context.  So as you may recall, back in 2019 Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Malawi were hit with a devastating Cyclone Idai and Cyclones Kenneth in between the space of about six weeks – entirely devastating.  We are now in 2021 and those communities are not resilient enough and are still suffering the devastating negative impacts of what happened due to those two cyclones, not even to mention the droughts and everything else that is happening in this region.  Okay.   

So my question – I’d like to take you away from the Americas conversation and ask you:  What can we expect in the COP, in the meeting coming up, regarding the conversation about how Western countries want to quickly upscale what they’re doing in terms of emissions, whereas those countries like the ones I just mentioned – Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi – are not emitting as much as everybody else,and yet, how do they bring those things together?  So perhaps even from a scholarly perspective, where are the gaps in research that – where are researchers working in examining what countries like these on the gaps in research in clean energy?  Like, what would clean energy look like in a fragile, lower-income country like Zimbabwe?  What would clean energy look like in Mozambique and Malawi?   

It would not look like what you’re explaining to me in California or the rest of the United States.  And so I don’t see how this will be successful in COP unless the world and countries like the United States, including in whatever act or legislation they plan to do in Washington, takes consideration of how these other countries that are severely impacted can be resilient in terms of clean energy. 

So I’d like to find out from you, even from a scholarly perspective, where are the academic institutions and research that they’re doing about these gaps in the body of knowledge and the scholarly conversation on these issues? 

MS JAFFE:  Well, Pearl, you’re making my day because the exact topic that you’re asking me about is what we work on in my center at the Fletcher School at Tufts University.  And we just completed an evaluation looking at what countries in the world are ranked lowest on the climate resilience.  There are these climate resilience indexes for the worst-hit countries.  You might have heard of ND-GAIN or some of the other global indexes.  They tend to use different metrics for how they define resilience.  So we looked at the different indexes and we – trying – we did a first cut trying to pare those countries that are unable to move down the ranks – so if you were the most vulnerable country on the ND-GAIN two years ago, are you now in the top 10 still, or you’re still in the top position?  So looking at that evaluation of which countries are hardest hit.   

There’s another index that’s really, to your point, really much more looks at devastation from actual events as opposed to slow onset climate impacts.  And we’re trying to work – and I think the U.S. Government is very interested in this work – we’re trying to work to look at the disconnect or connection of what climate adaptation funding that’s been provided through the global climate meetings and, as I acknowledge, not properly funded by the international community to the levels that have been committed.   

But of the funding that has been spent, has it been effective?  Have countries that received these funds in agriculture and other sectors, has it helped them be more resilient or not?  What can we do not only to increase the number of dollars that the United States and the OECD and China and others commit to helping countries like Zimbabwe with adaptation to climate change – not only raising the level of ambition and the amount of money that’s extended, but how do we make the money that’s extended more effective?  And I think that that’s a very important topic, and it’s important beyond just whether we’re going to close some coal plants in Africa somewhere.  It’s much more important to understand that the spending that we’re doing on making countries more resilient to events is effective.   

And so I think that’s a high priority for us and our research agenda.  I know from talking to officials at the U.S. Department of State, high priority inside the U.S. State Department.  And I see that as a important element to the climate talks beyond some of the more publicized conversations.  And just – speaking just personally, I would say that I personally would like to see more emphasis on that, and I’ll talk to you in a minute about what to do in energy systems, and less talk about 2050 net zero commitments.  Because it’s easy for politicians all around the world to make some fancy pronouncement about their net zero 2050 commitment, because it doesn’t mean they have to do anything this year.  And we need to start doing things this year.  And so that would be my recommendation as an academic studying climate change for what leaders need to be focused on at the summit, that they should move away from this over-emphasis on 2050 and start talking about what we’re going to do in the next five years, and trying to raise ambition for the next five years.  I do note that President Biden was effective in getting some commitments from our allies in Japan and Canada and elsewhere in raising ambition out to 2035 at his climate summit.   

But absolutely, thinking about how to connect economic development, Pearl, in countries like Zimbabwe with energy planning is a big, big issue.  Because throughout the African continent, you see this disconnect where governments like Ghana and South Africa and others have these very ambitious economic development goals that are based on installing manufacturing businesses and other kinds of businesses that would create more employment in those countries, and yet the planning for the electricity system is disconnected.  And so you have plants coming online, and there’s not enough electricity service to have them actually operate at full capacity.  And so people are getting nowhere in terms of very ambitious investments and commitments to revitalized economies in light of COVID and sort of 2030 goals for economic development. 

So there’s no question that more work needs to be done on providing electricity in general.  I was recently speaking with a group from the World Bank, which is very committed to doing micro- and mini-grids with renewables.  They are finding most countries are rejecting that technology as being “unproven.”  But the experience – I mean, I’ve worked in Lesotho and Malawi, and my experience has been they’re – I mean, Lesotho’s done a great job adding hydro and having better service, but there are just remote areas in the mountains, and in other parts of the countries you’re mentioning where it’s not practical to put in a centralized power station and think that there’s also going to be funding to bring transmission lines that are stable and sustainable throughout the entire country.   

And so I do think that – I understand when people talk about these novel technologies that they’re using in California, it seems very disconnected from the needs of people in a place like Zimbabwe, but I don’t actually believe that from my own experience.  I actually believe that especially in light of climatic events, it’s much faster to restore a solar panel system with a battery.  That could take a week, whereas if some giant, thermal power station gets damaged in a cyclone, that could be two years before that could be repaired fully.  And then all the transmission lines come down, it’s a lot of repair that has to take place – flooding and so forth.   

So I think this belief that somehow the West is foisting this innovative, expensive California technology in a one-size-fits-all to the global south is really inaccurate, because I think that some of those technologies are better suited to being resilient and, therefore, they might offer better solutions for people to have electricity service be resilient in the face of the kind of shocks we’re going to be seeing.   

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  We do have one question that was submitted in the chat, and then I see we have another hand raised.  And Katharina, I’ll come to you after this question.   

This question in the chat is from Ines Zoettl from Capital Magazine in Germany.  Her question is:  You were talking about carbon sequestration.  In your view, where are the most exciting projects developed and what role can it play in reducing emissions in the U.S.? 

MS JAFFE:  Well, I would say sadly, right now, there is no exciting carbon sequestration project.  It’s a technology that those companies that have experimented with it have not had great success in terms of keeping the costs low.  There is a new technology that’s being experimented with in Texas, which is a natural gas thermal power station that has an experimental technology that actually burns the CO2 and, therefore, is an emission-free facility.  We’re still waiting to see how that technology pans out. 

But my opinion, again, as a professor – I know that carbon sequestration is not a popular technology.  There was 100 – believe it or not, 150 civic environmental groups wrote a letter of protest to the International Energy Agency saying that its net zero forecast should not – should avoid optimism about carbon sequestration and look to only renewable energy as a solution.  I think that when you think about the kinds of disruptions we’re seeing with the intermittency of renewables, there are a lot of technical solutions coming – different kinds of long-duration batteries, hydrogen and so forth.  But I think we should really consider the potential for carbon sequestration. 

And what I would say is:  Unlike some of these digital technologies that have dual-use military applications or might have national security implications for cyber and other kinds of emerging challenges, one of the great things about carbon sequestration is that it doesn’t have any additional applications.  And so as a technology, it’s a great area to have cooperation between the United States and China, between different countries in trying to develop a cost effective, safe, and environmentally friendly to sequester carbon and store it, or to reuse it in some format to reshape the carbon into some usable material.   

Also I think there’s a great need, given the development programs, again, going back to Pearl’s question.  A lot of countries in Africa and Southeast Asia have a cement and steel-based development plan where they want to do it based on construction of roads and buildings and expansion of cities, and all those activities are highly carbon intensive and that is not a reason to ask those countries not to develop.  But we need to be thinking about how to provide cement and steel in a way that’s more environmentally friendly, less carbon intensive.   

And so institutions like Mission Innovation, where major economies are working on technology, research, and development really want to focus on experimental ways to produce cement and hydrogen and other kinds of technologies that can be used by heavy industry.  And that’s really an important area where multilateral R&D can take place, there’s no national security issue, it could be patents that are used all over the world.  It’s just an easier place for cooperation and I do think that it has potential, and especially if we develop the technology with the kind of guardrails that are important so that it doesn’t have the kinds of things that people worry about, will there be a problem with what happens to the carbon after it’s sequestered.   

But if we can come up with safe, effective ways where we’re not just using it as an excuse to continue to pollute, I think that it has potential, and really there’s a lot of area for cooperation among countries that could be – one of the big problems in Mission Innovation is that state enterprises globally are – countries – China, the United States, Mexico and others are greening their R&D spending, but that is not happening in state enterprises as quickly as needed.  And there’s a lot of money still going in at the state enterprise level to oil and gas drilling technologies and other kinds of technologies to promote the use of fossil fuel without carbon sequestration.  So getting more buy-in from countries as part of Mission Innovation to have their state enterprises focus together with CCS and partnerships, public-private partnerships, with the U.S. would be a very constructive way of addressing CCS. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  I’ll now call on Katharina Kort, Handelsblatt, to ask a question.  Katharina? 

QUESTION:  Yes, hello.  Thank you also for answering the first questions.  I need to come back to the spending and infrastructure bills, which should jump-start the climate change in the U.S.  I have a question because in those bills, there are quite a few limitations, like Buy America, that might limit especially European companies.  So I would like to know from you:  Do you feel that these limits that ask for especially U.S. labor or U.S. steel or whatever, and windmills, might slow down the climate change in the U.S.?   

MS JAFFE:  That’s a very tricky question, and luckily I’m an academic so I don’t have to be terribly diplomatic.  What I would say to you – and I’m sure you can understand this, sitting where you’re sitting – the whole question of just transition and who benefits, and who doesn’t benefit, is a big, important issue globally.  In the global south, in relation to the global north; in Germany, in China, India – so many people are employed in coal in India that coming up with a way to green that economy without throwing half the country out of work is really a challenge, and also is a fairness issue.   

So in the United States during the Obama administration, a lot of federal funding went and – into clean energy, and a lot of the beneficiaries were in states you can imagine they would be in, like California or some on the East Coast.  And there were some states that have green banks, and so they were better positioned to take advantage of federal spending, so – and match it.  So what we need to do now is we need to make sure that the next round of climate spending is fairer, that it goes throughout the whole country.   

In our lab, we’ve backed something that’s in the bill called the Accelerator.  We think there needs to be something like your national development bank in Germany which helped propel rooftop solar and other innovative technologies.  So this bill has a stipulation for a – sort of a national green bank of sorts.  We think that’s very important to support states and local businesses, smaller entities, and new innovation across the United States and in parts of the country where jobs might be lost.   

QUESTION:  My question was also a little more like there are some advanced technologies in Europe that – do you feel that they might not be applied because of the limitations — 


QUESTION:  Oh, yeah. 

MS JAFFE:  I don’t think so.  I mean, in the end we do still have the tariff on solar panels.  But the United States is a pretty open market, and if somebody has a winning technology and they’re going to be able to put that – I mean, Orsted is going to be a big investor in New England wind, for example.  So if there’s a technology that’s a winning technology and it’s competitive, it’ll be taken up by businesses in the United States. 

I think what’s really – what you’re hearing and what you’re thinking about maybe is a little bit disconnected.  I mean, we’re talking about how to deploy U.S. federal dollars to propel U.S. companies to employ Americans.  And we have had a history in the past where some of our loan guarantee programs and others have benefitted foreign investors, which means that some of the profits and employment is elsewhere, and I think there’s a sense in the United States that if we’re spending federal dollars – federal tax dollars – to create jobs, we shouldn’t be creating those jobs in Europe – you have your own plan to create jobs in Europe – we should be creating jobs in the United States for our own population that needs to transition in a just way.  And I think that the focus of the Build Back Better is our own infrastructure, our own companies, much the same way in Europe that is your focus.  You’re not sending your trillion-dollar clean tech initiative to American companies; you’re focused on European battery manufacturing, and European jobs, and European offshore wind.  So same as the United States.  I don’t think there’s any difference there.   

But obviously, that’s part of the whole question of the title of the talk, about American competitiveness.  If Europe’s going to have incredibly competitive technologies, that means the United States really needs to do the same thing if we’re going to create jobs here.  Our technologies have to be as good as Europe’s technologies or, hopefully, in some cases, better.  But Germany’s electric car program involves factories by Tesla, which is the company that benefited from the last round of infrastructure spending in the United States.  They got a loan to open their first factory in Freeport, California – Fremont, California, and that led to a greater success of the company, which is now an international leader in electric vehicles with a factory in Germany. 

QUESTION:  Thank you. 

MODERATOR:  Okay.  I’d like to, as we come to the end of our time, maybe ask Amy if you could just speak to what kind of new commitments can we expect from COP26 looking ahead to Glasgow. 

MS JAFFE:  I’m a little hopeful that we’re going to see some good 2030 and 2035 announcements complementing what was already accomplished at the climate summit with President Biden.  I’m heartened by the fact that China and Japan and others have made a commitment to ending the financing of new coal-fired power stations.  I agree with Pearl that you can’t just end finance; you also have to look at what are the alternatives for making sure there is sufficient electricity in countries in the Global South.  Our research at Climate Policy Lab has showed that a lot of the momentum for coal-fired plants is coming from the lack of energy reform policies in the countries themselves.  It’s not like China or Japan or others were out pushing people to buy coal plants.   

And so we have to think about – I mean, I’ll just give you an example from Africa that I know off the top of my head, but there – I’m sure there are many others.  Lesotho is lacking the funds to expand its hydroelectric power, but it has more potential and it could share that with Mozambique and South Africa and other countries around Lesotho, and it would help Lesotho’s development.  But there has been this push to go to coal because it’s cheaper, but it’s only cheaper because we’re not accounting for the negative externality of air pollution and the health effects and what else happens to people from climate change. 

So again, thinking regionally and thinking about what each country has in terms of how it would reform its energy system, I feel very optimistic.  I’ve had dual-track meetings with the Government of India, which we’re working with, and the Government of Indonesia is very good – it has active climate legislation coming, including the starting of the carbon market.  And so you’re seeing a lot of leadership coming from the developing world and I feel like that could really create a lot of momentum now if we could just all sort of, like, pitch in the same direction. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  With that, we will conclude today’s briefing.  On behalf of the U.S. Department of State and Washington Foreign Press Center, I’d like to thank our briefer for sharing her expertise today on these critical questions.  Thank you, and good morning. 

U.S. Department of State

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