Climate Dispatches: The climate year — past and future

Many of you had been bracing for it, but when Senator Joe Manchin (Democratic Senator of West Virginia) declared that he could not vote for the Build Back Better reconciliation bill and its massive climate provisions it may have come as quite the emotional setback … especially when you look at the greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reduction timelines that scientists and policy makers insist that civilization must meet in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

But one thing you can say for sure: No matter how bad of a climate crisis predicament we may find ourselves in, it can always get worse without putting in the enormous effort required to make it better. For that reason, it is crucially important to look back at this past year’s climate action accomplishments and look forward to this year’s upcoming, potentially positive developments in order to give us the collective emotional boost we need to keep up the fight. So without any further ado, here are last year’s accomplishments followed by this year’s upcoming developments, listed from the international level all the way down to our level here in Truckee.

According to the International Energy Agency, the world added nearly 290 gigawatts of renewable power capacity in 2021. The agency expects 2022 to “set a fresh all-time record for new installations.” In addition, at the international climate conference COP26 held in Glasgow, Scotland in November, nations made new pledges to reduce methane gas pollution, curb deforestation, and curb coal financing. Nations also agreed on rules governing the trading of carbon credits. And finally, the U.S. and China came to a bilateral agreement on climate policy.

Here in the U.S., President Biden signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill into law in November. It includes: $65 billion for clean energy and grid-related investments and $7.5 billion to build a national network of charging stations for electric vehicles. The Biden administration in December declared that the federal government will procure all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, will purchase only EVs by 2035, all Federal procurements will be net zero by 2050 and all Federal buildings will be zero emission by 2045.

In California, in 2021, the legislature allocated $2.7 billion toward zero-emission vehicles, with a strong focus on shifting trucks and buses to zero-emission technologies. These funds will also help in the deployment of the infrastructure needed to support the growth of the zero-emission vehicle population. Also, Governor Newsom issued an executive order directing the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to evaluate achieving carbon neutrality by 2035. The California Energy Commission approved the 2022 Energy Code that encourages electric heat pump technology for space and water heating, expands solar and battery storage standards, and requires new single-family homes to be made ready for future electrification.

Here in Truckee, the Truckee Donner PUD, the Town of Truckee and the Truckee Airport, with the help of the Sierra Business Council, came together to form the Carbon Zero Alliance of Truckee Tahoe. This important joint effort will coordinate efforts between these entities to reduce carbon emissions in our region. The hope is to grow participation to include organizations all over the Truckee Tahoe region. Also important, Measure T in Truckee was passed by a wide margin. It will provide funding for wildfire mitigation by levying a parcel tax. Mitigating wildfires is an important piece of Truckee’s carbon emission reduction effort.

While much was accomplished in 2021, much more will need to be accomplished in 2022. Thankfully, we have a lot to look forward to in 2022 on the climate action front.

The international community at COP26 pledged to come back this year and increase their ambition for GHG emission targets. Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency predicts that 2022 will set new records for wind and solar deployments.

Back here in the U.S., there is still a slight chance that Manchin will relent and vote for the Build Back Better reconciliation bill, but even if that isn’t the case, there are already folks working on different strategies to get meaningful climate legislation passed in 2022. In more concrete terms, the large offshore wind project Vineyard 1 off of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts broke ground in November of 2021. Most of the construction will take place in 2022, with hopes of the first electricity being supplied to the mainland by 2023. While this isn’t the first offshore wind farm in the U.S., it is the first truly utility scale project that hopefully will usher in large, profitable jobs to produce offshore wind industry in the United States. Finally, the number of EV models available in the U.S. will double in 2022 from 10 to 20, with pickups, sedans, hatchbacks, crossovers, and SUVs among them, some more affordable than previous EV models.

In California, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) will improve its 2022 Scoping Plan Update to assess progress towards achieving 2030 and 2050 emissions targets laid out in Senate Bill 32 (California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006).

This is an important process, because CARB can dictate a wide range of policies that can affect many sectors of California’s economy and will also be critical for California to meet its GHG emission reduction goals.

Here in Truckee, the Truckee Zero Carbon Alliance will introduce some exciting initiatives. Meanwhile, Truckee Donner PUD now has a new General Manager (Brian Wright) and a Conservation & Customer Service Senior Analyst (Steven Keates) to make more important decisions about further decarbonizing our electricity mix and electrifying our buildings and transportation.

You can see that we have much to celebrate about the past year’s climate action accomplishments and much to look forward to in the coming year. But all of these past and future accomplishments require a lot of effort and support from people like you. Please take the time to pat yourself on the back for a job well done, and then spend a little time now and throughout 2022 letting your elected officials at all levels of government know that you support these important efforts and that you expect them to increase their ambition and their sense of urgency on climate.

Happy New (Climate Action) Year!

Matt Tucker is a Truckee dad, husband and fired up advocate for the climate

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