Image by johnhain from Pixabay

Net Zero is a good goal but it will require change in the economy. Many say good but those impacted are not so happy.

Louisiana’s nearly final plan for reducing carbon emissions to “net zero” by 2050 focuses on “three pillars” – a dramatic shift to electricity from renewable sources, such as wind and solar; using that electricity to power the state’s huge industrial base; and requiring industries using high-intensity heat processes to switch from carbon-based fuels to hydrogen. The final draft of the plan was unveiled Tuesday morning during an online Zoom meeting of Gov. John Bel EdwardsClimate Initiatives Task Force. Task force members will be allowed to append objections to the plan through Jan. 31, the date of the task force’s last meeting. The plan will be delivered to Edwards Feb. 1. The task force and its advisory committees will meet again in March to be briefed on Edwards’ priorities for moving forward with the plan’s eight broad areas of focus, which contain 28 major carbon reduction strategies and recommend 84 specific actions.

The governor set three pillars: Renewable Electric Generation, Industrial Electrification and Industrial Fuel Switching to Low and No Carbon Hydrogen. Lofty goals but needed as over 65% of our emissions are from industry, the highest in the country.

The focus on the three pillars aims to highlight that, unlike other states, Louisiana’s greatest producers of carbon emissions are industry and electric generation. And the industrial sector is responsible for 66% of the state’s total, according to the latest survey by LSU researchers. The 90-page draft outlines a complex plan to reshape the state’s economy at all levels, from the use of cars and trucks to land-use decision-making, to the complexities of how electric generation can be switched to zero-carbon fuels like solar and wind, to methods for permanently storing carbon underground. At the request of several task force members, task force chairman Harry Vorhoff said his staff would develop a two-page summary of the plan.

There are specific proposals on how these changes can be made.

The governor would have to take a series of actions to implement the plan’s pieces. For instance, the plan requires the creation of a “Renewable and Clean Portfolio Standard” for electricity generation that would aim to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by generating plants to zero by 2050 or earlier. The proposal calls for the state standard to align with proposed federal requirements that 100% of electricity generation be derived from renewable or clean resources by 2035, with at least 80% coming from renewable resources by 2050. Moving forward with that or the myriad of other recommendations is likely to require: One or more executive orders from the governor requiring specific actions to reduce emissions ; Assignments of strategies to reduce emissions – through rule changes or grant programs or other strategies – to state agencies, including the Departments of Natural Resources, Environmental Quality, Economic Development, Agriculture and Forestry; and Transportation and Development; Submitting requests for action to the independent Public Service Commission, including efforts to reduce emissions by utilities and shippers; Requests to the federal government or Congress for changes in law or money to assist in carbon reductions; Requests to private industry for assistance in meeting carbon goals and Submitting bills to the Legislature to change state laws governing industry, housing, land use, electricity generation, among other things.

In releasing the plan there were objection noted.

In releasing the final version of the plan, state officials also addressed concerns raised by several task force members during a December meeting that the proposals would not bring the state to net zero by 2050, as required by Edwards’ 2020 executive order. Allison DeJong, a researcher with the Water Institute of the Gulf, which is in charge of modeling used to determine whether the plan will work, said the modeling was adjusted to take into account two segments of potential carbon reductions that are not captured by models. One is carbon that officials believe will be captured by land – such as farmland and forests – and wetlands within the state. That has yet to be modeled. The other involves expected federal actions, such as President Joe Biden’s proposed “Build Back Better” legislation, that would fund major efforts to reduce carbon emissions nationwide, including in Louisiana. That category also includes expected regional cooperative agreements to reduce emissions, and the expected adoption of a national “carbon pricing” system that would reduce emissions by taxing them. However, DeJong confirmed that the net-zero level is based on estimates of 2018 carbon emissions of 217 million tons by the state’s industrial sector. Task force members have pointed out that proposed and permitted but not yet built industrial plants are expected to emit another 100 million tons.

The presentation also showed the costs and effects of inaction.

This version of the plan includes tweaks to a lengthy introduction to the proposed actions that outlines the risks of inaction. An earlier version of the full climate action plan is on the task force’s website. The report says failure to reduce carbon emissions will result in a variety of health threats, with rising temperatures potentially being the most deadly. The report points out that most Louisiana cities have seen significant increases in the number of days with temperatures over 95 degrees since 1970. Air quality will continue to decline, the report said, including increased dates with high ozone or high particulate matter levels, and more days with wildfires. Transmission of various diseases also will increase, in part because warmer temperatures will make their spread more likely. And increased mental health impacts also will be likely, because of all the other health issues and because of threats from natural disasters. Louisiana’s indigenous residents also will be disproportionately impacted by climate change, as many will be directly impacted by changes to the ecosystems, species and lands that are culturally, economically, and historically significant to them. The report cites the significant impacts to Louisiana tribes from Hurricane Ida as an example.

Climate change is noted as having known effects and one just got worse with the erosion of the Thwaites Glacier in the Antarctic.

Climate change’s effects on the environment include well-known impacts like the expected increase in sea level along the state’s coastline; the increased impacts of hurricanes, including higher storm surges and greater rainfall totals; impacts to fisheries harvests caused by both wetlands loss and warming Gulf waters; increased bouts of inland flooding; more exposure to periods of drought; and a variety of related impacts to both crops and livestock. Extreme weather events represent the most significant economic effects expected to result from climate change, the report said, pointing out that many such events do not result in federal disaster declarations that can help residents recoup their losses. But climate change also holds the threat of risks to the state’s economy from the transitions that are already in play around the globe to reduce its effects, the report said: changing demand for oil and gas produced by Louisiana; shifts by companies from gas-fired to electric vehicles; and risks resulting from decisions made by banks and insurance companies and related policymakers that could harm Louisiana residents.

Also noted were the positives that would come from doing the plan.

On the plus side, according to the plan, the proposals for reducing greenhouse gases could have significant health, economic and lifestyle benefits to Louisiana residents: Many of the recommendations for reducing greenhouse gases would also lead to reductions in other pollutants. There would be fewer asthma attacks and premature deaths linked to air pollution. Increased emphasis on land use changes that promote biking and walking are also likely to promote health and quality of life. The same is true for increased access to public transit and broadband services, both aimed at reducing emissions through less travel using carbon fuels. And energy-efficiency improvements can save money on fuel.

The goal is a more equitable society which is a good goal as so many now are in an inequitable status.

The plan focuses on creating a “more equitable society” by emphasizing equity in decisions involving climate, by requiring data to be collected and progress tracked on policy decisions. The plan also is to have the state government emphasize opportunities to utilize minority-owned businesses and employ disadvantaged workers in building solar power distribution systems and alternative vehicle fueling stations. The state’s economy also will be improved by the state’s business community participating in the transition to a low-carbon economy, the plan said, which will help maintain competitiveness. Economic investments are also likely in major renewable energy projects, such as offshore wind platforms, manufacturing of low-carbon fuels, and implementation of carbon-reducing industry processes, the plan said. If the state’s carbon reduction actions are met both nationwide and in other countries, it could assist in the state’s coastal restoration efforts through reduced rates of sea level rise, reduce heat island effects in cities and towns, and reduce potential damage to agricultural production. The planning document stresses the need for immediate action, which must be accompanied by mitigation of the already present climate effects. Examples are combining energy efficiency programs, like local solar power cooperatives with energy storage capacity that could be used by participants if power goes out during a hurricane.

What is needed is to get to our elected officials and tell them we need this, now that if we don’t we will be in a bad place. Bob Marshall has commented on this and his solution is to elect people who will help, not keep reelecting those who won’t. But to do that we need to educate the electorate.

Net Zero to reshape the States economy