The year that was and looking ahead – part one of three

Fueled by air pollution issues, in 2013 China started adopting carbon tax schemes.

By Anders Lorenzen

Did our key predictions for 2013 come true, and what are we expecting from 2014?

US action on climate change
At the start of 2013, we pondered whether this would be the year in which we’d see the US taking decisive action on climate change, with an informed new Foreign Secretary at the helm in the form of John Kerry. Its hard to say whether it was his own impetus or Kerry’s influence, but Obama definitely stepped up and has made climate change a key priority in 2013 and beyond. His inauguration speech in January underlined this when he said ‘’We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.’’ Six months on, in his much anticipated climate speech, he announced that he had authorised the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to draw up plans for stricter legislation on both new and old coal powered power plants, which began in October.

Carbon tax developments
We speculated whether 2013 would be the year in which we saw a move towards a global carbon tax. Some developments have been made in this area; whilst a global carbon tax still looks distant, several countries and regions are maneuvering into positions to establish carbon tax schemes of sorts. In Europe, much has been made of the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) which EU’s Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard has fought hard to reform. Her first move was to remove the surplus carbon credits called ‘backloading’, an action first rejected by the commision but finally approved in July and later signed into law. China, the world biggest emitter, saw a carbon market forecast to become the biggest in the country open in the Guangdong region. In Australia the new climate sceptic prime minister Tony Abbott pledged to scrap the country’s carbon tax; at the time of writing he has not yet manage to do so.

Renewables and cleantech investment
We predicted that, despite several countries being hard hit by economics difficulties, overall investment in renewables and other clean tech products would rise, as others developed their renewables infrastructure and invested in energy efficiency and electric cars. Investment in electric transport is in fact steadily rising; the US is the fastest growing market and in Europe, Norway leads other European countries. Developing super-economies such as China are starting to look to the electric transport market too, as are local governments and municipalities. As for renewable energy technologies, 2013 has been a particularly great year for solar PV; small solar systems have literally exploded across many European countries, most noticeably in the UK, Germany, Denmark and Italy. The UK also unveiled the largest solar bridge in the world; Blackfriars Bridge, which traverses the River Thames in London. The UK’s Climate and Energy Minister, Greg Barker, launched a solar energy roadmap, announcing that solar is now considered a key player in future energy generation. In March, Denmark broke a new wind power record, one evening producing more electricity from it’s wind turbines that the entire country was consuming. New records continue to be set regularly. The US had a great year with record capacity being added onto onshore wind power, surprisingly lead by the oil rich state of Texas. In Africa, Ethiopia opened the country’s biggest wind farm and South Africa approved several wind farms.

In part two we will be looking at the rush to frack in the UK and the coal dominance in Australia.

Sub edited by Kirstie Wielandt

Categories: climate, Obama, Renewables, US

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