Vail Global Energy Forum Sparks Ideas for Student Scholar (Part 3)

Note to our readers: This blog was written by Hannah Clark, one of three recipients of a student scholarship to the Vail Global Energy Forum sponsored by the Vail Centre. Hannah is enrolled in the Environment and Natural Resource Specialization at the University of Denver Sturm School of Law. 

I was given the opportunity to attend the Vail Global Energy Forum thanks to a scholarship from the Vail Centre. Energy consumption and production are important factors when looking at climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, and environmental policy. This conference looked at many aspects of global energy and what different sectors are doing to innovate their technologies, cut emissions, or reduce their contributions to climate change. What became clear right away was that climate change is largely bipartisan. Because I am currently studying environmental and natural resources law, I was particularly interested in the energy laws and policies I heard discussed throughout this forum, and where the world is heading in terms of the policies that will be implemented.

Setting the Stage

Setting the stage for the forum was a talk that was fact-based and nonpartisan. Michael Dimock, President of the Pew Research Center, explained that this organization tries to bring issues to the table to enrich the public conversation. Mr. Dimock explained that climate change is a bipartisan topic, and the single most polarized topic in America at the political level. Republicans tend to think climate change is not a serious problem, whereas the opposite holds true for Democrats. High carbon dioxide emitters, like China, are found to be less concerned about climate change, whereas low emitters, like Brazil, are most worried. This concern correlates to which countries feel that climate change will affect them personally.

Because of this divide in climate change concern, it is easy to see why the energy sector has many pathways. Some insist that oil and gas are the best options, while others are trying to move toward renewable energy sources. What I focused on during this conference was where we are heading today with regard to energy, and how those that are moving forward are implementing policies that move toward a future that is sustainable and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. For this reason, I particularly enjoyed the conversation on the Paris Agreement. Dan Reicher, the executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University, explained that the Paris Agreement sets a global goal of limiting temperature increase to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Countries will reach carbon reduction targets called “intended nationally determined contributions”. The United States has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. This target relies on existing federal laws along with state action to implement policy in more than 60 areas.

Mexican and Canadian climate leadership

After learning about the 2015 Paris Agreement in graduate school, I was excited to hear about what other countries were doing to meet the legally binding parts of the agreement. Lourdes Melgar, Undersecretary of Hydrocarbons at the Mexican Ministry of Energy, explained that Mexico is taking climate change very seriously, largely due to the increase in hurricanes and other natural disasters there. Dr. Melgar explained that Mexico plans to reduce greenhouse gases by 22 percent, and reduce their black carbon soot by 51 percent by 2030. Acting globally, Mexico has donated 10 million dollars to the Green Climate Fund and 20 million dollars to the Global Environmental Fund to help other developing countries in need of assistance. In addition to these contributions, Mexico is implementing a carbon tax, and working to switch from oil and gas to natural gas. Gitane De Silva, the senior representative to the United States from Alberta, spoke about the steps Canada is taking to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Canada will implement a carbon tax, like Mexico. This tax will then fund families to transition them off coal, and also to fund green infrastructure. Canada is aiming for zero emissions from coal by 2018, and hopes to reduce methane by 45 percent by 2025.

What I find compelling about the Paris Agreement is that each country can implement their own policies to reach one larger, global goal. What may work for one country may not work for another. As much as I’d like the whole world to shift toward renewable energy sources, this is something that will take time. With the Paris Agreement in place, I’m hoping that we will move toward a future that is more sustainable and less focused on oil and gas. Oil and gas are important forms of energy and have propelled us forward globally for many years, but it is time to focus on energy sources with less impact on global climate. I applaud the Vail Global energy forum for inviting guests from all aspects of the energy sector. The talks by professionals around the world, from various sectors, were well-informed and well-spoken. I took away something from each conversation that sparked ideas of how to grow or change in the energy field to create development that is both productive and sustainable.

Thanks, Hannnah, for your thoughtful analysis of the sessions at the Vail Global Energy Forum with a look at the international policy questions. This concludes our series of blogs from our student scholarship recipients – thank you!

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment