New report raises social cost of carbon estimates, surpassing previous estimates by more than 250%.

By Joshua Bledsoe, Kevin Homrighausen, and John Detrich

On December 2, 2023, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a final report that substantially increases estimates of the social cost of greenhouse gases (GHG), including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide (collectively, SC-GHG). The report describes SC-GHG as “the monetary value of the net harm to society from emitting one metric ton of that GHG into the atmosphere in a given year.”[1] The new estimates are intended to serve as a tool for decision-makers, aiding in the cost-benefit analysis of actions that would reduce or increase GHG emissions. Indeed, federal agencies are expected to use the estimates in future rule-makings and in the environmental review of forthcoming projects.

The agency’s two recent actions introduce enhanced restrictions on hydrofluorocarbons and provide a series of compliance dates for industry stakeholders.

By Stacey VanBelleghem and Jennifer Garlock

On October 5, 2023, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued two rules, one final and one proposed, to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the bipartisan American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act). The agency’s recent actions represent major steps in the Biden administration’s goal to significantly reduce HFCs over the next decade.

HFCs are a group of chemical refrigerants and potent greenhouse gasses (GHGs), commonly used in foam products, cooling systems, aerosols, and fire suppressants. International focus on managing these compounds sharpened in the 1980s, when countries agreed in the Montreal Protocol to shift global markets away from the ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) — the then dominant strain of refrigerant and aerosol chemicals — toward HFCs. Although HFCs are less damaging to the ozone layer than CFCs, they have global warming potential (GWP) values (a figure that allows comparison of relative climate impact of a GHG) hundreds or thousands times higher than carbon dioxide (CO2), which has a GWP equal to 1. In 2016, nearly 200 countries adopted the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol agreeing to a global phasedown of production and use of HFCs. The US ratified that amendment on October 31, 2022.

The plan accelerates already ambitious climate goals for California and charts a course to carbon neutrality by 2045.

By Joshua Bledsoe, Jen Garlock, and Brian McCall

On December 15, 2022, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted its Final 2022 Scoping Plan for Achieving Carbon Neutrality (Final Scoping Plan). Assembly Bill (AB) 32 requires CARB to develop and update every five years a scoping plan that describes the approach California will take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) to combat climate change. AB 32 originally set a target of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. After California met this goal, Senate Bill (SB) 32 strengthened the state’s GHG reduction target to at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. California committed to even greater targets this year with adoption of AB 1279, which directs the state to become carbon neutral no later than 2045.

The 2020 wildfire season alone released more carbon dioxide than what California reduced through years of emission cuts.

By Marc Campopiano and Joshua Bledsoe

California is a recognized leader in climate policy, but a wildfire crisis is threatening to unwind progress towards the state’s ambitious climate goals. In 2006, with the passage of AB 32, California set a then-unprecedented target of reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Having achieved this goal, California dramatically upped the ante with the passage of SB 32, requiring a 40% reduction of GHGs, and again earlier this year with AB 1279, which requires the state to become carbon neutral by 2045 or earlier. Despite notable progress to date, a recent university study found that GHGs emitted from California’s 2020 wildfire season alone equated to more than double of all the GHG reductions the state achieved since 2003.[1]

The Final Report recommends five themes that financial institutions should incorporate into their net zero transition strategies.

By Paul A. Davies, Michael D. Green, and James Bee

On 1 November 2022, the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) issued its Final Report on the Fundamentals, Recommendations, and Guidance for Financial Institution Net Zero Transition Plans (the Report). The Report sets out a framework for transition planning, identifying financing strategies for financial institutions to effectively transition to net zero, and makes recommendations for implementing these strategies.

California continues to push toward its statewide carbon-neutrality goals.

By Arthur F. Foerster and Joshua Bledsoe

On August 25, 2022, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) unanimously approved regulations that require all new 2035 and later passenger vehicles to be zero-emission vehicles. The agency’s “Advanced Clean Cars II” regulations require manufacturers to deliver an increasing percentage of zero-emission vehicles each year, starting with 35% of new vehicle sales for cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs in 2026, and ramping up each year to reach 100% new vehicle sales by 2035.[1]