Guest Blogger Ken Alex: California’s Global Climate Action Summit, September 12-14, 2018

The Final Post in a Series on California Climate Policy by Ken Alex, Senior Policy Advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown

[This is the final post in a series expressing my view of why California’s actions on climate change are so important and how they will change the world. The introductory post provides an overview and some general context.]

Under the Paris Agreement, countries must evaluate progress towards their nationally determined commitments to reduce emissions every five years, as well as progress towards the goal of limiting warming to significantly below 2 degrees Celsius.  This is called (in UN-speak) “the global stocktake.”  The first opportunity for this exercise will take place next December at the 24th Conference of the Parties in Katowice, Poland.

In light of the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and broader concern about insufficient ambition of the international community, “non-state actors”(another UN-speak term, referring to entities that are not countries, including states, provinces, cities, businesses, NGOs) need to make their voices heard.

With that backdrop, California will host the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco on September 12-14, 2018.  The Summit will be chaired by Jerry Brown, Mike Bloomberg, Patricia Espinosa (Executive Secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change) and Anand Mahindra (chair of the Mahindra Group in India).  Before the UN stocktake, states, cities, NGOs, students, businesses, investors, and other parts of civil society from around the world will provide their own “stocktake” – a presentation of all of the actions in progress, investments, successes, and pathways to greater emission reduction.

While those who work on these issues daily have a sense of the level and extent of action taking place on climate around the world, very few others, including politicians, business leaders, and civil society understand the progress being made and the commitments that already exist.  The Summit will be designed to get that message out, and to engage people who have remained on the sidelines.

California’s actions and commitments will be, literally, on center stage.  Let’s make sure that the world continues to take note and takes action.

Ken Alex is the Director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, and serves as Senior Policy Advisor to Governor Jerry Brown and the Chair of the Strategic Growth Council.

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Reader Comments

2 Replies to “Guest Blogger Ken Alex: California’s Global Climate Action Summit, September 12-14, 2018”

  1. I hope that this summit will implement some means of reaching out to people who have solutions; i.e. engineers, so that the activists and legislators can get some idea about the possibilities large and small for alternative energy, energy conservation, and climate change mitigation via carbon sequestration. California could do well to set up some sort of office or other ongoing mechanism to gather ideas about sustainability, evaluate them and bring them to entrepreneurs; it is a lot better to get 1,000 crazy ideas and one good one than to get no good ideas.

    Although activists may build the will to act, legislation may mandate action, and economics may provide funds to act, it is ultimately technology that provides a method to act. In some cases, relatively simple small things can make an inexpensive difference, especially as regards energy conservation.

    As one minor example, we extensively over-illuminate property, and motion activated lights would be more effective both regarding energy use and security (and light pollution). If a guard or police officer knows that the lights should be off and individual lights are going on and off, he might get a clue that someone was there that shouldn’t be. Coast Guard activities Hawaii had a very creative environmental officer who saved a lot of energy (and water, which is even more important in Hawaii than California) with a series of relatively low cost measures, one of which was looking carefully at security illumination.

    A much larger example is that low cost, non-battery energy storage is nearly at hand. Developments in electrolysis catalysts are making hydrogen (and hence oxygen) production from renewable sources more efficient and cost effective. Hydrogen and oxygen can be stored in large tanks at atmospheric pressure, just as natural gas is now, at a power plant. This requires big tanks, but volume goes up as the cube of size, so it isn’t really an issue for a fixed facility. Hydrogen + oxygen + water gives steam at very high temperatures and pressures and a turbine running on this steam would be about 70% efficient and have no emissions other than water vapor (or not even that at a somewhat higher cost) and would be lot simpler than a plant with a boiler and all of that jazz. So the plant makes hydrogen and oxygen when the sun shines and the wind blows, then burns it when it doesn’t.

    Another development is high performance wooden buildings. It is possible to use farmed trees to make engineered wood products and then high rise wood buildings. These buildings are much more resistant to seismic loads than concrete or steel (which is why they are building them in New Zealand and British Columbia) and represent a means of sequestering the carbon in the wood for the lifetime of the building so in California it is a win-win. It would mainly take tuning building codes and educating builders, not necessarily law or funding, to encourage this. (Note that UC Berkeley has a wood sciences department and a civil engineering department, both on Northside, that can explain this in detail.)

    I have already mentioned what California “otter” do as regards a means for carbon sequestration in the ocean, but there are other methods which might contribute several “wedges” in emissions reductions.

    It is also important to understand the tradeoffs and possible risks. One saying among engineers is “The worst thing that you can say is ‘It sounded like a good idea at the time’.”

    Note also that there will be an ASME international symposium on offshore wind energy in San Francisco November 4-7 2018.
    This conference includes non-technical tracks on environmental and legal issues as well as engineering tracks. Northern California and Oregon have the best “Goldilocks” wind energy resources in North America (not too little, not too much) and the first North American deep water grid connected wind turbine will be going in off Eureka soon.
    This is an important opportunity for reducing California’s carbon footprint (as well as possibly providing jobs building turbine platforms, installing them and servicing them) and it would probably be possible to get the firm that developed the technology being used into the conference, since they are in Berkeley.

  2. “…..California will host the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco on September 12-14, 2018…..”

    Informed citizens are well aware that Governor Moonbeam supports open borders and he gives sanctuary to dangerous criminals who rape, rob and kill innocent people in San Francisco and throughout California. Plus there are human feces all over the sidewalks and streets of San Francisco which makes this an appropriate location for another meaningless “climate action summit.”

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