USA: Leadership and energy transition

Fort Collins: pioneering energy transition

Fort Collins: pioneering energy transition

Today Barack Obama is due to announce his revised Clean Power Plan, aiming to reduce carbon emissions from power stations by 32% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. Even this relatively modest goal will be fought by the coal industry and by Republican politicians. With the 2016 presidential elections looming a range of very divergent candidates are emerging, from the inspirational Bernie Sanders to the dreadful Donald Trump. Obama is trying to offer American leadership on climate change ahead of December’s Paris conference, and to secure his legacy. It will be up to his successor to deliver, and Bernie Sanders would be my choice for the person to do it.

Technologically radically reducing emissions is achievable: it has been the political leadership that has been lacking. Ideally I’d like to have seen Obama announce an 80% target for power stations by 2030 rather than 32%, which would have been very challenging, but probably achievable. These plans announced today by Obama only relate to power stations: much more challenging is to reduce emissions across the wider economy. I’ve often written and spoken about the desirability of working toward 100% renewables for electricity, heating, cooling and transport. Many communities, from small villages to cities, states and whole countries are setting themselves this much more ambitious target, and then getting on with some excellent work in creating jobs and many diverse social, economic and environmental improvements as they do so.

In USA there is great diversity of energy and environmental policy and action from one area to another, due to its decentralized democracy. Hawaii is the first, and so far only state to mandate that all electricity will come from renewables, and that this will be achieved by 2045. However it is at the city and more local level that leadership is best demonstrated. Fort Collins in northern Colorado is a city of just over 150,000 people and a couple of months ago they voted to reduce their overall carbon emissions 20% by 2020 and 80% by 2030, based on a 2005 baseline. They had already instigated the innovative FortZed plan back in 2007, on which they are now building. Lancaster City in Southern California is a similar sized city to Fort Collins and it too, like many other communities across USA, is setting local targets way ahead of the pack. These pioneering communities are setting an example for the rest of USA to follow, but for that to happen it’ll take political leadership at the national level, so who ends up as the next American president really does matter.

Obama plan and

100% renewables across the World


Fort Collins