by Vanessa Brown
In my last blog post, I argued that the Ocean Climate Action Plan (“OCAP” or “Blue New Deal”) would shape Biden’s climate policy and provide the framework for the United States’ Paris Agreement re-entry. In this post I take a closer look at some of the mechanics of the Blue New Deal and the framework for the United States’ submission of its NDC in 2021.
The Blue New Deal states two principle objectives: (1) To use ocean and coastal resources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and (2) To enable coastal communities to more effectively adapt to climate impacts. It is divided into four issue areas: (1) Coastal Adaptation and Financing, (2) Sustainable Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Marine Biodiversity Conservation, (3) Offshore Renewable Energy, and (4) Ports, Shipping, and the Maritime Sector. The Plan advocates for a public-private partnership with respect to finance and recommends the U.S. join the International Platform on Sustainable Finance, sponsored by the IMF and World Bank, as well as adopt the 14 principles outlined in the Declaration of the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Appendix A provides 120 items of proposed federal legislation that addresses OCAP related issues.
In March 2019, Florida Representative Kathy Castor introduced HR 9, the Climate Action Now Act (“the Act”), in the House to direct the President to develop and submit a plan for the United States to meet its nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement within 120 days of the Act’s passage, providing at least a 90 day period for public comment. This is the only legislation in the Blue New Deal that specifically relates to submitting an NDC. It has already passed in the House and is presently on the Senate legislative calendar under “General Orders.”
The Act prohibits the use of funds to advance the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement. It restates the United States’ prior commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below its 2005 level by 2025 and for the federal government to reduce emissions 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Section 4 of the Act outlines five questions the President’s plan must address. Within six months of enactment, the President is required to both produce a report that examines the effect of the Paris Agreement on clean energy job development in rural communities and enter into a contract with the National Academy of Sciences to produce a report that examines the potential impacts of a withdrawal by the United States from the Paris Agreement on the global economic competitiveness of the United States economy and on workers in the United States. The President has a year to submit an updated plan, also subject to public comment.
by Vanessa Brown
Although the Trump Administration has pledged that the United States will exit the Paris Agreement, the formal withdrawal process will not be complete until November 4, 2020–the day after the election. Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, has pledged to recommit the U.S. to the Paris Agreement if he wins on November 3rd. Although the US is technically still a party to the Paris Agreement, no one expects that it will submit a new NDC on target because its withdrawal from the Agreement in November will extinguish its previously submitted NDC. Furthermore, this year’s COP26 meeting has been postponed due to COVID-19 and has been rescheduled to take place in Glasgow, Scotland in November 2021. This delay has given governments a grace period in submitting their second-round NDCs. Presently, only 13 countries have submitted new NDCs this year, and another 33 have stated their intention to do so.
Articles 2 and 4.1 of the Paris Agreement specify that its goals to limit the rise in average global temperature to 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C will be achieved over time. In order to enhance this long term ambition, the Agreement provides that successive nationally determined contributions, or “NDCs”, will be used to measure progress. Revised NDCs are set in comparison to the previous NDCs and reflect a state’s highest possible ambition, including targets, measures and policies that are the basis for national climate action plans. They are submitted every five years to the UNFCCC secretariat. Patricia Espinosa presently serves as the convention’s executive. Initial or intended NDCs (INDCs) were submitted in 2015 and 2020 was the deadline for the submission of the first revised NDCs.
If and when the US returns to the Paris Agreement, it will need to communicate a new INDC, and, although technically a fresh start, the international community will be evaluating its ambition based on its 2015 INDC. If Biden wins the election, some such as Susan Biniaz, former Deputy Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State and lead climate negotiator from 1989-2017, are calling for the US to immediately submit a provisional/placeholder NDC or to delay its submission bolstered by announcing other climate-related actions and initiatives. Whatever the tactic, climate lawyers and policymakers should keep in focus last year’s BlueCOP negotiations, which conveyed the close links between the health of the climate and the health of the ocean, as well as keep a close eye on the Ocean Climate Action Plan or “Blue New Deal” presently under development at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, as it will provide the template for some of the first ocean climate legislation and policy actions in history, beginning in 2021. Unlike Biden’s Green New Deal, which promotes small nuclear reactors, the Blue New Deal is silent on nuclear development. Nuclear experts Gregory Jaczko, former Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Arjun Makhijani of IEER, should be watched for comments.