2024 Predictions In Climate Policy — Interviews With Gabrielle Jorgensen, Mark Z. Jacobsen, & Peter Weiner

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As part of our predictions in clean tech for 2024 series (see this post on predictions in AgTech), today, I’m posting research on climate policy and interviews with top climate policy / science experts:

Here are some updates and predictions for 2024 in climate policy.

Emissions Regulations

Whether, and how much, we can regulate greenhouse gases the same way we do other sources of pollution has been a contentious issue for many years. This may be the year that we get some real clarity and progress on the issue.

“We’ll likely see the Biden administration’s proposed climate regulations finalized in the first half of 2024,” Jorgensen said. “Among the most notable are emissions standards for existing and new gas and coal power plants, the first federal regulation to explicitly limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing plants. There’s also a proposed rule that would impose stringent pollution standards on heavy-duty trucks, which Congress attempted to block but could not override the President’s veto. The SEC has yet to finalize its emissions disclosure rule for public companies due to intense industry pushback, but we may see that happen in 2024 ahead of a potential change in administrations.”

There’s also some existing law that may be changed this year by SCOTUS that will directly impact regulatory capability.

“The Supreme Court will decide two cases this year that have the potential to impose sweeping limits on the authority of federal agencies, including those that are essential to regulating emissions,” said Jorgensen. “Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo could lead to an explicit overturning of the “Chevron doctrine,” a concept in existing case law that grants broad deference to regulatory agencies. The other case, SEC v. Jarkesy, could restrict the ability of federal agencies to adjudicate their own administrative cases. This would significantly hinder the ability of federal agencies to enforce their own regulations while adding an unprecedented burden on the court system.”

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Power Mix & Permitting

Globally, the share of clean tech in new generation has grown consistently, and 2024 will continue this trend. 2021 and 2022 saw more than 50% of new energy generation globally come from solar, and more than 80% of new generation has been “carbon-free” (hydro, nuclear, solar, wind, and other renewables) over the past several years.

Note this is “new generation.” Total generation globally is still dominated by fossils (coal, oil, natural gas). To put it in context, solar PV provides only about 5% of power globally. But the trend is clear.

“Installations of wind-water-solar renewable electricity will continue to accelerate and dominate new installations worldwide,” said Jacobsen.

In the U.S., though, there are critical bottlenecks — permitting and distribution.

“This is a beast of a problem that must be addressed in order to realize the full emissions reduction potential of the IRA, per policy modeling by the Princeton ZERO Lab and others,” said Jorgensen. “Most importantly, the U.S. needs to double the annual rate of building additional electric transmission capacity.”

No easy task, given the complexity of federal permitting law. Getting a massive powerline approved was designed to be bureaucratic on purpose – so that nothing went too fast and broke the system or hurt the communities it affects.

Public lands are helpful in this regard because there’s less input from NIMBYs. But it doesn’t help that the Bureau of Land Management is understaffed. Weiner, who works with the BLM to get large scale renewable projects permitted, said that an exodus of staff members in the latter half of the 2010’s has hindered that agency’s ability to get things done. According to Weiner, BLM “has not recovered, even 3.5 years later, and its staffing shortages have led to year long (or longer) delays of permitting on public lands,” he said.

The situation in permitting is complex. According to Jorgensen, we’re at something of a political stalemate on this issue.  “Democrats have so far been reluctant to amend the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to help accelerate the permitting of energy projects because proposed amendments could jeopardize environmental review and benefit fossil fuel buildout,” she said. “On the other hand, Republicans generally refuse to pass legislation that would help accelerate transmission growth, like empowering the federal government to override state siting authority of transmission lines. I think a deal is still possible in 2024, but no compromise language has yet materialized.”

Farm Bill

The Farm Bill started as a way the federal government could help family farmers during the Great Depression. Critics frequently point out that it has been coopted by large corporate interests, who now benefit greatly from the subsidies originally designed to help family farms, and that the outcome often pushes more of the things we don’t want – unhealthy foods – and artificially keeps prices low on those items.

Jorgensen sees this as a point of hope for 2024. “The 2024 farm bill has the potential to be the most significant federal climate legislation this year,” she said. “A number of climate-smart provisions for sustainable land management, nature-based carbon sequestration, empowering minority farmers, and crop insurance could make their way into the final package this fall. Since the farm bill is a hodgepodge of provisions governing our entire food system, we could also potentially see some wins for climate-friendly food outside of agriculture, such as a boost for lab-cultivated meat.”

Continued IRA Implementation

The Inflation Reduction Act, which we’ve covered extensively on CleanTechnica, was the biggest climate law ever passed. It has hardly begun to be implemented, but so far the results have been stellar (and by stellar, I mean, as well as any law ever does – they all have challenges, but this one has gone comparatively smoothly and gotten done what it aimed to get done). More than 100K clean energy jobs in the US have been created directly as a result.

Jorgensen expects a lot of positive momentum in 2024, due to its clear bipartisan appeal.

“In 2023, we saw promising uptake of the IRA’s financial incentives for climate solutions at the state and local level,” she said. “Notably, early data shows red states are benefiting enormously from the incentives. For most of the federal grant programs we helped implement in 2023, every state in the country submitted applications (and when there were ideological holdouts, it was always fewer than 5). However, there’s still a big question mark regarding consumer incentives for EVs and whether auto manufacturers can meet the IRA’s supply chain requirements.”

I just did a CleanTech Talk podcast on this that will air soon. (Remember to subscribe to our pod!)

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Scott Cooney

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is a serial eco-entrepreneur focused on making the world a better place for all its residents. Scott is the founder of CleanTechnica and was just smart enough to hire someone smarter than him to run it. He then started Pono Home, a service that greens homes, which has performed efficiency retrofits on more than 16,000 homes and small businesses, reducing carbon pollution by more than 27 million pounds a year and saving customers more than $6.3 million a year on their utilities. In a previous life, Scott was an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill) , and Green Living Ideas.

Scott Cooney has 138 posts and counting. See all posts by Scott Cooney