‘Yes we can’ switch to 100 percent renewable energy

 online interview, radio interview  Comments Off on ‘Yes we can’ switch to 100 percent renewable energy
Mar 042016
 

DW.ImageEuropean Union environment ministers are discussing implementation of the Paris Agreement on Friday (04.03.) A timely transition out of fossil fuels is doable, says Alexander Ochs from Worldwatch. That is, if we act now.

Protest at Eiffel Tower at COP21 in Paris (Photo: REUTERS/Benoit Tessier)

Can we switch from fossil fuels to renewables in time to keep temperature rise to 2, ideally 1.5 degrees Celsius?

Not only can we do a transition to truly sustainable systems – financially, economically, socially and environmentally sustainable – we are in the midst of it. There is no one global trend in that direction, but there are many places, municipalities, provinces, whole countries, regions that are transitioning away from fossil fuels toward renewable ways of producing energy, and smarter ways of consuming energy. So it is absolutely doable.

Can you name some examples?

Alexander Ochs (Photo: Irene Quaile)Ochs says renewables are fast outpacing fossil fuels

Germany has managed over the last two decades to transition away from fossil fuels. We have seen enormous growth rates of renewable electricity production. Or take Denmark, which has always been seen as a renewable energy champion. But it’s not a trend restricted any more to developed countries.

Look at Costa Rica, look at many places on all continents – you find very dramatic examples, transitions away from fossil fuel energy toward sustainable energy sources – not always at the level of nations, but often sub-federal levels like communities or provinces. We have a lot of really great examples now, best practice examples. We really have to learn from experience and share that experience internationally.

Continue reading »

Sep 232014
 

Here is my presentation on the Economic, Social & Environmental Successes of the German Energy Transition which I gave at the Private Sector Prep Meeting for COP 20 in Lima last week. RethinkingTheEnergySystem_Ochs_Lima_140915_final         overview

  1. the trends| Germany’s energy transition
  2. the enablers | Vision, policies, governance
  3. the impacts | Busted myths, changed paradigms
  4. the lessons | Key take-aways

Rethinking the Energy System: The Potential of Distributed Energy – The Case of Germany

 presentation  Comments Off on Rethinking the Energy System: The Potential of Distributed Energy – The Case of Germany
Sep 152014
 

Here is my presentation on the Economic, Social & Environmental Successes of the German Energy Transition which I gave at the Private Sector Prep Meeting for COP 20 in Lima last week.

overview

  1. the trendsGermany’s energy transition
  2. the enablers Vision, policies, governance
  3. the impacts | Busted myths, changed paradigms
  4. the lessons Key take-aways

First edition of CONNECTED published!

 newsletter  Comments Off on First edition of CONNECTED published!
Feb 102011
 

CONNECTED_1_2011

Dear Readers,

In his 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama set the national goal to generate 80 percent of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035; the German government recently outlined its long-term energy concept which envisions full energy import independence and a 60 percent renewable energies share by 2050; the City of San Francisco launched an initiative aiming at a 100 percent renewables supply within just a decade; and under the motto “growth with foresight,“ Hamburg, this year Europe’s green capital, shows how urban development can be both economically beneficial and environmentally sustain-able. These are only a few examples illustrating that true leadership willing to tackle the twin challenges of climate change and energy security can be found on both sides of the Atlantic.

Content_CONNECTED1_2Welcome to the first edition of CONNECTED – a newsletter discussing climate and energy from a transatlantic perspective. With CONNECTED, partners adelphi and Worldwatch, headquartered in Berlin and Washington DC, will support the Transatlantic Climate Bridge, an initiative that since its inception in 2008 has promoted numerous activities by public authorities, the private sector, civil society, and academia in order to strengthen climate protection and energy security. CONNECTED aims to showcase and review policy and research initiatives that are aimed at low-emissions development. Opinion pieces, interviews, as well as reports on studies, dialogues and conferences will provide a regular update on the progress made toward building climate-compatible economies in Europe, the United States and beyond.

[I am co-editor of CONNECTED, together with Dennis Taenzler. Please find the full first issue of CONNECTED here]

Low-Carbon Energy Roadmaps

 presentation  Comments Off on Low-Carbon Energy Roadmaps
Dec 022010
 

Presentation at Side Event of the European Climate Foundation at COP 16
EU Pavilion, Cancun, 2 December 2010

OVERVIEW

Global Primary Energy Supply by Source, 2007
Average Global Growth Rates by Energy Source, 2004-2009
World Wind Capacity, 1996-2008
World Solar PV Capacity, 1990-2009
Concentrating Solar Power (CSP), 2009
World Solar Water Heating Capacity, 1995-2007
Renewables as a Share of Electricity Generation, 1990-2008
Global Electricity from Renewables, 2002-2008
Cost of New U.S. Power Generation, 2008
CO2 Emissions per capita, select countries
Renewable Electricity in Germany, 1990 – 2007
CO2 Emissions Avoided with Renewable Energy in Germany
Wind Capacity, Top 10 Countries, 2009
Landmass vs. Wind Capacity (MW), Germany and Continental U.S. (2007)
Solar PV Production by Country/Region, 2000-2008
Solar PV Capacity, Top Six Countries, 2009
Photovoltaic Solar Resource: United States and Germany
Global Potential of Renewable Resources
Solar Potential
U.S. Electricity Generation by Source: Worldwatch Scenario 2030
Energy Transitions: 2000 – 2100
Worldwatch 5-Phase Design of Low-Carbon Growth Strategies
Worldwatch’s Energy Roadmaps
Worldwatch’s Energy Roadmaps, Example: Dominican Republic

[You can find the  full presentation here]

Successful Transatlantic Media Dialogue Ahead of Copenhagen Climate Summit

 online report  Comments Off on Successful Transatlantic Media Dialogue Ahead of Copenhagen Climate Summit
Nov 172009
 

17__MediaDialogue__pic2,property=InhaltsbildFrom November 9 to 11, around 25 German and U.S. journalists and climate policy experts met at the Aspen Wye Conference Center on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland to discuss the climate policy in Europe and the U.S. in view of the upcoming Copenhagen climate summit. The event was part of the Transatlantic Climate Bridge, and it not only aimed at providing journalists with the latest facts and figures on the summit but gave the participants the opportunity to exchange their views on the public debate in their respective countries, the status quo of the legislative process in Germany and the U.S., and the impact of climate change and respective policies on the economy and the international security, among others.

Read more on Germany.info

The World Looks to Americans and Europeans

 blog  Comments Off on The World Looks to Americans and Europeans
Nov 042009
 
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

As a former Minister of the Environment turned Chancellor, Angela Merkel had already proven those wrong who surmised that environment positions are a dead end to high-rising political aspirations; now she became only the second German politician (after Konrad Adenauer, the first head of a German government after the Second World War, in 1957) who received the honor to address the U.S. Congress; and as a widely respected leader on environmental issues who is, at the same time, the leader of a conservative party, she would be well positioned to appeal to cautious Republicans when talking about climate change and energy reformation—at least I had hoped so in a recent interview with Reuters.

Angela Merkel in her speech on Capitol Hill yesterday, just weeks after her reelection for a second term (this time as a leader of a center-right coalition) was moved by the honor and the standing ovations she received from U.S. lawmakers even before she had started her speech. Following up on her promises, she spent a good portion of her talk on climate change, urging Congress and the Obama administration to take bold steps to address the issue, in her view one of the “great tests” of the 21st century. “We all know we have no time to lose,” she said.

Read the rest of the story on Dateline: Copenhagen.

Towards a Global Green Recovery – Supporting Green Technology Markets

 academic article/report  Comments Off on Towards a Global Green Recovery – Supporting Green Technology Markets
Sep 212009
 

Two major global challenges – the financial crisis and climate change – make it urgent to rally the world behind the idea of a “green new deal” or a “global green recovery.” The financial crisis puts renewable energy projects and business at particular risk. The recession has caused a drop in energy and carbon prices that reduces the market competitiveness of clean technologies. In addition, the tightening credit markets mean that cleantech initiatives, which frequently face high capital costs and higher risk premiums, are struggling to find the necessary funding.

The risk of stagnation is especially disruptive to the cleantech industry as it comes on the heels of a rapid growth period prior to the financial crisis. In Germany, the cleantech sector grew 27% between 2005 and 2007, employed almost 1.8 million people, and now accounts for more than 5% of industrial production. From 2002 to 2007, global new investment in sustainable energy grew nearly 16-fold, from an annual US$7.1 billion to US$112.6 billion. The financial crisis created a severe investment shock in the cleantech sector, with new-investment levels in the first quarter of 2009 just under half what they were one year earlier.

This is absolutely the wrong time for a lull in cleantech investment. The International Energy Agency estimates that about 540 billion US dollars must be invested annually in renewable energy and energy efficiency if climate change is to be maintained at or below a 2°C increase in global average temperature. A significant expansion in investment will be required to reach these levels, with about 80% of the investment needed in just three key sectors: electrical power, transportation and buildings.

Several proven policies for expanding cleantech investment already exist, including feed-in tariffs, risk-mitigation policies, green-procurement policies, and government R&D spending, to name just a few. The key challenge for policy makers in trying to support the establishment of clean-technology markets is how to accelerate the implementation of these measures by obtaining the necessary funding and spending public monies wisely in a way that leverages the private sectors’ capability to shoulder the bulk of the needed investment.

To help G20 nations overcome these challenges, the German Federal Foreign Office asked Atlantic Initiative – a think tank on international politics and globalization based in Berlin and Washington, DC – to develop specific and actionable policy recommendations on how to provide effective international support to green technology markets and push the issue in the G20 framework. It was suggested that Germany, the UK and the US should be the main targets of these recommendations as they are well positioned to take a joint leadership role in setting the right incentives for a global green recovery and future growth path building on the idea of the Transatlantic Climate Bridge and taking into account London’s role as the G20 host. I was a co-author of the report. Please find it here.

America’s Opposite Hand: Germany’s Parties Agree on the Necessity of Environmental Protection and a Green New Deal

 essay  Comments Off on America’s Opposite Hand: Germany’s Parties Agree on the Necessity of Environmental Protection and a Green New Deal
Jul 102009
 

“The political system pushes the parties toward the middle,” “party homogeneity is rather weak” … in Germany’s antiquated libraries, students might pick up these messages from text books about the U.S. political system. We all know that today’s reality is a different one. Over the last twenty-five years or so, the U.S. electorate has drifted further and further apart. The election of Ronald Reagan marks the beginning of the U.S. drift to the right in the 1980s. The two Bush presidents and even Bill Clinton—“it’s the economy, stupid!”—continued Reagan’s doctrine of the supremacy of a preferably untamed capitalism. The chimera of “the invisible hand of the market” has become an imperative of all political action, and arguably hit the “soft issue” of environmental protection even more than others. The U.S., once an environmental leader—the country with the first national environment plan, the birthplace of the idea of national parks, the place of departure for the global spread of the green movement in early 1970s—became the epitome of subordinating environmental protection under economic priorities.

To be sure, the U.S. in the mid-1980s became a leader in brokering a global treaty for the protection of the ozone layer—after Dupont had claimed the patents for the substitutes of ozone-depleting substances. When TIME magazine chose “Endangered Earth” as Person of the Year 1988, Bush Senior began referring to himself as the environmental president—albeit with limited credibility, the 1990 reform of the Clean Air Act notwithstanding. Clinton chose the greenest senator of all times, Earth in the Balance author Al Gore, as his vice president, but his sublime green agenda for the most part collapsed already in the first few years.

Later on, he signed the Kyoto Protocol but never submitted it to the Senate for ratification because its defeat on the Hill was certain. Then Congress shifted toward a more pro-active stand on climate and green energy in the beginning of this century—mostly because even a Republican majority considered Bush Junior too much of a market radical.

Contract with America: Let ‘em Pollute! Please read my essay for Transatlantic Perspectives here.

The USA on its way to Copenhagen – Perspectives for international climate policy

 online report, presentation  Comments Off on The USA on its way to Copenhagen – Perspectives for international climate policy
Jun 222009
 

More than 80 participants followed the invitation of the NABU and the Heinrich Böll Foundation on 15 June 2009 in Berlin to discuss with American and German experts key contributions on both sides of the Atlantic to tackle the global climate crisis. Another key point of interest was an assessment of the current state of negotiations of a new global climate pact on which the international community wants to agree at the UN climate conference in the end of this year in Copenhagen.

In the discussion, I emphasized the central Importance of new U.S. energy and climate legislation, the so-called Waxman-Markey Bill, which has already passed important hurdles in the House of Representatives and will be discussed in the Senate later this year – hopefully to be be adopted. Since 1990, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have risen by about 16 percent. For the US to reduce its emissions by 20 percent compared to 2005 in 2020, as W-M envisions, will be a very remarkable challenge and an effort compatible to the cuurent evrsion of the EU climate and energy package. Critics often suggest that the absolute reductions in WM amount to only 4% compared to 1990. I pointed out, however, that these 4% only include the emission reductions in the  sectors covered by a future emissions trading scheme. Some estimates believe that the entire reduction effort in the US (including non-ETS-covered sectors and offsets) could amount to about -17% in 2020 compared to 1990. Accordingly, the U.S. would reduce its emissions by more than one third compared to total emissions expected in a business as-usual-scenario. Europe aims at reducing emissions by 20% compared to 1990 and has offered a -30% target if other parties commit to a similar level of ambition.

I also pointed to the fact that the American climate debate much more than the one in Europe is fixated on China, because of competitiveness concerns for the U.S. economy. In many cases, these concerns are distorting important facts and are therefore exaggerated. Only recently it has been noted that China already has very ambitious policies inplace to increase energy efficiency and the expansion of renewable energies despite no binding reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol. I also discussed sectoral approaches as a way to provide additional incentives to abate emissions in energy-intensive industries. Panel guests: Prof. Dr. Miranda Schreurs, Research Center for Comparative Environmental Policy, Free University Berlin; Alexander Ochs, director of international climate policy, Center for Clean Air Policy, Washington DC; Dr. Karsten Sach, Deputy Director General for International Cooperation, Federal Ministry of Environment; Duncan Marsh, director of international climate policy, The Nature Conservancy; Carsten Wachholz, secretary for energy policy and climate protection, NABU.

You can find a German summary of the event here.

NABUtalk: Die USA auf dem Weg nach Kopenhagen? Perspektiven für die internationale Klimapolitik

 online report, presentation  Comments Off on NABUtalk: Die USA auf dem Weg nach Kopenhagen? Perspektiven für die internationale Klimapolitik
Jun 222009
 

Über 80 Teilnehmende folgten der Einladung des NABU und der Heinrich Böll Stiftung, um mit amerikanischen und deutschen Experten zentrale Beiträge dies- und jenseits des Atlantiks zur Bewältigung der globalen Klimakrise zu diskutieren. Im Mittelpunkt des Interesses standen dabei aktuelle Einschätzungen zum Stand der Verhandlungen über ein neues Weltklimaabkommen, über das sich die internationale Staatengemeinschaft bis Ende dieses Jahres in Kopenhagen verständigen will.

Alexander Ochs, Leiter der Abteilung für Internationale Klimapolitik beim amerikanischen Center for Clean Air Policy in Washington, betonte die zentrale Bedeutung der neuen Energie- und Klimagesetzgebung, der so genannten Waxman-Markey Bill, die zur Zeit im Kongress und im Herbst im Senat debattiert und hoffentlich auch so verabschiedet werde. Seit 1990 seien die Treibhausgas-Emissionen in den USA um etwa 16 Prozent angestiegen. Wenn diese nun im Zeitraum von nur 8 Jahren (2012-2020) um 20 Prozent reduziert werden sollen, sei das eine sehr bemerkenswerte Herausforderung und durchaus mit dem von der EU beschlossenen Klimapaket vergleichbar, auch wenn dabei die absolute Senkung des Ausstoßes gegenüber 1990 nur 4 Prozent betrage. Daneben sei die amerikanische Klimadebatte bisher (zu) sehr auf China fixiert, weil Nachteile für die US-Wirtschaft im internationalen Wettbewerb befürchtet werden. Hier müsse viel stärker anerkannt werden, dass China bereits ohne Verpflichtungen unter dem Kyoto-Protokoll eine sehr ehrgeizige Politik zur Steigerung der Energieeffizienz und dem Ausbau der Erneuerbaren Energien umsetzt. Sein Institut unterstütze darüber hinaus die Entwicklung von sektoralen Ansätzen, um zusätzliche Anreize zur Emissionsminderung in den energieintensiven Industrien zu geben.

Podiumsgäste waren:

  • Prof. Dr. Miranda Schreurs von der Forschungsstelle für vergleichende Umweltpolitik an der Freien Universität Berlin
  • Alexander Ochs, Leiter der Abteilung für Internationale Klimapolitik beim amerikanischen Center for Clean Air Policy in Washington
  • Dr. Karsten Sach, Unterabteilungsleiter für Internationale Zusammenarbeit im Bundesumweltministerium
  • Duncan Marsh, Direktor für Internationale Klimapolitik bei einer der weltgrößten Naturschutzorganisationen, der amerikanischen „The Nature Conservancy“
  • Carsten Wachholz, Referent für Energiepolitik und Klimaschutz beim NABU-Bundesverband

Eine deutsche Zusammenfassung findet sich hier und hier.

Hope & Realism in EU & US Dialogue on Climate Change

 online report  Comments Off on Hope & Realism in EU & US Dialogue on Climate Change
Jan 132009
 

from Germany.info, Jan 9, 2009

When Frank Loy, former Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs and climate advisor to Barack Obama during the presidential campaign, was asked to address the question of how the United States can contribute to international climate policy negotiations, he chose to quote Al Gore. “Nature doesn’t do bail outs….we have to do the bail out,” he said, explaining the reality of what’s needed to fight climate change. Loy was speaking at a dinner discussion held at the German Embassy in Washington DC on Thursday, January 8. The event was part of a two day “EU and US Dialogue on Climate Change” organized by the Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP). It gave delegates the chance to share new ideas on policy approaches and aimed to increase the exchange between policymakers in the EU and US. Frank Loy’s audience was an international group of climate experts. They know how challenging it will be to achieve an international climate agreement. They also know that, despite the global excitement and expectations of President-elect Obama’s presidency, there are limits to what one leader can accomplish. (…)

Alexander Ochs, Director of International Policy at the Center for Clean Air Policy, says that what is achieved in the next 10 months may prove to be crucial for the climate in decades to come. “With an ambitious incoming US administration and the EU’s urgent need for a strong partner in its leadership efforts, one can’t overestimate the importance of transatlantic communication and cooperation. So stakeholder meetings like this US-EU dialogue create crucial stepping stones towards this goal.” Full text

CCAP – AICGS Joint Climate Policy Sessions

 online report  Comments Off on CCAP – AICGS Joint Climate Policy Sessions
Dec 172008
 

Here is a blurb from the CCAP Newsletter on the German -US climate  summit which I organized for AICGS and CCAP.

On Nov. 17, CCAP joined forces with the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) as hosts of a German-U.S. climate policy dialogue. The event brought a distinguished delegation to Washington lead by Matthias Machnig, state secretary in the Federal Ministry of the Environment, and Reinhard Buetikofer, the chairman of the German Green Party.At a political roundtable in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, CCAP outlined its framework for international climate strategy including “sectoral approaches.” Mr. Machnig outlined his vision of international burden-sharing in the fight against global warming as a “cascade of responsibilities.” Mr. Buetikofer then urged both sides of the Atlantic and collaborate in a practical, forward-looking and outcome-oriented manner.The roundtable was followed by a luncheon that featured a discussion with former Undersecretary of State Frank Loy and 30 representatives from German and U.S. industry. In the afternoon, a workshop was held at The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace where participants presented their German-U.S. policy reports. Alexander Ochs, CCAP director of International Policy, summed up the dialogue by saying, “Today’s events have shown that we might approach a political tipping point in transatlantic climate relations. Germany, and the United States show a new level of mutual understanding and willingness to cooperate.”

Transatlantic Climate and Energy Cooperation: The Way Forward

 podcast  Comments Off on Transatlantic Climate and Energy Cooperation: The Way Forward
Nov 232008
 

Feature of me in Atlantic Faces, atlantic-community.org

 online interview  Comments Off on Feature of me in Atlantic Faces, atlantic-community.org
Oct 202008
 

In the interview section I addressed the following questions:

1. What are your priorities in your work at the Center for Clean Air Policy?
2. Do you expect significantly more transatlantic agreement on climate policy after the election of a new US president and Congress? What kind of common initiatives would you like to see?
3. What is the single greatest challenge facing the transatlantic alliance today?

Read the full feature here

Think Tank Analysis: The World Needs a Third Industrial Revolution

 online report  Comments Off on Think Tank Analysis: The World Needs a Third Industrial Revolution
Sep 082008
 

Feature on, and summary of, my July 2008 study Overcoming the Lethargy: Climate Change, Energy Security, and the Case for a Third Industrial Revolution on Atlantic Community

Europa Riding the Hegemon? Transatlantic Climate Policy

 academic article/report  Comments Off on Europa Riding the Hegemon? Transatlantic Climate Policy
Jul 282008
 

Alexander Ochs & Detlef F. Sprinz

Prominent and committed supporters of friendly transatlantic relations have identified climate change as the most important global problem in this century. To counteract major impacts of climate change requires cooperation among the major emitters of so-called greenhouse gases or agreement on compensation for impacts. Since 2001, the U.S. has abandoned the international treaty architecture of the Kyoto Protocol which is presumed to be a first step in the direction of limiting global climate change. Since much of the rest of the world – but not all – countries have subscribed to the architecture of the Kyoto Protocol, a major rift has arisen between Europe and the U.S. with the former being a fervent defender of the architecture and the latter designating it as unworkable and against its interests. In this article, we will investigate the history of transatlantic climate policy and relations, the major items of contention, as well as options for a rapprochement on global climate change.

2008 Book Chapter in Hegemony Constrained: Evasion, Modification, and Resistance to American Foreign Policy, edited by D. B. Bobrow

2005 Ridgway Center Working Paper