Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions - January 23, 2015

Upcoming Events
January 9 

Durham, NC 

Spring 2015 Seminar Series: The China/US Climate Agreement: What to Look For


For information on other upcoming events, visit the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions website


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Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions: 10 Years of Environmental Policy Impact
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Nicholas Institute: 10 Years of Environmental Policy Impact

2015 marks the Nicholas Institute's 10-year anniversary, in celebration of which, we are looking back on our key environmental policy impacts. This month we highlight our role in counseling leadership on pioneering design aspects of two landmark emissions trading programs: the California Cap-and-Trade Program and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.


Spring 2015 Seminar Series Kicks Off

The Nicholas Institute-University Program in Environmental Policy seminar series begins January 9 with Dan Guttman, visiting senior fellow at the Tsinghua University Center for U.S.-China Relations, discussing recent commitments by the United States and China to domestic greenhouse gas reductions, along with China's commitments to a 2020 coal cap and a 2030 20-percent renewable energy target. Guttman will explain how to interpret these commitments, given that the vernacular of Chinese governance differs from that of U.S. governance. He will also discuss what can be learned about the practical meaning of mutual domestic environmental commitments on which both countries-and the world-may well now rely.

Report Highlights U.S. Water Crises, Priorities

A new report from the Nicholas Institute and the Aspen Institute says water crises are not the outcome of climate change, population growth, new contaminants, or financial constraints but of the merging of these challenges combined with the realities of undervalued water, policies that preserve the status quo, and under-financed and degraded water systems. The report identifies five priorities for near-term action and is the outcome of the Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum (May 2014), which brought together water experts with diverse knowledge-from finance and policy to technology and ecosystems-to address the need for infrastructure upgrades and resilience building in U.S. water systems as well as the need for leadership and synergistic action.


Optimizing Compliance under Clean Power Plan 

A recent issue of Environmental Law Reporter featured the proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP) and included two articles by Nicholas Institute researchers. In one, policy associate Jeremy Tarr and senior policy associate David Hoppock argue that adjusting emissions rates to include known and reasonably foreseeable measures affecting CO2 emissions from power plants may lead to a more accurate comparison of a state's potential CO2 performance level and its final emissions goal under the CPP. In the other, Hoppock and Climate and Energy Program director Jonas Monast say the notable overlap between electricity sector risk-mitigation strategies and potential CPP compliance strategies gives regulators an opportunity to pursue strategies that reduce emissions while managing market forces, plant closures, and regulatory pressure.


Paper Models Effects of Regional RPS with Biomass Carve-outs

The unique generation, landownership, and resource attributes of the southeastern United States make the region a ripe and important test bed for implementation of novel renewable energy policy interventions. A new working paper coauthored by senior policy associate Christopher Galik, policy associate Tibor Vegh, and others evaluates the environmental and economic implications of one such intervention, a hypothetical region-wide renewable portfolio standard (RPS) with biomass carve-outs.


Ecosystem Services, Environmental Markets, Modeling Priorities

At the 2014 ACES (A Community on Ecosystem Services) conference in Arlington, Virginia, December 8-12, Ecosystem Services Program director Lydia Olander and Nicholas School faculty Dean Urban led an all-day workshop on methods for incorporating ecosystem services into planning and decision making and met with federal agency partners in the creation of the Federal Resource Management and Ecosystem Services Guidebook to discuss next steps in developing these methods. Olander also gave presentations on managing risks and liabilities in environmental markets and on identifying modeling gaps and building better modeling tools through partnerships. Water Policy Program director Martin Doyle presented at a panel on policy and water infrastructure. 


At the Institute's request, Nicholas School faculty Lynn Maguire presented information at a session organized by the Institute on the data and modeling infrastructure to support national wide ecosystem services assessment. Additionally, Sanford School of Public Policy faculty Alex Pfaff participated in a workshop on Staking Environmental Market Credits--a topic of research supported by the Nicholas Institute through the DEEDS fellowships and Ecosystem Services Working Group funding.


Mainstreaming Ecosystem Services into Decision Making 

In a guest editorial in the Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Ecosystem Services Program director Lydia Olander and her coauthor identify several efforts to bring consistency to methods for incorporating ecosystem services concepts into environmental decision making. One of these efforts is the Federal Resource Management and Ecosystem Services Guidebook.


Conservation Economics Initiative Course

More than 100 students across the globe are participating in an online Coastal Conservation Economics course taught by four scholars, including senior scholar Linwood Pendleton and Environmental Economics Program director Brian Murray, through the Conservation Economics Initiative, a joint project of Duke University and the Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF) to make economics training more readily available to conservation professionals around the world. The Nicholas Institute helped develop the strategy, model, curriculum, and pedagogy for the four-month course, which includes recorded lectures, online video lessons, webinars, experimental games, exercises, readings, interactive web conference discussion sessions, and exams. Students who successfully finish the course will be awarded a certificate of completion from the CSF and Duke's Environmental Leadership Program.   


Scoring Framework for NDCs at COP20

At the 2014 United Nations Climate Change Conference 20th yearly session of the Conference of Parties in Lima, Peru, the Nicholas Institute co-hosted an event to share a model framework for empirical scoring of nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which represent the emissions reductions each country feels it can achieve. Faculty fellow Billy Pizer helped present analytics of ex ante and ex post evaluations of NDC proposals and performance. 


Dynamic Integrated Economy/Energy/Emissions Model 

Two new companion working papers by senior research economist Martin Ross describe the structure of, and data sources for, the Dynamic Integrated Economy/Energy/Emissions Model (DIEM) developed at the Nicholas Institute. DIEM includes a macroeconomic, or computable general equilibrium (CGE), component and an electricity component that gives a detailed representation of U.S. regional electricity markets. Each component can be run on its own or linked to the other. DIEM-Electricity can consider, at a national policy level, renewable portfolio standards, clean energy standards, caps on electricity-sector CO2 emissions, and carbon taxes. DIEM-CGE can look at both global and U.S. domestic policies related to the economy, energy, and greenhouse gas emissions.


The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions helps decision makers create timely, effective, and economically practical solutions to the world's critical environmental challenges.

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University,
 P.O. Box 90335, Durham, NC 27708.