Instead of taking the Dubya route of departing public life, former U.K. prime minister Tony Blair is going the way of Al Gore and championing climate change solutions. Blair's "Technology for a Low Carbon Future" report, part of his Breaking the Climate Deadlock initiative, outlines solutions to cut climate change through technological advances. The report comes three days ahead of the Major Economies Forum, which will bring together world leaders to discuss progress towards a global climate agreement. Below, we take a look at Blair's seven proposed policies for reducing greenhouse gasses.
1. Renewable Energy Standards
This includes feed-in tariffs and regulations to require increased production of energy from renewable sources. In March, Gainesville, Florida became the first U.S. city to pay homeowners above-market rates for excess solar power. thus making the panels more affordable. Similar feed-in tariffs have been available in Germany since 1991.
2. Industry Efficiency
This is a big category, encompassing everything from controversial carbon capture and storage technology to factories recycling waste into energy. Blair's report highlights the potential of biochar, a charcoal-like material produced by heating biomass with oxygen and used to store carbon dioxide in the ground.
3. Building Codes
Building codes aren't as flashy as solar panels or hybrid cars, but they have the potential to make a big difference. Lighting, for example, accounts for 19% of the world's electricity consumption. The U.S. Congress is considering legislation to require residential and commercial buildings to become 50% more energy efficient in the next five to six years.
4. Vehicle Efficiency Standards
Standards will become easier to follow as more cars switch to electric power and low emission biofuels. Increased public transportation and high-speed rail lines will also aid in the reduction of carbon emissions. Already, Obama has announced targets of a 40% increase in fuel efficiency for model 2011 cars and light trucks.
5. Fuel Carbon Content Standards
This is fairly self explanatory--Blair believes that reducing the carbon content of fuels could lead to 0.3 reduction in CO2. In April, the California Air Resources Board adopted the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which will require every fuel sold in the state to have 10% less carbon content by the end of the next decade.
6. Appliance Standards
The U.S. Energy Department is in the midst of updating energy conservation standards for appliances like dishwashers, lamps, and microwave ovens. Energy savings should become increasingly easy for homeowners as electricity-monitoring programs like Google PowerMeter and Microsoft Hohm move into the mainstream.
7. Policies for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation
This requires putting pressure on companies that engage in deforestation (i.e. the leather and meat industries). The World Bank recently yanked a $90 million loan from Bertin, a beef and hide processor that bought products from newly deforested areas in the Amazon.
None of these solutions can work alone--appliance standards, for example, will become more effective if renewable energy standards make solar panels more common in homes. And aside from experimental carbon capture and storage, the technologies have largely been proven to work. World leaders would do well to take Blair's report into account during the Copenhagen climate talks in December.