Solving Climate Change with R&D and Civic Action

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TDC
Published at : 22 Dec 2020
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Smart strategies like Research & Development and targeted Civic Action are very effective ways to stop Climate Change. Watch the full episode here: https://tdc.video/programs/the-best-policy-solutions-for-cutting-co2e-emissions

Energy Policy Simulator: https://us.energypolicy.solutions/
Robbie Orvis: https://energyinnovation.org/team-member/robbie-orvis/
Designing Climate Solutions: https://www.energypolicy.solutions/guide/

Video Transcript:
[Plank] I hear you. Performing research and development efficiently will be essential for discovering solutions to the problems that still need to be solved. Luckily there are a number of successful practices for countries to adopt that will allow them to foster the innovation necessary to achieve rapid decarbonization of their economies. [Orvis] Being able to recruit good talent, having a program that fosters both domestic and international experts in stem sciences is really important. Public private partnerships. Those have been really successful in the US where a company may want to invest in a new technology, but it might be prohibitively expensive for them to build a research facility or a lab. The US government and other governments, for example in Germany they have the Fraunhofer Institute, may have really advanced tech labs where they can partner with research organizations or companies who are researching new technologies, to come in and be able to use those labs for a fee for example and leverage the government's resources into research and development. Another important one is a program like ARPA-E. This is a program the Department of Energy runs, but the idea is to help companies overcome some of the periods in which it can be very hard to get financing to develop projects. There's this thing known as the valley of in research and development where you go from taking a product from the lab to commercializing it. And that interim stage, it can be very hard to find financing. So the extent the government is able to help, through government-backed loans or through research programs like ARPA-E that can help get products that are delivering results in the lab, into the field so they can start to be commercialized.
[Plank] Innovations are great, but for them to be implemented it often takes citizens educating their government representatives about the best way forward, and then staying engaged to make sure that path is followed. Hal Harvey - Robbie's boss at energy innovations and the lead author of this book - explained the importance of civic action during a Q&A after a recent talk.
[Audience member] How does one go about applying political pressure?
[Harvey] Applying political pressure? I'll just give an example, in California, before the public utilities commission, NRDC and a group called CERT are two of the most influential. You can call them up - they will answer the phone - and say I'd like to help. What can I do? And tell them what your skills are. And then they might say, 'I need a cost model for integrating solar with a grid, or I might need 50 people to come to the hearing,' right? There's a bunch of different ways to do it. We did this precision intervention with air quality laws and energy laws all the time. And we would get, like when there was a pollution law coming up, we would get a hundred mothers of asthmatic kids to come to that hearing. You win that venue, you win the vote. And that's what it should be. They're supposed to represent those asthmatic kids. They're not supposed to represent the owner of the coal-fired power plant--it's a public utilities commission. So that's what you do. You look at -- any good argument has ethos, logos, and pathos, so bring in one of those: do the analysis, bring in the kids, tell a story. Whatever it takes, but make sure you're an actor with intensity at that moment. Choose a venue, choose the moment, act with intensity.
[Orvis] He's absolutely right. For example, in the power sector, there's something like five public utility commissioners in every state, give or take, but that's actually where the rubber meets the road, and that's where policy gets made. If we could leverage the great enthusiasm and drive that people have to go to these marches and to push for divestment into actually attending these meetings, we could have a much much bigger impact in terms of actually getting those those reductions. And so Hal likes to talk about, you know five PUC commissioners, 50 states, that's 250. But actually there's only coal in maybe 15 of those states, so you start cutting it down, you see, 'okay, if we influence 50 people we can push the power sector to essentially decarbonize.' Targeting those focus points is a great way to leverage everyone's drive and motivation into actually getting those reductions on the ground.
renewable energyclimate changeclimate change solutions

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