On a fall day in 2015, RMI’s Beijing staff woke up to off-the-charts pollution levels. The city issued its first ever “red alert,” warning residents to stay indoors and take precautionary measures. Days like these—when air pollution levels exceed 200 parts per million (ppm), way over the World Health Organization’s recommendation of less than 10 ppm—are far too common. Kate Chrisman, RMI senior research associate, describes RMI’s work to clear the air in China.
Climate and Environment
Today, we are in the race of our lifetimes: a race against the climate clock that ticks faster with every ton of carbon dioxide emitted into our atmosphere, but fortunately, also a race to a clean, prosperous, and secure low-carbon future.
There’s no single more important factor in stopping climate change than mitigating the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. Our addiction to fossil fuels puts our planet and the people on it at risk. But this is a problem we’re committed to solving.
Decarbonizing the Electricity System
Goal: Meet 80 percent of U.S. electricity demand with renewables by 2050
We can and need to re-create an electricity system that’s built on energy efficiency and renewable energy, not fossil fuels. Through regulatory reform, new business models, and increased distributed generation, we are transforming the U.S. grid from one based on big central power plants that burn fossil fuels to one based on clean renewable electricity. We are doing this through a combination of centralized large-scale renewable systems and distributed solutions right in our communities, businesses, and homes that use renewable resources like solar.
Helping China Slash Carbon Emissions
Goal: Help China to reduce its carbon intensity 60–65 percent from 2005 levels by 2030
China emits more carbon than any other country in the world and uses almost half of the world’s coal. Urbanizing faster than any other major nation, China is now being asked to grow without polluting and at the same time to be the world’s factory at rock-bottom prices—countries across the globe have exported their industrial pollution to China. The outlook doesn’t have to be dire. With China’s Energy Research Institute, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Energy Foundation China, we developed a roadmap to help cities start reducing their carbon counts, improve transportation efficiency, and slash carbon emissions and energy use by 2050, all at a net economic benefit.
Lowering Methane Emissions
Goal: Cut methane emissions by 40 percent in the next ten years
Vast methane emissions from the global oil and gas industry punch the accelerator on the rate of climate change we are experiencing right now and represent approximately $30 billion in wasted natural resources. Reducing methane emissions is among the biggest greenhouse gas bargains in the world, helping avert catastrophic climate change while boosting operational efficiency and even creating jobs. Our Zero Methane Emissions program will accelerate emission reductions in international oil and gas companies, create a global demand for methane solutions, and cut today’s methane emissions by 40 percent in the next ten years.
Cutting Energy Use in Buildings
Goal: We plan to reduce 50 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases by transforming over 4 billion square feet of space in the U.S.
As the biggest consumers of power, buildings can make or break the critical transition to a low-carbon energy future. That is why we are aggressively deploying building energy efficiency—to economically achieve a more resilient, clean energy system, and to make our homes and businesses healthier, more enjoyable places to live and work. We are developing and demonstrating replicable market-based solutions to net zero-energy and near zero-energy buildings in new and existing large building portfolios and districts. And in the U.S. residential market, we’re improving homeowners’ access to energy efficiency information and increasing their desire and means to invest in energy upgrades, resulting in more efficient homes and lower energy bills.
Reducing the Carbon Footprint of Personal Mobility
Goal: We plan to save 2 billion barrels of oil and 1 gigaton of carbon emissions each year by 2030
Gridlock and traffic congestion cost millions of dollars in lost GDP in developed and developing economies across the globe. Our time in cars leads to traffic fatalities, and our mobility system’s addiction to oil causes pollution that affects our health, quality of life, security, and climate. More effective, efficient, and clean mobility systems can drive economic development, help us spend less time stuck in traffic, save money and oil, and reduce carbon emissions. That’s why we are working with public and private partners on the ground to implement Mobility-as-a-Service business models, electrify vehicle fleets, and help get the first commercial autonomous cars on the road.
A Low-Carbon Global Goods Movement
Goal: Slash the carbon footprint of global commercial shipping fleets by 25 percent, and improve the efficiency of heavy trucks
Every product in your home has been delivered to you by ship and/or truck, be it your laptop, your favorite jeans, food, or medicine. Maritime shipping transports 90 percent of the world’s goods and is the backbone of international trade, important for both national economies and the entire global economic system. Meanwhile trucks provide the majority of goods transport within countries and continents. But this comes at a cost. The shipping industry emits nearly a billion tons of carbon per year, and heavy trucks are inefficient, wasting millions of barrels of oil and emitting far too much carbon for the services our global economies require. We're scaling demand for more fuel-efficient ships and trucks by increasing performance transparency, and promoting industry trust in fuel efficiency technologies.
Who’s Joining Us to Make a Difference
Together with bold philanthropic partners, business leaders, academic institutions, other NGOs, and governments around the world, we are tackling the climate challenge head-on by pursuing innovative business models, technologies, and policies that curb the carbon impacts of global industries. For example, China’s Energy Research Institute (ERI), a key partner in our Reinventing Fire: China program, is a government think tank that helps set national policy on energy issues.
Climate change is a global challenge faced by all human beings. China and the United States are major leaders in mitigating global climate change. As the largest developing country in the world, China’s low-carbon development strategy is not only critical for China itself, but also as a guide for other developing countries.
‐Mr. Dai Yande, Deputy Director, China’s Energy Research Institute
Stories from the Field
As the head of Sir Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room, Figueres champions market-based energy solutions that drive gigaton-scale impact. Image courtesy of Carbon War Room.
Former Costa Rican president and Carbon War Room head José María Figueres on islands, carbon, and global energy use.
The Kytoto protocol redefined how nations around the world collaborated to protect the environment and prevent runaway climate change. COP21 in Paris took global leadership one step further with firm commitments to a 2C degree global temperature rise. RMI CEO Jules Kortenhorst shares what he learned and why there's promise that these goals will be met.