By Haley Riley, MS Candidate | May 27, 2021
The Biden administration’s recommitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change has inspired experts and organizations focused on net-zero energy production to plan for the implementation of decarbonization technologies. On May 25-26, the School for Environment and Sustainability joined a workshop for stakeholders, including modelers, analysts, and policy and implementation experts. Participating groups included Climate Works, Center for Global Sustainability, Rocky Mountain Institute, and World Resources Institute, as well as researchers and advisors appointed to President Biden’s climate policy and innovation office.
“Our goal was to create a governing body for this work, and to bridge the gap between technical and analytical frameworks and an interest in including equity and jobs considerations in long-term decarbonization strategies,” said Justin Schott, project manager for U-M’s Urban Energy Justice Lab’s Energy Equity Project, which was one of the organizers of the workshop.
While low-carbon technologies such as batteries, photovoltaics, and wind turbines are more cost-competitive than ever, this workshop focused on moving the conversation beyond least-cost, model-based scenarios toward policy and technology pathways that are politically feasible to implement in the U.S. and globally. Discussions around the feasibility, affordability, and steps for how to actually implement net-zero technologies led the direction of the workshop, but equity also featured heavily.
“We determined that we have the tools to feasibly implement these technologies, and we know we can do it affordably,” Schott said. “But the Black Lives Matter movement after the death of George Floyd has given us space to discuss and address the legacies of structural racism and white supremacy. The topic of equity is now open for discussion even among researchers and modelers who previously didn’t see equity as playing a role in their own work. We discussed how to rework models to actually include equity and job promotion, as well as how to engage with community members to make sure that our models account for actual lived realities.”
At the end of the workshop attention was turned towards integrating equity, job creation, and other factors into net-zero modeling and future research efforts. Participants also shared the intent to raise a research agenda to inform more inclusive decarbonization policies for the future.