Deep Decarbonization

As the nation’s leading exporter of electricity and third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, Pennsylvania has a responsibility to lead on climate.

It’s Time to Act on Climate Change in Pennsylvania

PEC Releases Proposed First Steps for State Action

Pittsburgh — Calling on Governor Wolf and the General Assembly to act without further delay, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) today identified immediate steps Pennsylvania can take to reduce emissions of climate-changing gases.

“After years of talk, debate, research, and more talk about climate change, PEC respectfully requests that Governor Wolf and the General Assembly move immediately to join nine other Northeastern states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI),” said Davitt Woodwell, President of PEC. “We also ask that the governor and legislature adopt a Clean Energy Standard out of the current Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard.”

Taking these actions in the right ways will promote a broad, technology-agnostic energy policy that encourages low- and zero-carbon-emission energy sources including renewables, nuclear, and fossil fuels with carbon capture technologies. Following these steps, Pennsylvania can substantially reduce emissions while working to protect consumers and create opportunities for workers.

We are running out of time to act on climate in anything but a crisis mode.

Davitt Woodwell, PEC President

PEC has been working on climate issues for well over a decade, from the 2007 release of its “Carbon Roadmap for Pennsylvania” to 2017’s “Achieving Deep Carbon Reductions: Paths for Pennsylvania’s Electricity Future,” which grew out of a PEC- hosted conference convening experts from around the country.

“It is clear from all of our work that Pennsylvania has the opportunity and the imperative to take action on reducing climate-changing emissions,” PEC Senior Vice President John Walliser said. “What we are proposing today is not a silver bullet; rather, it is a significant first step on a long path forward. We look forward to working with the Governor and the General Assembly to build that path.”

Joining RGGI will put Pennsylvania’s electric generators in a market-based program that sets targets for emissions and allows emitters to trade credits for their reductions. One result of the program is a revenue stream for participating states that has topped one billion dollars during compliance periods. Creating a Clean Energy Standard will allow the Commonwealth to significantly reduce carbon emissions while also promoting its ever-evolving energy economy. Both these steps need to be carefully developed with the state’s interests in mind.

In addition to these steps, PEC has also expressed its support of Pennsylvania’s participation in the Regional Transportation Initiative announced in December, as well as continuing and developing programs for energy efficiency, alternative-fuel vehicles, and technological innovation.

“When it comes down to it, we are running out of time to act on climate in anything but a crisis mode. By seizing control of its destiny with these steps, Pennsylvania can still make choices about how we fit into the narrative. Wait any longer and it is too late,” said Woodwell.

Opinion: Climate action has to be the major benchmark for environmental progress in Pa.

February 5, 2019


PEC’s Davitt Woodwell and Dan Grossman of Environmental Defense Fund argue in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star that Pennsylvania can grow its economy and innovate the energy sector… if we recognize the need for urgent climate action and respond accordingly:

The news on climate change went from bad to worse in the last quarter of 2018.

During that time, and despite inaction on all fronts at the federal level, the biggest story may have been that science and defense agencies weighed in with their Fourth National Climate Assessment in which the Department of Defense estimated that we can expect “substantial damages on the U.S. economy, human health and the environment” if we do not mitigate the harmful impacts of greenhouse gas emissions.

But if there is good news, it is that states are increasingly rising to the challenge and that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is listening and has committed to move forward to achieve real reductions in climate pollution. Pennsylvanians, including many in the environmental community, support strong action to ensure that the Commonwealth meets these commitments to reduce methane and carbon pollution…

PEC's Record on Deep Decarbonization

For more than a decade PEC has been studying how Pennsylvania can confront climate change. In 2007, our Climate Change Roadmap helped set the stage for passage of the Pennsylvania Climate Change Act of 2008, which mandated the development of a climate action plan for the state. Since then, we have continued working with experts and stakeholders to develop substantive policy recommendations for reducing Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Putting the Pieces Together

Growing the market for clean energy will accelerate Pennsylvania’s progress toward the emission reduction targets announced January 8 by Governor Wolf.

Achieving Deep Carbon Reductions

Paths for Pennsylvania's Electricity Future

To examine the efficacy of deep decarbonization as an option for Pennsylvania’s electricity future, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council convened a gathering of experts and stakeholders in March 2017.

PEC’s deep decarbonization  conference was held March 15-16, 2017 in Pittsburgh.

In a comprehensive and coordinated effort, prominent thought leaders in clean energy and climate protection held an open and honest discussion around the challenges of deep decarbonization as a potential strategy for Pennsylvania.

The event kicked off a broader conversation about whether deep decarbonization makes sense for our state and, if so, what the components of this strategy will be, and what policies and programs are needed to get there.

While efforts will need to be made to decarbonize all sectors of the economy, including transportation, manufacturing, and agriculture, this event focused primarily on deep decarbonization of the electricity sector, which accounts for 40% of Pennsylvania’s CO2 emissions. We explored activities in the following four areas: renewable energy, carbon capture and storage for fossil fuels, energy efficiency, and nuclear power.


Setting the Stage

Neil Donahue, Carnegie Mellon University
Granger Morgan, Carnegie Mellon University


Renewable Energy

Jesse Jenkins, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Eric Gimon, Energy Innovation
Steve Brick, Clean Air Task Force



“Climate Change and National Security: People not Polar Bears”
David Titley, Penn State University


Nuclear Power

Mike Ford, Carnegie Mellon University
Amber Robson, Third Way
Matthew McKinzie, Natural Resources Defense Council


Energy Efficiency

Inês Azevedo, Carnegie Mellon University
Matt Jungclaus, Rocky Mountain Institute
Sebastien Houde, University of Maryland


Carbon Capture and Storage

John Quigley, University of Pennsylvania
David Mohler, Department of Energy, retired
Jennie Stephens, Northeastern University


Environmental Leaders Response

Armond Cohen, Clean Air Task Force
Mark Brownstein, Environmental Defense Fund
Jason Albritton, The Nature Conservancy


Case Study

“The U.S. Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization”

Jae Edmonds, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory


Pennsylvania Legacies

Since 2017, PEC’s Pennsylvania Legacies podcast has been exploring pathways to deep decarbonization in conversation with scientists, policy experts, business and government leaders, and other stakeholders.

December 3, 2018

November 2, 2018

July 27, 2018

April 20, 2018

December 1, 2017

September 22, 2017

September 1, 2017

August 18, 2017

July 6, 2017

March 17, 2017

PEC Blog

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