Monthly Archives: November 2016

Climate Change News and Notes: November 2016

The Paris Climate Change Agreement Goes Into Effect This Month

On November 4, 2016, the Paris Agreement went into effect. What is next? The signatories must implement its terms and help meet their own goals and perhaps do better. The central aim of the Agreement is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by holding the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change. The Paris Agreement is also meant to strengthen the abilities of countries to adapt to deleterious impacts of climate change by helping one another out both technologically and financially.

Before The Paris Agreement each country prepared its own plan to reduce GHG emissions or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), an implementation plan. Now the nations must implement their plans. Of course, adding complexity to this problem is the election of Donald Trump as President of the US, the second largest emitter of GHGs, who has said he will have the US repeal its portion and obligations of this Agreement, as well as its economic contribution. This led to much criticism. It will be interesting to see what he does when he comes to office on January 20, 2017.

President Obama Directs Agencies To Consider National Security Impacts Of Climate Change

On September 21, 2016, President Obama issued a Memorandum titled Climate Change and National Security. ( The purpose of the Memorandum is to ensure that in the development of national security doctrine, policies, and plans climate change-related impacts are fully considered. The Memorandum establishes the Climate and National Security Working Group, to be made up of representatives from various federal agencies, including the USEPA, the Council on Environmental Quality, and the USDOE. The Working Group will ultimately develop recommendations for agencies such as the Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security. The Memorandum is expected to be revoked by the next administration. The Working Group is expected to issue its Action Plan, outlining specific objectives and milestones for carrying out the policies identified in the Memorandum.

CCES can help your company evaluate how Climate Change affects your operations and the various physical and regulatory risks associated with it. We can work with you to reduce your GHG emissions and realize the maximum financial benefits that go with smart strategies. Contact us today at or at 914-584-6720.

Study Shows Effects of Green Building Conditions on Human Performance

People spend about 90% of the time indoors. Therefore, the indoor built environment plays a critical role in our health and our ability to function at our jobs and as people. A major study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Health and the Global Environment was designed to evaluate the effects of different indoor environmental quality parameters found in green and conventional buildings on human performance. See:

The study had 24 people spend 6 full work-days in different controlled office environments, representative of conventional and “green” office buildings. Participants spent time in office space either with indoor air containing a “conventional” concentration of volatile organic compounds (VOCs); indoor air with a much lower concentration of VOCs typical of “green” buildings; or indoor air with the lower concentration of VOCs and an enhanced ventilation rate. Participants were not told what the conditions were in which they were working.

At the end of each day, participants were tested to evaluate live decision making capabilities by simulating real-world scenarios. On average, cognitive scores were 61% better for workers exposed to indoor air with lower VOC concentrations compared to conventional air quality and were 101% higher for workers exposed to the lower VOC concentration with the enhanced ventilation compared to those exposed to the conventional VOC concentration and ventilation.

Additional studies were performed exposing workers to different indoor levels of CO2 and determining performance. Correlation of improved performance to green building scenarios was also measured.

These studies provide further demonstration that properties that lead a building to be designated as “green” have real-time positive effect on a person’s performance in the workplace and on health.

CCES can help your buildings evaluate and implement changes to become more “green” and maximize the positive benefits of such upgrades, such as tenant performance and happiness, cost savings, reduced O&M, etc. Contact us for more information today at or at 914-584-6720.

The Future Of Energy And Environmental Policies In A Trump Administration

November 10, 2016

Last month I wrote an article about the potential course of events for environmental and energy policies if either presidential candidate was elected. Now we know there will be a Donald Trump administration. So first I will repeat the thoughts about what a Trump administration might look like when it comes to energy/environmental policy, and I’ll present some early policy areas being considered. Nothing here is written in favor or against any policy, but future issues facing the energy/environmental professional.

Energy: Donald Trump has been severely critical of current energy and environmental policy and has stated he will reverse many of President Obama’s initiatives. During a May 26 speech, Trump reflected a desire to achieve US energy independence by reducing federal regulations on the energy industry, increase investments in fossil fuel development and infrastructure to bring it to market (such as supporting the Keystone Pipeline), and reduce federal investment in renewable energy, as he has criticized both solar and wind power. Trump also supports increased use of nuclear power.

Environment: Trump has stated he would rescind a number of President Obama’s environmental rules, such as the Clean Power Plan. As a real estate developer, Trump has a particular aversion to environmental rules which he felt has cost him unnecessary money and delayed his projects. He has also specifically pointed to the Clean Water Act as another regulation he would greatly weaken. Reversing or weakening these and other EPA rules would require EPA rulemaking, requiring a public notice process. A Trump Justice Department may just not defend these and other environmental rules when challenged in court by industry. Neither approach would ensure success, as environmental and other groups would surely marshal forces in defense of the rules. Furthermore, courts could rule that these regulations are valid, legal, and necessary.

Climate Change: Trump stated on the campaign trail several times that climate change has not been proven. However, closer to the election, he was more neutral about the topic. He certainly feels it is not a high priority. He has expressed his intention to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement, which may be difficult to do. Trump could do as little as possible to implement it, which has weak enforcement mechanisms. He has also stated he would stop all US payments toward UN climate change initiatives.

Early Steps

One of Trump’s main advisors on environmental issues is Myron Ebell, a known climate change denier. There is speculation that he may be put in charge of the EPA. Mr. Ebell has been very critical of not only climate change, but also of recent Obama environmental rules. There is speculation that he may even call for the repeal of signature environmental rules, such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, and the dismantling of the EPA. This would likely require passage by Congress. Both houses of Congress are controlled by Republican majorities, but slim ones. There are many Republicans who believe in climate change and environmental rules or live in districts with constituents who would be bothered by radical change like this.

Published reports have stated that Mike McKenna has been a major advisor for the transition team on energy issues. He is a former DOE employee, and has been a lobbyist for several oil & gas and chemical companies. It is believed that a Trump-led DOE and Republican Congress would open up more federal land for oil exploration and encourage more coal production by repealing rules discouraging it. This would lead to greater energy supply, lowering prices for consumers, but also potentially raising risks of costly environmental damage. Many have argued that with other countries willing to supply much oil, gas, and coal to the global market and with rising exploration costs, the market may convince many oil & gas and coal firms to restrain anyway. With fracking and a large natural gas supply, coal and oil may yet be too expensive to invest in even with reduced regulations. But it appears that’s the direction of the new administration.

While this is happening on the federal level, it is certainly conceivable that states or groups of states will re-double their efforts to enforce meaningful environmental rules. However, with weak federal rules, one state’s lax rules could attract new businesses in place of a state with stricter rules to protect its public’s health.

And finally, there is the market. Many people were shocked by Trump’s electoral victory, but the sun still came out the next day, and with it solar and other renewable energy. While Trump has been critical of its implementation, the market has certainly favored this and being more energy efficient, as renewable power and energy efficiency programs have grown tremendously in the last few years. Renewable power is generally cheaper, growing in reliability, and reduced in cost compared to many fossil fuel applications. While dis-incentivizing these programs may set them back, positive results in the market should still attract business.

CCES can help you evaluate your company’s energy use and environmental impacts and can perform the technical aspects to determine compliance with current rules and develop opportunities to reduce your energy usage and diversifying sources, saving you money and decreasing business risk. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

Will US Publicly-Traded Firms Be Made To Submit Sustainability Reports?

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is reviewing whether sustainability reports need to be prepared and submitted for publicly-traded companies. On April 13, 2016 the SEC issued a document seeking public comment on several hundred topics, including disclosure of company information relating to sustainability. The due date for comments has passed, and they are currently being reviewed. Might the SEC require publicly-traded firms to report on environmental and social goals and achievements?

Historically, the SEC has required disclosure of information only if such information is important to the reasonable investor; i.e., material information. Material meaning important for the investor in making an investment decision. More recently, the SEC has noted that the growing importance of sustainability and public policy information in investors’ voting and investment decisions. Therefore, the SEC is debating whether the growing interest makes the information “material”, and they wish to receive feedback.

If the SEC makes the decision in the affirmative, it will need to define what specific information a company would need to disclose as material. There is current voluntary sustainability disclosure, but some information is, in some cases, not useful to investors.
The SEC has previously issued guidance relating to one related issue: climate change. “Guidance Regarding Disclosures Related to Climate Change” (February 8, 2010). This guidance contains several disclosure requirements:

• Costs of compliance relating to environmental issues (costs, fines, reputation)

• Relevant legal cases involving potential fines or other penalties

• Specific climate change factors that might make an investment risky

• Potential climate change effects on company’s financial condition. Examples include: decreased demand for goods that cause high GHG emissions, availability of critical raw materials and/or water, and reputational risks.

• Physical effects of climate change on company assets.
Voluntary sustainability reporting goes beyond this to also include health & safety records, use of renewable energy, and social/labor issues, such as working conditions, gender/race equality, relations with local community, and other human rights issues.

The SEC has received hundreds of comments on this issue, ranging from industry arguing that sustainability data is not material to the opposite from the environmental community. Complicating this is the wide range of voluntary sustainability platforms that many companies have been using, some more effective at communicating meaningful information compared to others. It is likely that the SEC will require publicly-traded companies to compile and report sustainability data, but limited in form to what is considered material and critical for potential investors to make informed choices and for readers to more easily compare data between similar companies.

CCES has the experts to help your firm develop a sustainability program, including collecting meaningful information to determine your benefits of reaching goals and reporting them, as well. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at