Publications

Filter publications filter

Filter by Program:

Filter by Author:

Filter by Publication Type:

Latest Publications

China's New National Carbon Market

On December 19, 2017, China announced the official start of its national emissions trading system (ETS) construction program. When fully implemented, this program could more than double the volume of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions covered by either tax or tradable permit policy. Many of program’s design features reflect those of China’s pilot programs but widely differ from those of emissions trading programs in the United States and Europe. For that reason, the workings of Chinese national carbon market are both intriguing and unfamiliar to those experienced with western markets. This paper explains the design of China’s new carbon market, contrasts it with western markets, and highlights possible implications. It also presents research questions raised by the design. 

Authors: William A. Pizer and Xiliang Zhang

Filters

Cap-and-trade

Carbon Sequestration

Carbon Tax

China

Climate and Energy

Climate Change Mitigation

Climate Policy

Environmental Economics

Energy Sector

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Greenhouse Gas Mitigation

Pricing Carbon

Working Papers

Creating Data as a Service for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Reservoirs

In the United States, our water data infrastructure does not allow us to consistently and quickly answer the most basic questions about our water system’s quantity, quality, and use. The data to answer those questions are often collected but by multiple agencies across different scales and for different purposes, making them difficult to access, to integrate with other data, and to put to further use to support decision making. Even within single agencies, data are often not shared among regional offices, and even if they were, they would have to be standardized to be of use. One huge repository of water data is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Like many federal agencies, the Army Corps has a federated governance structure whereby each region has its own political authority, management, and data. It is through that governance structure that the Army Corps manages day-to-day operations. These operations, and their relevant data systems, are handled by 36 districts in the conterminous United States. This report describes the challenges and opportunities of integrating districts’ historic reservoir data and management operations. It finds that historic reservoir data are open and accessible for 51 percent of districts. Those data account for 65 percent of reservoirs identified as currently owned and operated by the Army Corps. However, each district uses different data formats, standards, and terms. Data infrastructure investments would be required to enable the data to be used to create additional insights for decision making—for example, to enable the Army Corps to understand how the nation’s reservoirs are responding to various stressors such as climate change, sedimentation, and water demand. Such investments would also help the Army Corps increase the transparency of, and trust in, its reservoir operations. A companion tool to visualize data as well as the data files related to this report are available to view and download. Research by the authors to identify the frequency and magnitude of departures from operational targets of Army Corps-operated reservoirs is presented in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association.  

Authors: Lauren Patterson, Martin Doyle, and Samantha Kuzma

Filters

Reservoir

Water Policy

Reports

A Nationwide Analysis of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Reservoir Performance in Meeting Operational Targets

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates reservoirs across the United States. Most (89 percent) of the reservoirs were constructed prior to 1980, and many have experienced changes in environmental conditions such as climate and sediment yield and societal conditions such as water and energy demand. These changes may challenge the potential for reservoirs to meet their operational targets and management goals. To identify the frequency and magnitude of departures from operational targets, this analysis published in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association collected Army Corps reservoir targets and historic daily reservoir data for 233 reservoirs. It found that 56 percent of reservoirs consistently met operating targets, 30 percent were borderline, and 13 percent experienced frequent and large magnitude departures. Fifty-two percent of reservoirs with large departures were due to water shortages and were located in the South Pacific and Southwestern divisions. This work provides a framework to identify reservoir performance in relation to management goals, a necessary step for moving toward adaptive management under changing conditions. Individual reservoir analyses are accessible through an interactive data visualization tool. Companion research by the authors on Army Corps-operated reservoirs is presented in the report, Creating Data as a Service for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Reservoirs.

Authors: Lauren Patterson and Martin Doyle

Filters

Reservoir

Water Policy

Journal Articles

Benefit-Relevant Indicators: Ecosystem Services Measures That Link Ecological and Social Outcomes

There is a growing movement in government, environmental non-governmental organizations, and the private sector to include ecosystem services in decision making. Adding ecosystem services into assessments implies measuring how much a change in ecological conditions affects people, social benefit, or value to society. Despite consensus around the general merit of accounting for ecosystem services, systematic guidance on what to measure and how is lacking. Current ecosystem services assessments often resort to biophysical proxies (e.g., area of wetland in a floodplain) or even disregard services that seem difficult to measure. Valuation, an important tool for assessing trade-offs and comparing outcomes, is also frequently omitted due to lack of data on social preferences, lack of expertise with valuation methods, or mistrust of valuation methods for non-market services. To address these shortcomings, we propose the use of a new type of indicator that explicitly reflects an ecosystem’s capacity to provide benefits to society, ensuring that ecosystem services assessments measure outcomes that are demonstrably and directly relevant to human welfare. We call these benefit-relevant indicators (BRIs) and describe a process for developing them using causal chains that link management decisions through ecological responses to effects on human well-being. BRIs identify what is valued and by whom, but stop short of valuation. A BRI for the ability of wetlands to ameliorate flooding would connect measures of the quantity and quality of wetland in a floodplain, as affected by wetlands management decisions, to the number of people or properties downstream that are vulnerable to flooding. BRIs can support monetary or non-monetary valuation, but they are particularly useful when valuation will not be conducted; in such cases, they serve as stand-alone measures of “what is valued” by particular beneficiaries. BRIs are valid measures of ecosystem services in that they are directly linked to human well-being. Flexibility in the development of BRIs helps to ensure that they are broadly applicable across practitioner and stakeholder communities and decision contexts.

Authors: Lydia P. Olander, Robert J. Johnston, Heather Tallis, James Kagan, Lynn A. Maguire, Stephen Polasky, Dean Urban, James Boyd, Lisa Wainger, and Margaret Palmer

Filters

Ecosystem Services

Journal Articles

Understanding the Interaction between Regional Electricity Markets and State Policies

Regional electricity markets—operated by regional transmission organizations (RTOs)—span multiple states and bring significant benefits to the electricity grid. States policies—such as renewable or clean energy portfolio standards or procurement mandates—have always helped shape market outcomes, but increasingly they are aimed at addressing perceived market shortcomings. Recent state policy actions to support new or existing resources in RTO markets have renewed attention to issues of RTO market design, including how RTO markets and state policies interact. Those actions, a rapidly changing electricity sector, and low electricity and capacity prices have heightened the urgency of calls for changes in market designs to address perceived inequities, such as market designs that fail to value certain environmental or reliability attributes. This primer is aimed at policy makers and stakeholders who seek an understanding of regional electricity markets and the effect of state policies on those markets as well as an understanding of recent market design proposals that are designed to address the RTO-state policies interaction. It explains the workings of RTOs and how they differ between states with traditional regulation of electricity generation and states with restructured electricity markets. Next, it presents illustrative examples of how state policies interact with regional markets. It then discusses the state policy goals that are not reflected in RTO markets—such as state environmental policies—and describes discussions about how to better align RTO markets and state policy goals in three eastern RTOs. It next tackles proposed changes to regional market design—such as two-tiered capacity markets and carbon pricing—as well as other options that could be considered. Finally, it concludes by identifying key questions for evaluating potential solutions.

Authors: Sarah K. Adair and Franz T. Litz

Filters

State Policy

Climate and Energy

State Utility Regulation

Environmental Economics

Primers

The Future of Groundwater

The Future of Groundwater summarizes the Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum discussions of May-June 2017, offering various approaches to groundwater sustainability. A partnership between The Aspen Institute Energy and Environment Program and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, the forum focused on exploring the present condition of groundwater, the evolution of that condition, and opportunities for transitioning to more sustainable uses of groundwater resources. The consensus was that groundwater needs to be sustainably developed, meaning groundwater use must be balanced among economic development, environmental health, and quality-of-life needs in a way that allows our children and grandchildren to enjoy. 

Authors: Lauren Patterson, Martin Doyle, and David Monsma

Filters

Water Policy

Aspen-Nicholas Institute Water Forum

Reports

Improving our Knowledge on Small-Scale Fisheries: Data Needs and Methodologies

Small-scale fisheries play an important role in contributing to food security, nutrition, livelihoods and local and national economies. However, there is often limited data and information available on their contributions, and hence small scale fisheries tend to be overlooked and marginalized in policy processes, leading to low levels of support for the sector. This proceedings provides a summary of the presentations, discussions, conclusions and recommendations of the “Workshop on Improving our Knowledge on Small-Scale Fisheries: Data Needs and Methodologies,” held at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations headquarters in Rome, Italy, in June 2017. Through the workshop, it was determined that a comprehensive new study to illuminate the hidden contributions of small-scale fisheries to the three dimensions of sustainable development, as well as identification of key threats to these contributions was needed.

Filters

Ocean and Coastal Policy

Fisheries

Small Scale Fisheries

Proceedings

Fertilizer Management and Environmental Factors Drive N2O and NO3 Losses in Corn: A Meta-Analysis

Effective management of nitrogen (N) in agricultural landscapes must account for how nitrate (NO3) leaching and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions respond to local field-scale management and to broader environmental drivers such as climate and soil. This article in the Soil Science Society of America Journal reflects assemblage of a comprehensive database of fertilizer management studies with data on N2O (417 observations, 27 studies) and NO3 (388 observations, 25 studies) losses associated with 4R fertilizer N management in North American corn-cropping systems. Only one study measured both losses, and studies of N2O and NO3 differed by location, time period, and management practices. Meta-analysis of side-by-side comparisons found significant yield-scaled N2O emission reductions when SUPERU replaced urea or UAN, and when urea replaced anhydrous ammonia. The large effects of climate and soil, and the potential for opposite reactions to some management changes, indicate that more simultaneous measurements of N2O and NO3 losses are needed to understand their joint responses to management and environmental factors, and how these shape tradeoffs or synergies in pathways of N loss.

Authors: Alison J. Eagle, Lydia P. Olander, Katie L. Locklier, James B. Heffernan, and Emily S. Bernhardt

Filters

Environmental Markets

Ecosystem Services

T-AGG

Journal Articles

Bridge Collaborative Practitioner’s Guide: Principles and Guidance for Cross-sector Action Planning and Evidence Evaluation

The health, development and environment sectors increasingly realize that they cannot achieve their respective goals by acting in isolation. Yet, as they pivot to act collectively, they face challenges in finding and interpreting evidence on sectoral interrelationships, and thus in developing effective evidence-based responses. Each sector already uses some form of evidence-based research, design and action planning, but methods vary and ideas about the strength of evidence differ, creating stumbling blocks in the way of cross-sector impact. A new initiative, called the Bridge Collaborative, sets out to spark cross-sector problem solving by developing common approaches that the three sectors could agree to and use. Specifically, the collaborative has focused on two linked areas of practice that could unlock cross sector collaboration – results chains and the evaluation of supporting evidence. Through this process, the collaborative has provided a platform for dialogue and collaboration among professionals from across these sectors, allowing for face-to-face interaction and discussion to build professional networks. This document captures a set of principles identified and used by the Collaborative, along with a detailed set of guidance for creating comparable results chains across sectors and evaluating evidence from multiple disciplines in common terms. These principles and guidance reflect novel contributions from the Bridge Collaborative as well as restatements of existing recommendations that resonated among health, development and environment researchers and practitioners.  

Lead Authors: Heather Tallis, Katharine Kreis, Lydia Olander, Claudia Ringler

Filters

Climate and Energy

Ecosystem Services

Environmental Economics

Ocean and Coastal Policy

Water Policy

Reports

A Call to Action for Health, Environment, and Development Leaders

Our world is changing. Ongoing economic, technological, and demographic shifts are altering the nature of today’s major, global issues and challenging us to rethink our past and current approaches to solving them. The world’s population is increasing rapidly, and individuals are living longer than ever before. As our planet becomes more populated and prosperous, the demand for finite resources—such as water, energy, and food—are increasing rapidly. These trends escalate the urgency to find new ways of addressing persistent and growing challenges. Despite decades of evidence generation and progress on global challenges such as poverty, malnutrition, pollution, climate change, and humanitarian crises, these issues persist—and are intensifying in many cases. The current research and policy systems inhibit integrated approaches to problem solving. Too often, the health, environment, and development sectors work independently setting narrowly defined objectives and failing to consider consequences outside of their own sector. A Call to Action for Health, Environment, and Development Leaders and a companion paper Bridge Collaborative Practitioner’s Guide: Principles and Guidance for Cross-sector Action Planning and Evidence Evaluation contribute to a growing movement aimed at increasing cross-sectoral focused on shared evidence. 

Lead Authors: Heather Tallis, Barbara J. Merz, Cindy Huang, Katharine Kreis, Lydia Olander, Claudia Ringler

Filters

Climate and Energy

Ecosystem Services

Environmental Economics

Ocean and Coastal Policy

Water Policy

Reports

Pages