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Carol Browner

Carol M. Browner brings nearly four decades of experience advising on environmental and energy policies affecting global energy, environmental, public health, and business matters.

She provides counsel to industry leaders in the energy, transportation, and consumer product sectors on regulatory matters, environmental impact issues, corporate sustainability approaches, and strategic partnership development to advance clean energy, ESG, and other business priorities.

Carol joins the firm after serving as Senior Counselor in the Sustainability practice of the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm.

Carol served as Assistant to President Barack Obama and Director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, where she oversaw the coordination of environmental, energy, climate, transport, and related policy across the U.S. federal government. During her tenure, the White House secured the largest investment ever in clean energy and established the national car policy that included both new automobile fuel efficiency standards and first ever greenhouse gas reduction standards.

Carol is the longest serving Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. As Administrator, she adopted the most stringent air pollution standards in U.S. history; set the first fine particle clean air standard; and spearheaded the reauthorization of the Safe Drinking Water Act as well as the Food Quality Protection Act. Carol was known for working with both environmentalists and industry to set science-based public health protections while providing businesses important flexibilities in how to meet those standards. She worked across the agency to ensure a focus on protecting vulnerable populations and promote environmental equity.

Additionally, Carol serves on a number of boards of directors advising on environmental and energy issues, including as Chair of the Board of the League of Conservation Voters, as Chair of the Sustainability Committee of the Board of Directors for Bunge Limited, and as a Board Member of Innovyze.

What You Need to Know.

  • After two days of intense negotiations, world leaders adopted a draft decision that sets out international climate priorities in response to the findings of the first Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement.  The decision covers several thematic areas, including mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation and resilience in the face of climate change, financing and means of implementation and support for climate projects, and loss and damage funding for climate-vulnerable nations.  The text of the draft decision can be found on the UNFCCC’s website here.
  • The most highly scrutinized and heavily debated aspect of the agreement was the path forward on the use of fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emissions from which, the decision notes, have “unequivocally caused global warming of about 1.1 °C.”  Recognizing the need for deep, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in line with 1.5 °C pathways, the decision calls on Parties to contribute to the following efforts related to the energy transition and fossil fuel use:
    • Tripling renewable energy capacity globally and doubling the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030;
    • Accelerating efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power;
    • Accelerating efforts globally towards net zero emission energy systems, utilizing zero- and low-carbon fuels well before or by around mid-century;
    • Transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science;”
    • Accelerating zero- and low-emission technologies, including, inter alia, renewables, nuclear, abatement and removal technologies such as carbon capture and utilization and storage, particularly in hard-to-abate sectors, and low-carbon hydrogen production;
    • Accelerating and substantially reducing non-carbon-dioxide emissions globally, including in particular methane emissions by 2030;
    • Accelerating the reduction of emissions from road transport on a range of pathways, including through development of infrastructure and rapid deployment of zero and low-emission vehicles; and
    • Phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that do not address energy poverty or just transitions, as soon as possible;
  • While coal has been mentioned in previous COP decisions, the language on “transitioning away from fossil fuels” represents the first time that countries have agreed to language that explicitly curtails all fossil fuels in the nearly three-decades-long history of the UN climate summit.  Though hailed by COP28 President Al Jaber and other world leaders as a “historic package to accelerate climate action,” the decision, and how it was adopted, was not without its critics.
    • UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell pushed the world to strive for more action.  “COP 28 also needed to signal a hard stop to humanity’s core climate problem—fossil fuels and their planet-burning pollution.  Whilst we didn’t turn the page on the fossil fuel era in Dubai, this outcome is the beginning of the end.”
    • Anne Rasmussen, lead delegate for Samoa, complained that delegates of the small island nation nations weren’t even in the room when President Al Jaber announced the deal was done.  Garnering the longest applause of the session, Rasmussen declared that “the course correction that is needed has not been secured” and that the deal could “potentially take us backward rather than forward.”

Continue Reading COP28 Final Negotiations Recap: A Global Agreement to Transition Away from Fossil Fuels

 What You Need to Know.

  • Azerbaijan is poised to host COP29 next year after receiving regional backing.  If formally confirmed, Azerbaijan’s COP Presidency would resolve months of deadlock.  It will also trigger criticism that next year’s COP will again be hosted by a nation heavily dependent on fossil fuel exports.
  • Brazil has been formally chosen to host COP30 in 2025.  The venue will be the city of Belém, located in the Amazon rainforest.  As Brazil’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Marina Silva, commented: “With its immense biodiversity and vast territory threatened by climate change, the Amazon will show us the way.”
  • The UNFCCC has released a revised draft text of the negotiated outcome of the first Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement.  The revised draft no longer mentions the “phase out” of fossil fuels and instead mentions the “substitution of unabated fossil fuels” and “tripling renewable energy capacity . . . by 2030.”
  • The inclusion of “phase out” language in the final agreement has been one of the yardsticks by which commentators have suggested the success or failure of COP28 should be measured.  Accordingly, the new draft was met by significant criticism, including by the European Union’s representatives who called elements of the text “unacceptable.”  Negotiations now center on finding a compromise, almost guaranteeing that discussions at COP28 will continue beyond the official close of the conference on Tuesday, December 12.
  • Following the official theme of the day, 154 nations signed the COP28 UAE Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action.  The Declaration commits to “expedite the integration of agriculture and food systems into our climate action” and to “scaling-up adaptation and resilience activities and responses in order to reduce the vulnerability of all farmers, fisherfolk, and other food producers to the impacts of climate change.”  The contributions of the agriculture and forestry sectors, both as a source of emissions and as carbon sinks, are continuing to gain attention as an important part of the global efforts on climate change.

Continue Reading COP28 Day 10 Recap: Food in Focus, and a Look Ahead to COP29 and COP30

What You Need to Know.

  • The UNFCCC has released a draft text of the negotiated outcome of the first Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement.  The draft text currently includes four options to address the question of “phasing out” versus “phasing down” the use of fossil fuels, with the strongest option’s wording being “[a] phase out of fossil fuels in line with best available science.”  Options with weaker wording would call on the Parties to the Paris Agreement to take action towards “phasing out unabated fossil fuels and to rapidly reducing their use so as to achieve net-zero CO2 in energy systems by or around mid-century.”
  • The distinction between “abated” and “unabated” fossil fuels and the meaning of “abated” are being hotly debated, with many commentators warning about the potential of creating a loophole through legal ambiguity.  This draft text will form the basis of intense high-level negotiations between global leaders over the next days.
  • Vanuatu and Tuvalu have renewed calls for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation treaty to address the climate crisis.  Such a treaty is being promoted by supporters as an alternative to the COP process if world leaders cannot agree to phase out fossil fuels.
  • The governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan—until recently at war with each other—issued a joint statement acknowledging not only a “historical chance to achieve long-awaited peace in the region” but confirming that as a “sign of good gesture” Armenia would support Azerbaijan’s bid to host COP29.  Hours later, Russia reportedly blocked Azerbaijan’s bid, according to EU diplomats.  If countries cannot agree, Germany will be the default host country.  Looking further ahead, COP30 in 2025 is widely expected to be hosted by Brazil.
  • December 8 was “Youth Day,” and featured events focused on empowering and elevating the voices of young people in the climate negotiation process.  Shamma Al Mazrui, COP28’s “Youth Climate Champion” and the UAE’s Minister of Community Development, stated in remarks, “when young people have a seat at the table and a voice in decision making they become agents of change.”
  • Leading up to COP28, a “Global Youth Statement” that synthesizes collective climate policy demands and proposals of young people, was provided to the UNFCCC and COP28 Presidency by YOUNGO, the official children and youth constituency of the UNFCCC.  The statement includes demands for a “just, equitable and secure transition to a fossil fuel phase-out” and more financial support for vulnerable communities to address the impacts of climate change.

Continue Reading COP28 Day 8 Recap: Empowering Global Youth and a Look Towards Final Negotiations

In a series of prior blog posts, we previously highlighted the historic implications of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) for the U.S.’s international climate commitments, as well as for private companies navigating the energy transition.  Shortly after our series published, the Senate passed the IRA on Sunday August 7th with only minor modifications to the bill’s $369 billion in climate and clean energy spending.  Today, the House passed the IRA without any further changes, and soon hereafter President Biden is expected to sign it into law. 

However, this is only the beginning of the road; the IRA will have sweeping implications beyond the four corners of its pages.  In the coming months and years, we expect to see intense jockeying over agency rulemakings that will shape the IRA’s implementation, as well as determine its ultimate success as an energy policy.  

I. Congressional Permitting Reform

As an initial matter, it seems Congress has not finished its work revamping the nation’s climate and energy laws.  As part of his agreement to support the IRA, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced that “President Biden, Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi have committed to advancing a suite of commonsense permitting reforms this fall that will ensure all energy infrastructure, from transmission to pipelines and export facilities, can be efficiently and responsibly built to deliver energy safely around the country and to our allies.”  While the exact contours of this legislation are not currently known, Senator Manchin’s office recently released a legislative framework, which includes proposals to, among other things:Continue Reading House Passes Inflation Reduction Act, Marks a New Era for Climate Policy

Late on July 27, Sen. Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer announced an agreement on the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA): a reconciliation package that implements prescription drug pricing reform, invests in Affordable Care Act health care subsidies, imposes a corporate minimum tax and improves tax enforcement, and—most relevant for this post—provides $369

On July 14, 2022, the U.S. Department of Commerce (“Commerce”) issued a request for a range of additional factual information in connection with the agency’s ongoing circumvention inquiries into solar cells and modules from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam that employ inputs from mainland China.[1]  The deadline to respond is July 21st.

In the July 14 memorandum, Commerce seeks information about the:  (1) amount of investment necessary to construct and start-up certain facilities, (2) non-financial barriers (e.g., access to inputs, qualified technical employees, technologies, research and development, etc.) that companies typically face to establish and begin certain operations, and (3) research and development (“R&D”) expenses associated with conducting certain operations.  These types of facilities/operations involved in:

  • refining silicon into solar-grade polysilicon,
  • producing ingots from solar-grade polysilicon,
  • producing wafers from solar-grade ingots,
  • producing solar cells from wafers,
  • producing solar modules from solar cells, and
  • the same operations and products as foreign producers and exporters responding to Commerce’s solar circumvention inquiries. 

Continue Reading Commerce Requests Factual Information in Solar Circumvention Inquiries on Level of Investment, Non-Financial Barriers, and Research and Development Expenses

On July 1, 2022, the U.S. Department of Commerce (“Commerce”) issued proposed rules implementing President Biden’s emergency declaration to provide temporary tariff relief on certain imports of solar cells and modules from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.[1] Commerce has provided the public with a 30-day period to comment on the proposed rules.

If enacted