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Kevin Poloncarz

Kevin Poloncarz represents a broad range of clients on policy, regulatory, litigation, commercial, and enforcement matters involving air quality, climate change, and clean energy. He co-chairs the firm’s Environmental Practice Group and Energy Industry Group.

Mr. Poloncarz is ranked by Chambers USA among the nation’s leading climate change attorneys and California’s leading environmental lawyers, with sources describing him as “a phenomenal” and “tremendous lawyer.” He was named an “Energy & Environmental Trailblazer” by the National Law Journal in 2017 and was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Environmental Lawyers in 2018.

He has extensive experience with California’s Cap-and-Trade Program, Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS), and is recognized as a leading advisor on carbon markets. He also assists energy-sector clients in obtaining and defending state and federal approvals for major projects throughout California.

Mr. Poloncarz also assists clients with the development and execution of legislative and policy strategies supporting decarbonization, including carbon capture and sequestration, low-carbon fuels, advanced transportation and energy storage, and is a registered lobbyist in California and Oregon.

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.

  • With a focus on multilevel action, urbanization, and the built environment and transport, the events of Day 7 of COP28 highlighted efforts to transition to low-carbon and resilient infrastructure, particularly in urban areas.  This thematic focus is significant; according to the UN Environmental Programme, cities are responsible for an estimated 75 percent of global CO2 emissions, primarily from transportation and buildings.

Continue Reading COP28 Day 7 Recap: “A Bullet Train to Speed Up Climate Action”

What You Need to Know. 

  • “We very much believe and respect the science,” said COP28 President Al Jaber on Monday after it had been reported that he had earlier commented that there was “no science” behind requiring the phase-out of fossil fuels to limit global warming to 1.5C. President Al Jaber went on to say that “the phase down and the phase out of fossil fuel is inevitable.”  This statement comes after heavy criticism from climate activists and scientists of President Al Jaber’s earlier comments, further emphasizing the centrality of the “phase down” vs. “phase out” debate as a wedge issue at this COP.
  • According to the UAE COP Presidency, the first four days of COP28 have seen a collective commitment of USD $57 billion in climate finance from governments, businesses, investors, and philanthropies.  Although still falling short of the global investment needs, these collective pledges show the continuing growth in climate-focused capital around the globe.
  • The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) has issued proposed guidance regarding the listing of voluntary carbon credit derivative contracts, the first guidance specifically targeting the voluntary carbon market (“VCM”) by a federal U.S. regulator.  The proposed guidance outlines certain factors a CFTC-regulated exchange, or designated contract market, should consider when addressing requirements of the Commodity Exchange Act (“CEA”) and CFTC regulations that are relevant to the contract design and listing process.  The proposed guidance will be open to public comments until February 16, 2024.

Continue Reading COP28 Day 5 Recap: Climate Finance Continues to Grow and Carbon Offsets Face More Regulation

What You Need to Know.

  • The fourth Day of COP28 saw the first-ever Health Day at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference.  In collaboration with the World Health Organization, Health Day included programing that showcased the links between the impacts of climate change on human health and methods for identifying and scaling adaptation measures to address these impacts.
  • Tensions and debate remained high around whether the world should commit to “phase out” or merely “phase down” fossil fuels.  On the same day that the Guardian reported statements from COP28 President Al Jaber that “[t]here is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phase-out of fossil fuel is what’s going to achieve 1.5C,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted that the Day 3 pledges by several major oil and gas companies to reduce methane leaks from their pipelines by 2030 “clearly fall short of what is required” and “say[] nothing about eliminating emissions from fossil fuel consumption . . . .”
  • The UN’s High Level Expert Group on Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities launched a Taskforce on Net-Zero Policy to ensure the credibility and accountability of net-zero commitments.  Taskforce constituents include, among others, the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), the United Nations Environment Program – Finance Initiative, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the Vulnerable 20 Group, and the International Financial Reporting Standards.  The taskforce’s objective is to share knowledge, practices, and insights that advance net-zero aligned policy.
  • During the World Climate Action Summit (WCAS), various governments and organizations unveiled $1.7 billion in new initiatives to further both climate and biodiversity goals, including $1 billion from a coalition of international institutions led by the Asian Development Bank.
  • On Day Two of the Business & Philanthropy Climate Forum—COP28’s multistakeholder engagement platform for the private sector—business and philanthropy leaders made additional pledges and announcements on renewable energy and green economy programs, commitments to preserving nature, a methane abatement accelerator, and  initiatives to decarbonize health supply chains.
  • The U.S. Department of State, the Bezos Earth Fund, and The Rockefeller Foundation presented the core framework of the Energy Transition Accelerator (ETA), a carbon finance platform aimed at catalyzing private capital to support energy transition strategies in developing and emerging economies.  The ETA aims to connect willing sellers and buyers employing high-integrity carbon crediting to support faster energy transition.

Continue Reading COP28 Day 4 Recap: The First COP Health Day

What You Need to Know. 

  • After the opening day, action at COP28 shifted to the World Climate Action Summit (WCAS), where world leaders convened to deliver national statements and carry out initial negotiations on the Global Stocktake and expanding climate financing.  Concurrently, business leaders and philanthropists gathered at the Business and Philanthropy Climate Forum to discuss how the private sector and philanthropy can contribute to climate action.
  • UN Secretary General António Guterres opened the WCAS by urging countries to speed up their net zero timelines to 2040 for developed countries and 2050 for emerging economies and accelerate towards a “just, equitable transition” to renewable energy.  In his speech, Mr. Guterres laid out a hard line on phasing out fossil fuels, saying that “The 1.5-degree limit is only possible if we ultimately stop burning all fossil fuels.  Not reduce. Not abate.  Phase out – with a clear timeframe aligned with 1.5 degree.”
  • Fifty oil and gas companies representing more than 40 percent of global oil production joined the Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter, which commits signatories to align around net zero by or before 2050, zero-out methane emissions, eliminate routine flaring by 2030, and to continue working towards emission reduction.  COP28 President Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber praised the declaration as “a great first step” while also highlighting that national oil companies, which represent 60 percent of the signatories, “can and need to do more” to keep the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degrees Celsius target within reach.  More than 300 environmental organizations lambasted the declaration in a letter to the COP28 Presidency, stating that voluntary efforts without any accountability mechanisms are “insufficient” and that “the only safe and effective way to ‘clean up’ fossil fuel pollution is to phase out fossil fuels.”
  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule designed to sharply reduce methane and other harmful pollutants from the oil and natural gas industry.  The final rule includes standards to reduce methane and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from new, modified, and reconstructed sources as well as guidelines for states to follow in developing their plans to limit methane from existing sources.  The timing of the announcement is indicative of the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal of using COP28 as a platform to elevate pollution-reduction measures in the United States and galvanize global action.
  • 117 countries signed the Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge, agreeing to  triple the world’s installed renewable energy generation capacity to at least 11,000 GW by 2030 and collectively double the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements from around 2% to over 4% every year until 2030.  And twenty countries signed the Declaration to Triple Nuclear Energy with the goal of tripling nuclear energy capacity from 2020 by 2050. 
  • The UAE announced the establishment of ALTÉRRA, a $30 billion climate fund in collaboration with BlackRock, Brookfield and TPG.  The fund will allocate $25 billion towards climate strategies and $5 billion specifically to incentivize investment flows into the Global South.  ALTÉRRA aims to mobilize $250 billion globally by 2030.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris announced that the United States would pledge $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).  The pledge by the United States was joined by pledges from Estonia ($1 million), Portugal ($4.4 million), and Switzerland ($155 million). The GCF was established by the UNFCCC at COP16 in 2010 to accelerate the development of climate mitigation and adaptation projects in developing countries by mobilizing financial flows form the private sector to climate-smart investment opportunities.

Continue Reading COP28 Day 2­–­3 Recap: The World Climate Action Summit and Expanding Commitments to Climate Financing

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