Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is a non-profit environmental organization staffed by scientists, engineers, MBAs, policy experts, lawyers and communications professionals in offices across the U.S. and now in Europe. We work to safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid global development and deployment of emerging and proven low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies in order to hit global net-zero goals by 2050.
CATF has been at the forefront of methane policy development for many years. In the early 2000’s as the science of short-lived climate pollutants emerged, we brought together scientists and policy makers to build capacity and understanding of the issue and the possible solutions. From that work, we identified methane mitigation as a key opportunity for reducing global pollution and slowing the rate of change we are seeing around the world.
In 2012, CATF helped launch and is a founding member of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, the only international collaboration dedicated to reducing short lived climate pollutants. In more recent years, policy developments especially around methane mitigation in the oil and gas sector have taken off, starting with the issuance of Colorado’s first methane policy in 2014 and U.S. federal regulations in 2016.
Now, multiple countries (incl. Canada, Mexico) dozens of sub-national governments (incl. California, Pennsylvania, British Columbia) and companies (incl. BP, Shell) have developed regulations and policies to cut methane pollution dramatically. In 2016 CATF began to advocate with and provide technical support to a coalition of key allies in Canada, leading to issuance of that country’s 2018 methane rules, the world’s first comprehensive methane policy for oil and gas. We now focus on pressuring the federal government to enforce strong implementation at the provincial level.
Around the same time we launched these efforts in Canada, CATF was asked to help a new regulatory agency in Mexico explore methane abatement from the oil and gas sector there. Over the last three years, CATF has worked closely with the Mexican government and industry to develop the technical and policy background necessary to realize that ambition. The rigorous national rules passed in 2018 were recognized as the strongest in the world and a model for other Latin American nations. CATF is now helping to facilitate successful implementation of the rules.
In Canada, CATF works with a coalition of in-country groups, providing the deep technical and policy expertise for the campaign and bringing that expertise to bear on the regulatory process. By contrast, in Mexico, CATF plays more of an inside game, working quietly and directly with government regulators to create capacity within the agency, and providing language and ideas to be incorporated directly into the regulatory and implementation process.
The combined Canada, Mexico, and U.S. accomplishments as well as ongoing advocacy in each country represent the most significant climate victories to date. When these regulations are fully implemented, approximately five million tons of methane will be cut, the equivalent to shutting down roughly 112 coal-fired power plants (more than have been shuttered in the U.S. in the last decade) or taking all of Germany’s and France’s cars off the road. The success to date has opened new opportunities to expand this work into other parts of the world where applied expertise and campaign energy can lead to even greater cuts in methane and black carbon pollution from the oil and gas sector.
CATF in Europe
As CATF enters its 25th year, we are scaling our scope and ambition in line with the challenge we are all facing. With the European Green Deal, Europe has become the proving ground for climate and energy policy, advancing efforts that will drive towards net-zero emissions by mid-century.
The EU and its member states are developing policies for some of the most vital cogs of a thriving net-zero energy system: hydrogen policy, methane abatement, industrial decarbonization, emissions trading, imports, shipping decarbonization, agriculture policy, carbon-capture and much more. The decisions made on these will become a systems-change blueprint for countries around the world, as the EU revises all its policies to be in line with its climate ambitions – it is an unprecedented policy agenda. Any organization seeking to combat climate change through innovative policy and technology development must now be involved at the European level. That is why CATF is so excited to announce the launch of our European operations.
We already have eight staff members working on EU issues. During 2021, we plan to bring on four additional experts in engineering, economicsmarkets, and policy.
For much of our history, our work has focused on the U.S. But as our understanding of climate and energy systems has developed, we have slowly expanded our work to other countries including China, India, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, and Nigeria, among others. Now, Brussels has become a key point of focus.
The EU offers us a new opportunity to engage on multiple policy issues, consistently and over the long term. Over the coming year, our European staff will engage in efforts to dramatically cut methane emissions from oil and gas, scale-up industrial decarbonization and carbon removal technologies, and in the creation of policies to drive the development of hydrogen.
Changing our energy system requires a lot of options because we don’t really know how the puzzle pieces will fit together in the future – which is why changing a global system riddled with inertia is so difficult. Systematic change demands policies that reflect both the detail of each individual part of the energy system and the macro picture of how it all fits together.
The scale of the climate crisis makes systematic change our only option, the real question is how comprehensive that change can be. Happily, the massive scope of the European Green Deal allows us to tackle that question. It is now up to the climate advocacy community to get its hands dirty and dive into all the optionality that the moment demands.
To manage our planet’s climate, we must effectively eliminate greenhouse emissions. Climate models suggest that we have, at most, three decades to do so— about the same number of years since CATF’s founding. That’s not impossible. But it will take everything we’ve got today, and more.