Global Climate Change and Coal's Future
Remarks by Eileen Claussen
President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Spring Coal Forum 2004 - American Coal Council
May 18, 2004
It is a pleasure to be here in Dallas. And I want to thank the American Coal Council for inviting me to address this forum.
I thought I would open my remarks today with some commentary on the upcoming FOX movie about climate change—it is entitled “The Day After Tomorrow.” It is not often, after all, that I get to talk about the movies in my speeches. And I suppose that’s because there are not a lot of movies on the topic of climate change—of course, I am not counting “Some Like It Hot.”
In case you haven’t already heard, “The Day After Tomorrow” comes out Memorial Day weekend. It is a movie that tries to show the consequences of climate change by letting loose tornadoes in Los Angeles, dropping grapefruit-sized hail on Tokyo, and subjecting New York City to a one-day shift from sweltering-to-freezing temperatures.
The only thing I can say is it’s a dream scenario for the people at The Weather Channel.
Actually, the reason I bring this up is because we are bound to be hearing a great deal about the issue of climate change over the next several weeks. This is a major motion picture with a major marketing push behind it.
And, while I know of no one in the scientific community who believes climate change will unfold in the way it is portrayed in the film, I also know this: If this movie sounds far-fetched, it is frankly less of a distortion—much less—than the argument that climate change is a bunch of nonsense. It is not. Climate change is a very real problem with very real consequences for our way of life, our economy and our ability to ensure that future generations inherit a world not appreciably different from our own.
I strongly believe it is time for some straight talk about the problem of climate change and what it means for you - the coal industry. So while my remarks here today are also relevant to the oil and gas industry, I believe coal to be in a more precarious position, and I believe that for 2 reasons: 1) I think coal is an easier target politically and 2) oil and gas are already involved in the policy process. So despite the current outlook for coal in the United States, I am here to say that a robust future for coal is not a sure thing, particularly if we do not find environmentally acceptable and cost-effective ways to use it.
So let’s look at some facts.
Here in this country, as all of you know very well, coal provides 52 percent of all electricity, more than double the amount of any other fuel source and five times more than gas, oil or hydro-electric power. Coal is the most abundant energy source today, it is dispersed throughout the world, and it is available at a relatively low cost. Worldwide coal consumption, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, is expected to grow by more than 40 percent between 2001 and 2025, with China and India accounting for three-fourths of that increase.
Given these facts, a scenario in which we meet the world’s various energy challenges without coal seems to me highly unlikely.
At the same time, however, I cannot imagine—or, rather, I fear to imagine—what will happen if over the next 50 years we do not get serious about reducing worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that we know contribute to climate change.
Coal alone is responsible for 37 percent of CO2 emissions in the United States. Thirty-seven percent. Worldwide, the EIA projects that coal will continue as the second largest source of carbon dioxide emissions after petroleum, accounting for 34 percent of the total in 2025.
Coal’s dominant role in the global energy mix, together with its responsibility for a large share of CO2 emissions, suggests it is high time to figure out how to continue using coal in a way that results in the least amount of harm to the global climate.
I am not going to tell you that we can address this problem with no costs. Our goal must be to ensure that the costs themselves do not become a barrier to action. I believe we can manage those costs in a way that enables continued economic growth and, equally important, in a way that causes the least amount of harm to the environment.
And finally, we must acknowledge the very real costs of not acting to address the problem of climate change. I will talk more about that later.
And so today I want to lay out for you how important it is for this industry—your industry—to become a part of the solution to climate change. I also want to talk about your role in helping to shape the policies and in developing the technologies that will allow us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal generation and other sources.
But before that, I need to address the question of why I am here and why we are having this discussion in the first place. And the answer is because the threat of climate change, as I have already noted, is very real. If you still have any doubts about this, then I refer you to the findings of a special, well-balanced panel put together by the National Academy of Sciences at the request of President George W. Bush. The panel’s conclusion: the planet is warming and human activities are largely to blame. And, of course, the human activity that is most responsible is the burning of fossil fuels.
Let's get one other thing out of the way -- the Kyoto Protocol. I am not here to argue the merits of the Protocol. And I'm certainly not here to argue for ratification of Kyoto. Because I think it's pretty clear that, at least as far as the United States is concerned, the Kyoto Protocol is a dead issue. So, let's agree on that, and let's move beyond Kyoto, and talk about what really needs to happen.
This is what we know. The 1990s were the hottest decade of the last millennium. The last five years were among the seven hottest on record. Yes, the earth's temperature has always fluctuated, but ordinarily these shifts occur over the course of centuries or millennia, not decades.
Now I know there are skeptics on this issue - there might even be a few here today, so let me take a minute to talk about some of the more common misconceptions I hear.
A common one is to point to the satellites circling our planet overhead and to note that these precision instruments show no warming of our atmosphere. Global warming, some skeptics say, is therefore just an artifact of urbanization or some other miscalculation here on the ground.
All I can say about these claims is that they are dead wrong. As early as 2000, the National Academy of Sciences concluded that the warming observed on the ground was real, despite what the satellites might tell us. What’s more, since that time estimates of warming from satellites have progressively increased. Just this month, in fact, a new study in the journal Nature took a fresh look at the satellite data and found that the so-called “missing warming” had been found, bringing the satellite estimates more in line with temperatures observed on the ground.
Warming by itself, of course, is not proof of global warming. Climate conditions vary naturally, as we all know, and I am sure you have heard arguments that such natural variability, whether caused by volcanoes or the sun, can account for the climate change we’ve seen in recent decades. But, when scientists actually take a look at the relative importance of natural vs. human influences on the climate, they consistently come to the same conclusion. And that is this: observed climate change, particularly that of the past 30 years, is outside the bounds of natural variability. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are more than 30 percent higher now than they were just a century ago. Despite what you may hear, this increase in carbon dioxide is undeniably human in origin, and it is the only way to explain the recent trends in the global climate.
Scientists project that over the next century, the average global temperature will rise between two and ten degrees Fahrenheit. A ten-degree increase would be the largest swing in global temperature since the end of the last ice age 12,000 years ago. And the potential consequences of even gradual warming are cause enough for great concern.
What will those consequences be? We can expect increased flooding and increased drought. Extended heat waves, more powerful storms, and other extreme weather events will become more common. Rising sea level will inundate portions of Florida and Louisiana, while increased storm surges will threaten communities all along our nation’s coastline, including the Texas coast.
Looking beyond our borders, we can see even broader, more catastrophic effects. Imagine, for example, what will happen in a nation such as Bangladesh, where a one-meter rise in sea level would inundate 17 percent of the country.
In addition to the obvious threat to human life and natural systems, climate change poses an enormous threat to the U.S. and world economies. Extreme weather, rising sea level and the other consequences of climate change will result in substantial economic losses.
We cannot allow the argument that it will cost too much to act against climate change to prevail in the face of the potentially devastating costs of allowing climate change to proceed unchecked.
Furthermore, the longer we wait to address this problem, the worse off we will be. The Pew Center in 2001 held a workshop with leading scientists, economists and other analysts to discuss the optimal timing of efforts to address climate change. They each came at it from a different perspective, but the overwhelming consensus was that to be most effective, action against climate change has to start right now.
Among the reasons these experts offered for acting sooner rather than later was that current atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are the highest in more than 400,000 years. This is an unprecedented situation in human history, and there is a real potential that the resulting damages will not be incremental or linear, but sudden and potentially catastrophic. Acting now is the only rational choice.
But what can we do? The Pew Center on Global Climate Change was established in 1998 in an effort to help answer this very question. We are non-profit, non-partisan and independent. Our mission is to provide credible information, straight answers and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. We consider ourselves a center of level-headed research, analysis and collaboration. We are also a center in another sense–a much-needed centrist presence on an issue where the discussion too often devolves into battling extremes where the first casualty is the truth.
The Pew Center also is the convenor of the Business Environmental Leadership Council. The group’s 38 members collectively employ 2.5 million employees and have combined revenues of $855 billion. These companies include mostly Fortune 500 firms that are committed to economically viable climate solutions. And I am pleased to say that they include firms that mine coal and firms that burn it—some of whom are represented here today. As members of the Business Environmental Leadership Council, all of these companies are working to reduce their emissions and to educate policy makers, other corporate leaders and the public about how to address climate change while sustaining economic growth.
And, if their work with the Pew Center proves anything, it is this: Objecting to the overwhelming scientific consensus about climate change is no longer an acceptable strategy for industry to pursue.
We need to think about what we can realistically achieve in this country and around the world and begin down a path to protecting the climate. And that means making a real commitment to the full basket of technologies that can help to reduce the adverse environmental effects of coal generation. The most promising of these technologies, of course, are: carbon capture and storage; and coal gasification, or IGCC.
Carbon capture and storage, or CCS, holds out the exciting prospect for all of us that we can continue using proven reserves of coal even in a carbon-constrained world. In only the last three decades, CCS has emerged as one of the most promising options we have for significantly reducing atmospheric emissions of greenhouse gases. Today, 1 million tons of CO2 are stored annually in the Sleipner Project in the North Sea, and several more commercial projects are in various stages of advanced planning around the world. Between off-shore, saltwater-filled sandstone formations, depleted oil and gas reservoirs, and other potential storage locations, scientists say we have the capacity to store decades worth of CO2 at today’s emission rates.
Of course, it will still take a great deal more effort before CCS is ready for prime time. In a paper prepared for a recent Pew Center workshop held in conjunction with the National Commission on Energy Policy, Sally Benson of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory identified several barriers to the implementation of carbon capture and storage, or CCS. They include:
- The high costs and quote-unquote “energy penalties” of post-combustion CCS.
- The high capital costs of gasification, as well as a lack of experience with the technology in the utility sector.
- Limited experience with large-scale geologic storage.
- Uncertainty about public acceptance of CO2 storage in geologic formations.
- A lack of legal and regulatory frameworks to support widespread application of CCS.
- And, last but not least, a lack of financial resources to support projects of a sufficient scale to evaluate the viability of CCS.
Yet another technology that could potentially help to reduce the climate impact of coal generation is IGCC. Of course, IGCC’s principal benefit from a short-term environmental perspective is a significant reduction in criteria air pollutant emissions and in solid waste. But, over the long haul, IGCC has great potential to reduce CO2 emissions as well, both because, compared to pulverized coal combustion, it could result in significant improvements in efficiency, because it can be much more easily combined with CCS, and because it enables hydrogen production from coal.
But, as with CCS, IGCC still has a ways to go before it can deliver on its enormous promise. As of today, there are only two real IGCC plants in operation in the United States, but neither is operating fully on coal. Yes, the Bush administration has made a big splash with its announcement of the $1 billion FutureGEN project—which, as you know, would build the world’s first integrated sequestration and hydrogen production research power plant. But no specific plans have yet been announced.
The bottom line: these technologies—both CCS and IGCC—are nowhere near prime time. Right now, to stretch the analogy further, they are far enough from prime time to be on the air around 3 a.m. with a bunch of annoying infomercials. And they won’t get any closer to prime time without substantial investment in research and development, as well as a major policy commitment to these technologies.
The potential rewards are great. If we make the necessary commitment to CCS and IGCC, these technologies could make an important contribution to the United States’ efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions in the decades ahead. And the potential for coal to become a source of hydrogen for transportation could revolutionize the industry and our energy future.
But we need to make a commitment.
Investing in the development of these technologies, in fact, may be the only way for coal to have a long-term future in the U.S. energy mix. There will be a time in the not-too-distant future when the United States and the world begin to understand the very real threat posed to our economy and our way of life by climate change.
When that happens, those industries that are perceived as part of the problem and not part of the solution are going to have a difficult time. Allow me to put it another way: if current trends continue, there is a strong possibility that, at some point, policymakers and the public are going to see the need for drastic reductions in our emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The coal industry—because of its responsibility for such a large share of those emissions—may find itself the focus of intense scrutiny and finger-pointing. And it will need to demonstrate that it is making steady and significant progress in reducing its emissions—or else face draconian policy measures.
The coal industry, of course, cannot tackle this challenge alone. Government, too, must become a part of the solution, and this is not just a matter of technology policy; there is a need for a broader climate policy. I mean a policy that sets a national goal for greenhouse gas emissions from ALL important sectors - including transportation, utilities and manufacturing - and then provides companies and industries with the flexibility to meet that goal as cost-effectively as possible. This is the approach taken in the Lieberman-McCain Climate Stewardship Act.
The need for a broader climate policy was the key conclusion of a recent Pew Center study that looked at three future energy scenarios for the United States. Even in the most optimistic scenario where we develop a range of climate-friendly technologies such as CCS and IGCC, the study projected that we will achieve no net reduction in U.S. carbon emissions without a broader policy aimed at capping and reducing those emissions.
So the challenge before us is clear: we need to craft a wide-ranging set of policies and strategies to reduce humanity’s impact on the global climate. And coal needs to be proactively and positively engaged—much more so than has been the case thus far.
I am pleased to report that there are elected leaders at the state level and in Congress who understand the importance of government action. In Congress, of course, last year we saw the Climate Stewardship Act introduced by Senators Joseph Lieberman and John McCain. This measure, which would establish modest but binding targets for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, attracted the support of 43 senators—a respectable number and an indication of growing support for U.S. action on this issue. A companion measure to the Senate bill was introduced in the House of Representatives earlier this year.
Policymakers, particularly at the state level are moving beyond debate to real action on this issue. Among the examples:
- Thirteen states, including Texas, now require utilities to generate a specified share of their power from renewable sources.
- New York and nine other mid-Atlantic and northeastern states are discussing a regional “cap-and-trade” initiative aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
- And, last September, the governors of three Pacific states—California, Oregon, and Washington—announced that they will be working together to develop policies to reduce emissions from all sources.
So the fact is, we have a lot of people in government at the state and federal levels who are beginning to look seriously at this issue and who are trying to figure out how best to respond. So the coal industry needs to be at the table now, because the policy discussion has begun.
But understand - getting to the table is not just a matter of showing up and saying, “Let’s talk.” To earn a seat at the table, coal is going to have to demonstrate that it is committed to real and serious action on this issue. And as you are probably aware, some of your competitors from a climate change perspective - the gas, oil and renewable industries are already there.
The benefits of active involvement by industry in environmental policy became clear to me during negotiations on the Montreal Protocol.
An important reason for the success of that agreement, I believe, is that the companies that produced and used ozone-depleting chemicals—and that were developing substitutes for them—were very much engaged in the process of finding solutions. As a result, there was a factual basis and an honesty about what we could achieve, how we could achieve it, and when. And there was an acceptance on the part of industry, particularly U.S. companies, that the depletion of the ozone layer was an important problem and that multilateral action was needed.
In the same way, industry involvement was an important part of the process that developed the Acid Rain Program created under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. And, once again, those with a seat at the table, by and large, came out with a policy they could live with. Those who were not at the table were not as happy with the outcome.
It is a basic principle of democratic governance: the more you get involved in the process and in shaping solutions, the more likely it will be that those solutions are agreeable to you. Or, as the Chinese proverb puts it, “Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand.” For those of you who think there is no possible configuration that would allow the coal industry, government and environmental advocates to sit around one table—I am here to tell you that I for one am willing to make the seating arrangements work. Because we need them to work.
Whether the issue is public-private partnerships, incentives for technology development, or the level and timing of reductions in emissions, coal has a chance to shape the right solutions.
What are the right solutions? A lot of it has to do with technology—and, more specifically, with the policies needed to push and pull solutions such as CCS and IGCC to market. (Let me say here that I don’t want to leave the impression that these are the only technologies we need to look at because there are others, such as coalbed methane, that show enormous promise as well.)
I will say it one more time: coal’s place in the U.S. and global energy mix in the decades to come will depend largely on the industry’s ability, in concert with government, to develop the technologies that will allow us to achieve dramatic reductions in carbon emissions from coal generation. Without those technologies, coal loses out when the United States and the world finally appreciate the need for serious action to address this very serious problem.
In closing, I want to note that the promotional materials for the film, “The Day After Tomorrow,” ask the question: “Where will you be?” It is my sincere hope that, whether you go and see the movie or not, this industry will be on the side of solutions to this very urgent problem.
I honestly believe you don’t have much of a choice. After all, a mine is a terrible thing to waste.
Thank you very much.
The following is a brief overview of process improvements undertaken by members of C2ES's Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC).
For more information on each of these companies efforts to address climate change, please see the Businesses Leading The Way section of this Web site.
- Air Products and Chemicals, working with semiconductor manufacturers, helped to optimize chamber-cleaning processes resulting in perfluorocarbon (PFC) emission reductions of as much as 85 percent.
- Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. was presented with the 2002 Climate Protection Award from the EPA for its role in reducing PFCs in the semiconductor industry. For more information, visit Air Product's EPA Award site.
- As the world’s leading supplier of hydrogen, Air Products is providing hydrogen to petroleum refiners to help them meet government mandates worldwide for producing low-sulfur, cleaner burning gasoline and diesel fuel. Hydrogen Article
- Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. has helped pioneered the LNG industry and have been designing liquefaction systems and supplying cryogenic heat exchangers for LNG plants all over the world for the past 30 years. Building on the leadership position, Air Products saw a breakthrough in liquefaction technology with the introduction of the AP-X™ process in 2004. The new AP-X™ process is capable of producing 50% more LNG product in a single train process. Such projects are key enablers to bringing greater quantities of clean natural gas to the energy consuming markets of the world.
- For the glass industry, Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. has enabled yield and efficiency improvements, as well as pollutant emission reduction, from its experience with oxy-fuel technology. For more information, please visit Oxy-fuel for Glassmaking.
- For the metals industry, Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. has also provided efficiency improvements via oxy-fuel technology. Article: When Do Oxyfuels Make Sense?
Alcoa’s 26 aluminum smelters reduced PFC-generating “anode effects” by 75 percent between 1990 and 2002, resulting in an annual savings of 12 million metric tons of CO2e.
American Water is testing the efficiency of its pumps, evaluating the alternatives for improvement, and designing enhancements. The vast majority of American Water's electricity consumption is used to pump water from source to treatment and storage facilities and on to its customers. Improved pump efficiency is an opportunity to reduce energy use and decrease its carbon footprint.
Research has shown that the average “wire-to-water” efficiency of existing “in-field” water utility pumps is about 55 percent. New installations are designed to achieve efficiency ratings of between 76 percent and 82 percent. American Water sees this as a major opportunity to decrease its carbon footprint. By replacing or refurbishing older pumps, its studies have shown that pump efficiency can improve by as much as 20 percent
- Delta reduced its jet fuel consumption from 2009 to 2010 by 1.8 percent, representing 56 million gallons of jet fuel. While most of this reduction was due to Delta’s decision to exit the dedicated freighter business, Delta also made additional fleet changes and implemented or expanded fuel projects to further improve its fuel efficiency. As a result of these improvements and higher load factors, passenger-miles increased by 2.7 percent despite a 0.1 percent reduction in passenger aircraft fuel.
- Since 2005, Delta has reduced its aircraft-generated NOx emissions by 18 percent, including a 27 percent reduction in emissions during landing and takeoff.
Dominion’s Transmission Business Unit has joined the U.S. EPA’s Natural Gas Star Partnership, a partnership that encourages oil and natural gas companies to adopt cost-effective technologies and practices that improve operational efficiency and reduce emissions of methane
Using the smart meter technology, Dominion has been able to implement voltage conservation strategies that reduce customer electricity use by 4% during off-peak hours and 2.5% total. These strategies do not require any additional infrastructure or changes in customer behavior.
Dominion and Lockheed Martin have recently announced the availability of the EDGE Grid Side Efficiency solution for utilities. EDGE is a modular and adaptive conservation voltage management solution enabling utilities to deploy incremental grid-side energy management that requires no behavioral changes or purchases by end customers. The EDGE product suite provides significant and sustainable energy savings through integrated planning, execution and validation of grid side energy efficiency management.
- In November 2010, Duke Energy and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) released preliminary results of a pilot project showing that data centers operating on direct current (DC), rather than alternating current (AC), can cut their power usage by 10 to 20 percent. Working with EPRI, Duke Energy converted part of a data center in North Carolina to operate only on DC power.
- Entergy has replaced electrical equipment containing SF6.
- SF6 Reduction: SF6 is a highly potent greenhouse gas used for insulation and current interruption in electric transmission and distribution equipment. Exelon’s ComEd and PECO subsidiaries are members of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Sulfur Hexafluoride Emissions Reduction Partnership for Electric Power Systems.
- General Electric's FlexEfficiency 50 Combined Cycle Power Plant is GE’s latest innovation in gas turbine technology, engineered to deliver cleaner, more efficient energy onto the power grid and into our homes. The first product in GE’s new FlexEfficiency portfolio, the FlexEfficiency 50 plant will enable the integration of more renewable resources onto the power grid by combining efficiency and flexibility to rapidly ramp up when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining, and to efficiently ramp down when they are available.
- GE uses the Energy Treasure Hunt, a Lean Manufacturing based process created by Toyota Manufacturing North America, to engage employees and identify projects that drive energy efficiency. The process is a structured multidisciplinary review of the energy use at a faciity. GE has identified and implemented numerous cost effective projects to upgrade lighting, HVAC, and industrial process equipment and to better manage energy use through more than 200 Treasure Hunt events since 2005.
GM transitioned from R12 (Freon) to R134a - a hydrofluorocarbon with a much lower global warming potential, as a refrigerant for air conditioning systems in plants and vehicles.
- In June 2011, HP unveiled the HP POD240a, the world’s most efficient modular data center that utilizes 95 percent less data center energy. Also known as the HP EcoPOD, it streamlines a 10,000-square-foot data center into a compact, modular package in one-tenth the space. It provides a traditional data center service model while housing up to 44 industry standard racks of IT equipment and more than 4,400 server. With unique Adaptive Cooling technology developed in part by HP Labs, HP EcoPod gives customers the ability to intelligently optimize energy savings based on IT load, climate and policy by automatically adjusting cooling methods, including using outside air.
In 2010, Intel more than tripled the number of Intel meeting rooms with videoconferencing capabilities, including the addition of videoconferencing rooms in 11 new countries. It estimates that videoconferencing saved employees 57,000 hours of travel time in 2010—a 27% increase over 2009—and saved Intel more than $26 million in travel expenses. In addition, the reduction in travel helped prevent the release of 22,500 metric tons of CO2 emissions.
Intel has deployed energy conservation solutions across the company by retrofitting boilers with more efficient Autoflame™ control technology. At Intel’s New Mexico site, five boilers were successfully retrofitted at a cost of about $250K. The return on investment realized was $170,000 per year in natural gas fuel costs, $50,000 per year in electrical energy savings, and $40,000 per year in boiler maintenance costs. Similarly, where the new technology has been installed, there has been an average reduction of nitrous oxide (N2O) and carbon monoxide (CO) emissions from the boilers of 32 percent and 92 percent respectively.
Intel IT’s Sustainability Framework uses data center, computer, and office infrastructure, as well as its client computer offerings, to collectively contribute to Intel’s emissions reduction goal. Its IT organization has met growing computing demands while reducing Intel’s consumption of IT-related and office energy—resulting in energy cost savings of $5.8 million in 2010 (up from $4 million in 2009) and the avoidance of more than 60,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions.
Combined heat and power (CHP) is inherently more efficient than producing electricity and heat separately. NRG Energy supplies CHP to the new Princeton hospital near its corporate headquarters in New Jersey, and it is actively pursuing additional CHP projects throughout the country. NRG’s thermal business also provides district energy for building heating and/or cooling in several major U.S. cities, such as Phoenix, AZ; Minneapolis, MN and San Francisco, CA. District energy enables building owners and managers to conserve energy and protect the environment.
Environmental Compliance: NRG’s environmental management program is built on a foundation of environmental compliance. Its Environmental Policies and Procedures Manual directs and compels all NRG facilities to follow all environmental regulations in its activities and processes. Plant environmental performance is tracked monthly through NRG’s environmental key performance indicator (EKPI), which measures compliance with permits and regulations, agency citations, reportable spills, completion of required environmental training, internal audit findings and environmental stewardship. Since January 2007, environmental performance across the NRG fleet has improved significantly. EKPI events during 2010 were reduced by more than 36% from 2007. NRG tracks federal, state and local regulations as they are drafted, works collaboratively with regulators to drive sound regulation, provides constructive input during public comment periods and prepares our facilities for compliance. All of the proposed rules generally meet our expectations and the Company expects to fully meet or exceed all requirements through executing our existing plan to spend $721 million on environmental capital expenditures by 2015.
- Air Emissions: Since 2004, NRG has spent $653 million on environmental controls to cut emissions and make our traditional generation cleaner. Through 2015, it expects to spend another $721 million. These controls combined with fuel switching, operational improvements and shutting down older coal units have and will continue to result in dramatic reductions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, acid gas and particulate emissions.
PG&E reduced SF6 emissions by 60 percent from 1998 levels by year-end 2007
PG&E Corporation’s Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) became a charter member of the U.S. EPA’s Natural Gas Star Partnership in 1994, and its former subsidiary, National Energy and Gas Transmission (NEGT), joined the program in 2000. Through the systematic replacement of equipment and older pipelines, the company has adopted cost-effective technologies and best management practices to reduce methane losses. Efforts in this area continue to include focused inspections and maintenance at compressor stations, modifying system operations to reduce venting, and reducing frequency of engine restarts with gas. In 2002, the PG&E and NEGT undertook numerous activities that resulted in over 185,000 tons of methane avoided. These 2002 emissions avoided equate to over 4.2 million tons of CO2e.
PG&E is a charter member of the U.S. EPA’s Sulfur Hexafluoride Emissions Reduction Partnership for Electric Power Systems.
Rio Tinto reduced annual GHG emissions by 1.76 million tons compared to business as usual through projects undertaken with the Australian Government's Greenhouse Challenge, a program that helps industry identify opportunities to mitigate emissions.
Royal Dutch/Shell's Closed Loop Cooling Water Project is a heat integration project that aims to use waste heat from our process to preheat water and hence reduce on purpose firing.
Royal Dutch/Shell's Pernis CHP Plant. features a new natural-gas fired combined heat and power (CHP) plant that provides steam to the refinery and electricity to the refinery and the grid. It replaces steam boilers that burnt residual heavy fuel oil and a small, older gas-fired cogeneration unit. CHP plant built and operated by Air Liquide.
Royal Dutch/Shell installed a large steam driven turbine was installed in the Caroline gas plant in Alberta, Canada. The turbine is attached to an electricity generator and uses the energy in the surplus low pressure steam (waste heat) in order to develop electricity, thereby reducing the plant's purchase of largely coal fired electricty from the local grid. This project is essentially "energy neutral", since the thermal energy removed in the form of electricity must be replaced with energy from fuel gas combustion, which goes into steam used for heating back up the colder steam condensate production.
Royal Dutch/Shell has ended the practice of continuous venting of gas at oil production facilities and has a target to end continuous operational flaring at such facilities by 2008.
- Toyota reduced the energy required to produce a vehicle manufactured in its North American facilities by 7 percent in fiscal year 2002 through process improvements, such as reducing compressed air usage by improving system operating control, and the development of waste heat recovery systems in painting shops.
U.S. Market Consequences of Global Climate Change
Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Dale W. Jorgenson, Harvard University
Richard J. Goettle, Northeastern University
Brian H. Hurd, New Mexico State University
Joel B. Smith, et al, Stratus Consulting, Inc.
Download Report (pdf)
Download Appendix A (pdf)
Download Appendix B (pdf)
Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Over the next century, global climate change is likely to have substantial consequences for the economy of the United States and the welfare of its citizens. As scientists work to narrow remaining uncertainties about the magnitude and timing of future warming, it is becoming increasingly important that we improve our understanding of the likely implications for human and natural systems.
In this report, a team of authors led by Dale Jorgenson of Harvard University developed an integrated assessment of the potential impacts of climate change on the U.S. market economy through the year 2100. The analysis combines information about likely climate impacts in specific market sectors with a sophisticated computable general equilibrium model of the U.S. economy to estimate effects on national measures of productivity, investment, consumption and leisure. To account for uncertainties— both in the trajectory of future climate change and in the ability of different sectors to adapt—a variety of scenarios were modeled to characterize a range of possible outcomes.
The results indicate that climate change could impose considerable, lasting costs or produce smaller, temporary benefits for the U.S. market economy in coming decades. Importantly, potential costs under pessimistic assumptions are larger and persist longer than potential benefits achieved under optimistic assumptions. Because of “threshold effects” in key sectors like agriculture, initial benefits from a moderate amount of warming begin to diminish and eventually reverse as temperatures continue to rise toward the end of the century and beyond. These findings suggest that near-term action to limit the pace and scale of future climate change would be warranted not only because the potential damages outweigh potential benefits (which are transient in any case), but because early intervention would reduce the long-term damage under either set of assumptions, and reduce the need for more costly measures if pessimistic scenarios materialize.
This study makes an important contribution to our current understanding of the potential impacts of climate change, but it represents at best a partial assessment of the full range of those impacts. Certain market sectors (e.g., tourism) and a variety of indirect effects (e.g., climate change induced healthcare expenditures) could not be included because of a lack of data. Even more significantly, the analysis does not account for critical non-market impacts such as changes in species distributions, reductions in biodiversity or loss of ecosystem goods and services. These types of effects are described in a companion Pew Center report—A Synthesis of Potential Impacts of Climate Change on the United States—but remain extremely difficult to value in economic terms. Their inclusion in a more complete evaluation of both market and non-market impacts would almost certainly offset any temporary market benefits and add to the negative impacts, thereby underscoring the case for mitigative action.
The Pew Center and the authors are grateful to Henry Jacoby and Billy Pizer for helpful comments on previous drafts of this report.
The continued accumulation of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere is projected to have far reaching consequences for earth’s climate in coming decades. For example, in 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that average global temperatures could rise anywhere from 1.4oC to 5.8oC (2.5-10.4oF) over the 21stcentury, with warming for the United States as much as 30 percent higher. Climatic shifts of this magnitude would affect human and natural systems in many ways. Therefore, quantifying these impacts and their likely costs remains a critical challenge in the formulation of appropriate policy responses.
This study aims to advance understanding of the potential consequences of global climate change by examining the overall effect on the U.S. economy of predicted impacts in key market activities that are likely to be particularly sensitive to future climate trends. These activities include crop agriculture and forestry, energy services related to heating and cooling, commercial water supply, and the protection of property and assets in coastal regions. Also considered are the effects on livestock and commercial fisheries and the costs related to increased storm, flood and hurricane activity. Finally, the analysis accounts for population-based changes in labor supply and consumer demand due to climate-induced mortality and morbidity. Impacts in each of these areas were modeled to estimate their aggregate effect on national measures of economic performance and welfare, including gross domestic product (GDP), consumption, investment, labor supply, capital stock and leisure.
At present, our knowledge of the direct or indirect impacts of climate change on a broad range of economic activities is incomplete. Accordingly, there are important sectors and activities—such as tourism—that are omitted from this effort. Similarly, there is little information concerning possible interactions among the benefits and costs in different sectors. For example, the impacts on crop and livestock agriculture may have consequences for human health. Given the absence of reliable insights into such externalities or spillovers, these effects are also excluded from consideration. These limitations suggest that the results of this analysis are likely to understate the potential market impacts of climate change.
More importantly, this analysis does not consider the non-market impacts of climate change such as changes in species distributions, reductions in biodiversity, or losses of ecosystem goods and services. These considerations are essential to a complete evaluation of the consequences of climate change but are very difficult to value in economic terms. A companion report, A Synthesis of Potential Impacts of Climate Change on the United States, provides more detail on the relative vulnerability of different U.S. regions to both the market and non-market impacts of climate change.
To capture the range of market consequences potentially associated with climate change in the United States and to address the considerable uncertainties that exist, several distinct scenarios were developed for this analysis. Each incorporates different assumptions about the magnitude of climate change over the next century and about the direction and extent of likely impacts in the market sectors analyzed. Specifically, three different levels of climate change (low, central and high) were considered in combination with two sets of market outcomes (optimistic and pessimistic) for a total of six primary scenarios. In terms of climate, the low, central and high scenarios encompass projected increases in average temperature ranging from 1.7oC to 5.3oC (3.1-9.5oF) by 2100, together with precipitation increases ranging from 2.1 to 6.6 percent and sea-level rise ranging from 17.2 to 98.9 cm (7-40 inches) over the same period. In terms of impacts, the optimistic and pessimistic scenarios reflect a spectrum of outcomes from the available literature concerning the sensitivity of each sector to climatic shifts and its ability to adapt. As one would expect, the optimistic scenarios generally project either smaller damages or greater benefits for a given amount of climate change compared to the pessimistic scenarios.
Because several of the market sectors included here are especially sensitive to changes in precipitation, two additional scenarios were analyzed. The first assumes the high degree of temperature change combined with lower precipitation (“high and drier”) while the second assumes the low level of temperature change combined with higher precipitation (“low and wetter”).
By introducing the sector-specific damages (or benefits) associated with each of these scenarios into a computable general equilibrium model that simulates the complex interactions of the U.S. economy as a whole, the combined effect of climate impacts across multiple sectors could be assessed in an integrated fashion. Detailed results are described in the body of this report, but five principal conclusions emerge:
1) Based on the market sectors and range of impacts considered for this analysis, projected climate change has the potential to impose considerable costs or produce temporary benefits for the U.S. economy over the 21st century, depending on the extent to which pessimistic or optimistic outcomes prevail. Under pessimistic assumptions, real U.S. GDP in the low climate change scenario is 0.6 percent lower in 2100 relative to a baseline that assumes no change in climate; in the high climate change scenario, the predicted reduction in real GDP is 1.9 percent. Under the additional “high and drier” climate scenario, however, real GDP is reduced more dramatically—by as much as 3.0 percent by 2100 relative to baseline conditions. Furthermore, under pessimistic assumptions negative impacts on GDP grow progressively larger over time, regardless of the climate scenario. In contrast, under optimistic assumptions real U.S. GDP by 2100 is 0.7 to 1.0 percent higher than baseline conditions across the low, central and high climate scenarios, but these benefits eventually diminish over time. Nevertheless, to the extent that responses in certain key sectors conform to the optimistic scenarios, there is a distinct possibility that some degree of climate change can provide modest overall benefits to the U.S. economy during the 21st century.
2) Due to threshold effects in certain key sectors, the economic benefits simulated for the 21st century under optimistic assumptions are not sustainable and economic damages are inevitable. In contrast to the pessimistic scenarios which show increasingly negative impacts on the economy as temperatures rise, the economic benefits associated with optimistic scenarios ultimately peak or reach a maximum. Specifically, the agriculture and energy sectors initially experience significant cost reductions, but only so long as climate change remains below critical levels. Once temperature and other key climate parameters reach certain thresholds, however, benefits peak and begin to decline—eventually becoming damages. Different thresholds apply in different sectors and the time required to reach them depends on the rate at which warming occurs. In the high climate change scenario, the trend toward economic benefits under optimistic assumptions slows and peaks around mid-century, whereas, in the central climate case, this transition appears toward century’s end. In the optimistic, low climate change scenario, benefits continue to accrue throughout the 21st century. Nevertheless, the existence of these thresholds means that continued climate change—even if it proceeds slowly—eventually reverses market outcomes so that predicted economic benefits are only transient and temporary.
3) The effects of climate change on U.S. agriculture dominate the other market impacts considered in this analysis. Currently, the agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries represent about 2.0 percent of total U.S. industrial output and about 3.5 percent of real GDP. However, agriculture accounts for a much larger share of the overall climate-related economic impact estimated in this analysis. For example, across the low, central and high climate change scenarios, field crop and forestry impacts account for over 70 percent of the total predicted effect of climate change on real GDP under optimistic assumptions and almost 80 percent of the total GDP effect under pessimistic assumptions. These figures rise to 75 and 85 percent, respectively, if one includes climate effects on livestock and commercial fisheries. Clearly, significant impacts in relatively small sectors can exert a disproportionate influence on the overall economic consequences of a given climate change.
4) For the economy, wetter is better. All else being equal, more precipitation is better for agriculture —and hence better for the economy—than less precipitation. Not surprisingly, reductions in precipitation are costlier at higher temperatures than at lower temperatures and the negative impacts of drier climate conditions are greater under pessimistic assumptions than they are under optimistic assumptions. These results are driven by model assumptions about the relationship between agricultural output and different levels of precipitation; they do not consider regional or seasonal variability nor do they account for possible changes in the incidence of extreme events such as drought and flooding. To date, variations in precipitation have not been routinely incorporated in assessments of the agricultural impacts of climate change; nevertheless, they are potentially quite important and could significantly affect actual benefits or damages associated with climate change in this sector of the economy. Therefore, in future assessments, more attention should be paid to the specific effects of precipitation under different climate scenarios.
5) Changes in human mortality and morbidity are small but important determinants of the modeled impacts of climate change for the U.S. economy as a whole. An increase in climate-induced mortality or illness reduces the population of workers and consumers available to participate in the market economy, in turn leading to a loss of real GDP. In this analysis, mortality and morbidity effects alone account for 13 to 16 percent of the aggregate predicted effect of climate change on the economic welfare of U.S. households. Failure to include such effects therefore understates the potential market impacts of climate change as well as the likely benefits of climate-mitigating policies. Furthermore, the economic consequences of the mortality and morbidity effects arising from a given change in temperature are at the low end of mortality valuations found in the reported literature. Hence, the contribution of health effects to the aggregate market impacts of climate change could be even higher than these results suggest.
Taken together, these findings have important implications for current policy debates and for ongoing efforts to further refine our understanding of the likely impacts of global climate change. From a policy standpoint their primary relevance lies in the extent to which they support (or diminish) the case for intervention to avoid or mitigate the impacts being evaluated. Specifically, does the analysis suggest that the likely consequences of future climate change will be sufficiently negative as to warrant near-term actions aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions? This question is all the more difficult to answer because the benefits of policy intervention tend to accrue slowly, over a long period of time, while the costs of mitigative action must be borne in the near term.
On the one hand, the results of this analysis clearly point to the possibility that climate change could produce measurable negative impacts on the U.S. economy within this century that might justify anticipatory policy responses. On the other hand, the fact that some of the scenarios analyzed produce positive, albeit temporary, benefits for the U.S. economy in the same timeframe might seem to weigh in favor of forgoing, or at least delaying, such actions.
A number of nuances in these results—together with several larger considerations related to limitations inherent in the study’s design—argue against the latter conclusion. Within the scope of this analysis, perhaps the most important point is the fact that most, if not all, potentially positive impacts of climate change under optimistic assumptions are likely to be transient and unsustainable over the long run in the face of steadily rising temperatures. If, on the other hand, pessimistic assumptions prove to be more correct, the economic impacts of climate change are not only immediately negative, but worsen steadily over time. Thus, the potential for temporary economic benefits must be balanced against the potential for immediate and lasting economic damages.
A second important point is that the modeling results reveal asymmetries in the magnitude of potential benefits versus potential damages. Specifically, the economic losses estimated under pessimistic assumptions are generally larger than the transient benefits gained under optimistic assumptions in all but the low climate change scenarios. Moreover, the asymmetry becomes more pronounced with rising temperatures as certain types of costs—such as those associated with extreme weather events—increasingly offset possible benefits to other sectors of the economy.
A further caution relates to the partial and incomplete nature of the analysis itself. This effort was limited from the outset to considering only market impacts of global climate change within the United States. As has already been noted, it was not possible to include all potentially climate-sensitive market sectors in the analysis; nor was it possible to account for all externalities or spillover effects. Moreover, the results of this analysis are not likely to be representative of other parts of the world, especially for those countries whose overall economic well-being is more closely tied to sectors like agriculture. For these countries, the potential damages associated with future climate change could be a much larger proportion of GDP than in the United States and the downside risks under pessimistic assumptions—especially in regions where climate change is likely to cause increasingly warmer and drier conditions—could be far more substantial.
Even more significant, in terms of drawing policy conclusions from these results, is the fact that the underlying analysis does not address a host of potential non-market impacts associated with climate change. These include shifts in species distribution, reductions in biodiversity, losses of ecosystem goods and services and changes in human and natural habitats. Such impacts—many of which are explored in other Pew Center reports—are probably of great concern to the public and could carry substantial weight in future policy deliberations. They are, however, extremely difficult to value in economic terms. To the extent that they have been assessed—even qualitatively—the results suggest that climate-related impacts on natural systems are far more likely, on the whole, to be negative rather than positive. As such they would tend to add to any negative market impacts associated with future climate change, while offsetting potential market benefits of the kind simulated in this study under optimistic assumptions.
In sum, the disparity in results between optimistic and pessimistic scenarios—and the likelihood that a consideration of non-market impacts would tend to exacerbate this disparity—highlights the continuing uncertainty associated with quantifying climate change impacts. The fact that the economic losses associated with pessimistic scenarios are both larger and more continuous than the transient benefits gained under optimistic scenarios would seem, by itself, to provide some support for cautionary action on climate change. In fact, such action—by slowing the pace and magnitude of temperature increases in the U.S. market consequences of global climate change coming decades—actually could forestall any damages or even improve the odds that optimistic rather than pessimistic outcomes prevail. If, on the other hand, worst-case scenarios appear more likely over time and ultimately justify more dramatic intervention, early efforts to achieve moderate near-term emissions reductions may help avoid the need for more costly measures later on. Meanwhile, high priority should be given to improving and integrating future assessments of market and non-market outcomes and to refining our understanding of the probabilities associated with varying degrees of climate change and the positive or negative responses that follow.
April 16, 2004
Contact: Katie Mandes (703) 516-4146
The Impacts and Market Consequences of Global Climate Change
Two new reports from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Washington, DC — Over the next century, global climate change may have serious consequences for the economy of the United States and the health and welfare of its citizens, according to two new reports by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
The first report, A Synthesis of Potential Climate Change Impacts on the United States by Joel B. Smith of Stratus Consulting, Inc., is the final in a series of Pew Center reports chronicling the possible national and regional effects of global climate change on important economic sectors, health, and natural resources.
The second report, U.S. Market Consequences of Global Climate Change, presented by lead author Dale Jorgenson of Harvard University, provides an in-depth analysis of the potential effects of climate change on the U.S. economy.
Anyone interested in global climate change or climate change policy is invited to attend.
WHEN: Wednesday, April 28, 2004 at 10 A.M.
WITH: Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change;
Joel B. Smith, Vice President, Stratus Consulting, Inc.;
Dale W. Jorgenson, Professor, Harvard University; and
Richard J. Goettle, Professor, Northeastern University
WHERE: National Press Club, First Amendment Room
529 14th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20045
All materials pertaining to this press briefing are embargoed until April 28, 2004 at 10 A.M.
The 10-50 Solution: Technologies and Policies for a Low-Carbon Future
A workshop sponsored by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the National Commission on Energy Policy
March 25-26, 2004
The St. Regis Hotel, Washington, DC
On March 25-26th, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the National Commission on Energy Policy (NCEP) sponsored a workshop entitled “The 10-50 Solution: Technologies and Policies for a Low-Carbon Future.” The goal of this workshop was to articulate a long-term vision for a low-carbon economy within 50 years and to discuss the technologies, industrial processes and policies needed in the short and medium term to achieve it. Over 100 policy-makers, business leaders, NGO representatives, and leading experts participated in the event.
In preparation for the workshop, the Pew Center and NCEP commissioned background papers on technological advances in five key areas (efficiency, hydrogen, carbon sequestration/coal gasification, advanced nuclear technologies, and renewables) and on policies designed to promote these and other low-carbon technologies in the marketplace. Workshop presentations and final proceedings, including a summary of common themes and policies identified during the workshop, and workshop background papers are now available.
For Immediate Release:
March 17, 2004
Contact: Jack Riggs, Aspen Institute
Contact: Katie Mandes, Pew Center
Diverse Group of Leaders Outlines Framework for Mandatory Climate Change Action
Washington, March 17 – A mandatory greenhouse gas reduction program for the U.S. could be both effective and politically feasible, according to a diverse group of business, government, and environmental leaders brought together by the Aspen Institute and the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
The group, which included representatives of the energy, mining and automobile industries, environmental and consumer organizations and Congressional staff, did not debate whether there should be a mandatory policy. Instead, they started with the premise that all parties want to ensure, if mandatory action is taken, that climate policies will be environmentally effective, economical and fair.
“What is truly significant is that such a diverse group was able to reach consensus on several elements of what a mandatory national policy might look like,” said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
Recommendations for a policy framework are detailed in a report released today on Capitol Hill by the dialogue’s co-chairs, Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, and Robert W. Fri, Visiting Scholar and former President of Resources for the Future.
The group agreed upon a set of criteria to evaluate program design options, including environmental effectiveness, cost effectiveness and competitiveness, administrative feasibility, distributional equity, political feasibility, and encouragement of technology development.
Two principles guided the choice of recommendations. First, the desire for broad rather than sector-specific coverage, and coverage of multiple gases, not just CO2, guided the participants. This ensured long-term environmental effectiveness and distributional equity. Second, there was consensus that phasing of actual reduction targets would be important and that a modest start would be preferable. This would send a signal that reducing greenhouse gases was national policy. Deeper cuts could occur later, as technology evolves and capital stock turns over in response to early market signals generated by the policy.
After considering several possible designs, participants reached consensus on a hybrid program that combines elements of a cap-and-trade program with tradable efficiency standards. An initially modest but declining absolute national cap on greenhouse gas emissions would be placed on large sources such as electric utilities and manufacturers. Deeper cuts could occur later, as technology evolves and the economy responds to the policy. The group did not attempt to specify the level of the absolute cap on CO2 emissions, or the date it should go into effect.
A similar cap would apply to emissions from transportation fuel suppliers, coupled with tradable CO2-per-mile automobile standards. The group also recommended tradable efficiency standards for appliances and other manufactured products.
Manufacturers, utilities and other large emitting sources that fell short of or exceeded the new standard could buy, sell or trade emission credits in a nationwide emissions trading program, allowing emissions reductions to be achieved where it can be done most cost effectively. Emission credits would be awarded for removing existing CO2 from the atmosphere by verifiable means, possibly through land-use related carbon sequestration projects such as afforestation and energy plantations.
Participants also stressed the importance of a policy that encourages development and diffusion of new technologies, both to reduce emissions and to provide new market opportunities for U.S. business.
“The report represents a framework, not a fully developed policy – a starting point for further dialogue rather than a final product,” commented Fri. Nonetheless, he noted it should prove helpful to those seeking to balance policy and politics, environmental effectiveness and cost, and efficiency and equity in designing a mandatory greenhouse gas reduction program.
The Aspen Institute is a non-profit organization founded in 1950 to foster enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue on contemporary issues in a non-partisan setting. The Pew Center on Global Climate Change is an independent, non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to providing credible information and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change.
The report “A Climate Policy Framework: Balancing Policy and Politics” can be found on the Aspen Institute’s and the Pew Center on Global Climate Change’s websites, www.aspeninst.org/eee and www.c2es.org.
Emissions Trading in the U.S.: Experience, Lessons and Considerations for Greenhouse Gases
Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
A. Denny Ellerman and Paul L. Joskow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
David Harrison, Jr., National Economic Research Associates, Inc.
Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
In recent years, emissions trading has become an important element of programs to control air pollution. Experience indicates that an emissions trading program, if designed and implemented effectively, can achieve environmental goals faster and at lower costs than traditional command-and-control alternatives. Under such a program, emissions are capped but sources have the flexibility to find and apply the lowest-cost methods for reducing pollution. A cap-and-trade program is especially attractive for controlling global pollutants such as greenhouse gases because their warming effects are the same regardless of where they are emitted, the costs of reducing emissions vary widely by source, and the cap ensures that the environmental goal is attained.
Report authors Denny Ellerman and Paul Joskow of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and David Harrison of National Economic Research Associates, Inc. review six diverse U.S. emissions trading programs, drawing general lessons for future applications and discussing considerations for controlling greenhouse gas emissions. The authors derive five key lessons from this experience. First, emissions trading has been successful in its major objective of lowering the cost of meeting emission reduction goals. Second, the use of emissions trading has enhanced—not compromised—the achievement of environmental goals. Third, emissions trading has worked best when the allowances or credits being traded are clearly defined and tradable without case-by-case certification. Fourth, banking has played an important role in improving the economic and environmental performance of emissions trading programs. Finally, while the initial allocation of allowances in cap-and-trade programs is important from a distributional perspective, the method of allocation generally does not impair the program’s potential cost savings or environmental performance.
With growing Congressional interest in programs to address climate change—including the recent introduction of economy-wide cap-and-trade legislation controlling greenhouse gas emissions—the application of lessons learned from previous emissions trading programs is timely. In addition to this review, the Pew Center is simultaneously releasing a complementary report, Designing a Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program for the U.S., which examines additional options for designing a domestic climate change program.
The authors and the Pew Center are grateful to Dallas Burtraw and Tom Tietenberg for reviewing a previous draft of this report. The authors also wish to acknowledge Henry Jacoby, Juan-Pablo Montero, Daniel Radov, and Eric Haxthausen for their contributions to various parts of the report, and James Patchett and Warren Herold for their research assistance.
Emissions trading has emerged over the last two decades as a popular policy tool for controlling air pollution. Indeed, most major air quality improvement initiatives in the United States now include emissions trading as a component of emissions control programs. The primary attraction of emissions trading is that a properly designed program provides a framework to meet emissions reduction goals at the lowest possible cost. It does so by giving emissions sources the flexibility to find and apply the lowest-cost methods for reducing pollution. Emission sources with low-cost compliance options have an incentive to reduce emissions more than they would under command-and-control regulation. By trading emission credits and allowances to high-cost compliance sources, which can then reduce emissions less, cost-effective emission reductions are achieved by both parties. When inter-temporal trading is allowed, sources can also reduce emissions early, accumulating credits or allowances that can be used for compliance in future periods if this reduces cumulative compliance costs. Accordingly, cap-and-trade programs achieve the greatest cost savings when the costs of controlling emissions vary widely across sources or over time. In practice, well-designed emissions trading programs also have achieved environmental goals more quickly and with greater confidence than more costly command-and-control alternatives.
Emissions trading has achieved prominence beyond the United States largely in the context of discussions regarding implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, a proposed international agreement to control emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases. The Kyoto Protocol provides for the use of various emissions trading mechanisms at the international level. Some countries already are developing emissions trading programs while the process of ratifying the Protocol moves forward. Both the United Kingdom and Denmark have instituted greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions trading programs, and, in December 2002, the European environment ministers agreed on the ground rules for a European Union trading program that would begin in 2005 for large sources of CO2 emissions (and later for other GHG emissions). Indeed, proposals to control GHG emissions in the United States also include the use of emissions trading.
The theoretical virtues of emissions trading have been recognized for many decades—the basic elements were outlined in Coase (1960) and elaborated in Dales (1968)—but actual emissions trading programs have been brought from the textbook to the policy arena mostly in the last decade. It is important to recognize, however, that while properly designed emissions trading programs can reduce the cost of meeting environmental goals, experience does not indicate that significant emissions reductions can be obtained without costs. Emissions trading can be an effective mechanism for controlling emissions by providing sources with the flexibility to select the lowest-cost opportunities for abatement, but it does not make costs disappear. Moreover, emissions trading programs must be designed properly in order to realize their potential cost-reduction and environmental compliance goals. As with any emissions control program, poor design is likely to lead to disappointing results.
Experience with emissions trading, including both the design and operation of trading programs, provides a number of general lessons for future applications. This report reviews the experience with six emissions trading programs with which one or more of the authors have considerable experience:
- The early Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Emissions Trading programs that began in the late 1970s;
- The Lead Trading program for gasoline that was implemented in the 1980s;
- The Acid Rain program for electric industry sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and the Los Angeles air basin (RECLAIM) programs for both nitrogen oxides (NOx) and SO2 emissions, all of which went into operation in the mid-1990s;
- The federal mobile source averaging, banking, and trading (ABT) programs that began in the early 1990s; and
- The Northeast NOx Budget trading program, which began operations in the late 1990s.
Based on this experience, this report identifies and discusses five general lessons concerning the design and implementation of emissions trading programs, and two considerations of particular relevance for GHG applications.
General Lessons from Experience with Emissions Trading
Emissions trading has been successful in its major objective of lowering the cost of meeting emission reduction goals. Experience shows that properly designed emissions trading programs can reduce compliance costs significantly compared to command-and-control alternatives. While it is impossible to provide precise measures of cost savings compared to hypothetical control approaches that might have been applied, the available evidence suggests that the increased compliance flexibility of emissions trading yields costs savings of as much as 50 percent.
The use of emissions trading has enhanced—not compromised—the achievement of environmental goals. While some skeptics have suggested that emissions trading is a way of evading environmental requirements, experience to date with well-designed trading programs indicates that emissions trading helps achieve environmental goals in several ways.
For one thing, the achievement of required emission reductions has been accelerated when emission reduction requirements are phased-in and firms are able to bank emissions reduction credits. The Lead Trading program for gasoline, the Acid Rain program for the electric industry, the federal mobile source ABT programs, and the Northeast NOx Budget programs each achieved environmental goals more quickly through these program design features. Moreover, giving firms with high abatement costs the flexibility to meet their compliance obligations by buying emissions allowances eliminates the rationale underlying requests for special exemptions from emissions regulations based on “hardship” and “high cost.” The reduction of compliance costs has also led to instances of tighter emissions targets, in keeping with efforts to balance the costs and benefits of emissions reductions. Finally, properly designed emissions trading programs appear to provide other efficiency gains, such as greater incentives for innovation and improved emissions monitoring.
Emissions trading has worked best when allowances or credits being traded are clearly defined and tradable without case-by-case pre-certification. Several different types of emissions trading mechanisms have been implemented. Their performance has varied widely, and these variations illuminate the key features of emissions trading programs that are most likely to lead to significant cost savings while maintaining (or exceeding) environmental goals.
The term “emissions trading” is used, often very loosely, to refer to three different types of trading programs: (1) reduction credit trading, in which credits for emission reductions must be pre-certified relative to an emission standard before they can be traded; (2) emission rate averaging, in which credits and debits are certified automatically according to a set average emission rate; and (3) cap-and-trade programs, in which an overall cap is set, allowances (i.e., rights to emit a unit) equal to the cap are distributed, and sources subject to the cap are required to surrender an allowance for every unit (e.g., ton) they emit.
The turnaround in perception of emissions trading over the last decade—from a reputation as a theoretically attractive but largely impractical approach to its acceptance as a practical framework for meeting air quality goals in a cost-effective manner—largely reflects the increased use of averaging and cap-and-trade type programs. The performance of the early EPA reduction credit programs was very poor and gave “emissions trading” a bad name. These early EPA programs emphasized case-by-case pre-certification of emission reductions and were characterized by burdensome and time-consuming administrative approval processes that made trading difficult. The averaging and cap-and-trade programs have been much more successful. While the use of cap-and-trade or averaging does not guarantee success, and the problems with the reduction credit-based approach can be reduced by good design, avoiding high transaction costs associated with trade-by-trade administrative certification is critical to the success of an emissions trading program. The success of any emissions trading program also requires several additional elements: emissions levels must be readily measured, legal emissions rates or caps must be clearly specified, and compliance must be verified and enforced aggressively.
Banking has played an important role in improving the economic and environmental performance of emissions trading programs. Early advocates of emissions trading tended to emphasize gains from trading among participants (i.e., low-cost compliance sources selling credits and allowances to high-cost compliance sources) in the same time period. The experience with the programs reviewed here indicates that inter-temporal trading also has been important. The form that inter-temporal trading most often takes is credit or allowance banking, i.e., reducing emissions early and accumulating credits or allowances that can be used for compliance in future periods. Banking improves environmental performance and reduces cumulative compliance costs. Moreover, it has been particularly important in providing flexibility to deal with many uncertainties associated with an emissions trading market—production levels, compliance costs, and the many other factors that influence demand for credits or allowances. Indeed, the one major program without a substantial banking provision, the Los Angeles RECLAIM program, appears to have suffered because of its absence.
The initial allocation of allowances in cap-and-trade programs has shown that equity and political concerns can be addressed without impairing the cost savings from trading or the environmental performance of these programs. Because emissions allowances in cap-and-trade programs are valuable, their allocation has been perhaps the single most contentious issue in establishing the existing cap-and-trade programs. However, the ability to allocate this valuable commodity and thereby account for the economic impacts of new regulatory requirements has been an important means of attaining political support for more stringent emissions caps. Moreover, despite all the jockeying for allowance allotments through the political process, the allocations of allowances to firms in the major programs have not compromised environmental goals or cost savings. The three cap-and-trade programs that have been observed so far all have relied upon “grandfathering,” i.e., distributing allowances without charge to sources based upon historical emissions information, which generally does not affect firms’ choices regarding cost-effective emission reductions and thus the overall cost savings from emissions trading. There are other methods of allocating initial allowances—such as auctioning by the government and distributing on the basis of future information—that can affect cost savings and other overall impacts; but the major effects of the initial allocation are to distribute valuable assets in some manner and to provide effective compensation for the financial impacts of capping emissions on participating sources.
Considerations for Greenhouse Gas Control Programs
Emissions trading seems especially well-suited to be part of a program to control greenhouse gas emissions. The emissions trading programs reviewed for this report generally have spatial or temporal limitations because sources of the pollutants included in these programs—such as lead, SO2, and NOx—may have different environmental impacts depending on the sources’ locations (e.g., upwind or downwind from population centers) and the time of the emissions (e.g., summer or winter). The concerns of trading programs associated with climate change are different because greenhouse gases are both uniformly mixed in the earth’s atmosphere and long-lived. The effects of GHG emissions thus are the same regardless of where the source is located and when the emissions occur (within a broad time band). This means that emissions trading can be global in scope as well as inter-temporal, creating an opportunity for the banking of emission credits, which allows emissions to vary from year to year as long as an aggregate inter-temporal cap is achieved.
Emissions trading is also well suited for GHG emissions control because the costs of reducing emissions vary widely between individual greenhouse gases, sectors, and countries, and thus there are large potential gains from trade. While other market-based approaches, such as emissions taxes, also would provide for these cost savings, the cap-and-trade version of emissions trading has the further advantage of providing greater certainty that an emission target will be met. Moreover, GHG emissions generally can be measured using relatively inexpensive methods (e.g., fuel consumption and emission factors), rather than the expensive continuous emissions monitoring required for some existing trading programs.
Furthermore, emissions trading provides important incentives for low-cost compliance sources initially outside the program to find ways to participate, and thereby further reduce costs. This opt-in feature is useful because an environmentally and cost-effective solution for reducing concentrations of greenhouse gases should be comprehensive and global, whereas initial controls on GHG emissions will—for political reasons—likely be limited, if not to certain sectors and greenhouse gases, then almost certainly to a restricted number of countries. Therefore, an important criterion for initial measures is that they be able to induce participation by sources not yet controlled. The markets created by cap-and-trade programs provide incentives for sources outside the trading program to enter if they can provide reductions more cheaply than the market prices—a common feature of any market. Although, as discussed below, the voluntary nature of these incentives can create some problems, the ability to induce further participation is an important reason to include a market-based approach initially. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how command-and-control regulations or emissions taxes could provide similar incentives to non-participants to adopt new measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Opt-in or voluntary features have a strategic role that is likely to warrant their inclusion despite the potential problems associated with them. Experience with allowing sources not covered by mandatory emissions trading programs to “opt-in,” i.e., to voluntarily assume emissions control obligations and to participate in the emissions market, has revealed a trade-off. Setting clear baselines for opting-in lowers transactions costs and thus encourages participation; but some of this participation consists of credits for calculated “reductions” that are unrelated to the trading program and actually lead to increased emissions. For example, in the Acid Rain Program, evidence indicates that many of the voluntary participants received credits for having emissions below the pre-specified baseline even though they took no abatement actions. The simple emissions baseline had been set higher than these facilities’ actual emissions, so at least some of the credits they received did not represent real emissions reductions.
This experience suggests that the decision whether or not to include opt-in provisions should be determined by weighing the cost-saving benefits against the emissions-increasing potential. For greenhouse gases, the potential cost-savings benefits of including a voluntary element in the mandatory program are large because initial efforts are not likely to be comprehensive and global, as they must be eventually to achieve their environmental goals and be cost-effective. Opt-in provisions also have value in improving measurement and monitoring techniques, in familiarizing participants with the requirements of emissions trading, and more generally with inducing participation of sources outside the trading program that can offer cheaper abatement. As a result, allowing participants outside the mandatory GHG emissions control program to opt-in has a strategic value that has not been prominent in other opt-in programs. Indeed, it should be possible to learn from existing experience with opt-in programs how to reduce adverse effects while achieving cost-savings.
Viewed from a broad historical perspective, emissions trading has come a long way since the first theoretical insights forty years ago and the first tentative application almost a quarter of a century ago. Although still not the dominant form of controlling pollution in the United States or elsewhere, emissions trading is being included in an increasing number of programs and proposals throughout the world, and its role seems likely to expand in the future.
Emissions trading has emerged as a practical framework for introducing cost-reducing flexibility into environmental control programs and reducing the costs associated with conventional command-and-control regulation of air pollution emissions. Over the last two decades considerable experience with various forms of emissions trading has been gained, and today nearly all proposals for new initiatives to control air emissions include some form of emissions trading. This report has attempted to summarize that experience and to draw appropriate lessons that may apply to proposals to limit GHG emissions. In doing so, we hope that the reader has gained a better understanding of emissions trading and the reasons for its increasing importance as an instrument for addressing environmental problems.
Six diverse programs constitute the primary U.S. experience with air emissions trading. The EPA’s early attempts starting in the late 1970s to introduce flexibility into the Clean Air Act through netting, offsets, bubbles, and banking were not particularly encouraging. Most of the potential trades, and economic gains from trading, in these early systems were frustrated by the high transaction costs of certifying emission reductions. The first really successful use of emissions trading occurred in the mid-1980s when the lead content in gasoline was reduced by 90 percent in a program that allowed refiners to automatically earn credits for exceeding the mandated reductions in lead content and to sell those credits to others or bank them for later use.
The Acid Rain or SO2 allowance trading program for electricity generators, which has become by far the most prominent experiment in emissions trading, was adopted in 1990 and implemented beginning in 1995. This innovative program introduced a significantly different form of emissions trading, known as cap-and-trade, in which participants traded a fixed number of allowances—or rights to emit—equal in aggregate number to the cap, instead of trading on the differences from some pre-existing or external standard as had been the case in the early EPA trading programs and the lead phase-down program.
Another cap-and-trade program, the RECLAIM program for both SO2 and NOx emissions, was developed and implemented at the same time as the Acid Rain program by the regulatory authority in the Los Angeles Basin as part of its efforts to bring that area into attainment with National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The RECLAIM program is the first instance of emissions trading both supplementing and supplanting a pre-existing command-and-control structure that theoretically was capable of achieving the same environmental objective. The standards of the pre-existing command-and-control system largely determined the level of the cap, and the program’s ten-year phase-in design and trading provided the flexibility that led to the achievement of environmental goals that had been previously elusive. RECLAIM also introduced trading among different sectors.
The 1990 Amendments to the Clean Air Act also provided enabling legislation for two other emissions trading programs. Emissions from mobile sources were more effectively and efficiently controlled by the introduction of mobile source averaging, banking, and trading programs. The mobile source programs followed the example of the lead phase-down program by allowing firms to create credits automatically for any reductions beyond a required uniform emission standard and to use these credits in lieu of more costly reductions elsewhere or later within the company and to sell them. The 1990 Amendments also provided the mechanism that encouraged states in the Northeastern United States to adopt cap-and-trade programs to control NOx emissions that contributed to ozone non-attainment in that region of the country. As was the case in the RECLAIM program, emissions trading was adopted as a means to attain environmental objectives more quickly and cost-effectively than had proved possible through conventional command-and-control regulation.
There are many lessons to be gained from the experience with these six programs, but the five most important lessons can be summarized as follows. First, the major objective of emissions trading, lowering the cost of meeting emission reduction goals, has been achieved in most of these programs. Second, emissions trading has not compromised the achievement of the environmental goals embodied in these programs. If anything, and this is perhaps surprising, the achievement of those goals has been enhanced by emissions trading. Third, emissions trading has worked best in reducing costs and achieving environmental goals when the credits being traded are clearly defined and readily tradable without case-by-case certification. Fourth, temporal flexibility, i.e., the ability to bank allowances, has been more important than generally expected, and the ability to bank has contributed significantly to accelerating emission reductions and dampening price fluctuations. Fifth, the initial allocation of allowances in cap-and-trade programs has shown that equitable and political concerns can be met without impairing either the cost savings from trading or the environmental performance of these programs. In addition, the success of any emissions trading program requires that emissions levels can be readily measured and compliance verified and enforced.
All of these five lessons are relevant when considering the use of emissions trading in a program aimed at reducing GHG emissions. In fact, emissions trading seems especially appropriate for this environmental problem. Greenhouse gas emissions mix uniformly and remain in the atmosphere for a long time. Thus, it matters little where or when the emissions are reduced, as long as the required cumulative reductions are made. These specific characteristics of GHG emissions eliminate two of the concerns that have limited the scope of emissions trading in many other programs.
Although an effective GHG mitigation program must eventually be global in scope and comprehensive in its coverage of pollutants and economic sectors, the likelihood that control efforts will be limited initially to the richer countries, the more easily measurable gases, and perhaps to certain sectors of the economy introduces another consideration. The ability to induce initially uncapped sources to participate voluntarily in the early efforts will reduce costs and prepare the way for extending the caps. Thus, providing opportunities to opt-in for uncapped sources that can reduce emissions at lower cost than those within the cap has a strategic value beyond the potential cost savings. Although some existing programs with voluntary provisions have revealed opportunities for misuse, these problems can be managed more successfully now with the benefit of experience. The strategic value of opt-in provisions in any GHG emission control program makes their inclusion highly desirable.
Emissions trading has come a long way since the first theoretical insights forty years ago and the first tentative application almost a quarter of a century ago. Since then, the use of emissions trading has expanded steadily and significant experience has been gained. Although not the dominant form of controlling pollution in the United States or elsewhere, emissions trading now seems firmly established as a valuable instrument and its future use seems sure to increase. Our review of experience over the past quarter century suggests that this trend toward greater use of emissions trading will improve the performance of environmental regulation, including efforts to control GHG emissions.
About the Authors
A. Denny Ellerman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dr. Ellerman is a Senior Lecturer with the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he also serves as the Executive Director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research and of the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. His former employment includes Charles River Associates, the National Coal Association, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Executive Office of the President. He served as President of the International Association for Energy Economics for 1990. Dr. Ellerman received his undergraduate education at Princeton University and his Ph.D. in Political Economy and Government from Harvard University. His current research interests focus on emissions trading, climate change policy, and the economics of fuel choice, especially concerning coal and natural gas.
Paul L. Joskow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Paul L. Joskow is Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics and Management at MIT and Director of the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research. He received a B.A. from Cornell University in 1968 and a Ph.D. in Economics from Yale University in 1972. Professor Joskow has been on the MIT faculty since 1972 and served as Head of the MIT Department of Economics from 1994 to 1998.
At MIT he is engaged in teaching and research in the areas of industrial organization, energy and environmental economics, and government regulation of industry. Professor Joskow has published five books and over 100 articles and papers in these areas. He has been studying the behavior and performance of the SO2 allowance trading program created by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 for several years and is a co-author of the book Markets for Clean Air: The U.S. Acid Rain Program (Cambridge University Press).
Professor Joskow has served as a consultant on regulatory and competitive issues to organizations around the world. He served on the EPA’s Acid Rain Advisory Committee from 1990-1992 and was a member of the Environmental Economics Advisory Committee of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board from 1998-2002. He is a Director of the National Grid Transco Group and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and a Trustee of the Putnam Mutual Funds. He is a Fellow of the Econometric Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
David Harrison, Jr. , National Economic Research Associates, Inc.
David Harrison is a Senior Vice President at National Economic Research Associates (NERA), an international firm of 500 consulting economists operating in 16 offices on five continents and a Marsh & McLennan company. Dr. Harrison is co-chair of NERA’s energy and environmental economics practice.
Before joining NERA in 1988, Dr. Harrison was an Associate Professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where he taught microeconomics, environmental and energy policy, transportation policy, and benefit-cost analysis. He was a member of the Faculty Steering Committee of Harvard’s Energy and Environmental Policy Center. Dr. Harrison earlier served as a Senior Staff Economist on the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, where his areas of responsibility included environmental regulation, natural resource policy, transportation policy, and occupational health and safety.
Dr. Harrison has consulted for private firms, trade associations, and government agencies in the U.S. and abroad on many energy and environmental issues. Dr. Harrison has been active in the development of major emissions trading programs, including serving on the advisory committee to develop RECLAIM, an author of proposals for averaging, banking, and trading programs for mobile sources and for NOx trading proposals for the Northeast, and a consultant to the European Commission (EC) with regard to aspects of its proposed greenhouse gas emissions trading program. He is currently advising the UK government with regard to aspects of its EU program and the EC with regard to trading programs for non-greenhouse gas emissions.
Dr. Harrison holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University, a M.Sc. in Economics from the London School of Economics, and a B.A. in Economics from Harvard University.
Tackling Climate Change: 5 Keys to Success
Remarks by Eileen Claussen
President, Pew Center on Global Cliamte Change
4th Annual Dartmouth Student Science Congress
May 2, 2003
Thank you very much. It is a pleasure to be here at Dartmouth for the Fourth Annual Student Science Congress. I understand that as part of these proceedings, students will be voting on a series of ballot questions. I have not yet seen these questions, but tonight I am nevertheless going to try to influence your answers.
For example, if one of the questions is “How serious a problem is global warming?” I encourage you to answer that it is a very serious problem indeed. And, if one of the questions is “Who was your favorite speaker during the Congress?” . . . well, just keep in mind that Claussen sort of rhymes with awesome.
Seriously, I appreciate this opportunity to address your Student Science Congress, and I applaud the organizers of this event for taking on a topic of such pressing importance. Whether we like it or not, global warming is shaping up as one of the most important challenges of the 21st century. It is going to drive far-reaching changes in how we live and work, how we power our homes, schools, factories and office buildings, how we get from one place to another, how we manufacture and transport goods, and even how we farm and manage forests. It touches every aspect of our economy and our lives, and to ignore it is to live in a fantasy land where nothing ever has to change – and where we never have to accept what the science tells us about what is happening to our world.
My goal tonight is to give you a clear idea of where we stand today in the effort against global climate change. To do that, I’d first like to offer you an insider’s look at how the world and the United States have responded to this challenge over the last decade.
Then, after the history lesson – and don’t worry, there will not be a test – I want to look forward. And I’d like to suggest to you five keys to success – five things we need to do if were are to successfully meet the challenge of climate change.
So, to begin with, let’s travel back in time to 1992, when another George Bush was our President, and when the nations of the world gathered in sunny Rio de Janeiro for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, affectionately known as the Earth Summit. This was the event, you may recall, where more than 150 countries signed an agreement called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The UNFCCC, as it is known, set an ambitious long-term objective: to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would – and I quote – “prevent dangerous anthropogenic (or human-caused) interference with the climate system.” This is a goal that the United States, and virtually every other nation, has embraced.
As a first step, industrialized countries agreed to a voluntary emissions target: they aimed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000. Before long, however, it became clear that the targets would not be met and that voluntary commitments could not deliver genuine action. So the United States and others countries began to negotiate a new agreement, one with binding targets, and they agreed at the outset that these new commitments would extend only to the industrialized countries, which so far have contributed the most to the problem.
The result, negotiated five years after the Rio summit in Kyoto, Japan, is the Kyoto Protocol. The Protocol requires countries to reduce or limit their emissions of greenhouse gases in relation to 1990 levels, with different countries agreeing to different targets. The agreement also includes a number of features advocated by the United States to ensure countries a high degree of flexibility as they work to achieve their targets. They can make actual emission reductions at home, trade emission credits with others who have made reductions, and use “sinks” such as farms and forests to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
During the negotiations in Kyoto, Vice President Al Gore flew to the ancient Japanese capital to help hammer out the deal. And what the U.S. negotiators ultimately agreed to was a binding 7-percent reduction in emissions below 1990 levels by 2012.
The problem was that it was already 1997, and U.S. emissions had already risen over 1990 levels by more than 8 percent. In other words, we had pledged to reduce our emissions by nearly 14 percent and we didn’t have any kind of program in place to do this, nor any will to put such a program into place.
Another problem was that the United States Senate, under the Byrd-Hagel resolution, had recently voted unanimously that the United States should not sign any climate treaty that – quote – "would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States" or that did not impose some type of commitment on developing countries as well.
Of course Kyoto did not include commitments for developing countries, because the parties, including the United States, agreed at the outset that it would not. And the target agreed to by the United States was portrayed by those who wished to kill the treaty as clearly harmful to our economy, a charge that was not effectively countered by the Administration. So the fact of the matter is that the Kyoto Protocol negotiated by the Clinton administration was about as welcome in the Senate as the proverbial skunk at a lawn party – and senators had no intention of holding their noses so they could tolerate this thing. They just plain didn’t want it anywhere near them.
The Clinton administration, for its part, did nothing to try to bring about the ratification of this treaty that its people had made such a big deal of signing. Granted, the President at the time was caught up in a scandal, and Vice President Gore was gearing up for a presidential run of his own and surely wanted to avoid being publicly associated with anything that could be said to pose a threat the economy. But still, the whole episode of U.S. participation in Kyoto -- and, before that, the UNFCCC -- was enough to recall the line from Shakespeare: “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” The bottom line: We clearly were not prepared to deliver at home what we were promising abroad.
But the story does not end there. To fast forward to 2000, American voters elected another President – another Bush – and within months of entering office his administration made a unilateral decision to reject the Kyoto Protocol out of hand, instead of working to change it and make it better. Needless to say, this decision was not received warmly by other nations that had persevered through years of difficult negotiations and that had acceded to U.S. demands early on that the treaty include trading and other business-friendly mechanisms.
As an aside, I think it is interesting to note that in the recent run-up to the war in Iraq, it was hard to find an article about other countries’ perceptions of the United States that did not mention the impolitic way in which this Administration rejected Kyoto. It was perceived as a real slap in the face – a confirmation of global fears that the United States, which is responsible for almost one-fourth of global greenhouse has emissions, had no intention of acting seriously on this issue.
As if to confirm these fears, the Bush administration last year announced a climate strategy that was big on rhetoric but not-so-big on results. Here is what this strategy does: It sets a voluntary “greenhouse gas intensity” target for the nation. The idea is to reduce the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions to U.S. economic output, or GDP. But the funny thing about the White House target – an 18 percent reduction in greenhouse gas intensity by 2012 – is that it would allow actual emissions to grow by 12 percent over the same period.
What’s more, the Administration’s strategy relies entirely on voluntary measures. This despite the fact that U.S. climate policy has consisted primarily of voluntary measures for more than a decade. And what have these voluntary measures achieved? As of 2001, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions were up 11.9 percent over their 1991 levels. And so now we are more than ten years removed from the Earth Summit, and we still – still – have no real plan in place to reduce the U.S. contribution to the problem that we and other countries identified back then as – quote – “a common concern of humankind.”
The reason I have presented this history lesson is to show that, as the world has set out in the last decade to respond to the problem of climate change, the United States has been both a driver and a drag on the process, a driver in terms of development of a framework for action, a drag because we have made no serious attempt to implement that framework. We are like the boyfriend or girlfriend who says sweet things all the time but will never truly commit. And lately we aren’t even saying sweet things any more.
The reality is that it is long past the time for playing these sorts of games. We should have committed long ago to serious action on this issue and, having failed, it is all the more urgent that we get serious now. What does that mean? What principles should guide these efforts? I’d like to offer five – five keys to success in meeting the challenge of climate change.
Key Number One: We must forge a global response to the problem of climate change. As I already said, the United States is responsible for one-fourth of global greenhouse gas emissions. The 15 countries of the European Union are responsible for another one-fourth. The remainder is divided among other developed nations and rapidly developing countries such as China and India. And, while developed countries clearly are responsible for a majority of these emissions, that will not be the case in the future as emissions continue to grow more rapidly in developing countries than anywhere else.
It is one of the most contentious issues in the debate over global climate change – that is, the perceived divide between the interests and obligations of developed and developing countries. Equity demands that the industrialized world—the source of most past and current emissions of greenhouse gases—act first to reduce emissions. This principle is embedded in both the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, which sets binding emission targets for developed countries only. However, with the Protocol expected to enter into force sometime this year or next, it is now time to turn our attention to what happens next. And as we do this, we need to think broadly of a framework that will include not only the countries that will be implementing the Kyoto protocol, but also the United States, Australia, and the major emitting countries in the developing world.
I do not claim to know what form this framework should take. But here’s what I do know: It must be effective; over the coming decades, it must significantly reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases. It also must be fair. We must recognize who bears responsibility for climate change, and who will bear the brunt of its impacts; and we must arrive at an equitable sharing of responsibility for addressing it. That probably means different kinds of measures for different countries at different times, but all the major emitting countries must do their part. Finally, this new framework must marry our environmental goals with our economic and development objectives. In the developing world in particular, commitments that are not consistent and compatible with raising standards of living and promoting sustainable economic growth have little chance of success. And even in the developed world, all countries will have to be convinced that the environmental goals they agree to, the carbon limits they accept, will not impede their efforts to sustain economic growth. This will mean not only ensuring that countries are given flexibility in how they meet their goals, but also that they can turn over the existing capital stock and acquire more climate friendly technology at prices that they can afford.
This brings us to the second Key to Success in our efforts to address the climate issue: We need to think in terms of both short-term and long-term actions. There is a great deal we can do now to reduce our emissions. At the same time, we need to be looking ahead to longer-term, and potentially more far-reaching, reductions in the years and decades to come.
At the Pew Center, we are developing a plan we call the 10/50 Solution. The idea is to think ahead to where we need to be 50 years from now if we are going to meet the challenge of climate change, and then to figure out decade by decade how to do it.
Why look 50 years out? Because achieving the necessary reductions in our greenhouse gas emissions will ultimately require innovation on a level never before seen. It will require a massive shift away from fossil fuels to climate-friendly sources of energy. And, as I said at the start of my remarks, it will require fundamental changes in how we live and work and grow our economies.
The 10-50 approach doesn’t just look long-term, though. It recognizes that in order to realize that 50-year vision, we have to start right now. We can start with the low-hanging fruit – the countless ways we can reduce greenhouse emissions at little or no cost by simply being more efficient: everything from more fuel-efficient cars and trucks, including hybrids, to energy-efficient appliances and computers, efficiency improvements in industry, and even better management of animal wastes.
In the medium to long term, the challenge is to begin what we have called a second industrial revolution. The Pew Center is just now completing a scenario analysis that identifies several technologies as essential to our ability to create a climate-friendly energy future for the United States. Among them:
· Number one: natural gas. Substituting natural gas for coal results in approximately half the carbon emissions per unit of energy supplied, but we need policies to encourage the expansion of natural gas supply and infrastructure.
· Number two: energy efficiency. We have the ability to dramatically improve the fuel economy of cars and light trucks right now and in the very near future through a combination of advances in the internal combustion engine or through hybrid electric vehicles.
· Number three: renewable energy and distributed generation. The potential here is enormous, but policy support will be essential in promoting investment and breaking barriers to market entry for these technologies.
· Number four: nuclear power. Despite its problems, the fact remains that our carbon emissions would be much higher without nuclear power.
· Number five: geological sequestration. Sequestration holds the potential of allowing for the continued production of energy from fossil fuels, including coal, even in the event of mandatory limits on carbon emissions.
· And number six: hydrogen and fuel cells. The President’s recent announcement of a new federal commitment to fuel cell research was a welcome one, but we must have policies that will help pull these vehicles into the market.
Looking down this list, it is hard not to see that most, if not all, of these technologies would be important even in a world where we did not have this pressing obligation to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. For energy security and economic growth reasons, and a wide range of environmental reasons as well, these are simply smart things to do. The second industrial revolution is not just about responding to the challenge of climate change; it’s about creating a common-sense energy future.
And, in order to create that energy future, we are going to have to keep in mind Key to Success Number Three: Industry must be a partner in shaping and implementing climate solutions. The Pew Center serves as a convenor of leading businesses that are taking practical steps to reduce their contribution to the climate problem. The 38 members of our Business Environmental Leadership Council represent nearly 2.5 million employees and have combined revenues of $855 billion. They include mostly Fortune 500 firms, and they are deeply committed to climate solutions:
· There is DuPont, for example, which made a voluntary pledge to reduce its global emissions of greenhouse gases by 65 percent by the year 2010. And guess what? Late last year, they announced they had achieved this target eight years ahead of schedule.
· Also ahead of schedule in meeting its target is BP, which in 2002 announced it had reduced global greenhouse emissions by 9 million metric tons in just four years. This marked a 10-percent reduction in the company’s emissions – and, like DuPont, BP had originally intended to achieve this goal in 2010.
Over the past several years, it has become clear that there are three types of companies when it comes to the issue of climate change: those that do not accept the science; those that accept the science and are working internally to reduce their contribution to the problem; and those that accept the science, are working internally and are advocating for strong government action to address this issue.
BP, DuPont and the other companies we are working with at the Pew Center clearly fall into this latter group. And I hope that our government – as well as other governments throughout the world – will take full advantage of their expertise and commitment.
The benefits of active involvement by industry in environmental policy making first became clear to me during negotiations on the Montreal Protocol – the agreement that set out to address the man-made threat to the Earth’s protective ozone layer. An important reason for the success of that agreement, I believe, is that the companies that produced and used ozone-depleting chemicals—and that were developing substitutes for them—were very much engaged in the process. As a result, there was a factual basis and an honesty about what we could achieve, how we could achieve it, and when. And there was an acceptance on the part of industry, particularly U.S. companies, that the depletion of the ozone layer was an important problem and that multilateral action was needed.
I am happy to report that we are seeing the same kind of acceptance and determination to act on the climate issue among the companies we work with at the Pew Center. Their involvement should serve as a reminder that it is industry that will develop the technologies and the strategies that will reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases. It is industry that will have to deliver on government requirements and goals. To ignore this as we try to structure a global response to this enormous challenge is to fail.
Speaking of government, let me introduce a fourth Key to Success in responding to climate change: We have to adopt real, mandatory goals. Voluntary approaches, as I have said, simply have not worked to address this problem. In order to engage the full spectrum of industry and society, we need to set clear, mandatory goals for emission cuts, and at the same time provide sensible, business-friendly rules that give companies the flexibility they need to help meet those goals as cost-effectively as possible.
This is the approach embodied in recent legislation introduced by the bipartisan duo of Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman. This landmark measure for the first time brings together several features that would be critical to the success of a national climate change strategy. The bill would establish ambitious and binding targets for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Equally important, it would provide companies with the flexibility to reduce emissions as cost-effectively as possible – thanks to the creation of a rigorous nationwide system allowing emissions trading and providing some credit for carbon storage. Last but not least, the bill would recognize those reductions that are being made now by the companies that are taking the lead on this issue and provide additional flexibility for these early actors.
Of course, the McCain-Lieberman measure has little chance of becoming law any time soon, but it is an encouraging development nonetheless to see our policymakers in Washington finally coming to grips with exactly what it is going to take to yield real progress toward a climate-friendly future. And what it is going to take is a set of real, enforceable commitments.
This leads us finally, and forgive me if this seems redundant, to Key to Success Number Five: The United States must be an integral part of the climate solution. Despite having 4 percent of the world’s population, we have contributed nearly a third of worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases in the last century, and we continue to be the largest source of these emissions worldwide. And still, we have decided to sit on the sidelines while the world moves forward with a plan to begin addressing this challenge. Even worse, we have yet to develop anything resembling a domestic program to reduce our own emissions and protect the climate.
This problem, quite simply, will not be solved without us. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to other nations, and we owe it to future generations, to commit American ingenuity and American leadership to meeting this challenge. I think the job begins at home: We must achieve a national consensus on how best to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. And from there, we must engage constructively with other nations in the searching for a lasting global solution.
So there you have it. Five keys to success: We need to address this issue globally. We need to think and act both short-term and long-term. We need to involve industry. We need mandatory goals. And we need the United States to do its part both at home and abroad.
Yet another key to success, as I have learned over the years, is to keep your remarks to a reasonable length. So I will stop there, and I welcome your questions.
Thank you very much.
For Immediate Release
April 22, 2003
Contact: Paul Jackson
UNITED TECHNOLOGIES STEPS UP GLOBAL CONSERVATION EFFORTS
WASHINGTON, D.C. - United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:UTX) said today it has surpassed its 25 percent energy and water usage reduction goals four years ahead of schedule and is increasing them to 40 percent.
The company also announced it is joining the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Climate Leaders program. The voluntary industry-government partnership identifies environmental leaders in adopting aggressive goals and strategies for curtailing greenhouse gas emissions at manufacturing and other facilities. Since 1997, UTC has lowered its greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent.
"EPA applauds United Technologies for its environmental leadership and
strong commitment to conserving our natural resources," said Jeff Holmstead, assistant administrator for the agency's Office of Air and Radiation.
UTC's original conservation plan, announced in 1998, called for the company to reduce both water and energy usage by 25 percent, as a percent of sales, by 2007. The company reported at today's Earth Technologies Forum in Washington, D.C., that it had exceeded those goals by achieving a 27 percent energy reduction and 34 percent water use reduction through 2002. UTC's new goals call for a 40 percent reduction of each by 2007. Performance will be monitored annually to track results and identify further conservation opportunities.
"UTC has more than 200 facilities worldwide participating in these conservation efforts, including more than 100 in the United States, over 50 in Europe and nearly 40 in Asia," said Rick Bennett, vice president of environmental health and safety. " Site audits and conservation tools are available to help facilities identify effective savings opportunities."
Bennett said the new goals exemplify UTC's strong environmental commitment, which has helped conserve both natural and economic resources.
UTC's Carrier Corp. has reduced water consumption at its Shanghai factories by more than 10 million gallons a year. For every $1,000 Carrier invests in low-flow showers and other conservation devices, the company estimates it saves $11,000 per year in associated water costs.
Otis Elevator's Breclav plant in the Czech Republic completed heating, lighting and compressed air system improvements that are conserving more than 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and 560,000 cubic meters of natural gas annually.
In the U.S., Sikorsky reduced energy demand at its main manufacturing plant in Stratford, Conn., a full percentage point by converting a temporary rotor-painting booth to a sanding booth with an air re-circulation system that eliminates high-energy dust collection apparatus. Energy savings amount to $94,000 a year.
Another example: Pratt & Whitney, with engineering support from Carrier, replaced centrifugal air compressors and a chilled water plant, upgraded lighting fixtures and completed other projects at its Middletown, Conn., jet engine assembly and test facility that combined have conserved 3.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year.
United Technologies Corp., based in Hartford, Conn., is a diversified company that provides a broad range of high-technology products and services to the building systems and aerospace industries worldwide. More information is available on the company's Web site at http://www.utc.com.
SOLVING THE CLIMATE EQUATION
Mandatory & Practical Steps for Real Reductions
Remarks By Eileen Claussen
President, Pew Center on Global Cliamte Change
Alliant Energy Conference
April 15, 2003
Thank you very much. It is a pleasure to be here in Madison. And to be here on tax day makes it even more special. I hope I can be as creative in my remarks as many Americans are on their Form 1040.
Considering that it is tax day and coming from Washington, as I do, I thought you would be interested to know that Congress is indeed getting very serious about tax simplification. It’s true. The new tax forms they are discussing would include just three parts.
Part One: How much did you make last year? Part Two: How much do you have left? Part Three: Please send in the amount listed in Part Two.
Seriously, I expect you will all be glad to know that I am not here today to talk about taxes. Rather, what I want to talk about is the very taxing problem of global climate change. Okay, that’s the last time today that I will mention taxes.
I know that this morning’s panels included a session on the science of climate change. So I will skip the part of the speech laying out the evidence of how serious a problem this is. I hope that I don’t need to persuade you of that.
Instead, I would like to talk about where we stand today in our efforts to meet the challenge of climate change – and I may surprise some of you by saying there are actually a lot of good things happening. The momentum is building for practical solutions. People and governments are indeed taking important and worthwhile steps to address this problem, and I want to talk with you a little bit about what they are doing.
At the same time, I also want to talk with you about what must happen next. Because what is happening now is clearly not enough. And the priority looking ahead must be to marry a long-term vision of a climate-friendly future with the short-term strategies that will get us there. We need mandatory goals to ensure the broadest possible participation across all industry sectors in this effort. And we need to give businesses the flexibility to achieve those goals as cost-effectively as possible.
But, before I get into all of that, let me give you some background about the organization I represent. The Pew Center on Global Climate Change is a non-profit, non-partisan and independent organization. We consider ourselves a center of research, analysis, and collaboration. We are also a center in another sense – a much-needed centrist presence on an issue where the discussion too often devolves into battling extremes.
Our mission is to provide credible information, straight answers and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. We see ourselves as a force for a pragmatic path forward on this issue. And we fulfill this role by educating the public and key policy makers, and by encouraging the domestic and international community to take practical steps to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
Over the past several years, we have issued 45 reports from top-tier researchers on key climate topics such as economic and environmental impacts, policy solutions, equity issues and more. We have convened conferences and symposia, and we have worked with policy makers and businesses throughout the world as they strive to shape climate solutions.
In the course of our work, as you might expect, we have developed a fairly keen sense of where things stand in the global effort to address the climate problem. This is what I want to share with you today. It is the view from 30,000 feet, and I find it’s an especially useful vantage point for assessing our progress on this issue.
What does this high-level view show us? It shows us that despite everything we see and hear coming out of Washington, despite the fact that U.S. climate policy remains in neutral, from a higher altitude we can see that there is actually a great deal of activity under way. There are actually a lot of people who are already hard at work charting the “Path Forward” on climate change that is advertised as the topic of this conference.
Consider this: Despite the opposition of the Bush administration, the Kyoto Protocol stands on the verge of entering into force sometime this year. The ratification of the treaty by Poland and Canada late in 2002 brought the number of ratifying countries to 100. These countries were responsible for nearly 44 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in 1990. Russia’s expected ratification of the treaty later this year should bring that share to 55 percent, which is the level required for Kyoto to become law.
I have no illusions, of course, that Kyoto is the definitive solution to the climate problem – and I strongly believe, as I will say later, that it is time to start thinking beyond Kyoto. But the simple fact that this critical mass of developed nations have agreed to the treaty – and are already hard at work on strategies to meet their Kyoto emission targets – is a development of truly historic proportions.
Equally encouraging – if not equally historic – are the voluntary efforts of many companies throughout the world to address the climate problem in a proactive way. As many of you know, the Pew Center serves as a convenor of leading businesses that are taking practical steps to reduce their contribution to the problem. The 38 members of our Business Environmental Leadership Council represent nearly 2.5 million employees and have combined revenues of $855 billion. They include mostly Fortune 500 firms, and they are deeply committed to climate solutions:
There is DuPont, for example, which made a voluntary pledge to reduce its global emissions of greenhouse gases by 65 percent by the year 2010. And guess what? Late last year, they announced they had achieved this target eight years ahead of schedule. Also ahead of schedule in meeting its target is BP, which in 2002 announced that it had reduced global greenhouse emissions by 9 million metric tons in just four years. This marked a 10-percent reduction in the company’s emissions – and, like DuPont, BP had originally intended to achieve this goal in 2010.
Other companies have set similar targets and are working hard to meet them. And then there are all the companies that, even if they are not setting targets, are working in other ways to reduce their contribution to the climate problem. Alliant Energy itself – the sponsor of this important gathering – is also the sponsor of an array of energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.
The company’s innovative Second Nature program, for example, allows residential utility customers in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin to buy renewable energy equal to 25 percent, 50 percent or 100 percent of their electric usage. At the end of 2002, Second Nature customers helped generate more than 9.8 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy, including wind power from a new wind farm in Minnesota and biomass energy from a methane gas plant at a landfill in Mayville, Wisconsin.
Companies such as Alliant, BP and DuPont are not alone in taking proactive steps to address this problem. Also charting a path forward are individual states throughout the country. The Pew Center’s research shows that a majority of states have programs that, while not necessarily directed at climate change, are achieving real emission reductions.
Texas and 13 other states, for example, now require utilities to generate a specified share of their power from renewable sources. New York State’s new energy plan sets a goal of reducing emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. What’s more, some states are going beyond target-setting and are establishing direct controls on carbon emissions from power plants and – in the case of California – cars and SUVs.
And I would be remiss not to mention what is happening here in Wisconsin, which since 1993 has required any facility that emits more than 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide to report its emission levels to the Department of Natural Resources. Wisconsin was the first state with a mandatory reporting rule; of the other states, only New Jersey has followed Wisconsin’s lead. And now Wisconsin is hard at work on a new registry that will enable firms to report reductions of CO2 or other greenhouse gases. The state is doing this, in part, to make sure that firms acting now will be able to get credit under future emission reduction regimes.
And so the path forward is being mapped out all around us – by entire nations, and by individual companies and states. Even the news from Washington is not all bad. Last year alone, nearly twice as many climate change bills were introduced on Capitol Hill than in the previous four years combined.
Then, early this year, as all of you know, the bipartisan duo of Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman forged a landmark measure that for the first time brings together several features that would be critical to the success of a national climate change strategy. This bill would establish ambitious and binding targets for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Equally important, it would provide companies with the flexibility to reduce emissions as cost-effectively as possible – thanks to the creation of a rigorous nationwide system allowing emissions trading and providing some credit for carbon storage. Last but not least, the bill would recognize those reductions that are being made now by the companies that are taking the lead on this issue and provide additional flexibility for these early actors.
Of course, the McCain-Lieberman measure has no real chance of becoming law any time soon, but it is an encouraging development nonetheless to see our policymakers in Washington finally coming to grips with exactly what it is going to take to yield real progress toward a climate-friendly future. And what it is going to take, as I stated early in my remarks, is a long-term vision of where we need to be, coupled with short-term strategies that will get us there.
At the Pew Center, we call it the 10/50 Solution. The idea is to think ahead to where we need to be 50 years from now if we are going to meet the challenge of climate change, and then to figure out decade by decade how to do it.
Why look 50 years out? Because achieving the necessary reductions in our greenhouse gas emissions will ultimately require innovation on a level never before seen. It will require a massive shift away from fossil fuels to climate-friendly sources of energy. It will require fundamental changes in how we produce things, how we power our homes and buildings, and how we travel to work.
The 10-50 approach doesn’t just look long-term, though. It recognizes that in order to realize that 50-year vision, we have to start right now. A while back, the Pew Center held a workshop with leading scientists, economists and other analysts to discuss the optimal timing of efforts to address climate change. They each came at it from a different perspective, but the overwhelming consensus was that to be most effective, action against climate change has to begin right now. Among the reasons why:
First, current atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are the highest in more than 400,000 years. This is an unprecedented situation in human history, and there is a real potential that the resulting damages will not be incremental or linear, but sudden and potentially catastrophic. Acting now is the only rational choice under these circumstances.
A second reason to act now is that the risk of irreversible environmental impacts far outweighs the lesser risk of unnecessary investment in reducing or mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.
Third, it is going to take time to figure out how best to meet this challenge. And we must begin learning by doing now.
Fourth, the longer we wait to act, the more likely it will be that we are imposing unconscionable burdens and impossible tasks on future generations.
Fifth, there is an obvious lagtime between the development of policies and incentives that will spur action and the actions themselves.
And, last but not least, we can get started now with a range of “no regrets” policies that have very low or even no costs to the economy.
We can start with the low-hanging fruit – the countless ways we can reduce greenhouse emissions at little or no cost by simply being more efficient: everything from more fuel-efficient cars and trucks, including hybrids, to energy-efficient appliances and computers, efficiency improvements in industry, and even better management of animal wastes.
In the medium to long term, the challenge is to begin what we have called a second industrial revolution. The Pew Center is just now completing a scenario analysis that identifies several technologies as essential to our ability to create a climate-friendly energy future for the United States. Among them:
- Number one: natural gas. Substituting natural gas for coal results in approximately half the carbon emissions per unit of energy supplied, but we need policies to encourage the expansion of natural gas supply and infrastructure.
- Number two: energy efficiency. We have the ability to dramatically improve the fuel economy of cars and light trucks right now and in the very near future through a combination of advances in the internal combustion engine or through hybrid electric vehicles.
- Number three: renewable energy and distributed generation. The potential here is enormous, but policy support will be essential in promoting investment and breaking barriers to market entry for these technologies.
- Number four: nuclear power. Despite its problems, the fact remains that our carbon emissions would be much higher without nuclear power,
- Number five: geological sequestration. Sequestration holds the potential of allowing for the continued production of energy from fossil fuels, including coal, even in the event of mandatory limits on carbon emissions.
- And number six: hydrogen and fuel cells. The President’s recent announcement of a new federal commitment to fuel cell research was a welcome one, but we must have policies that will help pull these vehicles into the market.
Looking down this list, it is hard not to see that most, if not all, of these technologies would be important even in a world where we did not have this pressing obligation to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. For energy security and economic growth reasons, and a wide range of environmental reasons as well, these are simply smart things to do. The second industrial revolution is not just about responding to the challenge of climate change; it’s about creating a common-sense energy future.
And how can we make that future happen? Well, for one thing, we need an effective, long-term international agreement – one ensuring that all major emitting countries do their fair share to meet this challenge. The Kyoto Protocol – despite all its flaws, and despite being rejected by President Bush – is a reasonable first step. But even as other countries move ahead to implement it, they need to be looking beyond 2012 when the 1st commitment period ends. Because an agreement that’s going to work – an agreement that can bring in not only the United States, but developing countries as well – will in all likelihood be somewhat different than Kyoto. And it’s going to take some time to get there.
The more immediate challenge, of course, is here at home. That challenge is to get serious about reducing U.S. emissions. And getting serious means recognizing that a national climate strategy that lets emissions continue to grow is really not much of a strategy at all.