Business

Climate Leadership Awards

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions congratulates the 17 companies, four local governments and two individuals honored for their exemplary leadership in addressing climate change at the second annual Climate Leadership Awards.

C2ES co-sponsors the awards with the EPA's Center for Corporate Climate Leadership, the Association of Climate Change Officers and The Climate Registry.

“After a year of record heat and drought, action on climate change and clean energy is more urgent than ever,” said C2ES President Eileen Claussen. “We join EPA in applauding the winners of the Climate Leadership Awards. These companies, organizations, and individuals demonstrate every day the possibility of a prosperous low-carbon future. Hopefully, their accomplishments will spur and challenge others to take steps that are good for both the economy and the environment.”

The national awards program honors corporate, organizational, and individual leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in internal operations and throughout the supply chain. The winners represent a wide array of industries, including construction, finance, defense, transportation, retail, energy and technology.

The following awards were presented Feb. 28, 2013 at the Climate Leadership Conference in Washington:

  • Organizational Leadership Award:
    • Boulder County, Colo.
    • City of Austin, Texas
    • Intel Corporation
    • Port of San Diego
    • Sonoma County Water Agency 
  • Individual Leadership Award:
    • Tamara 'TJ' DiCaprio, Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability , Microsoft Corporation
    • J. Wayne Leonard, Former Chairman and CEO of Entergy Corporation 
  • Supply Chain Leadership Award:
    • Cisco Systems, Inc.
    • IBM
    • San Diego Gas & Electric
  • Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management (Goal Achievement Award):
    • Abbott
    • CSX Transportation, Inc.
    • Limited Brands, Inc.
    • Office Depot
    • Raytheon Company
    • Staples, Inc.
    • Tiffany & Co.
    • Turner Construction Company
  • Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management (Goal Setting Certificate):
    • Bank of America
    • Lockheed Martin Corporation
    • Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC)
    • SC Johnson & Sons, Inc.
    • Wells Fargo and Company

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September 2011 Newsletter

Click here to view our September 2011 newsletter.

The Pew Center's September 2011 newsletter highlights a new intiative focused on expanding carbon dioxide enhanced oil recovery, a new brief on international climate assistance, the lessons we can learn from Hurrican Irene, and more.

Press Release: U.S. EPA, Pew Center, and NGO Partners Unveil Award Criteria and Nomination Deadline for Climate Leadership Awards

Press Release
September 14, 2011         

Contact:  
Tom Steinfeldt
Pew Center
steinfeldtt@c2es.org
703.516.4146
Daniel Kreeger
Association of Climate Change Officers
dkreeger@ACCOonline.org
202.496.7390
Alex Carr
The Climate Registry
alex@theclimateregistry.org
778.340.8837

    

U.S. EPA,  Pew Center on Global Climate Change, The Climate Registry,
and the Association of Climate Change Officers Unveil Award Criteria and
Nomination Deadline for New Climate Leadership Awards

New national program will recognize corporate, organizational,
and individual leadership on climate change

Washington, DC – Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in partnership with The Climate Registry (The Registry), the Pew Center on Global Climate Change (Pew Center), and the Association of Climate Change Officers (ACCO), announced that the nomination period is open for the new Climate Leadership Awards.

The Climate Leadership Awards will support a legacy for EPA’s Climate Leaders program and will recognize exemplary corporate, organizational, and individual leadership in response to climate change. Nominations are due no later than October 21, 2011.

"With the creation of the Climate Leadership Awards, EPA is pleased to be joining with these exemplary organizations in recognizing extraordinary leadership in the reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) in response to climate change," said Elizabeth Craig, EPA’s Acting Director of the Office of Atmospheric Programs.

Detailed criteria and the nomination forms for each of the five recognition categories are available online at www.epa.gov/climateleaders/awards/index.html. The categories are:

  • Excellence in GHG Management (Goal Setting Certificate)
    Recognizing organizations that publicly report and verify corporate GHG inventories and publicly set aggressive absolute GHG emissions reduction goals.
  • Excellence in GHG Management (Goal Achievement Award)
    Recognizing organizations that publicly report and verify corporate GHG inventories and achieve aggressive absolute GHG emissions reduction goals.
  • Supply Chain Leadership Award
    Recognizing organizations that have their own comprehensive GHG inventories and emissions reduction goals and can demonstrate they are at the leading edge of managing GHGs in their organizational value chains.
  • Organizational Leadership Award
    Recognizing organizations that exemplify leadership both in their internal response to climate change and through engagement of their peers, competitors, partners, and value chain.
  • Individual Leadership Award
    Recognizing individuals exemplifying extraordinary leadership in leading theirorganizations’ response to climate change and/or affecting the responses of other organizations.

Businesses with annual revenues over $100 million and governmental entities and academic organizations with annual budgets over $100 million are eligible for nomination in the first four recognition categories. In addition to meeting other criteria, nominees must be able to demonstrate that the bulk of their GHG management activities and achievements have occurred within the United States. In the case of the individual leadership award category, nominees must be employees of organizations that are eligible for the other categories and must reside within the United States.

The Climate Leadership Awards are designed to motivate, highlight and recognize actions that go beyond business as usual in the management and reduction of GHG emissions both in internal operations and throughout the supply chain. Together, the award winners will illustrate how leadership in the public and private sectors can help make the United States a more sustainable, low-carbon society.

Corporations, organizations, and individuals may self-nominate or nominate others for a Climate Leadership Award. Entrants may be nominated for multiple awards. Each category requires a separate submission. EPA and the NGO partners will hold a webinar at 10am PT/1pm ET on September 21, 2011 to discuss the award criteria, nomination process, and answer questions. (The presentation and recorded webinar are now available.)

More information about the awards and next week’s informational webinar is available at the EPA’s Climate Leadership Awards web page, www.epa.gov/climateleaders/awards/index.html.

An event to honor award recipients will take place on the evening of February 29, 2012 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in conjunction with the first annual Climate Leadership Conference, which will be held from February 29-March 1, 2012. The conference will feature thought leaders from the public and private sectors who will share key insights and innovative ideas on topics related to the awards such as: energy efficiency, clean energy, setting and achieving GHG reduction goals, engaging supply chains, addressing climate risks, and other practical applications for managing and reducing emissions. Conference details will be regularly updated at www.climateleadershipconference.org.

# # #

About The Climate Registry

The Climate Registry provides organizations with hands-on, personalized service and resources to help them measure, verify, report and manage their GHG emissions in a publicly transparent and credible way. The Registry was established in 2007 as a 501 (c)(3) by US states and Canadian provinces and today is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of senior officials from 40 US states, the District of Columbia, 13 Canadian provinces and territories, six Mexican states and four Native Sovereign Nations. The Registry has more than 430 members who use The Registry’s services to measure and manage their emissions, as well as share policy information and best practices in carbon management. For more information see www.theclimateregistry.org.

About the Association of Climate Change Officers

The Association of Climate Change Officers is a 501(c)(6) non-profit membership organization for executives and officials worldwide in industry, government, academia and the non-profit community. ACCO’s mission is to advance the knowledge and skills of those dedicated to developing and directing climate change strategies in the public and private sectors, and to establish a flexible and robust forum for collaboration between climate change officers. For more information about ACCO, please visit www.ACCOonline.org.

National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative Looks for Progress in Energy Policy

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend as an observer the launch of the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative, facilitated by the Center and the Great Plains Institute.  In the short time since the launch, the EOR Initiative has generated notable

Carbon dioxide enhanced oil recovery (CO2-EOR) works by injecting CO2 into existing oil fields to increase oil production.  It is not a new concept. In fact, around 5 percent, or 272,000 barrels per day, of all domestic oil produced comes from oil recovered using this technique, which was first deployed in West Texas in 1972.  Decades of monitoring CO2-EOR sites have shown that in properly managed operations the majority of CO2 is retained in the EOR operation and not released to the atmosphere.  One of the initiative’s goals is to better understand the role of CO2-EOR for carbon storage as this industry grows to produce more than 1 million barrels per day, or around 17 percent of domestic oil supply in 2030.

Low-Carbon Business Innovation: A Call for U.S. Leadership

Will U.S. companies be ready to compete in the world markets of the future? Global clean energy markets pose a $2.3 trillion opportunity over the next 10 years, providing enormous potential for innovation in new technologies, products and business models. These opportunities will help us achieve the greenhouse gas emission reductions that scientists say are needed to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. 

Yet the United States’ commitment to developing these markets for innovation is lagging. While the Pentagon is calling for improved energy security, the U.S. House of Representatives is proposing funding cuts for energy innovation that would reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. After surviving the FY 2011 federal budget battle by receiving $180 million out of the $300 million requested by the President, on June 15 the U.S. House Appropriations Committee voted to cut FY 2012 funding to $100 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The President had requested $550 million for the agency, which funds transformational energy technology research.

In Brief: Clean Energy Markets: Jobs and Opportunities

In Brief: Clean Energy Markets: Jobs and Opportunities

July 2011 Update (originally published February 2010)

Download this Brief (PDF)

This brief discusses how investment in clean energy technologies will generate economic growth and create new jobs in the United States and around the globe. The United States stands to benefit from the expansion of global clean energy markets, but only if it moves quickly to support domestic demand for and production of clean energy technologies through well-designed policy that enhances the competitiveness of U.S. firms.

Clean energy markets are already substantial in scope and growing fast. Between 2004 and 2010, global clean energy investment exhibited a compound annual growth rate of 32 percent, reaching $243 billion in 2010. Forecasts of investment totals over the next few decades vary according to assumptions made regarding the nature of future global climate policies. Over the next decade, assuming strong global action on climate change, cumulative global investment totals for clean power generation technologies could reach nearly $2.3 trillion.

Recognizing the potential of these markets, the European Union, China, and other nations are moving to cultivate their own clean energy industries and to position them to gain large market shares in the decades ahead.

  • The European Union continues to lead the world in clean energy investments, spending nearly $81 billion in 2010. Since 2009, China has invested more money per year in clean energy technologies than the United States, investing $54.4 billion in 2010 compared to the United States’ $34 billion. Over 85 percent of today’s market for clean energy technologies is outside of the United States, primarily in Asia and Europe.
  • Germany’s clean energy investments of $41.2 billion were the second most for any country in 2010, surpassing the now third-place United States.
  • China now boasts the world’s largest solar panel and wind turbine manufacturing industries, accounting for nearly 50 percent of manufacturing for both technologies.
  • Danish wind manufacturers produce close to 22 percent of annual global installed wind capacity.


These countries have taken deliberate steps to position themselves as leaders in the 21st century clean energy economy. History shows that it matters where industries are first established, and countries can use policy to foster domestic “lead markets” for particular industries, giving them the foothold that can lead to significant growth in global market share. In the United States, well-crafted climate and clean energy policy can give nascent clean energy industries such a foothold by creating domestic demand and spurring investment and innovation. Strong domestic demand creates not only export opportunities but also jobs – many of which must be located where the demand is, thus fostering domestic job growth even when industry supply chains are globally dispersed.

National climate and clean energy policy in the United States can help create jobs and domestic early-mover industries with the potential to become major international exporters. Such policy should provide incentives for investment in clean energy, for example through a clean energy standard, that requires a certain amount of electricity be obtained from clean energy sources, or a market-based mechanism that puts a price on carbon. The time to act is now: through policy leadership at home and abroad, the United States can position itself to become a market leader in the industries of the 21st century.

Click here for the press release.

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Supreme Court Doubles Down on EPA and Clean Air Act

In a unanimous (8-0) decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in AEP v Conn that the state and land trust plaintiffs could not invoke a federal common law public nuisance claim against the five largest electric power companies.  The plaintiffs in the case were seeking controls on the carbon dioxide emissions from the utilities’ power plants.  Building on their 2007 decision in Mass v EPA, the Court held that Congress in passing the Clean Air Act had authorized federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions and in doing so had effectively “occupied the field” thereby negating any common law claims. In a decision noteworthy for its brevity and clarity, the Court stated:

We hold that the Clean Air Act and EPA actions it authorizes displace any federal common law right to seek abatement of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel fired plants.  Massachusetts made plain that emissions of carbon dioxide qualify as air pollution subject to regulation under the Act. (page 10)

Innovating Energy Despite Political Uncertainty

This article originally appeared in GE's 2010 ecomagination Annual Report.

by Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
June 2011

Energy is essential to human progress. Societies depend on it to maintain and improve quality of life, keep industries competitive and create jobs. But despite energy’s importance, we are not moving fast enough to make sure we can meet our future energy needs in ways that are affordable, sustainable and secure.

The status quo is not the answer. We need to move past the policy disputes of today and take bold action to build a clean-energy economy for tomorrow.

Fortunately, a handful of leading companies like GE have committed themselves to doing their part to achieve this goal. But these businesses need more certainty from government. They need to know that their investments are aligned with public policies that infl uence and shape domestic and world energy markets over time.

I am proud to see GE taking action on these issues despite today’s uncertainty and the mixed signals business is receiving from governments around the world. GE knows that transforming how we generate and consume energy is essential to protecting both the environment and our economic competitiveness. It’s time for others to follow GE’s lead so we can see dramatic growth in new clean-energy technologies in the years to come.

To view the full report, visit GE's website

by Eileen Claussen --Appeared in GE's ecomagination Annual Report

Austin Energy Efficiency Workshop

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 
Promoted in Energy Efficiency section
Energy Efficiency Image: 
This half-day workshop on "Energy Efficiency in the South" in Austin, Texas will be held on Wednesday, June 15.

Pew Center on Global Climate Change Presents:
"Energy Efficiency in the South"

 

AT&T Executive Education Conference Center
1900 University Avenue, Austin, TX 78705

 

8:30AM-12:00PM, June 15, 2011

 

The South is under increasing pressure to smartly manage its energy use and find ways be more energy efficient. Along with new energy efficiency policies, new energy strategies from corporations, the region’s biggest energy consumers, will be key to these efforts. And with almost half-a-trillion dollars in savings possible, there is good reason to take action.

This free workshop will highlight the key results from two reports - the Pew Center's From Shop Floor to Top Floor: Best Business Practices in Energy Efficiency, which describes leading corporate energy efficiency strategies and Georgia Tech's Energy Efficiency in the South report, which estimates that implementing of certain energy efficiency policies can result in as much as $448 billion in savings – while requiring fewer new power plants over the next twenty years.

 

Agenda

8:30 – 9:00 AM

Registration and Continental Breakfast

9:00 – 9:20 AM

Opening Remarks

9:20 – 10:20 AM

Panel  I: Corporate Best Practices
Barriers and solutions for increased energy efficiency are discussed by the author of Pew’s “Top Floor to Shop Floor” report.  Three additional corporate speakers will share their hands on experience about pursuing energy efficiency initiatives within their own operations.

Panelists:

10:20 – 10:30 AM

Refreshment Break

10:30 – 11:30 AM

Panel  II: Policy Options to increased Energy Efficiency in the South
State and local policy experts will discuss options that can assist businesses in taking energy efficiency to the next level.

Panelists:

11:30 – 11:40 AM

Closing remarks

From Dark to Light: Navigating the U.S. Energy-Climate Terrain

Keynote Address By Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Institute of International and European Affairs
Dublin, Ireland
June 14, 2011

Watch the full speech

Thank you very much.  It is a pleasure to be here. I am especially pleased to be in Ireland just a couple of weeks after President Barack Obama paid a visit to his ancestral home of Moneygall.  I thought you would be interested to know that some of the President’s opponents, following the recent controversy about whether or not he was truly born in America, demanded proof of Mr. Obama’s Irish ancestry … and I understand he responded by finishing his Guinness and reminding his opponents that he is the only president to host a Beer Summit at the White House.

In all seriousness, I want to thank the Institute of International and European Affairs for inviting me to this beautiful city to talk with all of you about what’s happening in the United States to address the issue of climate change.

(Pause.)

Well, that about sums it up.  It has been a pleasure speaking with you and, if you will pardon me, I will now get along with my sightseeing.

I am kidding, of course. Well, let me clarify that. I am kidding about being through with my remarks, but the notion that not a lot is happening on this issue in the United States is no joke.  The renowned Irish blessing calls for the winds to be always at your back; the sun to shine warm upon your face; and rains to fall soft upon your fields. Well, for those of us who care about this issue and who want to see the United States take its rightful role in protecting the climate, it seems like the wind has not actually been at our back – but rather hitting us squarely in the face for quite some time now.

Any time you have someone winning an election to the United States Senate, as we did in November, thanks in part to a campaign ad where he uses a rifle to shoot a hole through a piece of paper representing climate change legislation, I guess you could be forgiven for feeling, well, not sufficiently blessed.

For perspective, let’s look back for a moment at what was happening on this issue in the United States just two years ago.  President Obama was just months into office after an election campaign during which he had pledged to reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases by 80 percent before mid-century, and during which he promised to invest tens of billions of dollars in new climate-friendly energy technologies. 

As his secretary of energy, the President appointed a Nobel Prize winner who supported strong action to address climate change. And he built an all-star team of advisers on environment and energy issues who felt the same way.

Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives, just two years ago this month, passed comprehensive climate change legislation that established national limits on U.S. emissions and that authorized a new trading program to help industries meet their targets as efficiently as possible.

It was indeed a heady time for those of us who have labored on this issue over the past two decades and more.  We definitely felt as though we had the wind at our back.  But now it all seems like a distant dream … there is no getting around the fact that 2010 was a dark time for those of us who believed that the United States was on the precipice of taking serious action. 

So today, I will spend my time talking with you about why I believe things have changed so dramatically in so short a time.  But I also want to point to some signs of hope. William Butler Yeats once wrote, “When one looks into the darkness there is always something there.” And I believe this is an insight we should remember, no matter how dark things may appear to be at the present time.

John McCain joked once in a different context that it’s always darkest before the light goes completely out. (Pause.) Which is very funny – but also somewhat depressing.  In my remarks today, I intend to look into the present darkness and reflect on some of the reasons why things are so dark right now.  But I also will point out that indeed, there is “something there.”

Let us start with a closer look at why it has grown so gloomy (for some) in Washington.  In the two years since the House of Representatives voted on the so-called “cap-and-trade” legislation in June 2009, the opposition to climate action has gained the upper hand in the debate.  The 2010 U.S. elections last November brought an astonishing number of new members to Congress who publicly disavowed the science of climate change. In fact, shortly after the election, a U.S. think tank conducted a comprehensive review of the policy positions and statements of more than 100 incoming Republican members of Congress. It found that more than half of them — I repeat: more than half —are skeptics of climate change. They say they are not sure it’s really happening.  Remember: This is in the majority party that controls the legislative agenda in the U.S. House of Representatives.

So if anyone tells you that serious congressional action on this issue is possible in the next two years, I hope you will politely tell them they’re crazy.  It’s not going to happen. 

And it is not just the presence of a large number of climate skeptics that make it improbable that the current U.S. Congress will do anything.  As always in Washington, there are a range of other issues and other interests at play.  In the wake of President Obama’s effort to overhaul the U.S. health care system, for example, there is a pronounced distaste in our nation’s capital and throughout the United States for policies that could be branded as quote-unquote “big government” solutions.

We can do our level best to try and help people understand how a cap-and-trade approach leaves it to the market (and not government) to find the most efficient ways to reduce emissions, but opponents inevitably will turn this into an issue of government overreach.  And in the current political climate in the United States, attacking things in this manner is a strategy that seems to work.

There is also of course the economy – a seemingly unending challenge with which I know all of you are familiar. You understand how unemployment rates can color every political decision.  In the U.S., unemployment hovers at or near the 9 percent mark, causing members of Congress to feel their own jobs are at risk to the extent that they embrace policies that could be construed as being anti-business or, worse, “anti-jobs.”  The President’s health care law regularly is referred to as a quote-unquote “job killing,” “job destroying” or “job crushing” initiative. This is how you attack your opponents in Washington today. You accuse them of wanting to take away people’s jobs. And, once again, this is a strategy that seems to work, even if it can be argued that addressing climate change in a serious way will actually create new jobs in clean energy and related industries. 

Unfortunately, it gets even worse.  Not content merely to block legislation that could strengthen or expand U.S. efforts to address climate change, many in the House of Representatives are pursuing a strategy of trying to eliminate or curtail existing policies and programs related to this issue, however modest they may be. 

Earlier this year, the House passed a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. Ironically, this measure could have been nicknamed the “Kill Government” bill for its drastic cutbacks. While fiscal realities demand cuts to a wide range of vital federal programs, the House plan disproportionately cut funding for the climate science and clean energy programs needed to transition to the robust clean-energy economy that many businesses and the public support.

Thankfully, the U.S. Senate had its say, and the spending bill the President eventually signed into law avoided total annihilation of federal climate initiatives. While the most aggressive efforts by Congress to strip the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of its funding and authority to act on climate and clean energy may not have passed, many politically-contentious issues lie ahead that may present more hurdles for EPA. For instance, debates this summer over the U.S. debt ceiling and battles over the 2012 budget could again put EPA in the crosshairs. Many Republicans, especially in the House, are likely to stay vigilant in their anti-climate efforts.

But under our bicameral legislative system, the House does not have the last word in these matters.  The Senate, however, presents its own challenges, starting with an arcane set of rules that allows a minority of senators to block major legislation. The Democrats are in the majority in the Senate, but they don’t have the 60 votes they need to pass anything major on climate change or other big issues.  What’s more, the Democrats themselves remain divided on the climate issue, with senators from oil- and coal-producing states often siding with Republicans to block proposals that could be portrayed as trying to change the prevailing, high-carbon energy mix in the United States. 

Looking ahead, things could get worse before they get better.  The period after the November 2012 elections could be the next best chance for the United States to do something serious on the climate issue. But if the House remains majority Republican, or the Senate falls into Republican hands, the chance will probably be lost for another two years or more.

So, it’s a little dark in Washington at the moment and it is hard to see how anything substantive or serious can happen on the climate issue under the current Congress. Indeed, the challenge right now is to prevent Congress from endangering the mostly modest initiatives and programs that are in place right now to address this issue, and on which we can potentially build a more robust response in the future under friendlier leadership.

Which brings me to the shadows of hope we can see if we follow the advice of Mr. Yeats and look into the darkness. The first of these appears when we look at what’s happening at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the federal agency that is responsible for carrying out many U.S. laws related to climate change and the environment. 

With Congress unable to pass comprehensive climate legislation in 2010, attention turned to what the EPA might be able to do under the agency’s existing authority. And it turns out the EPA can do a great deal.  One of the reasons why it can do a great deal is because the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007 decided that greenhouse gases meet the definition of pollutants under the Clean Air Act.  This is the omnibus federal clean air law that was originally passed in the 1970s and has been amended and expanded several times since.

In its 2007 ruling, the Supreme Court left it to the EPA to decide if emissions of greenhouse gases present a risk to public health and welfare. EPA decided they did, based on the overwhelming scientific evidence about the enormous risks that climate change poses to America and the world. Interestingly, we recently learned that the previous EPA Administrator under President George W. Bush came to exactly the same conclusion … and other senior Bush administration officials agreed.  So when opponents of the EPA decision on greenhouse gases inevitably painted it as a partisan attempt to expand government, well, let’s just say that their arguments seemed a tad partisan themselves.

What is the EPA doing to try and limit U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases? National standards for passenger cars and light-duty trucks that won approval from industry and environmentalists will increase fuel efficiency to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016 and save consumers $3,000 over a vehicle’s lifetime. A new EPA proposal to be finalized next year aims to increase fuel efficiency by another 3 to 6 percent per year through 2025. In late October, the agency announced a sensible proposal to reduce emissions by 20 percent and improve fuel efficiency for medium and heavy-duty vehicles.  This was followed by a November announcement that will go a long way to making sure that new industrial facilities in the United States use state-of-the-art technologies to boost efficiency and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. And later this year, EPA is expected to propose the first-ever greenhouse gas standards for new and existing power plants and oil refineries.

Of course, opponents of these and other reasonable EPA actions will continue to raise a ruckus, and there have already been loud cries in Congress to take away the agency’s regulatory authority and cut its funding, as I already discussed. But the fact remains that, even though its efforts are relatively mild and will not come close to achieving the broader reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that President Obama promised during his election campaign, EPA is still in the fight and is still putting forward reasonable rules and regulations for reducing the U.S. contribution to climate change.  And that is an encouraging thing to see as we take in an otherwise dark scene. 

It is also important to take notice of action actually taking place on the ground that has climate benefits. Most notably, we expect many old coal plants to shut down. While some new coal plants will come online soon, we are far more likely to see new natural gas power plants built in the future. While not “The Answer” to our climate and energy challenges, natural gas emits half the amount of carbon dioxide as coal. So this shift to natural gas, largely driven by regulations of conventional pollutants and by discoveries of shale gas that make natural gas more cost-competitive, will certainly help keep the U.S. on the downward emissions pathway that we’ve experienced in recent years. Of course, achieving bigger, brighter changes in how we produce and consume energy will ultimately require new policies, technological innovation, and broad public support.

Another shadow of hope that we can see if we look hard into the current darkness is that President Obama continues to talk about energy issues in a way that is helpful for the climate.  Yes, he recently proposed to expand drilling for oil in the United States, but he continues to frame the nation’s energy challenge (and, indeed, the world’s) as a challenge that we can meet only through an all-of-the-above energy policy that reserves a vital role for low-carbon, clean-energy sources in meeting our energy needs in the decades to come. Obama’s rhetorical commitment to climate action was again heard in his speech before the British Parliament last month, when he grouped climate change as one of the world’s principle threats to confront along with terrorism, nuclear proliferation, famine and disease.

Looking ahead to the 2012 U.S. presidential election, we can even see a faint shadow of hope (I emphasize it’s a faint one) in the histories of the leading Republican candidates for President.  A number of the leading Republican candidates (including former state governors Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich) have in the past supported cap-and-trade policies.  Of course, they wouldn’t admit it now even under enhanced interrogation techniques.

But these men who are running for President on the Republican side are not your classic climate change deniers.  In fact, some of them still agree that the science of climate change is real, although they are not supporting any real action to deal with it.  I know this does not sound like much … but the fact is that these candidates will find it hard to make climate change a polarizing issue in the 2012 election given their records and past statements on the issue – and that is a good thing. 

Of course, if former Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska or another out-and-out climate change skeptic runs for President on the Republican side, then this might change.  And I expect the well-funded, highly-influential Tea Party movement to continue to mislead the public about the science and hold up climate action as a prime example of government run amuck. But in all honesty, I am not sure that running on a climate-change-denial platform is smart politics in America today.  I am convinced from a review of the polls that the majority of the American people actually support reasonable action to develop clean energy sources and take other steps to create a low-carbon economy. 

According to various credible surveys, a majority of Americans (about 60 percent) believe global warming or climate change is happening. It is important to note, however, that these numbers have trended down in recent years in sync with the recession and with the increasing political battles over climate change policy and well-funded attacks on climate science. 

One of the more interesting public opinion surveys on this topic is the so-called “Six Americas” study by Yale and George Mason universities. The project’s researchers identified six distinct subsets of the U.S. population based on their beliefs about climate change.  The six categories are: Alarmed; Concerned; Cautious; Disengaged; Doubtful; and Dismissive.  (Add the name Grumpy and you could have the climate change version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.)

Interestingly, majorities in all six of these groups said they believe the United States should make it a priority to develop clean sources of energy.  Regulating carbon dioxide emissions was supported by a majority of each group except the Dismissive.  (Nobody asked Grumpy what he thought.)  So it’s obvious that a significant portion of the U.S. population supports policies that directly or indirectly would result in reduced emissions of greenhouse gases. 

Where support for these policies begins to decline is where researchers ask Americans what they are willing to pay to achieve these goals.  But still, public support for clean energy (and, to a lesser extent, regulating greenhouse gas emissions) is certainly a hopeful thing we can see as we look into the darkness in the United States on this issue today. And the reason why it is so hopeful is because it suggests to me that the current stalemate on this issue cannot last, especially in the face of continuing extreme weather events such as the recent flooding of the Mississippi River and Texas wildfires that have ravaged nearly 3 million acres.

These are exactly the kinds of events that climate scientists keep warning us will become more frequent in a warming world, and these types of extreme weather events inevitably raise serious questions in people’s minds about whether warming global temperatures are already wreaking havoc with the climate.  

So far, I have talked mostly about national politics in the United States, but it is important to remember that in the U.S. political system, states have an enormous degree of authority and flexibility to advance climate solutions and other policies on their own.  And the good and hopeful news is that many U.S. states have banded together in recent years to launch regional initiatives aimed at reducing emissions and developing clean energy.  This is in addition to individual states acting on their own on these issues. 

The not-so-good news is that state actions on the climate issue suffered a bit of a setback last November.  As was the case with the U.S. congressional elections, the 2010 gubernatorial elections brought to the nation’s statehouses a group of new leaders who adopted strong stands against climate action in their campaigns. This is already setting back some of the progress we were seeing at the state level on this issue in recent years.  For example, New Jersey’s new governor, Chris Christie, who is a rising star in the Republican Party, announced last month that he would withdraw his state from a very promising regional climate initiative that includes 10 northeastern U.S. states. While Gov. Christie said he accepts the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and humans play a role, he follows the standard Republican position of opposing policy action, specifically cap and trade.

But there is still hope among the states.  During the November election, for example, voters in California overwhelmingly rejected a measure aimed at curtailing the state’s nascent efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Shortly after that vote, the California Air Resources Board formally approved the state’s cap-and-trade program, which is designed to reduce California emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. A lawsuit by environmental activists opposed to cap and trade challenged the regulations on procedural grounds and may prevent the state from implementing its program on time. But the good news is California is still in the fight. And there is strong public support for what the state wants to do. California Gov. Jerry Brown also has signed into law one of the nation’s most aggressive renewable electricity standards. It requires 33 percent of the state’s electricity be produced by renewable sources by 2020.

Of course, California, as a relatively progressive state,will always provide a more hospitable climate for action on this issue. But the fact that the most highly populated U.S. state will soon be implementing a cap-and-trade system and other measures to reduce emissions has to be a positive sign.

Internationally, the Cancún climate talks showed that there are opportunities for incremental, evolutionary progress in the global negotiations on key operational issues of finance; measurement, reporting and verification; adaptation; technology; and forestry. It is important to understand that progress on these issues does not require a new legal agreement. Each of them can be advanced in tangible ways by decisions of the Parties. That is exactly what was achieved in Cancún. The Cancún Agreements are a package of decisions by the Parties. And what that package does, in large measure, is to import the essential elements of the Copenhagen Accord into the UN climate system and take initial steps to implement them.

What this represents is incremental progress – evolutionary progress – the kind of progress that had eluded us for years because we were so preoccupied with legally-binding outcomes. So we were able to move forward in Cancún on operational issues. But we were able to do so – and this is an important point – only because Parties were willing to put aside their differences on the legal issues.

I encourage the talks this year in Durban, South Africa to build on the effective, incremental approach taken in Cancún. Because the reality is that the U.S. cannot make global commitments until there is stronger consensus for action at home. And even apart from the situation in the U.S., the reality is that few if any developed countries will take on new binding commitments unless China and other emerging economies do as well. For now, we must look to coalitions of the willing to make progress in key areas, such as renewable energy and forest protection. While maintaining the international process is key to working toward the ultimate, longer-term goal of a global climate agreement with legally-binding commitments, actions taking place on the ground in individual countries right now are the most important signs of progress.

The last shadow of hope – and perhaps the most important one – that I want to talk about is the fact that there remains a strong core of business support for reasonable action on the climate issue in the United States.  The Pew Center’s Business Environmental Leadership Council includes 46 major corporations that support mandatory, market-based approaches to tackle climate change.

Starting with 13 companies in 1998, our Business Council is now the largest U.S.-based association of corporations focused on addressing the challenges of climate change and supporting mandatory climate policy. It includes mostly Fortune 500 companies with combined revenues of over $2.5 trillion and over 4.5 million employees. Many different sectors are represented, from high technology to diversified manufacturing; from oil and gas to transportation; from utilities to chemicals.

While individual companies hold their own views on policy specifics, they are united with the Pew Center in the belief that voluntary action alone will not be enough to address the climate challenge.  The bottom line: Business support for climate solutions is surely a hopeful sign amid the present darkness … and it is yet another factor that suggests to me that the current situation can’t last for long.

I would like to end my remarks by drawing your attention to something that will happen today in the United States that, at least on the surface, appears to have very little to do with the subject of my remarks.  On 42nd Street in New York City, at the Foxwoods Theater, a new rock musical based on the Spiderman comics with music and lyrics by U2’s Bono and The Edge has its official opening after several months of delays and various catastrophes along the way. 

Just months ago, many people wondered if it would ever open, given that it was way over budget and that it had gone through a number of cast changes, script rewrites and more.  The low point came when a stunt performer fell more than 20 feet to the stage after a cable snapped on the harness that held him aloft.  Fortunately, he was released from the hospital and is OK, and despite mixed reviews, ticket sales for the production have been, well, phenomenal.

I bring up the opening of the Spiderman musical because it’s a reminder that even when things are at their darkest, there can still be hope for success.  I also bring it up because of the title of the production.  It is called Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark

Yeats told us, “When one looks into the darkness there is always something there.”  And right now, as I have said, we can indeed see shadows of hope in the darkness that has descended on the climate change debate in the United States. When we will be able to turn off the dark, I cannot say.  But I believe it can happen in due time. 

Now perhaps we can turn up the lights for some questions … Thank you very much.

Eileen Claussen addresses the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin, Ireland.
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