Energy & Technology

Taking Climate Change into Account in U.S. Transportation

U.S. transportation is responsible for more than a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This In Brief describes the options for reducing this contribution to global climate change. There are three fundamental ways to curb these emissions.
  • Improve vehicle efficiency. Major gains in fuel efficiency are technically feasible for cars, trucks, and airplanes. There is evidence, however, that consumers undervalue fuel savings when purchasing new vehicles. In addition, the environmental and security benefits of fuel efficiency are external—i.e., dispersed throughout society rather than to the individual consumer. Because fuel efficiency is thus undervalued in the market place, policies are essential to pull efficiency improvements into the market. The current system for setting vehicle efficiency standards could be made more effective by providing longer lead times for tougher standards. Another option would be to require light trucks to meet standards as stringent as those for cars. Because it takes time for the vehicle fleet to turn over, programs must be initiated now and sustained over decades to realize this technological potential.
  • Substitute low-carbon fuels for carbon-intensive fuels. Many alternative fuels produce less carbon dioxide (CO2) per unit of energy than petroleum. Petroleum, however, has many advantages and is supported by an extensive and well-functioning infrastructure, so policy intervention would be required to spur a transition to alternative fuels. Requiring the use of ethanol as a gasoline additive could yield a 3 percent net reduction in GHG emissions in the near term and a 10 percent reduction in the long term, while maintaining the current fueling system.1 Work should also start now to lay the groundwork for longer-term solutions, such as a hydrogen-based transportation system.
  • Increase transportation system efficiency. Numerous transportation modes—such as air, water, rail, car, bus, and bicycling—exist to move people and goods. Increasing the efficiency of the transportation system would require both improving accessibility to the various modes of transportation and using more efficient ones. Which mode is most efficient depends on the distance traveled as well as population density. In the United States, the evolution over decades of automobile dependence and land use patterns has resulted in an energy-intensive transportation system. Policy options for increasing system efficiency include funding public transportation, building infrastructure that eases the transfer of freight and passengers between modes, supporting "intelligent transportation" technologies. and promoting "smart growth."

Greenhouse gas emissions consequences are now unaccounted for in public as well as private transportation decisions. Taking climate change into account in these decisions would provide a major impetus to improve vehicle efficiency, substitute low-carbon fuels, and increase transportation system efficiency. Policy options include building institutional capacity at all levels of government to address the climate consequences of transportation, incorporating climate change as a consideration in disbursing monies from the federal Highway Trust Fund, and developing a greenhouse gas cap and trade program to constrain emissions at the lowest possible cost.

No single policy approach will be sufficient. Reducing GHG emissions from transportation calls for a balanced combination of cost-effective measures. Many of the policy measures discussed in this brief do much more than reduce CO2 emissions. For example, since U.S. transportation is almost entirely fueled by petroleum, decreasing GHG emissions from this sector would also decrease dependence on imported oil.

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Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions From U.S. Transportation

Reducing GHG from Transportation

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions From U.S. Transportation

Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
May 2003

David L. Greene, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and 
Andreas Schafer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Press Release

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Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

Transportation accounts for nearly a third of our nation's greenhouse gas emissions, and its emissions are growing more rapidly than other sectors. In this report, authors David Greene and Andreas Schafer find that numerous opportunities are available now and in the future to reduce the transportation sector's impact on climate. Many of these same actions would also address other national priorities, including reducing U.S. dependence on oil imports.

This latest Pew Center report is the first building block in our effort to examine key sectors, technologies, and policy options to construct the "10-50 Solution" to climate change. The idea is that we need to tackle climate change over the next fifty years, one decade at a time. This report points to the following key elements of the 10-50 Solution to transportation.

  • We can start now, and we must start now. Fuel economy for cars and trucks could be increased by 25-33 percent over the next 10 to 15 years using market-ready technology at a net savings, if fuel savings are taken into account. Increasing efficiency of vehicles (aircraft, car, trucks and trains) takes time because fleet turnover typically takes 15 years or more.
  • We will need a sustained effort over many decades. Technologies on the horizon are likely to enable fuel economy improvements in cars and light trucks of 50 to 100 percent by 2030. Transforming land-use patterns to enable more efficient travel, or transitioning to a hydrogen based transportation system, will require decades of incremental change.
  • R&D and voluntary efforts are necessary but not sufficient; mandatory policies are essential. Since fuel economy is undervalued in the marketplace, policies such as mandatory standards and public information are needed to pull technological improvements into the market. Fuel economy has gotten worse recently not because of lack of technology, but because of lack of policy. Hydrogen holds out the tantalizing promise of near-zero greenhouse gas emissions, but government must provide clear policy direction to drive massive private investment by the fuel and vehicle industries.
  • We need a mix of policies, and there are many to choose from. Opportunities for significant emission reductions include implementing a carbon constraint, raising efficiency standards for automobiles, blending low-carbon fuels with gasoline, and changing land-use patterns through urban design and planning. Each of these measures could contribute to reducing GHG emissions, but none is sufficient alone. The authors estimate that a combination of reasonable measures would reduce carbon emissions by about 20 percent by 2015, and almost 50 percent by 2030, compared to "business as usual."

The authors and the Pew Center would like to thank Roland Hwang of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Barry McNutt of the U.S. Department of Energy, Alan Pisarski, and Daniel Sperling of the University of California, Davis for their review of and advice on a previous draft of this report.

Executive Summary

Since the introduction of motorized transportation systems, economic growth and advancing technology have allowed people and goods to travel farther and faster, steadily increasing the use of energy for transportation. Modern transportation systems are overwhelmingly powered by internal combustion engines fueled by petroleum. Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas (GHG) produced by the transportation sector, have steadily increased along with travel, energy use, and oil imports. In the absence of any constraint or effective countermeasures, transportation energy use and GHG emissions will continue to increase.

In the U.S. economy, transportation is second only to electricity generation in terms of the volume and rate of growth of GHG emissions. In terms of carbon dioxide, which accounts for 95 percent of transportation's GHG emissions, transportation is the largest and fastest growing end-use sector.1  Today, the U.S. transportation sector accounts for one-third of all U.S. end-use sector CO2 emissions, and if projections hold, this share will rise to 36 percent by 2020. U.S. transportation is also a major emitter on a global scale. Each year it produces more CO2 emissions than any other nation's entire economy, except China. Given its size and rate of growth, any serious GHG mitigation strategy must include the transportation sector.

This report evaluates potential CO2 emission reductions from transportation in the United States. Measures considered include energy efficiency improvements, low-carbon alternative fuels, increasing the operating efficiency of the transportation system, and reducing travel. Highway vehicles should be the primary focus of policies to control GHG emissions, since they account for 72 percent of total transportation emissions. Passenger cars and light trucks together account for more than half of total sectoral emissions.

Energy Efficiency

By 2015, the fuel economy of new passenger cars and light trucks can be increased up to one-third by the adoption of proven technologies, at a cost below the value of the fuel that would be saved and without reducing the size or performance of vehicles. Before 2030, advanced diesel engines, gasoline or diesel hybrid vehicles, and hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles will likely permit new car and light truck fuel economy to be increased by at least 50 to 100 percent, while satisfying current and future emission standards. Efficiency gains of 25 to 50 percent for new heavy trucks will likely also be possible over the next 15 to 30 years. For new aircraft, fuel economy increases of 15 to 25 percent seem feasible by 2015, reaching 25 to 40 percent by 2030.

Because the energy efficiency of new vehicles will rise gradually, and because it takes time to turn over the entire fleet of vehicles in use, by 2015 the increase in energy efficiency achieved by all transportation vehicles in use will be only about half that achieved by new vehicles. With policies to ensure the use of cost-effective technologies to increase fuel economy, by 2015 it should be possible to boost the average efficiency of vehicles in use by 10 to 15 percent, reducing GHG emissions by about 11 percent. By 2030 GHG emissions reductions on the order of 25 percent should be achievable. These estimates take into account the tendency for slight increases in travel when fuel costs are lowered by efficiency gains.

Alternative Fuels

Despite 25 years of effort, alternatives to petroleum have not displaced more than a few percent of petroleum fuels. Petroleum fuels are supported by an extensive and well-functioning infrastructure. They also have high energy density, low cost, and a demonstrated ability to adapt to environmental challenges. In the near term, lower-carbon alternative fuels such as natural gas and liquefied petroleum gases will continue to be viable in niche markets. Lower-carbon replacement fuels, such as alcohols or ethers produced from biomass, can be blended with gasoline to displace several percent of petroleum use. If methods of producing ethanol from cellulose can be commercialized and if current tax subsidies are continued, renewable liquid fuels blended with petroleum fuels could reduce transportation's CO2 emissions by 2 percent by 2015 and 6 percent by 2030.

Technological advances in fuel cells, hydrogen production, and hydrogen storage are needed to accomplish a transition to a largely hydrogen-powered transportation system. Such a transition will also require intensive planning, major commitments by government, industry, and the public, and supportive public policies. If achieved, however, a transition to hydrogen produced from renewable or nuclear energy or from fossil resources with carbon sequestration, could eliminate most of transportation's GHG emissions sometime after 2030.

System Efficiency

While changing behavior has the potential to reduce transportation fuel use and GHG emissions, large and sustainable reductions have never been achieved in this manner in the United States. Increasing wealth and vehicle ownership combined with decreasing household size and population densities has led to steadily declining vehicle occupancy rates. The same trends have historically contributed to declining market shares for mass transit, although mass transit ridership has been growing over the past few years. On the freight side, shippers increasingly value speed and reliability, favoring truck and airfreight, the most energy-intensive modes. Still, GHG emission reductions of a few percent can be achieved with concerted effort, and much might be possible if innovative strategies could be found to increase vehicle occupancy rates without diminishing service or convenience.

Reducing Transportation Activity

Mobility gives people access to opportunities and enhances the efficiency of the economy. Reducing transportation activity per se is not a desirable goal. Where there are environmental damages (such as GHG emissions) unaccounted for in private transportation decisions, increasing the cost of travel to reflect these impacts is beneficial from both an economic and environmental perspective. In particular, internalizing the externality of climate change through carbon cap-and-trade systems or direct pricing of the carbon content of motor fuels is an especially attractive option. An even greater impact can be achieved by redistributing certain fixed costs of motor vehicle travel so that they fall on carbon fuels. One example is collecting a portion of vehicle insurance fees as a surcharge on motor fuel. This could reduce GHG emissions from motor vehicles by 8 to 12 percent and could improve the overall economic efficiency of highway transportation.

The patterns of land use and development that have evolved over many decades are inefficient from a transportation perspective. If the geography of cities can be transformed to provide equal or greater accessibility with less travel, both the environment and the economy would benefit. Experimentation and modeling analyses indicate that travel reductions of 10 percent may be achievable in the long run, without loss of accessibility. The ability to consistently achieve and sustain such reductions has not been demonstrated in the United States, and much remains to be learned about planning and realizing more transportation-efficient patterns of land use.

Policy Options

There are plenty of practical and effective policies for reducing transportation's GHG emissions. The policies described in this report are not the only policies that can be effective; rather, they are representative of the kinds of policies a comprehensive strategy would include. A reasonable combination of policy measures should be able to reduce U.S. transportation sector CO2 emissions by 20 to 25 percent by 2015 and by 45 to 50 percent by 2030 in comparison to a transportation future without any efforts to control carbon emissions. If the demand for transportation energy use continues to grow at 2 percent per year through 2030, achieving these reductions will result in CO2 emissions in 2030 that are about the same as the current level.

These estimates of GHG reductions achievable by 2015 are based on: (1) proven energy efficiency technologies and low-carbon replacement fuels, (2) levels of efficiency improvement at which the value of the fuel saved is greater than or equal to the cost of technology, (3) no change in vehicle size or performance, (4) pricing and other policies that do not increase the overall cost of transportation and, (5) a carbon cap-and-trade system equivalent to approximately $50 per ton of carbon. Greenhouse gas reductions estimated to be achievable by 2030 are based on: (1) efficiency improvements that depend on technological progress judged highly likely by 2020 with a focused R&D effort, and (2) continuation or moderate extensions of pricing and behavioral policies adopted for 2015. GHG emissions would be lower if growth in demand for transportation fuel is slower, or with more stringent energy efficiency standards, a tighter carbon emissions cap, or if technological innovation is more rapid than assumed here.

Fuel efficiency improvements, especially of cars and light trucks, offer the largest potential for reducing CO2 emissions from transportation over the next 30 years. Several policies can contribute to realizing this potential, including fuel economy standards. Fossil fuel or carbon pricing policies would encourage fuel economy improvements while simultaneously discouraging transportation demand. Pricing measures alone, however, would probably not be sufficient to achieve the above indicated emission reductions. A price of $100 per ton of carbon, which translates into $0.25 per gallon of gasoline, might increase fuel economy by about 5 to 10 percent and reduce light-duty vehicle travel by about 1 to 3 percent, far below the estimated potential of a comprehensive strategy.

The long lead times required to turn over the entire fleet of vehicles and the supporting infrastructure mean that policies must be implemented now to create the impetus for change in order to achieve the reduction levels indicated in this report. Within the next 15 years, energy efficiency improvements, various pricing policies, and low-carbon replacement fuels are the key components of a comprehensive effort for reducing GHG emissions. Over the longer term a large-scale transition away from petroleum fuel toward low-carbon alternative fuels should be considered. Among the most promising low-carbon fuels for the longer term is hydrogen, which has many desirable fuel characteristics and can be produced from a variety of zero-carbon feedstocks or from fossil fuels with subsequent carbon sequestration. Obstacles, however, remain in areas such as hydrogen storage and the cost of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. A transition to hydrogen will require an entirely new infrastructure for producing, transporting, distributing, storing, and retailing hydrogen, and possibly for sequestering CO2 emissions generated during its production.

Many of the policy measures discussed in this report do much more than reduce CO2 emissions. For example, improving fuel efficiency of the U.S. transportation system reduces dependence on foreign oil imports and increases the global competitiveness of the U.S. vehicle industry. Similarly, more efficient land-use patterns not only increase the ridership potential of public transportation modes but also relieve traffic congestion. Taking these multiple benefits into account spreads the costs of controlling CO2 emissions and adds incentives for taking action.

The size and rate of growth of transportation's GHG emissions make them impossible to ignore. The interconnectedness of transportation to nearly every aspect of human activity, the provision of most transportation infrastructure as public goods, the important external costs associated with transportation activity and energy use, and other market imperfections mean that no single policy is likely to achieve the needed reductions in transportation GHG emissions. A suite of policies will be necessary. Devising and implementing an effective, comprehensive strategy will be a difficult and complex task, but it can be done.

1. The end use sectors are industry, residential, commercial, transportation and agriculture. Electric utility GHG emissions are apportioned to the sectors according to their electricity use.


By combining a variety of policies, U.S. transportation-related carbon emissions could be cut by 20 to 25 percent by 2015 and by 45 to 50 percent by 2030, in comparison to a continuation of current trends in energy efficiency, petroleum dependence, and traffic growth. Curbing the growth of transportation's GHG emissions will require a combination of meaningful policies and technological progress. A successful policy portfolio will involve all modes of transportation and will include a variety of measures, from fuel economy and fiscal policies to infrastructure investments. In the longer run, technological progress — and policies that promote it — must provide the means for continued efficiency improvements and ultimately for a transition to low-carbon energy sources for transportation. There are many specific forms of policies that can achieve the same objective.

Reducing transportation's GHG emissions will not be easy because demand for mobility of both people and goods will almost certainly continue to grow. Increasing transportation activity will result in growing energy use and GHG emissions, unless the energy efficiency of vehicles can be increased, alternative energy sources developed, and ways found to improve the ability of land use and transportation systems to provide accessibility with less motor vehicle travel.

The international effort to protect the global climate, especially efforts to reduce GHG emissions from transportation, provides a unique opportunity for the United States to work cooperatively with other countries to reduce worldwide demand for oil. Both near-term and longer-term actions to reduce GHG emissions from transportation will produce major benefits for U.S. energy security in the form of reduced oil imports and reduced economic losses from oil price shocks. Actions to reduce GHG emissions taken in concert with the other oil-consuming nations of the world will undermine the market power of the OPEC cartel, amplifying the United States' own efforts to increase energy security. By staying out of the global effort to reduce GHG emissions, the United States may be squandering its best chance to solve the oil dependence problem.

Harnessing market forces is a very useful but probably insufficient strategy for mitigating transportation's GHG emissions. Even a carbon cap-and-trade system, as beneficial as it would be, would be hindered by the tendency of households to undervalue fuel economy. It would be unlikely to bring about an appropriate level of investment in long-term transportation energy technologies and would not guide important investments in transportation infrastructure and the built environment. A combination of policies is needed to promote energy efficiency, stimulate investments in research and development, improve land use and infrastructure planning, and harness market forces.

For at least the next decade, the U.S. transportation system will continue to be powered primarily by conventional, petroleum-based liquid fuels. As a result, the most productive options to reduce GHG emissions will be fossil fuel or carbon pricing policies, energy efficiency improvements, and the blending of low-carbon replacement fuels with petroleum liquids.

Over the next 15 to 30 years, new technologies will be introduced, and the stock of transportation vehicles will be turned over twice, making much larger increases in energy efficiency possible. The world is also likely to have begun an important transition from conventional petroleum to alternative energy sources. The path of least resistance would be a gradual transition to increased use of unconventional sources of liquid hydrocarbon fuels, yet promising technologies are emerging that could lead in a very different direction, toward major roles for hydrogen and electric motors. It is not too soon to begin planning for and developing the technologies for an energy transition for transportation. The use of unconventional fossil fuels entails higher costs and more severe environmental consequences. An alternative, cleaner, more economically efficient energy future for transportation is possible, if the right technologies can be developed.

Increasing the efficiency of energy use now will buy more time for the transition and for the development of alternative technologies. Other decisions made over the next 10 years in R&D and also in infrastructure investments will influence the path taken. The paths that lead toward very low GHG emissions will require bold changes in technology and investments in infrastructure. At the same time, continued improvements in energy efficiency will be valuable whichever path is chosen. If the high-carbon fossil fuel path is chosen, continuing efficiency gains will be needed to hold carbon emissions in check. If the low-carbon path is chosen, higher efficiencies will help reduce the costs of clean technologies.

An attractive alternative to a petroleum-based transportation system is one based on hydrogen. Hydrogen can be produced from a variety of energy resources with minimal environmental impacts with the right technologies. Hydrogen, however, is not yet ready to compete with petroleum. Technological advances are needed in hydrogen storage, in the robustness and cost of fuel cells to produce power from hydrogen, and in economical and environmentally benign hydrogen production. The federal government's newly created FreedomCAR and hydrogen initiatives and California's Fuel Cell Partnership aim to create a transportation system powered by pollution-free hydrogen fuel cells. Even with the best efforts of these programs, it will be at least 15 to 20 years before hydrogen can achieve significant success in the marketplace.

The United States is the source of one-fourth of the world's GHG emissions. It is also the owner of the world's largest transportation system, the fastest growing source of CO2emissions in the U.S. economy. The U.S. transportation system is a key target for GHG emissions reduction. There are many responsible and cost-effective actions that can be taken to restrain the growth of GHG emissions from transportation. Action can begin today, and pathways exist to a low-carbon future for transportation. Formulating and implementing an effective, comprehensive strategy will not be easy, but it can be done.

About the Authors

David L. Greene, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

A Corporate Fellow of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, David Greene has spent 25 years researching transportation and energy policy issues for the U.S. government. His research interests include analysis of policies to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, energy and transportation demand modeling, economic analysis of petroleum dependence, and understanding market responses to advanced transportation technologies and alternative fuels. Dr. Greene earned a B.A. degree from Columbia University in 1971, an M.A. from the University of Oregon in 1973, and a Ph.D. in Geography and Environmental Engineering from The Johns Hopkins University in 1978. He has published over one hundred fifty articles, which have appeared in various professional journals, books, and technical reports. In recognition of his service to the National Academy of Science and National Research Council, Dr. Greene has been designated a lifetime National Associate of the National Academies.

Andreas Schafer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Andreas Schafer is a Principal Research Engineer at the Center for Technology, Policy & Industrial Development and the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Previously, he spent 5 years with the Energy Systems group at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Laxenburg (Austria). His research interests cover the modeling of the demand for and supply of energy and transportation systems and the introduction of technology under environmental constraints. He holds a M.Sc. in Aero- and Astronautical Engineering and a Ph.D. in Energy Economics both from the University of Stuttgart, Germany.

Andreas Schafer
David L. Greene

Solving the Climate Equation: Mandatory & Practical Steps for Real Reductions

Mandatory & Practical Steps for Real Reductions

Remarks By Eileen Claussen
President, Pew Center on Global Cliamte Change

Alliant Energy Conference
Madison, Wisconsin

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.

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Greenhouse & Statehouse: The Evolving State Government Role in Climate Change

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Greenhouse & Statehouse: The Evolving State Government Role in Climate Change

Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
November 2002

Barry G. Rabe, University of Michigan

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The current level of state activity surrounding the issue of climate change is striking. Measures that have proven controversial at the federal level, such as renewable portfolio standards and mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions, have been implemented at the state level, often with little dissent.

In this report, author Barry Rabe of the University of Michigan describes a diverse array of state initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Based on case studies of nine states - Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, and Wisconsin - the report identifies the strengths as well as the limitations of these state-level initiatives, some of which could serve as prototypes for federal programs.

A number of themes emerged from the case studies. Foremost among these is that there are multiple drivers that influence states to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and states derive multiple benefits from doing so. New Jersey, for example, views climate change explicitly and comprehensively, and has integrated all sectors of the economy into programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Conversely, Texas passed an ambitious renewable portfolio standard primarily out of a desire to ensure long-term energy security for its residents, to secure its position as an "energy state," and to take advantage of increasing opportunities in renewable energy.

Indeed, state climate change efforts illustrate that climate change can be a bipartisan issue, an economic development opportunity, and an opportunity for policy entrepreneurship. But state action is not a substitute for a comprehensive national or international approach. A number of factors limit the ability of states to address climate change, including the reluctance of some states to deal with the issue, constitutional limits to their engagement in international relations, limited funding, and potential inefficiencies if states address climate change in different, incompatible ways. Rather, state leadership is getting the United States started down the path of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing learning opportunities for policy-makers. We would do well to be mindful of their successes as we work toward federal and international programs, and actively involve states in their design and implementation.

The Center and the author wish to thank Tom Arrandale, Bill Becker of STAPPA-ALAPCO, John Dernbach of Widener Law School, David Terry of NASEO, Michael Winka, Athena Sarafides, Philip Mundo, Caroline Garber, Eric Mosher, Joanne Morin, Dana Runestad, Alex Belinky, Matthew Weinbaum, and John Shea for their comments on a previous draft of this report.

Executive Summary

Most analysis of policy options to address global climate change has focused on national and international levels of governance. Even within the United States, most scholars and journalists have concentrated on federal government capacity to engage in international negotiations and formulate nation-wide policies. This emphasis has tended to overshadow a remarkably - and increasingly - active process of policy formulation evident in the American states. This report is intended to provide an overview of this aspect of American climate change policy, considering recent trends and highlighting a range of case studies that cut across traditional policy sectors.

States have been formulating climate change policy for more than a decade, although their efforts have expanded and intensified in the past several years. In some cases, states have considered climate change mitigation explicitly while in others it has been an incidental benefit. Reflective of the vast scope of activity that generates greenhouse gases, state policies have been enacted that reduce these emissions in such areas as promotion of renewable energy, air pollution control, agriculture and forestry, waste management, transportation, and energy development, among others. In almost all cases, there have been multiple drivers behind and multiple benefits from these state policies. In Texas, for example, the desire for energy independence, economic development, and air pollution control drove the state to promote renewable energy. Not all states have demonstrated interest in these initiatives and some legislatures have taken steps to prevent state agencies from pursuing any efforts that are designed to reduce greenhouse gases. Nonetheless, there has been a remarkable increase and diversification of state policies since the late 1990s, reflected in their current operation in every region of the country. Collectively, they constitute a diverse set of policy innovations rich with lessons for the next generation of American climate change policy.

Much of this report is devoted to an examination of leading examples of innovation in various sectors, from renewable energy efforts in Texas to a cross-cutting approach in New Jersey. Nine case studies are presented in particular depth, followed by supplemental cases where appropriate. These cases tend to vary markedly from one another in detail and yet are linked by common design characteristics. First, they tend to have been supported through broad, bipartisan coalitions that received significant support from diverse stakeholders. State climate change policies have been signed into law by Governors who are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Second, they regularly have viewed climate change mitigation as an economic development opportunity. State policies have been crafted to foster long-term economic well-being, which has contributed to their broad base of support. Third, they reflect abundant state-level opportunities for innovation and policy entrepreneurship, often involving state officials who build coalitions around a particular idea for new policy. Many of the most effective entrepreneurs are not particularly well known outside their respective states but have helped redefine climate change policy with their efforts.

When viewed as a collection of efforts, these initiatives outline possible elements of a long-term climate change strategy for the United States. Diffusion of innovation from one state to others is already occurring and clusters of contiguous states are beginning to consider cooperative efforts. Some of these policies may also serve as models that warrant emulation by the federal government in developing a more comprehensive strategy for the nation. This is entirely consistent with the long-standing tradition in American governance whereby states serve as laboratories for subsequent federal policy. In turn, the vigorous and creative nature of state innovation in this area suggests that any future federal policy initiatives on global climate change consider carefully the significant roles that state governments may be able to play in achieving long-term reduction of greenhouse gases.


Transportation in Developing Countries: Greenhouse Gas Scenarios for Chile

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Transportation in Developing Countries: Greenhouse Gas Scenarios for Chile

Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
August 2002

Raúl O’Ryan, Universidad De Chile
Daniel Sperling, Mark Delucchi, and Tom Turrentine, University of California, Davis

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Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

Worldwide, transportation sector greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are the fastest growing and most difficult to control. In Chile, where the transportation sector is growing even faster than the rest of the economy and accounts for one-third of the nation's energy use, per capita GHG emissions are relatively high and car and truck ownership rates continue to increase.

Until recently, the environmental consequences of Chile's rapid development received little scrutiny. GHG emission levels continue to be a low priority for policymakers, but severe air pollution and traffic congestion are raising awareness of the need to address transportation-related environmental problems. As one of the world's most sophisticated countries at transferring transportation infrastructure and services provision to the private sector - most are now owned or managed by private companies, and market principles are being widely used in providing traditional public services - Chile could pioneer market-based approaches to transportation and environmental challenges.

This report creates two scenarios of GHG emissions from Chile's transportation sector in 2020. It finds:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions increase 117 percent in the high, "business-as-usual" scenario but only 42 percent in the low scenario.
  • Urban transportation strategies driven by concerns over air quality, traffic congestion, and the high cost of road infrastructure investments would also have climate change benefits. Examples of these strategies are:
  • Introducing new and enhanced technology, such as converting urban buses from diesel to hydrogen fuel cell and using natural gas and small battery-powered electric cars.
  • Improving public transportation, such as integrating bus routing and fare structures, establishing exclusive bus lanes and rights-of-way, offering more comfortable buses, and significantly expanding Metro and suburban rail services.
  • Encouraging smaller cars and alternatives to car use, e.g., by implementing parking restrictions, charges, and road fees, and eliminating tax incentives for larger and inefficient cars and light trucks.
  • For interurban transportation, the main problem is inadequate road, rail, port, and airport infrastructure. Supporting rail infrastructure will restrain GHG emissions.

Transportation in Developing Countries: Greenhouse Gas Scenarios for Chile is part of a five-report series on transportation sector GHG emissions in developing countries. The report's findings are based on a Lifecycle Energy Use and Emissions Model (LEM) developed by the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California at Davis. It estimates CO2-equivalent GHG emissions from the transportation sector. The Pew Center gratefully acknowledges Ralph Gakenheimer and Chris Zegras of MIT, Eduardo Sanhueza of Climate Change and Development (a Chilean consulting firm), and Michael Walsh, an independent transportation consultant, for their review of early drafts. The authors also express their gratitude to Barbara Cifuentes of the Universidad de Chile.

Executive Summary

Chile is a lightly populated country of 15 million that has undergone major economic transformations. Over the past 25 years, the economy has evolved from a slow-growing, state-directed one into a fast-growing, market-oriented one. Chile's South American neighbors imitated this transformation during the nineties. In the transportation sector, as in other areas of the economy, the private sector took over many traditionally state-managed activities. Chile has undertaken more structural changes in this sector in the past two decades than perhaps any other developing country.

This report addresses changes in transportation, energy use, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other environmental impacts resulting from economic growth and transportation choices. It includes interurban transportation and the urban system in the capital city, Santiago. Chile is an especially interesting case study because of its enthusiastic embrace of market competition in all aspects of transportation. In particular, it has developed a franchising system by which the private sector has been encouraged to finance infrastructure development. However, during this period of economic transformation and growth, Chile has not addressed many environmental problems, including GHG emissions. The expected increase in emissions in the next twenty years is significant, and any reductions would result from indirect efforts intended to address other urban, environmental, and congestion problems.

Chile's transportation sector is growing even faster than the rest of the economy, especially in Santiago. Between 1985 and 1998, the Chilean economy increased by 2.5 times (7.4 percent per year on average) and the transportation sector by about 3.5 times (over 10 percent per year on average). Between 1977 and 1991, cars increased their share of passenger travel by more than 60 percent, while the bus share fell by 27 percent. These shifts are motivated by the strong urbanization process, with over 85 percent of the population now living in cities, and strong growth in car ownership, with one in ten persons now owning a car. Cars now account for 26 percent of travel within cities (measured as passenger-kilometers) and 41 percent between cities. Public transportation has been losing market share for decades.

The transportation sector is responsible for about 28 percent of GHG emissions in Chile. Of the total GHG emissions from transportation, 45 percent are from cars and taxis, 22 percent from trucks, 13 percent from ships, 9 percent from airplanes, 10 percent from buses, and less than 1 percent from trains. Passenger transportation accounts for about two-thirds of transportation sector GHG emissions, while about one-third is from freight. Interurban transportation accounts for over half of total emissions. Chile's policymakers at the national, sectoral, and local levels have largely ignored the environmental consequences of rapid development. A policy of "grow first, clean up later" was pursued until 1990, after which a few local environmental concerns did reach the policy agenda. Lack of interest in GHG emission reductions continues, stemming from growth-oriented thinking as well as the general understanding that Chile's impact on the global climate is small compared to major industrial nations. With only 15 million people, each using on average less than one-sixth as much energy as each U.S. resident, and with large carbon dioxide (CO2) sinks due to natural regeneration in abandoned lands and forest plantations, Chile's relative net contribution to global climate change is small. Concern for global climate change is not likely to motivate domestic policy action.

But other concerns, especially acute air pollution and worsening traffic congestion, are already motivating actions that will have a side effect of reducing growth in GHG emissions. Intensifying policy debates over motor vehicles will play a central role in determining Chile's impact on climate change. Prospective international incentives, for example from the sale of emission credits under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), would serve to support such domestic initiatives, with potentially large climate change benefits.

This report develops high ("business-as-usual") and low emission scenarios for GHGs for the next two decades. The scenarios are based upon interviews with experts and policymakers, and extensive analysis of transportation and energy data gathered from a wide range of Chilean sources. Both scenarios are premised on strong continued economic growth (5.8 percent annual GDP growth). Under the business-as-usual scenario, it is assumed that no strong actions are taken to curb GHG emissions or restrain motorization. The result, over the next twenty years, is a doubling of energy consumption and GHG emissions by the transportation sector.

In an alternative low emission scenario, changes include policies to improve public transportation and introduce cleaner and more efficient vehicles. The net effect is a 42 percent increase in GHG emissions, significantly less than in the high scenario.

It is clear, given Chile's strong economic growth, that overall national GHG emissions will increase. It is also clear that the potential exists to substantially restrain the growth in transportation emissions. This study illustrates the opportunities and benefits of laying a foundation now for a more fundamental strategy shift toward the low GHG emissions scenario. The national experience using market-based approaches to finance transportation sector infrastructure development could prove to be a useful model for implementing additional market-based initiatives that reduce GHG emissions, including international mechanisms. Indeed, policymakers and private sector partners in Chile may have the capacity to develop cost-sharing projects in which domestic goals - e.g., better transportation and local air quality - and international GHG goals can be attained.


Designing a Climate-Friendly Energy Policy: Options for the Near Term

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Designing a Climate-Friendly Energy Policy: Options for the Near Term

Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
July 2002

Douglas W. Smith, Robert R. Nordhaus, Thomas C. Roberts, Shelley Fidler
Janet Anderson, Kyle Danish, Richard
Agnew, of Van Ness Feldman, P.C.

Marc Chupkam The Brattle Group

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Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

Energy use and climate change are inextricably linked. In the current national energy policy debate, choices made today will directly impact U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions far into the future. In addition, near-term energy policy decisions will affect the costs of implementing any future climate policy. Decision- makers face the challenge of crafting policies that allow the United States to meet its energy needs while acting responsibly to reduce GHG emissions. This report contributes to the debate by examining a number of "climate-friendly" energy policy options for the near term-that is, policies that would advance U.S. energy policy goals during the next few decades while at the same time contributing to efforts to curb global warming.

For this most recent report in the Pew Center's policy series, a diverse team of authors from Van Ness Feldman, P.C. and The Brattle Group has identified key elements of a climate-friendly energy policy. The authors describe important U.S. energy policy objectives, including: (1) a secure, plentiful, and diverse primary energy supply, (2) a robust, reliable infrastructure for energy conversion and delivery, (3) affordable and stable energy prices, and (4) environmentally sustainable energy production and use.

Often, these objectives are thought of as competing goals - that energy policy and security issues are in conflict with environmental objectives and vice versa. In reality, our authors find a substantial convergence between the goals of energy policy and climate policy, and that many feasible and beneficial policies from supply and security perspectives can also reduce future U.S. GHG emissions. Some key elements of a climate-friendly energy policy identified here include: increasing natural gas production and expanding natural gas transportation infrastructure; developing and deploying renewable energy technologies and efficient electricity production technologies; enhancing efficiency of automobiles and light trucks, industry, and buildings; and research and development on non-fossil fuels and carbon sequestration.

The authors caution, however, that a climate-friendly energy policy is not a substitute for climate policy. More significant GHG emissions reductions would be necessary in order to address climate change than can be justified solely on the basis of traditional energy policy objectives. The policy options outlined in this report represent sensible and important first steps in the United States' efforts to reduce GHG emissions.

In other reports and workshops, the Pew Center is evaluating options to produce more dramatic changes to the U.S. energy system, which could eventually lead us to an economy based on energy sources other than the carbon-based fossil fuels that are the primary contributors to global warming. Indeed, in the long run, we can only curb climate change by weaning ourselves of our reliance on fossil fuels.

The Pew Center and the authors wish to thank Ralph Cavanagh, David Greene, Tom Runge, Thomas Casten, and Ev Ehrlich for their comments on previous drafts of this report.

Executive Summary

Energy policy and climate policy are closely linked because the majority of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions resulting from the combustion of fossil fuels. Energy policies can reduce CO2 emissions by, for example, increasing energy efficiency, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, and shifting from high-carbon to lower-carbon fuels. Conversely, energy policies that miss opportunities to make such changes will leave unchecked the trend of increasing CO2 emissions. Consequently, energy policy decisions made today can help reduce GHG emissions in the near term and can significantly affect how costly it would be to implement any future climate policy.

The federal government is in the throes of one of its periodic comprehensive reviews of U.S. energy policy. It is likely that significant federal energy policy questions will be addressed in the near term, before the development of any climate change regulatory program. Yet, there is also the distinct possibility that the United States will eventually adopt a mandatory GHG reduction program. This report considers energy policies that can be adopted in the context of the energy policy debate, short of adopting a GHG program now, to best position the nation to reduce GHG emissions and to implement future climate change policies. These are the options that make up a "climate-friendly energy policy."

In reviewing policy options, we have identified four key objectives that drive energy policy:

(1) Secure, plentiful and diverse primary energy supply,

(2) Robust, reliable infrastructure for energy conversion and delivery,

(3) Affordable and stable energy prices, and

(4) Environmentally sustainable energy production and use.

In developing a template for a climate-friendly energy policy, we have limited ourselves to a review of energy policy options, i.e., policies that serve one or more of these objectives. We have not considered climate policies that lack a direct energy policy nexus. We have also limited ourselves to relatively near-term energy policy initiatives, i.e., initiatives that could begin to produce energy policy benefits over the next decade or two.

Climate-friendly energy policies fall into one of three general categories-policies that:

(1) Reduce GHG emissions now,

(2) Promote technology advancement or infrastructure development that will reduce the costs of achieving GHG emissions reductions in the future, and

(3) Minimize the amount of new capital investment in assets that would be substantially devalued (or "stranded") if a GHG program were implemented.

Using these guidelines, the following are highlighted as key elements of a climate-friendly energy policy:

Fossil Fuels
Increased natural gas production and expanded natural gas transportation infrastructure will lower the price and increase the availability of natural gas and, in turn, support the continued use of gas in lieu of coal in new power plants.

Deployment of efficient electricity production technologies, including combined heat and power, fuel cells, and highly efficient power plant technologies, can significantly increase the amount of useful energy gleaned from fuels, and thus reduce both energy costs and GHG emissions.

Maintaining a role for nuclear and hydroelectric power can enhance diversity of energy supply. It also will reduce growth in fossil fuel consumption for electricity generation and may reduce energy prices.

Deployment of renewable energy technologies can help diversify the nation's energy portfolio. These technologies are environmentally beneficial-most produce little or no GHG emissions.

Building and Industrial Efficiency
Enhancing end-use efficiency in buildings and industry can reduce overall consumer costs in many cases, can reduce the need for new electric power plants, and can reduce GHG emissions related to energy use.

Enhancing efficiency of automobiles and light trucks reduces oil consumption, and thereby mitigates reliance on oil imports and reduces GHG emissions.

Research and Development
Research and development on efficient technologies in all sectors can provide options to reduce future energy costs to consumers and future energy consumption, with corresponding GHG benefits.

Research and development on non-fossil fuels and carbon sequestration can provide future alternatives to reliance on oil and could enable continued use of coal consistent with a GHG emissions limitation.

In many areas, there is a substantial convergence between energy policy objectives and climate policy objectives. In particular, climate-friendly energy policies aim to: (1) increase the efficiency of energy use; (2) increase the use of renewable (including biofuels) and other non-emitting technologies; (3) promote the use of natural gas instead of coal or oil; and (4) encourage research and development on new energy technology.

This set of climate-friendly energy policies advances energy policy objectives. Taken together, these measures would build on the policies implemented to date to: enhance energy security by reducing growth in demand for oil, increase the diversity of the country's energy mix, strengthen the energy delivery infrastructure, and contribute to improvements in air quality without significantly increasing consumer energy costs. In addition to the policies listed above, there are other energy policy options that have no significant climate change impacts but may address central energy policy concerns and, thus, should be considered for inclusion in any comprehensive energy policy. These could include policies to increase domestic production of oil, to expand electricity transmission infrastructure, and to promote competitive electricity markets.

The set of climate-friendly energy policies discussed in this report advances climate objectives, but it does not constitute a fully elaborated climate policy. It does not produce the magnitude of reductions needed, for instance, to meet the non-binding goal set forth for the United States in the 1992 Rio Framework Convention on Climate Change, i.e., to return U.S. GHG emissions to 1990 levels. Based on the U.S. Department of Energy's analysis1 of a similar set of policy elements, it appears that this package could significantly slow the projected growth of GHG emissions, but is not sufficient to reduce energy-related GHG emissions from current levels, much less return them to 1990 levels. Moreover, trying to achieve climate goals indirectly through energy policy tools will necessarily be more expensive than achieving the same climate goals through an effectively designed, market-based GHG regulatory program covering all sectors of the economy. Instead, this is a collection of near-term energy policies that stand on their own as energy policies and would help better position the U.S. economy for possible future GHG emissions limitations.


Press Release: New Report Identifies Climate-Friendly Energy Policy Options

For Immediate Release:  
July 24, 2002

Contact: Katie Mandes

CLIMATE AND ENERGY POLICY: New Report Identifies Climate-Friendly Energy Policy Options

Washington, DC - As the national debates on energy and climate policies continue, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change today released a new report identifying a range of feasible near-term "climate-friendly" energy policy options that can satisfy traditional U.S. energy policy objectives while reducing future U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Designing a Climate-Friendly Energy Policy: Options for the Near Term examines a number of energy policy options that would advance U.S. energy policy goals during the upcoming decades while at the same time contributing to efforts to curb global warming. The report was written by Douglas W. Smith, Robert R. Nordhaus, Thomas C. Roberts, Shelley Fidler, Janet Anderson, Kyle Danish, and Richard Agnew of Van Ness Feldman, P.C., with Marc Chupka of the Brattle Group.

"As the findings in this report indicate, the notion that energy policy and climate policy objectives are necessarily at odds is simply a myth," said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center. "Energy use and climate change are inextricably linked, so it makes sense for policy-makers to consider options that simultaneously advance the goals of energy policy and climate policy. Choices made in the current energy policy debate will directly impact U.S. greenhouse gas emissions far into the future. In addition, near-term energy policy decisions will affect the costs of implementing any future climate policy."

The report identifies chief U.S. energy policy objectives, including: (1) a secure, plentiful, diverse primary energy supply, (2) a robust, reliable infrastructure for energy conversion and delivery, (3) affordable and stable energy prices, and (4) environmentally sustainable energy production and use. Key elements of a climate-friendly energy policy include:

  • Increasing natural gas production and expanding natural gas transportation infrastructure;
  • Developing and deploying renewable energy technologies and efficient electricity production technologies, without weakening Clean Air Act protections;
  • Enhancing efficiency of automobiles and light trucks, industry, and buildings; and
  • Research and development on non-fossil fuels and carbon sequestration.

Part of "Policy" Series

Designing a Climate-Friendly Energy Policy: Options for the Near Term is the latest report in the Pew Center's Policy series, which focuses on effective and equitable policy alternatives both in the United States and abroad. Other Pew Center reports focus on climate change solutions, environmental impacts, and the economics of climate change.

A complete copy of this report -- and previous Pew Center reports -- is available on the Pew Center's web site,


The Pew Center was established in May 1998 by The Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the United States' largest philanthropies and an influential voice in efforts to improve the quality of the environment. The Pew Center is an independent, nonprofit, and non-partisan organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. The Pew Center is led by Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

Press Release: Two New Pew Center Reports Focus on Transportation-Sector Solutions

Press Release
For Immediate Release:
May 14, 2002

Contact: Katie Mandes
             (703) 516-4146     


Two New Pew Center Reports Focus on Transportation-Sector Solutions

Washington, DC - With transportation-related emissions of carbon dioxide growing at a rapid pace around the globe, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change today released two reports identifying policies and strategies that could help slow the growth of emissions in developing countries.

"If current motorization patterns prevail, there will be another 700 million vehicles globally over the next two to three decades. Establishing policies and infrastructure now to accommodate this tremendous growth is imperative, said the Pew Center's Eileen Claussen. "In the developing world, climate change is not a priority and economic and social development drive the decision making of transportation policy-makers. The key is to identify strategies that address high priority local issues while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Claussen said.

According to one of the Pew Center reports released today, Transportation in Developing Countries: An Overview of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategies, transportation-related carbon dioxide emissions grew at an annual rate of 5.6 percent in the developing countries of Asia between 1980 and 1998; the rate of growth for all developing countries was 4 percent. If current trends continue, the report projects that the number of motor vehicles in use around the world will double in the next 20 to 30 years, with much of the increase occurring in developing nations. Despite the projections, however, the report identifies many inexpensive and attractive options to keep emissions growth to a minimum-from improved motor vehicle technologies to the promotion of "car sharing" and other strategies.

The other report, Transportation in Developing Countries: Greenhouse Gas Scenarios for South Africa, builds on previously released Pew Center studies focusing on Shanghai, China, and Delhi, India. While projecting significant increases in transportation-related emissions of carbon dioxide in South Africa in the coming years, the report identifies public and private sector initiatives that could reduce emissions growth while easing traffic congestion and cutting air pollution.

"Our objective is not to prevent developing countries from growing or from enjoying the convenience of personal transportation," said Claussen. "Rather, the goal must be to make sure that South Africa and other countries develop transportation systems that are climate-friendly at the same time that they meet the needs of the people who use them."

Part of "Solutions" Series
Transportation in Developing Countries: An Overview of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategies was authored by Daniel Sperling, founding director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis. The lead author of Transportation in Developing Countries: Greenhouse Gas Scenarios for South Africa Jolanda Prozzi specializes in transportation economics and policy analysis at the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Texas, Austin.

The two reports released today are the latest in the Pew Center's Solutions series, which is aimed at providing individuals and organizations with tools to evaluate and reduce their contributions to climate change. Other Pew Center series focus on domestic and international policy issues, environmental impacts and the economics of climate change.

A complete copy of this report -- and previous Pew Center reports -- is available on the Pew Center's web site,


The Pew Center was established in May 1998 by the Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the United States' largest philanthropies and an influential voice in efforts to improve the quality of the environment. The Pew Center is conducting studies, launching public education efforts and working with businesses to develop market-oriented solutions to reduce greenhouse gases. The Pew Center is led by Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. The Pew Center includes the Business Environmental Leadership Council, which is composed of 36 major, largely Fortune 500 corporations all working with the Pew Center to address issues related to climate change. The companies do not contribute financially to the Pew Center - it is solely supported by contributions from charitable foundations.

Transportation in Developing Countries: An Overview of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategies

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Transportation in Developing Countries: An Overview of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategies

Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
May 2002

Daniel Sperling and Deborah Salon,
University of California, Davis

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Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

This report focuses on transportation in developing countries, where economic and social development not climate change mitigation are the top priorities. Yet decisions on infrastructure, vehicle and fuel technologies, and transportation mode mix are being made now that will significantly affect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for decades. The key is to identify strategies that address high-priority local issues while also reducing GHGs. There are many such options but no one-size-fits-all approach. Thus building the capacity of local institutions is especially critical.

Vehicle ownership rates in developing nations are low compared to wealthy ones, but lead to far worse traffic congestion and air pollution. Motorization is skyrocketing and populations increasing, stretching limited infrastructure and institutional capacity. Despite these challenges, there are many opportunities for improvement. Some have worked in the past; others could leapfrog over some of the costly and environmentally damaging paths taken by developed countries.

This overview is part of a five-report series on transportation in developing countries and draws on the four other reports on specific cities and countries. The case studies were researched and co-authored with experts from Chile, China, India, and South Africa, and estimated high and low projections of transportation emissions in 2020 compared to 2000. The case studies key findings include:

  • Rapid growth in transportation GHG emissions is unavoidable in most developing countries. The 2020 low emission scenarios in the four case studies showed only one decrease 12 percent in South Africa and up to a quadrupling in Shanghai, China. The high scenarios ranged from an 82 percent increase in South Africa to a sevenfold increase in Shanghai.
  • Delhi, India. Delhi demonstrates that personal mobility can be achieved at relatively low incomes but at a high economic, environmental, and social cost. With an average income of $800 per capita, Delhi has 200 motor vehicles (mostly motorbikes) per thousand people while Chile has an average income of $5,000 and only 100 motor vehicles per thousand (mostly cars). Delhis promotion of more efficient vehicle engines will go a long way in restraining emissions.
  • Shanghai, China. After years of deferred investment, Shanghai invested billions in its transportation infrastructure in the 1990s, balancing investments in roads and transit, integrating transportation and land use planning, and restraining vehicle ownership. But rapid economic growth, planned decentralization of this very dense city, and auto industry promotion will accelerate increases in motorization, energy use, and GHGs. Intelligent transportation systems and leapfrog technologies such as roads built for minicars are among Shanghai's options to restrain its emissions.
  • Chile. Chile is one of the world's most sophisticated at transferring transportation infrastructure and services provision to the private sector and could pioneer market-based approaches to transportation and environmental challenges. Examples include the sale of operating concessions, implementing vehicle fees during rush hour travel, and adjusting parking fees according to trip purpose and length of stay.
  • South Africa. South Africa has very high per capita vehicle ownership and GHG emissions for its income due to reliance on carbon-intensive synthetic fuels, protected vehicle manufacturing, subsidies for company cars, and land use patterns that are a legacy of the country's past apartheid policies.

The Clean Development Mechanism could be used to finance climate-friendly improvements such as switching to less carbon-intensive feedstock in synthetic fuel production. The Pew Center gratefully acknowledges Ralph Gakenheimer of MIT and Michael Walsh, an independent transportation expert, for their reviews of earlier drafts.

Executive Summary

Worldwide, greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster in transportation than in any other sector. Rapid motorization - more cars and trucks - is the principal cause. This report focuses on the challenges faced by developing countries in accommodating and managing motorization and the demand for improved transportation.

Enhanced mobility has many positive effects on economic development and social welfare, including more efficient movement of goods and improved access to jobs, health services, and education. However, if enhanced mobility is achieved primarily through increased reliance on conventional private cars, it can mean diverting substantial financial resources to roads and suffering worse air pollution and traffic congestion. The benefits are enormous, but the costs can also be substantial. These positives and negatives are accentuated in the developing nations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Most are experiencing rapid population growth and urbanization, and many have fast-growing economies. The number of private vehicles is increasing in almost all developing countries.

The challenges posed by motorization are unprecedented for these countries. When the more developed countries were building their transportation infrastructure, their populations were small compared to those in much of today's developing world, and the cost of motorized vehicles was relatively high. Today's megacities of the developing world are already huge and still expanding. There is little time or money to build public transportation systems or to expand roads to handle the new traffic. They are already experiencing serious congestion, economic and environmental damage, and major safety problems. Yet the problems are not uniform; each city and country faces different circumstances.

This report provides a broad characterization of transportation in developing countries, identifying common challenges and opportunities for policymakers, and suggesting policy options that aim to slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. The most important observations of this report are the following:

  • Rapid motorization - and rapid growth in transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions - are unavoidable in most developing nations. Most developing countries today have low per capita transportation emissions, largely because few people have access to personal transportation. Rapid motorization is transforming transportation and accelerating increases in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The relationship between car ownership and income is not fixed. While it is true that income is the primary force of motorization - explaining perhaps half the growth in vehicle ownership - there is much variation in vehicle ownership among cities and countries at similar income levels.
  • Once people have personal vehicles, they use them even if alternative transportation modes are available. This is because the variable cost of operating a vehicle is relatively low compared to the fixed cost of purchasing one.
  • There are many sensible policies and strategies that would slow the growth of transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions. Key strategies include increasing the relative cost of using conventional private cars and enhancing the quality and choices of alternative transportation modes.
  • Many of the strategies for slowing and eventually reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation have local as well as global benefits. Local benefits include reduced air pollution, less traffic congestion, and lower expenditures for road infrastructure.

This report explores strategic paths and alternative futures that could break the link between economic and greenhouse gas emission growth in developing countries. Successful efforts underway in some developing countries - examples of which are highlighted in some of the case study reports that contributed to this overview - demonstrate that developing countries can forge a more sustainable transportation future. Is there a single city that can be looked to as a model for others? This report suggests that the answer is no. There are cities and countries that have embraced innovative and effective strategies, but none represents a universally applicable model or pathway.

Energy use and carbon emissions around the globe are increasing faster in transportation than in any other sector, and transportation emissions are increasing fastest of all in developing countries. This report does not suggest that developing nations should adopt entirely different transportation systems than currently operate in more developed countries. There is no perfect solution or leapfrog technology at hand. The reality is that most transportation modes and technologies are already being used internationally. The fundamental desire for personal transportation, and for greater mobility at lower cost, is universal. It is neither realistic nor fair to ask those in the developing world to deprive themselves of the things they need and want, from meeting their basic transportation needs to having access to cars.

Instead, this report suggests that developing countries can choose a more sustainable growth path. They can learn from the experiences of industrialized countries in crafting integrated land use and transportation plans, encouraging more efficient forms of vehicle ownership and use, and accelerating the introduction of environmentally sensible vehicle technologies and fuels. Indeed, as a 1996 U.S. National Academy of Sciences report concluded, greater reliance on nonpolluting modes of transportation in developing-country cities, coupled with the strong integration of residential and economic activities, suggests those cities may be in a position to avoid some of the most costly mistakes of transportation investment in the industrialized countries.1

However, the economies and populations of many of these cities are growing at unprecedented rates and personal vehicles are often available to people with very low incomes. Policy and investment decisions with far-reaching implications must be made quickly, or the consequences could be catastrophic economically, environmentally, and socially. But even with the greatest sophistication and best managers, the choices are not obvious. Simply replicating the choices of other cities in most cases would be ineffective. The elements of a successful transportation strategy are likely to vary greatly depending on local circumstances and institutional strengths and weaknesses.

Without new measures, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation in the developing world will exceed those in the industrialized world sometime after 2010. While the need to limit greenhouse gas emissions may not be a driving force for developing countries in the foreseeable future, many of the strategies that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions would also address the more immediate problems of local air pollution, access to basic transportation, and infrastructure financing pressures. This report focuses on strategies and policies that not only slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, but also help achieve local priorities.  

About the Author

Dr. Daniel Sperling

Daniel Sperling is Professor of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science and Policy, founding Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS-Davis) at the University of California, Davis, and co-director of UC Davis's Fuel Cell Vehicle Center and New Mobility Center.

Dr. Sperling is Associate Editor of Transportation Research D (Environment), founding chair of the Alternative Transportation Fuels Committee (1989-96) of the U.S. Transportation Research Board, a recent member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences committees on Personal Transport in China (2000-02), and serves on other advisory committees and Boards of Directors for similar organizations. Recognized as a leading international expert on transportation technology assessment, energy and environmental aspects of transportation, and transportation policy, he consults for international automotive and energy companies, major environmental groups, and several national governments. He has testified numerous times to the U.S. Congress and various government agencies.

Dr. Sperling earned his Ph.D. in Transportation Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley (with minors in Economics and Energy Resources). During 1999-2000, he was a visiting scholar at the OECD (European Conference of Ministers of Transport). He has won numerous awards, and worked as an urban planner in the Peace Corps in Honduras.


Daniel Sperling
Deborah Salon

The Timing Of Climate Change Policy

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Over the past several decades, the scientific community has arrived at a consensus that the earth’s climate is being changed by human influences, most importantly the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other “greenhouse gases” (GHGs) into the atmosphere. The most recent estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicate that, under a “business as usual” scenario, the average global temperature will rise 2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the 21st century.1" This is a significant change: the high end of this range is equal to the change in the average global temperature associated with the end of the planet’s last ice age, 10,000 years ago. But, during that ice age, it took thousands of years to reach this level of warming — not just one century.

The virtual certainty that human influences are causing these significant changes in our climate naturally leads to the questions of what actions to take and when to take them. A previous Pew Center domestic policy brief, entitled The U.S. Domestic Response to Climate Change: Key Elements of a Prospective Program, evaluates possible policy approaches.

This “In Brief” addresses the timing of action to reduce GHG emissions. In October 2001, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change held a workshop inviting leading scientists, economists, and other analysts to discuss this question.2 The Workshop on the Timing of Climate Change Policies revealed a consensus that action to address global climate change must begin now if it is to be effective. An immediate signal that initiates action is required in order to provide a smooth and cost-effective transition to a stable concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere — a challenge that will take decades, if not generations, to meet. Workshop participants identified many compelling reasons to begin taking action now, including:

  • The reality that current atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have not been exceeded during the past 420,000 years (the period for which ice core data are available) and will soon exceed a doubling of pre-industrial levels resulting in a situation unprecedented in human history with unknown consequences;
  • The potential for catastrophes that defy the assumption that damages resulting from climate change will be incremental, smooth, and linear;
  • The risk of irreversible environmental impacts (as compared to the lesser risk of unnecessary investment in GHG reduction or mitigation);
  • The need to learn about the pace at which society can begin a transition to a climate-stable economy;
  • The likelihood of imposing unconscionable burdens and impossible tasks on future generations;
  • The need to create incentives to accelerate technological development that will allow us to address the climate change problem; and
  • The ready availability of “no regrets” policies that have very low or even no costs to the economy.

This In Brief explores the points outlined above.


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