Federal

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions seeks to inform the design and implementation of federal policies that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Drawing from its extensive peer-reviewed published works, in-house policy analyses, and tracking of current legislative proposals, the Center provides research, analysis, and recommendations to policymakers in Congress and the Executive Branch. Read More
 

A Look at Emissions Targets

United States:

State & Regional
Proposed Federal Legislation
Bush Administration

International

Business

United States - State & Regional

Entity

Target

Notes and Source

Arizona: State-wide2000 levels by 2020
50% below 2000 by 2040
Executive Order 2006-13
California: State-wide

2000 levels by 2010
1990 levels by 2020
80% below 1990 by 2050

Executive Order S-3-05
California: Major industries state-wide1990 levels by 2020AB 32
Connecticut: State-wide1990 levels by 2010
10% below 1990 by 2020
75-85% below 2001 levels in the long term
Connecticut Climate Change Action Plan
Florida: State-wide

2000 levels by 2017
1990 levels by 2025
80% below 1990 levels by 2050

EO 07-127
Florida: Electric Utilities

2000 levels by 2017
1990 levels by 2025
80% below 1990 levels by 2050

EO 07-127
Hawaii: State-wide1990 levels by 2020Act 234
Illinois: State-wide1990 levels by 2020
60% below 1990 levels by 2050
Press Release
Maine: State-wide1990 levels by 2010
10% below 1990 by 2020
75-80% below 2003 long-term
LD 845 (HP 622)
Massachusetts: State-wide1990 levels by 2010
10% below 1990 by 2020
75-85% below 1990 long-term
Massachusetts Climate Protection Plan of 2004
Massachusetts: Electric Utilities10% below 1997-1999CO2 target only.
310 CMR 7.29
Minnesota: State-wide

15% below 2005 levels by 2015
30% below 2005 levels by 2025
80% below 2005 levels by 2050

Next Generation Energy Act
New Hampshire: State-wide1990 levels by 2010
10% below 1990 by 2020
75-85% below 2001 long-term
The Climate Change Challenge
New Hampshire: Electric Utilities1990 levels by 2006CO2 target only.
HB 284
New Jersey: State-wide1990 levels by 2020
80% below 2006 levels by 2050
Press release and executive order
New Mexico: State-wide2000 levels by 2012
10% below 2000 by 2020
75% below 2000 by 2050
Executive Order 05-033
New York: State-wide5% below 1990 by 2010
10% below 1990 by 2020
State Energy Plan of 2002
Oregon: State-wideStabilize by 2010
10% below 1990 by 2020
75% below 1990 by 2050
Oregon Strategy for Greenhouse Gas Reductions
Rhode Island: State-wide1990 levels by 2010
10% below 1990 by 2020
Rhode Island Greenhouse Gas Action Plan
Vermont: State-wide1990 levels by 2010
10% below 1990 by 2020
75-85% below 2001 long-term
 
Washington: State-wide1990 levels by 2020
25% below 1990 levels by 2035
50% below 1990 levels by 2050
Executive Order 07-02

Western Climate Initiative

15% below 2005 levels by 2020Western Climate Initiative Statement of Regional Goal
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: CO2 emissions from power plants

Cap emissions at current levels in 2009
Reduce emissions 10% by 2019.

our summary
New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers:
Regional economy-wide
1990 levels by 2010
10% below 1990 by 2020
75-85% below 2001 long-term
Climate Change Action Plan of 2001

United States - Proposed Federal Legislation

Entity

Target

Notes & Source

Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act
S.3036

4% below 2005 level by 2012
19% below 2005 level by 2020
71% below 2005 level by 2050 
As introduced 5/2008

Low Carbon Economy Act (Bingaman-Specter)

S.1766

2012 level in 2012
2006 level in 2020
1990 level in 2030
President may set long-term target greater than or equal to 60% below 2006 level by 2050 contingent upon international effort

As introduced 7/2007
Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act (McCain-Lieberman)

S.280
2004 level in 2012
1990 level in 2020
20% below 1990 level in 2030
60% below 1990 level in 2050
As introduced 1/2007
Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act (Sanders-Boxer)

S.309
2010 level in 2010
2%/year reduction from 2010-2020
1990 level in 2020
27% below 1990 level in 2030
53% below 1990 level in 2040
80% below 1990 level in 2050
As introduced 1/2007
Climate Stewardship Act (Olver-Gilchrest)

H.R.620
2006 level in 2012
1990 level in 2020
22% below 1990 level in 2030
70% below 1990 level in 2050
As introduced 1/2007
Global Warming Reduction Act (Kerry-Snowe)

S.485
2010 level in 2010
1990 level in 2020
2.5%/year reduction from 2020-2029
3.5%/year reduction from 2030-2050
62% below 1990 level in 2050
As introduced 2/2007
Safe Climate Act of 2007 (Waxman)

H.R.1590
2009 level in 2010
2%/year reduction from 2011-2020
1990 levels in 2020
5%/year reduction from 2020-2029
5%/year reduction from 2030-2050
80% below 1990 levels in 2050
As introduced 3/2007
Electric Utility Cap and Trade Act (Feinstein-Carper)

S.317
2006 level in 2011
2001 level in 2015
1%/year reduction from 2016-2019
1.5%/year reduction starting in 2020 (may be adjusted by Administrator)

Electricity sector; all GHGs

As introduced 1/2007

Clean Air Climate Change Act of 2007 (Alexander-Lieberman)

S.1168
2300 MMT CO2 (approx. 2006 level) from 2011-2014
2100 MMT CO2 (approx. 1997 level) from 2015-2019
1800 MMT CO2 (approx.1990 level) from 2020-2024
1500 MMT CO2 (approx.17% below 1990 level) from 2025 forward
Electricity sector; 4 pollutants

As introduced 4/2007
Clean Air Planning Act of 2007 (Carper)

S. 1177
2006 CO2 level in 2012-2014
2001 CO2 level in 2015
1%/year reduction CO2 level from 2016-2019
1.5%/year reduction CO2 levels starting in 2020
1.5%/year reduction CO2 levels starting in 2020 (may be adjusted by Administrator to 3% in 2030 & beyond)
25% below 1990 CO2 level in 2050
Electricity sector; 4 pollutants

As introduced 4/2007
Clean Power Act of 2007 (Sanders)

S. 1201

Goal is to facilitate the worldwide stabilization of atmospheric concentrations of global warming pollutants at 450ppm CO2e by 2050*

2300 MMT CO2 (approx. 2006 level) by 2011
2100 MMT CO2 (approx. 1997 level) by 2015*
1803 MMT CO2 (approx. 1990 level) by 2020*
1500 MMT CO2 (approx. 17% below 1990 level) by 2025*

* If Congress has not passed, and the President has not signed, legislation to address 85% of GHG emissions economy-wide by 2012, further 3%/year reduction in CO2 limits until global GHG emissions reach 450ppm.

Electricity sector; 4 pollutants

As introduced 4/2007

United States - Bush Administration

Entity

Target

Notes & Source

Voluntary "greenhouse gas intensity" target for the U.S.18% below 2002 intensity levels by 2012Announced 2/14/2002
Our Analysis

International

Entity

Target

Notes & Source

Australia

8% above 1990 by 2008-2012

Kyoto Target

Canada

6% below 1990 by 2008-2012

Kyoto Target

European Community

8% below 1990 by 2008-2012

Kyoto Target

Japan

6% below 1990 by 2008-2012

Kyoto Target

New Zealand

1990 levels by 2008-2012

Kyoto Target

United Kingdom

20% below 1990 by 2020
60% below 1990 by 2050

CO2 target only.
Energy White Paper of 2003

European Community
Kyoto Bubble Targets
[i]

Target for 2008-2012

European Community Council Decision of April 2002

Austria

13% below 1990

 

Belgium

7.5% below 1990

 

Denmark

21% below 1990

 

Finland

1990 levels

 

France

1990 levels

 

Germany

21% below 1990

 

Greece

25% above 1990

 

Ireland

13% above 1990

 

Italy

6.5% below 1990

 

Luxembourg

28% below 1990

 

Netherlands

6% below 1990

 

Portugal

27% above 1990

 

Spain

15% above 1990

 

Sweden

4% above 1990

 

United Kingdom

12.5% below 1990

 

[i] The EU-15 nations have joined a "bubble" which allows the joint fulfillment of emissions commitments and preserves the collective emissions reduction goal of 8% below 1990 levels by 2008/2012

Business

Our Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC) is a group of leading companies worldwide that are responding to the challenges posed by climate change. This section provides a sampling of GHG reduction targets set by these companies. Through their efforts, they are demonstrating that GHG emissions can be reduced significantly and cost-effectively.

0

Coal Initiative Consultative Group

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Coal-Fired Electricity Generation 

To inform all aspects of the Coal Initiative work, we formed a Consultative Group of experts, policymakers, and stakeholders from both the United States and abroad. Members advise on the overall scope of work, provide ongoing input in their areas of expertise, review draft papers, and help ensure that this initiative complements related efforts by other institutions. 

Consultative Group Members:

  • Sally Benson, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  • Graham Campbell, Natural Resources Canada
  • Vas Choudhry, General Electric
  • Dan Desmond, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
  • Jim Dooley, Joint Global Change Research Institute, Battelle
  • Julie Fitch, California Public Utilities Commission
  • David Hawkins, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Gardiner Hill, BP
  • Anhar Karimjee, U.S. EPA
  • Scott Klara, National Energy Technology Laboratory
  • Wenhua Li, General Electric, China Technology Center
  • Jeff Logan, World Resources Institute
  • Jim McGinnis, AIG Financial Products Corp.
  • Nancy Mohn, Alstom
  • Wendy Poulton, Eskom Enterprises
  • Darlene Radcliffe, Duke Energy
  • T L Sankar, Administrative Staff College of India
  • Marcelle Shoop, Rio Tinto Services Inc.
  • Franz Wuerfmannsdobler, Office of Senator Robert C. Byrd
  • Shisen Xu, China Thermal Power Research Institute

Consultants: 

  • Ed Rubin, Carnegie Mellon University 
  • Vello Kuuskraa, Advanced Resources Int.
  • Energy Technology Innovation Project, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act Passes Committee

Summary of Bill as Passed by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
December 5, 2007
Read the full summary (pdf)

The Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (S. 2191) is the first greenhouse gas cap-and-trade legislation approved by a full Congressional committee. The bill, as passed by the committee in an 11-8 vote, would establish a cap-and-trade program within the United States requiring a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from covered sources, which represent over 80% of total U.S. emissions. The bill as amended also includes complementary policies, such as a low carbon fuel standard and provisions aimed at enhancing energy efficiency. Taken together, the bill’s sponsors believe these provisions will reduce overall U.S. GHG emissions roughly 63% by 2050.

Click here for details of the committee debate and vote. (pdf)

More information on Lieberman-Warner

Table and Chart Summary of Cap-and-Trade Proposed Legislation (10-2007)

Bill

Scope of Coverage

2010-2019 Cap

2020-2029 Cap

2030-2050 Cap

Allocation

Offsets and Other Cost Controls

Early Action

Technology and Misc.

Lieberman-Warner
S. 2191 – 10/18/2007
Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2007
Version passed by the   Senate Environment and Public Works Committee 11-8 on 12-5-07

All 6 GHGs
Economy-wide, “hybrid” – upstream for transport fuels & natural gas; downstream for large coal users; separate cap for HFC production

4% below 2005 level in 2012

19% below 2005 level in 2020

 

 

37% below 2005 level in 2030
55% below 2005 level in 2040
70% below 2005 level in 2050

Increasing auction: 26.5% in 2012, rising to 69.5% from 2031- 2050
Some sector allocations are specified including: 19% to power plants and10% to manufacturers (transitions to zero in 2031), 11% to states, 9% to load serving entities (LSEs)
5% set-aside for domestic agriculture and forestry

15% limit on use of domestic offsets
15% limit on use of international emission allowances
Borrowing up to 15% per company
Creates Carbon Market Efficiency Board to monitor the trading market and implement specific cost relief measures, including increased borrowing and use of offsets

5% of allowances for early action in 2012, phasing to zero in 2017

Bonus allocations for carbon capture and storage
Funds and incentives for technology, adaptation, & mitigating effects on poor
Cap-and-trade system performance and targets subject to 3-year NAS review

Bingaman-Specter
S. 1766 – 7/11/2007
Low Carbon Economy Act

All 6 GHGs
Economy-wide, “hybrid” – upstream for natural gas & petroleum; downstream for coal

2012 level in 2012

2006 level in 2020

1990 level in 2030
President may set long-term target =60% below 2006 level by 2050 contingent upon international effort

Increasing auction: 24% from 2012-2017, rising to 53% in 2030
Some sector allocations are specified including: 9% to states, 53% to industry declining 2%/year starting in 2017
5% set-aside of allowances for agricultural

Provides certain initial categories including bio sequestration and industrial offsets
President may implement use of international offsets subject to 10% limit $12/ton CO2e “technology accelerator payment” (i.e., safety valve) starting in 2012 and increasing 5%/year above inflation
Allows banking

From 2012-2020, 1% of allowances allocated to those registering GHG reductions prior to enactment

Bonus allocation for carbon capture and storage
Funds and incentives for technology R&D
Target subject to 5-year review of new science and actions by other nations

McCain-Lieberman
S.280 – 1/12/2007
Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act

All 6 GHGs
Economy-wide, “hybrid” – upstream for transportation sector; downstream for electric utilities & large sources

2004 level in 2012

1990 level in 2020

20% below 1990 level in 2030
60% below 1990 level in 2050

Administrator determines allocation/auction split; considering consumer impact, competitiveness, etc.

30% limit on use of international credits and domestic reduction or sequestration offsets  
Borrowing for 5-year periods with interest

Credit for reductions before 2012
Early actors may use offsets to meet 40% of reductions

Funds and incentives for tech R&D, efficiency adaptation, mitigating effects on poor

Sanders-Boxer
S.309 – 1/16/2007
Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act

All 6 GHGs
Economy-wide, point of regulation not specified

2010 level in 2010
2%/year reduction from 2010-2020

1990 level in 2020

27% below 1990 level in 2030.
53% below 1990 level in 2040
80% below 1990 level in 2050

Cap and trade permitted but not required. Allocation criteria include transition assistance and consumer impacts

Includes provision for offsets generated from biological sequestration
“Technology-indexed stop price” freezes cap if prices high relative to tech options

Program may recognize early reductions made under state or local laws

Standards for vehicles, power plants, efficiency, renewables, certain categories of bio sequestration

Kerry-Snowe
S.485 –  2/1/2007
Global Warming Reduction Act

All 6 GHGs
Economy-wide, point of regulation not specified

2010 level in 2010

1990 level in 2020
2.5%/year reduction from 2020-2029

3.5%/year reduction from 2030-2050.
62% below 1990 level in 2050

Determined by the President; requires unspecified amount of allowances to be auctioned

Includes provision for offsets generated from biological sequestration  

Goal to “recognize and reward early reductions”

Funds for tech. R&D, consumer impacts, adaptation
Standards for vehicles, efficiency, renewables, certain categories of bio sequestration

Olver-Gilchrest
H.R. 620 – 1/22/2007
Climate Stewardship Act

All 6 GHGs
Economy-wide, “hybrid” – upstream for transportation sector; downstream for electric utilities & large sources

2004 level in 2012

1990 level in 2020

22% below 1990 level in 2030
70% below 1990 level in 2050

Administrator determines allocation/auction split; considering consumer impact, competitiveness, etc.

15% limit on use of international credits and domestic reduction or sequestration offsets
Borrowing for 5-year periods with interest

Credit for reductions before 2012
Early actors may use offsets to meet 35% of reductions

Funds and incentives for tech R&D, efficiency adaptation, mitigating effects on poor

Waxman
H.R.1590 – 3/20/2007
Safe Climate Act of 2007

All 6 GHGs
Economy-wide, point of regulation not specified

2009 level in 2010
2%/year reduction from 2011-2020

1990 levels in 2020
5%/year reduction from 2020-2029

5%/year reduction from 2030-2050
80% below 1990 levels in 2050

Determined by the President; requires unspecified amount of  allowances to be auctioned

Not specified

Goal to “recognize and reward early reductions”

Standards for vehicles, efficiency, renewables

Statement: Senators Lieberman and Warner’s 2020 Vision

Statement by Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

Pew Center Contact: Katie Mandes
703-516-4146

October 18, 2007

This is the breakthrough we have been waiting for. Senators Lieberman and Warner have achieved something I thought impossible one year ago - they have written a climate bill that has a very real chance of passage. They demonstrated a clear commitment for meeting critical objectives of the business and environmental communities while bringing together their colleagues on both sides of the aisle. We are optimistic about their vision and look forward to working with them to make this bill a reality.

I am very excited about the prospects of moving this bill through the Environment and Public Works Committee. The bill will reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at an ambitious yet achievable rate through 2050, it will use a suite of market-based measures to do so in the least costly way possible, and it will drive deployment of the climate-friendly technologies we need to fight climate change while growing our economy. I remain hopeful that this process, combined with the effort being led by Chairman Dingell in the House, will yield a law by next year.

Lawmakers Will Proceed On Climate Plan

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 
0

The Washington Post, October 4, 2007
The first in a series of white papers outlining a cap-and-trade system to cut GHG emissions by 60 to 80 percent from current levels by 2050 was released by House Energy and Commerce Chairman John D. Dingell and Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher. Under the system, the federal government would distribute GHG allowances that could be bought and sold, although the lawmakers left open the possibility of using taxes as well.
Click here to read the article.

A Cap's in Hand

Full article (PDF)

by Truman Semans, Director for Markets and Business Strategy--Appeared in the World Energy Book which is available from http://www.petroleum-economist.com/
0

Statement on Major Climate Meetings in New York and Washington

The United Nations and the United States convened major climate meetings during the week of September 24, 2007, to discuss future international climate change efforts.

Statement by Eileen Claussen, President, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change

 

September 28, 2007

This week’s climate meetings in New York and Washington demonstrate that climate change is finally taking its rightful place at the top of the global agenda. The high-level UN meeting, in particular, underscored a strong and growing consensus among world leaders on the urgency of forging a new global agreement addressing climate change. Both meetings also reaffirmed the United Nations as the appropriate forum for negotiating this agreement.

The meetings also laid bare key differences between the approaches favored by the Bush administration and by most other governments. In convening its Meeting of Major Economies, the administration hoped to sway other governments to its vision of a voluntary international framework. Under this approach, as President Bush described it in his address this morning, countries would agree on a long-term global goal but each would decide independently what its contribution to meeting it would be. Thankfully, other countries rejected the idea that the climate challenge can be met through voluntary measures alone, and emphasized the need for new international commitments.

In describing their own domestic efforts, other developed nations also showed they are prepared to take much stronger action than the Bush administration. Europe reiterated its commitment to reduce emissions 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Canada said it plans to reduce emissions 20 percent below current levels in that timeframe. Australia said it plans to establish a domestic cap-and-trade system by 2011. Meantime, the Bush administration clings to an emissions intensity goal that keeps emissions rising through 2012, and continues to oppose bills before Congress to establish a mandatory economy-wide cap-and-trade system.

Perhaps the clearest message to emerge from this week’s meetings is the importance of the UN climate negotiations later this year in Bali. An effective agreement can be reached only if formal negotiations are launched. Bali is a critical opportunity to do just that. If President Bush is sincere in his goal of an effective UN agreement, the United States must support the launch of formal negotiations in Bali.

White House Major Economies Meeting

REMARKS DELIVERED BY EILEEN CLAUSSEN, PRESIDENT, Pew Center on Global Climate Change 

whITE HOUSE Major Economies Meeting
WASHINGTON, d.C. 
 

September 27, 2007  

  • There are a number of reasons why it is critical that our strategies to address energy and climate change take full account of the land use sector.  
    • First, from an environmental perspective, agriculture, deforestation and other land use activities account for nearly a third of greenhouse gas emissions globally.  For some countries, they are by far the largest source of emissions.  Indeed, some countries [Indonesia, Malaysia] rank among the world’s largest emitters only by virtue of their emissions from deforestation.  For those countries, and globally, a comprehensive approach to climate change must reduce emissions from this sector.
       
    • Second, from an economic perspective, some of the lowest-cost opportunities for emission reduction are to be found in this sector.  A number of analyses, including the Stern Review and work done by McKinsey and Company, show significant mitigation potential in the forestry sector for well under $20 per ton of CO2.  The Stern Review concluded that in some regions emissions from deforestation could be reduced for less than $5 a ton.   
       
    • Third, from a development perspective, addressing emissions from this sector can deliver some very significant co-benefits.  Protecting forests protects biodiversity and soils and creates new opportunities to reduce poverty.  Healthy ecosystems support healthy economies.  Putting a value of the climate benefits provided by forests is one of the keys to sustainable development.  
  • So for all of these reasons, this is a sector we can not afford to ignore.     
     
  •  That said, there are number of caveats and complications. 
    •  First, land use is an area where it’s been notoriously difficult to measure emissions and monitor trends.  We’ve made significant headway, with new methodologies technologies, in particular remote sensing by satellite.  But greater progress is needed.  We need enough precision so that we are confident that a ton is a ton.  
       
    • Second, there is no resource more fundamental than land, and we must be mindful of the many competing demands on it.  This is especially true in the case of biofuels, which potentially are a very important part of the answer to climate change and energy security.  But the move toward biofuels will be beneficial only if we ensure that these truly are low-carbon fuels, calculated on a life-cycle basis.  Our land use and biofuels policies need to be closely coordinated to make sure that we are not simply substituting one form of emissions for another. So, what can be done internationally to fit land use into our climate change strategies? 
       
  • I would first emphasize how encouraging it is that this question is being put on the table by those countries that have the most to contribute.  A coalition led by Papau New Guinea and Costa Rica, and separately Brazil, are calling for new measures under the Framework Convention on Climate Change to reduce tropical deforestation.  At the moment, this appears to be among the most promising avenues for deeper developing country engagement in the global climate effort.
     
  • Let me offer a few observations on how forestry and land use can be addressed in a post-2012 climate framework.  
    • First, there appears to be a growing consensus among the experts and policymakers that we should approach this not project by project, but sector-wide.  In other words, a country’s progress is best ascertained by measuring emissions and changes in those emissions across its entire forestry or land use sector.   
       
    • Second, the overriding message from the tropical forest countries is that incentives are needed if they are to undertake stronger efforts.  There are differences among them on just what form these incentives should take.  Realistically, I think we are far more likely to see significant flows under a market-based approach than through an international fund supported by donor countries.  Either way, it is perfectly reasonable for these countries to ask for incentives.  By the same token, though, I think it’s reasonable for those countries providing the incentives to ask in exchange that the countries receiving them be prepared to deliver action on the basis of commitments, not just voluntary pledges. 
       
    • And this leads to my third, and final, point: I do not believe we will be able to mobilize the efforts needed globally in this sector or in any other without a comprehensive set of binding international commitments.  An aspirational long-term goal is not enough.  To sustain ambitious efforts nationally, and to generate the strong incentives tropical forest countries are asking for, countries must have confidence that their counterparts are contributing their fair share to the global effort.  That’s best done through fair, credible, and verifiable commitments.  We should be open to different types of commitments – for some countries, a commitment to reduce deforestation might be the best approach.  But we are fooling ourselves if we think that we can do what’s needed without binding international commitments.  I look forward to our discussion.  Thank you. 

Climate Policy Should Focus on Reducing Emissions

Climate Policy Should Focus on Reducing Emissions

By Vicki Arroyo

Originally published in the September/October 2007 issue of The Environmental Forum

I wish there were an easy solution to climate change — one that didn’t require fundamental and difficult changes in our energy system, law, or behavior. I also wish I could lose weight without diet or exercise. But depending on “geoengineering” to solve global warming is a dangerous delusion. Like a fad diet or liposuction, it may not provide sustainable benefits and will undoubtedly be accompanied by unforeseen adverse consequences (think fen-phen).

Granted, tackling climate change requires a Herculean effort: emissions are on the rise, while the newest science reveals impacts occurring faster than we envisioned. We are running out of time. To avoid the most serious consequences of warming — loss of species, irreversible breakdown of ice sheets, and the human toll from more intense heat waves and hurricanes — scientists say we need to stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide at less than a doubling of preindustrial levels (in the range of 450–550 ppm of CO2). If we’re very lucky, that might hold us to a 3.6ºF (2ºC) global average temperature rise.

It’s tempting to dismiss projected impacts as hyperbole or to believe that we can engineer a “fix,” the way the Apollo 13 crew saved themselves by using duct tape to fashion a make-shift filter in their struggle against rising CO2 levels on board their malfunctioning space capsule. I applaud those working on grand fixes and wish them every success. But I place more stock in solutions that exist now. A Princeton University study shows that choosing just seven current technologies from a number of options, including renewables, energy efficiency, and nuclear power, can curb emissions growth sufficiently now, while buying time for technological breakthroughs. Each of these so-called “wedges” can cut emissions by 1 gigaton per year within 50 years.

But these technologies won’t be deployed on the necessary scale without the right policies. One key policy is emissions trading, which has worked for traditional air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and is even better suited to curbing greenhouse gases. The European Union has already developed the world’s largest carbon market. Some U.S. states are following suit, and a number of cap-and-trade proposals are pending in Congress. By combining cap-and-trade with efficiency standards for cars and appliances, advanced technology research, and development of geological storage, we can reach our emissions reductions goals.

So the essential first step is simple: stimulate existing technologies through demonstrated, cost-effective policies. This takes political will, and there is no time to lose. Greenhouse gases differ from traditional air pollutants, which can be eliminated with more than 99 percent efficiency at the stack. Greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere — and our oceans — for hundreds of years. Even if geoengineering manages to cool a warming planet, it won’t solve other problems, such as ocean acidification from conversion of CO2 to carbonic acid. And the risks of such “fixes” as seeding the oceans with iron and adding cooling particles to the atmosphere are too big to ignore.

Yes, we should research all options. But right now our focus should be on putting policies in place to reduce our emissions and on preparing to cope with a changing world.

(Ms. Arroyo offers a view on the direction for climate policy that differs from one advocated by Alan Carlin, a senior economist at the EPA. Carlin advocates a “geoengineering” approach called solar radiation management as an effective and economical climate policy. While such long-shot approaches may be necessary to consider in the future, Arroyo argues that the current focus should be on greenhouse gas mitigation.)
by Vicki Arroyo, Director of Policy Analysis--Appeared in The Environmental Forum, September/October 2007
Vicki Arroyo
0
Syndicate content