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
 

Statement: President Obama's Address to Congress

- This statement was issued in response to President Obama’s address to Congress on February 24, 2009. -

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

February 25, 2009

President Obama understands that our economic recovery and our energy future are inextricably linked.  By calling upon Congress to send him market-based global warming legislation, the President has clearly signaled that he understands the risks we face from unmitigated climate change.  His talent for explaining tough problems and motivating us to work together to solve them is reason to feel incredibly positive about our ability to succeed in these critically important areas, despite the tough economic challenges we face.

 

This statement also appears in the National Journal's annotated version of the President's address.

 

Excerpt from the President's Address to Congress

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy.  So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America.  And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

 

President Obama and Climate Change

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

October 23, 2009

Excerpt from President Obama’s speech at MIT:

“Everybody in America should have a stake in legislation that can transform our energy system into one that's far more efficient, far cleaner, and provide energy independence for America -- making the best use of resources we have in abundance, everything from figuring out how to use the fossil fuels that inevitably we are going to be using for several decades, things like coal and oil and natural gas; figuring out how we use those as cleanly and efficiently as possible; creating safe nuclear power; sustainable -- sustainably grown biofuels; and then the energy that we can harness from wind and the waves and the sun.  It is a transformation that will be made as swiftly and as carefully as possible, to ensure that we are doing what it takes to grow this economy in the short, medium, and long term.  And I do believe that a consensus is growing to achieve exactly that.”

For text of the speech, click here.

For video of the address, click here.

Related blog post: The Clean Energy Economy of Tomorrow

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Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address

May 16, 2009

Excerpt from President Obama’s weekly address:

Chairman Henry Waxman and members of the Energy and Commerce Committee brought together stakeholders from all corners of the country – and every sector of our economy – to reach an historic agreement on comprehensive energy legislation.  It’s another promising sign of progress, as longtime opponents are sitting together, at the same table, to help solve one of America’s most serious challenges.

For the first time, utility companies and corporate leaders are joining, not opposing, environmental advocates and labor leaders to create a new system of clean energy initiatives that will help unleash a new era of growth and prosperity.

It’s a plan that will finally reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil and cap the carbon pollution that threatens our health and our climate.  Most important, it’s a plan that will trigger the creation of millions of new jobs for Americans, who will produce the wind turbines and solar panels and develop the alternative fuels to power the future.  Because this we know: the nation that leads in 21st century clean energy is the nation that will lead the 21st century global economy. America can and must be that nation – and this agreement is a major step toward this goal.

 


For full audio of the address, click here.
For video of the address, click here.

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Statement of Eileen Claussen
President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
on the President's FY 2010 proposed budget

February 26, 2009

President Obama’s budget contains the key building blocks for creating the clean energy economy we so badly need. It re-emphasizes the President’s support for an economy-wide greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program, sets aggressive but achievable targets for reducing emissions, invests in new low-carbon technologies and helps those families, communities, and businesses that need assistance in transitioning to a low-carbon economy. Most importantly, the budget also recognizes that now is the time to act and calls for a trading system to be up and operating by 2012.

 

Excerpt from the President's budget.

The Administration is developing a comprehensive energy and climate change plan to invest in clean energy, end our addiction to oil, address the global climate crisis, and create new American jobs that cannot be outsourced. After enactment of the Budget, the Administration will work expeditiously with key stakeholders and the Congress to develop an economy-wide emissions reduction program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions approximately 14 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and approximately 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. This program will be implemented through a cap-and-trade system, a policy approach that dramatically reduced acid rain at much lower costs than the traditional government regulations and mandates of the past. Through a 100 percent auction to ensure that the biggest polluters do not enjoy windfall profits, this program will fund vital investments in a clean energy future totaling $150 billion over 10 years, starting in FY 2012. The balance of the auction revenues will be returned to the people, especially vulnerable families, communities, and businesses to help the transition to a clean energy economy.

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Statement of Eileen Claussen
President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
on the President's address to Congress 

February 25, 2009

President Obama understands that our economic recovery and our energy future are inextricably linked.  By calling upon Congress to send him market-based global warming legislation, the President has clearly signaled that he understands the risks we face from unmitigated climate change.  His talent for explaining tough problems and motivating us to work together to solve them is reason to feel incredibly positive about our ability to succeed in these critically important areas, despite the tough economic challenges we face.

 

Excerpt from the President's Address to Congress
February 24, 2009

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy.  So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America.  And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

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Statement of Eileen Claussen
President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
on appointment of Todd Stern, Special Envoy on Climate Change

January 26, 2009

Secretary Clinton’s appointment of America’s first special envoy on climate change is another clear and early signal that the Obama administration is determined to address this issue head on.  This new position can help ensure strong and focused engagement at the highest levels as the United States works with other countries to forge a new international climate agreement.  As special envoy, Todd Stern brings the expertise, insight and judgment needed to represent renewed U.S. leadership in the global effort against climate change.  

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Statement of Eileen Claussen
President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
on President-Elect Obama's New Energy and Environment Appointments

December 11, 2008

This is a team with a keen interest in addressing climate change, and the talent and skills to get the job done.  With Steven Chu, Carol Browner, Lisa Jackson and Nancy Sutley at the helm, President-Elect Obama's Administration will be well-equipped to tackle the challenge of building a new clean energy future that preserves the climate while revitalizing our economy.   We look forward to working with the new Administration to achieve these goals.

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On the occasion of President-Elect Barack Obama's Statement to Bi-Partisan Governors' Global Climate Summit

 

November 18, 2008

This is exactly the kind of leadership the country and the world have been waiting for. President-elect Obama's statement makes clear that he's ready to roll up his sleeves and deliver the action that is needed to protect our climate, our economy, and our national security. He is setting the right goals and choosing the right policies. We urge the bipartisan leadership in Congress to work closely with the new president to quickly enact an economy-wide cap-and-trade system.  Doing so will ensure significant reductions in U.S. emissions at the lowest possible cost, and help set the stage for a new international agreement ensuring that all other major economies contribute their fair share as well.

Obama's Remarks

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On the occasion of Senator Barack Obama's election to the presidency, the Center released the following statement of Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

November 5, 2008

President-elect Obama faces an array of urgent challenges when he assumes the Presidency on January 20, but I am confident that he will provide the leadership needed to enact a comprehensive climate policy that significantly reduces U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.  I am equally optimistic that new leadership will provide the impetus we need to forge a strong green energy economy and restore America's standing in the world community, and I look forward with great anticipation to working with the Obama administration to achieve these critical goals.

Climate Change: Renewing U.S. Leadership in Challenging Times

Speech delivered to the 2009 Camden Conference

Watch a video of the speech.

Camden, Maine
February 21, 2009

Thank you very much.  It is a pleasure to be here in Maine, and I am honored to be a part of the program for the 22nd annual Camden Conference. 

I usually like to begin my remarks with a bit of humor. But quite frankly, there’s nothing funny about today’s news. And this is certainly true when it comes to climate change. New scientific findings are coming out every day about the risks of global warming.  For example, just yesterday scientists confirmed that M&Ms now melt in your hand, not your mouth.

In all seriousness, I want to commend the organizers of this conference for putting together such a stimulating program.   My role this afternoon is to talk about climate change – and more specifically, I want to talk about the need for renewed leadership on the part of the United States in addressing this global problem. 

The fact is that the world has been waiting for the U.S. to lead on this issue.  Not only is our nation the largest economy in the world but we produce fully one-fourth of global emissions of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas that is causing climate change.  Without our active involvement, there is little chance of arriving at an effective international agreement to reduce emissions of these gases worldwide. 

So the real questions are: What can the U.S. do to exert the kind of leadership that is both wanted and needed on this issue?  What are the opportunities for U.S. leadership?  And what are the challenges we face as we try to step up to this leadership role? 

Let me begin by saying clearly, and up front, that I do not believe the United States can play a productive role in addressing this issue, and in influencing the international negotiations, unless we first do some important work here at home.  I will spend some time talking about that today.  But first, I want to provide a little history on the international negotiations; and reflect briefly on the science of climate change and why swift action is necessary.  Then I want to talk about the parameters and possibilities for U.S. domestic action; the challenges for the world in moving forward and the role the U.S. could play in catalyzing and supporting that movement; and end with some red herrings that I believe we must cast aside as we strive to reach agreement on a forward path.

INTERNATIONAL – A BRIEF HISTORY
So first a little history … because in order to understand where the world is right now in its response to climate change, it is important to look back briefly at where we’ve been. 

Back in 1992, the United States and other nations gathered in Rio to sign the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  This agreement, signed by President George H.W. Bush and ratified by the U.S. Senate, established a voluntary goal for developed countries, all of whom agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000.  An important principle of the agreement was that the developed world has a special responsibility for reducing its emissions first. 

But within a few years of the Rio meeting, it became clear that not all developed countries would meet their voluntary targets – and even if they could, it would not be sufficient to meet what the science demanded.  It was time to consider mandatory targets, while allowing countries some flexibility in how to meet them. 

And so the United States (under President Bill Clinton) joined other countries in Kyoto, Japan to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.  But Kyoto was never submitted to the Senate for ratification.  And upon taking office, President George W. Bush officially rejected the Protocol citing concerns about its economic impact, and about the lack of commitments on the part of economic competitors like India and China.  

But even without the United States involved, other nations engaged in a great deal of additional work and negotiations that resulted in the Protocol going into effect in February 2005.  Kyoto requires the developed nations participating in the agreement to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases by an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2012. 

Today, we are fast approaching that 2012 deadline, and there will be decidedly mixed results.  Some developed countries will fall short of their targets.  Many developing countries, meanwhile, have seen their emissions grow much faster than predicted due to rapid industrialization.   And the United States, not a party to the Kyoto Protocol, has seen its emissions rise to approximately 15% above 1990 levels.  As the world works toward an international agreement to go beyond 2012, important priorities will be to ensure that the United States is fully engaged; that the commitments agreed can actually be met; and that developing countries with high levels of emissions take on commitments to curb their emissions. 
In anticipation of new U.S. leadership, governments in December agreed to enter into “full negotiating mode” on a new agreement.  Their aim: having a comprehensive climate pact ready to sign at the next climate talks late this year in Copenhagen.  Whether this is possible is a very open question, as I will discuss later in my remarks.  There are still many major issues to address, and many questions that need to be answered.  But there is no denying that we have reached a critical juncture in the international effort to address this issue – and that we need to take advantage of the current political moment to bring an effective global agreement within reach. 

A CRITICAL JUNCTURE
Which brings me to the question of why.  Why is it so important and so urgent that the nations of the world come together on this issue right now?    Briefly, the science has developed to a point where there is no longer any doubt that climate change is real, impacts are already being felt across the globe, and there is a strong sense in the scientific community that further delay risks catastrophe.    The Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that the warming of the climate system is – I quote – “unequivocal.” This group of hundreds of scientists from throughout the world represents the most comprehensive source of science-based information on climate change. Its 2007 report projected that global average temperature will increase between 2.0 and 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.  Sea levels will rise by a foot to a foot-and-a-half or more.  Many species will be lost.  In addition, the IPCC said there is a 90-percent chance or greater that the world will see more hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation events.  And it is likely we will see both more droughts and an increase in the intensity of tropical cyclones. 

And here’s the truly frightening part: in just the two years since the IPCC issued that report, it has become increasingly clear that the impacts of climate change are happening much sooner than scientists had projected.  There is growing concern among scientists that the 2007 IPCC estimates understate the potential level and pace of climate change. Last September, for instance, a team of American glaciologists estimated that sea level would rise by roughly three to six feet. 

Importantly, instead of experiencing gradual climate shifts, many of the changes are likely to happen in fits and starts that will give the world far less time to adapt. Three feet of sea level rise occurring over the span of a century may sound somewhat manageable, at least for a rich country like the United States. But what if the bulk of this rise occurs in one or two rapid pulses?  And what if we experience six feet rather than three?  In a recent interview, Robert Bindschadler, chief scientist at NASA’s Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Laboratory, noted that the massive Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica is sliding into the sea at the astonishing rate of more than two miles a year.   Should Pine Island and a neighboring glacier continue to flow rapidly into the Southern Ocean, Bindschadler said they will be a major contributor to a global sea-level rise of as much as six feet this century. 

And from the South Pole let’s go north to the Arctic, where summer sea ice reached its second lowest point ever observed last year.  The dramatic decline in ice coverage in the Arctic Ocean has stunned scientists, who had not expected to see this level of ice loss for decades.  But these sorts of changes are happening right now, they are happening faster than anyone predicted, and they are creating their own feedback loops that could make the problem even worse.  Consider, for example , what happens when we lose snow and ice cover in the Arctic.  That ice cover, which at one time reflected sunlight back into space, is replaced by open water and bare soil that absorb the sunlight and convert it to heat – amplifying global warming. And consider what happens when warming causes frozen Arctic soils, or permafrost, to thaw out. Those soils contain roughly twice as much carbon as currently exists in the atmosphere. As the soils thaw, they will release more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which will increase the rate and degree of warming.

These kinds of things are not fully accounted for in the climate models that scientists have used – not because anyone is trying to skirt the issue but because feedback mechanisms like these are hard to account for, hard to predict.  But more and more scientists are saying they are very real, and that we need to accept the fact that climate change could be much worse – and it could happen at a much faster rate -- than we were thinking just a couple of years ago. 

The bottom line is that we have no choice but to take action on this issue.  This is a global problem – and every country that is contributing to the problem needs to play a part in the solution.

U.S. ACTION ESSENTIAL
But the fact remains that U.S. leadership is essential.  However, the United States cannot lead effectively until we make it absolutely clear that we are willing to take on this issue and reduce our emissions right here at home.  Only then will we have the credibility, the respect and the influence we need to make this a global priority.  

Taking on this issue at home, in my view, means taking action on three priorities – we could call them three legs of the stool that represent effective U.S. action.  The first leg is investment in clean energy and other climate-friendly technologies.  The economic stimulus package signed by President Obama this week includes $70 billion for everything from smart-grid technologies to renewable energy development to energy efficiency improvements and mass transit.  This funding represented a relatively small share of the overall stimulus, but it is a start – a down payment on building the green energy infrastructure that we need to keep our economy strong for decades to come.

The second leg of the stool is energy policy.  Beyond what is in the stimulus, we need wide-ranging policies to drive private and public investment in new, cleaner energy technologies that can help us address climate change and limit our dependence on foreign energy supplies. We need to do more to promote conservation and efficiency.  And we need to do whatever we can to make use of existing cleaner, greener technologies, whether that’s  mounting a crash effort to demonstrate carbon capture and sequestration for coal-burning power plants, or expanding our supplies of wind energy.  All of this has to be a part of our energy policy looking forward – an energy policy that seeks to meet present and future energy needs while achieving real reductions in carbon emissions. 

And then there is the third leg of the stool: cap and trade.  We need to put a price on carbon in this country in a way that provides industry with the flexibility to reduce emissions as cost-effectively as possible, but that also provides certainty that we will achieve the level of economy-wide reductions that are needed.  This is what cap and trade does – it sets a cap on overall emissions and allows industry to trade emission allowances to meet the cap at the lowest cost.  In addition to providing both environmental certainty and flexibility for industry, cap and trade also can become a source of revenues for new investment in clean energy – through the auctioning of emission allowances. 

Investment in clean energy.  An energy policy that helps America build a 21st century energy economy.  And cap and trade.  These are the three legs of the stool that represent strong domestic action on climate change in the United States.  And I am pleased to say that many in Washington now appear to understand what needs to happen. 

In one of his first major policy statements after the election, President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to achieving substantial reductions in U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases.   The President also pledged to enact a cap-and-trade law as the primary means for reducing U.S. emissions.  And he has since that time appointed an environment and energy team with tremendous expertise and commitment to climate action – and fortunately for them, no unpaid tax liabilities.

And the fact is, President Obama is not waiting to act on this issue.  Within his first week in office, the President directed the EPA to reconsider a long-stalled waiver for California and 13 other states to begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks.  And climate and energy issues are high on the agenda for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Asia this week.

The signs from Congress are equally encouraging.  The Democratic leadership is made up of some of Capitol Hill’s staunchest advocates of climate action, and key Republicans like Sen. John McCain are continuing to work on the climate issue as well.  Earlier this month, Senator Barbara Boxer issued guiding principles for climate legislation. In the House, Chairman Henry Waxman has pledged to report a bill out of the Energy and Commerce Committee by Memorial Day. 

An important reason why Washington is moving forward so quickly on these issues, I believe, is because of support in the business community.  Even in the middle of a severe economic downturn, 25 of America’s top business leaders are standing firm in their support for climate solutions.  And they have come together with 5 key NGOs including the Pew Center under the auspices of an organization called the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (or USCAP). 

Just days before President Obama’s inauguration, this unique coalition released a detailed plan to achieve steep reductions in U.S. emissions in an economically sustainable manner.  I encourage you to visit the website, www.us-cap.org for more information on USCAP’s Blueprint for Legislative Action. 

The bottom line is that the combination of business leadership and strong support for action in the White House and Congress means the chances of real action on climate and energy issues in the months ahead are very good.  And that bodes well for active U.S. engagement and leadership in the international climate talks.

CHALLENGES TO REACHING A POST-2012 AGREEMENT
But, of course, simply showing up at the table as the world tries to hash out an international agreement, even with a strong commitment and perhaps even a legislative mandate, is not enough.  We need to come to the table with a commitment to resolving the key challenges standing in the way of an effective global agreement.   And I want to use this portion of my remarks to very briefly address four of those challenges:

The first is how we decide on comparability of emission targets for developed countries. In the United States, President Obama has called for a domestic cap-and-trade system with the mid-term goal of reducing U.S. emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The EU, by contrast, has set a goal of reducing emissions to 20 percent below 1990 levels over the same period.

Now, at first glance, the EU target and the one proposed by President Obama appear very much at odds.  Circumstances, however, have changed considerably since 1990. U.S. population has grown 19 percent, for instance, while Europe’s has held steady. And U.S. emissions have grown, while those of the EU have declined.  For the United States, a target of 20 percent below 1990 levels would translate into a reduction of almost 35 percent from current levels. 

Measured against a more recent baseline, the EU target and the one proposed by President Obama appear considerably more comparable – each would reduce emissions roughly 15 percent below 2005 levels.

Negotiating comparable targets isn’t simply a matter of setting one country’s number beside another’s.  Rather, it requires a clear-headed assessment by all parties of factors like population trends, emissions in relation to GDP, marginal costs of abatement, and more.  Agreement on a quantified formula to determine respective targets for developed countries seems unlikely. Rather, targets will likely be determined through a political negotiation in which parties take factors such as these into account.  It is important that this issue be approached pragmatically, and with an eye toward settling on targets that, with significant effort, can actually be achieved.  

The second challenge to a new, post-2012 agreement is the type and level of commitments made by developing countries.  There are many, particularly in the United States, who argue that the major emitters in the developing world must agree to absolute reduction targets.   But this is impractical, unrealistic and unfair given the rapid industrialization and increasing energy demand in much of the developing world. This is not to suggest that we do not need more ambitious action than we have seen to date from this group of countries, nor is it to suggest that we do not need commitments of some sort.  Rather, we believe that any new international agreement should include not targets but policy-based commitments for developing countries.  These would be commitments to implement nationally defined policies – such as energy efficiency standards, renewable energy targets, sustainable forestry plans, and other sectoral policies.  Whatever form these commitments take, what’s essential is that they be measurable, reportable, and verifiable.  And they must – they must -- put us on the path to stopping and reversing the growth in global emissions.

A third challenge to a new agreement?  Managing expectations.  With President Obama in office, sending all these positive signals about his commitment to climate solutions, and with other countries literally champing at the bit to see progress in the global talks after so many years of dashed hopes and delay, there is an understandable optimism in the world that this might be the year when we accomplish something remarkable – and something big. 

It could well be, but I believe we need to be realistic in our expectations for the conference in Copenhagen in December.  Considering the range of issues that need to be resolved, the Pew Center believes the Copenhagen conference should be considered a major success if it produces a strong interim agreement that puts a full, final and ratifiable treaty within reach. Such an agreement would establish the basic architecture of a post-2012 framework; indicate the range of emission reductions and the level of support that developed countries are prepared to commit to; and initiate a process to determine the specific actions that developing countries will undertake.
 
Next, the fourth and final major challenge: show me the money.  This is, in fact, the most difficult of all of the challenges I have mentioned, and the one that poses the greatest risk to serious international action on climate change.  We can talk all we want about the need for technology and new investments in developing countries’ capacity to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change … but the money has to come from somewhere.  And, right now, given the state of the global economy, as well as the increasing portion of public monies dedicated to economic stimulus in the United States and many other countries, it is hard to see from whence these funds shall come.

Most people who have looked at the financing issues involved in responding to climate change agree that the majority of investment for mitigation will come from private flows – and a lot of these private flows will come from the creation of greenhouse gas markets. But we cannot deny that additional public monies will be needed to supplement private flows for mitigation and to address the adaptation question.  To date, the level of public funding for this work has been modest and unpredictable – the result of voluntary pledges by donor countries. 

Developing countries have been clear that their ability to be more ambitious and agree to verifiable commitments is dependent upon adequate and predictable funding.  Whether the developed world, in 2009, will be able or willing to agree to mechanisms for providing that funding, or for specific financial commitment levels is unclear at best.    And so money is “the” major challenge we will face as we move into serious negotiations on a post-2012 global agreement.  

RED HERRINGS
From challenges, I want to move briefly to red herrings.  Because as important as it is to address the key challenges I have mentioned, achieving an effective international agreement on climate change also requires us to navigate past the shoals that get us stuck in roundabout and unproductive conversations. 

The first of these is what I will call the competitiveness question.  How often have we heard that addressing climate change will threaten U.S. competitiveness, and cause our economy to crater?  But the fact of the matter, as I have said, is that responding to climate change in a serious way, coupled with an equally serious effort to transform how we produce and use energy, can, if we do it right, provide a significant and lasting boost to the U.S. economy.  I honestly believe that the nations that figure out how to do this will be leaders in the global economy of the 21st century. 

Will some industries be put at competitive risk?  Yes.  Most at risk will be those energy-intensive industries that manufacture globally traded commodities.    This makes it even more important that we work toward a new multilateral agreement that establishes verifiable commitments for all major economies, perhaps with some sectoral agreements that cover those sectors where competition is an issue. 

The good news is competitiveness impacts are likely to be both modest and manageable. Recent findings suggest that at a price of $15 per ton of carbon dioxide there is not likely to be a significant competitiveness impact on U.S. manufacturing as a whole. In fact, carbon-intensive industries that could be negatively impacted by a cost on emissions account for 3 percent of U.S. economic output and less than 2 percent of employment. While a limited number of energy-intensive and trade-exposed industries may face competitive pressures, these modest impacts can be alleviated with emissions allowance revenue generated from a cap-and-trade program instead of, or until, we are able to negotiate global sectoral agreements.   

Next up on the red herring list is the question of fairness as it relates to commitments for developed vs. developing countries.  As I have said, the Pew Center strongly supports efforts to secure real, verifiable policy commitments from developing countries like China and India.  It is important for all major emitting countries to contribute to the global effort to reduce emissions; without all the major emitting countries we cannot make a dent in this problem, let alone solve it.

However, U.S. opponents of serious climate action regularly argue that it’s just not fair to subject our industries and our economy to new regulations when our competitors in China and India get off either scot-free, or with lesser requirements.  But what is fair?  Is it fair that developed countries are, in fact, developed because we have been able to produce these greenhouse gases at will for decades – and now we are saying that developing countries should not be able to follow our lead and improve their standards of living?  Is it fair that we produce more than 4 times the per capita greenhouse gas emissions of China, and more than 10 times the per capita emissions of India?   

The question of fairness has in many respects become a delaying tactic in the debate on climate change.  And it is used on both sides – by developed and developing countries alike.  As the world looks ahead to the Copenhagen meeting and a new international agreement, it is going to be crucial to respond decisively to unsubstantiated claims of unfairness.  We need to remind people that fairness (or unfairness) is in the eye of the beholder, and that the fairest thing is to design a framework that secures verifiable commitments from all major emitting countries to do their part to address this global problem.

The third and final red herring I want to bring up touches on a question that you hear more and more these days from people who otherwise seem perfectly knowledgeable and reasonable.  They ask, “If climate change is already under way and we’re already locked into some of this, then why not just focus on adaptation?  Why go to all of this trouble trying to reduce the risk through reducing emissions?”

The answer is because if we act now to reduce emissions, we have the capacity to dramatically reduce the level of climate change that the world will see in the decades to come.   And we therefore can reduce the ultimate costs of adapting to climate change.  This isn’t just coming from me; this is the consensus of the world’s scientific community.  Adaptation is crucial, yes.  We have already bought a significant amount of climate change, and despite our best efforts to reduce and limit emissions, we will be buying even more.  But an adaptation-only approach runs the unacceptable risk of creating a situation where climate change becomes unmanageable, where the impacts are catastrophic, where the costs to adapt are enormous, and where the costs to then begin undertaking efforts to reduce emissions are more costly still.  In the same way, an approach that says we should concentrate our resources on mitigation ignores the fact that many developing nations already are dealing with adverse impacts from climate change – and they will only join in a global response to the extent that they see a commitment from all nations to support efforts to deal with the consequences of climate change.

There are also those who hold out hope for a geo-engineering solution to climate change.  Such a solution, they say, would allow us to continue to produce emissions on a business-as-usual basis – and these emissions would somehow magically disappear into the ether.  It sounds great, and while ultimately geo-engineering may indeed be part of the solution, it is by no means a substitute for strong action now. So while I favor continued funding for research into this area - we cannot wait to take serious action in hopes of a geo-miracle.

WE CAN, WE MUST
I have talked this afternoon about a number of red herrings we need to get past, and a number of challenges we need to meet, in order to achieve an international agreement that effectively addresses the climate problem.   Add to these the fact that we are facing a global recession the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades, and it would be easy to give up hope that the world can finally chart a productive path forward on this issue. 

But in challenge lies opportunity.  And we have an opportunity, right now, to begin building a stronger economy and a better, safer world.  All of you are familiar with Tom Friedman, the New York Times columnist.  Well, Tom has made the intersection where climate change, energy security and economic growth come together the focus of his latest book, Hot, Flat and Crowded.  And here is what he says in that book:

“The ability to develop clean power and energy-efficient technologies is going to become the defining measure of a country’s economic standing, environmental health, economic security and national security over the next 50 years.”  (end quote)

At the Pew Center, we could not agree more.  And, while some may try to use the current economic situation to obfuscate and delay on the climate issue, I do not believe they will succeed. 

Yes, it may be a challenge getting some people to pay attention to this issue in today’s economic climate. But the bottom line is we have to.  We don’t have any other choice.  And to the extent that we can make the connection between protecting the climate, decreasing our nation’s dependence on foreign energy supplies, and advancing the U.S. economy, I believe we will be successful.  And we can then rightfully assume our leadership role in the global effort to reduce the threat to all nations from climate change. 

Thank you very much.  I welcome your questions. 

Media Coverage of the Economics of Climate Policy: A Discussion Paper

How Much Would You Pay to Save the Planet? The American Press and the Economics  of Climate Change 
Discussion Paper

By Eric Pooley 
Kalb Fellow, Shorenstein Center, Fall 2008 
Contributor at Time Magazine 

Read the paper.

Eric Pooley, a former Fortune managing editor and Time chief political correspondent, recently published a discussion paper that examines media coverage of the federal climate policy debate.

In his paper, Pooley explores the question: "How is the press doing on the climate solutions story?” Specifically, his paper examines media coverage of climate change with a focus on reporting of the economic debate over the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008. Pooley argues that news organizations should devote greater attention to the climate policy story, and reporters must help fulfill a glaring need for public education about climate change with good explanatory journalism. He argues that there is an emerging consensus among economists that well-designed climate policy would not derail the U.S. economy, and that journalists have failed to report this consensus and have given undue attention to “doomsday forecasts” produced by opponents of climate action.

"This is the great political test, and the great story, of our time," writes Pooley. "But news organizations have not been treating it that way." He goes on to add, “It is time for editors to treat climate policy as a permanent, important beat: tracking a mobilization for the moral equivalent of war.”

The paper emphasizes the enormous complexities of the issue, and Pooley challenges reporters to devote the time required to grasp and explain them to readers in a straight, understandable way.

Pooley’s analysis is based on 40 print articles that examined the cost debate published between December 2007 and June 2008 in national and regional newspapers, wire services, and news magazines. Twenty-four stories are identified as works of journalistic stenography – or he said/she said pieces – and seven are one-sided articles. Pooley finds nine articles that attempt to explain the arguments and offer conclusions “with varying degrees of success.”

“It falls to the press to be an honest broker in this debate – sympathetic to the idea that change must come, yet rigorous in its analysis of competing claims,” he writes.

Pooley argues that reporters too often played the role of stenographer, presenting the give and take of the debate without questioning an argument’s validity. Instead of being stenographers, Pooley challenges journalists to act as referees of the climate debate, “keeping both sides honest by calling fouls and failures to play by the rules.” Playing referee carries greater responsibilities and requires more time and work to grapple with complex issues and present them in an understandable and compelling way. But the details of climate policy are greatly important, notes Pooley, and reporters who operate as honest referees serve a critical role in the debate.


 

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Comparing USCAP Recommendations to the EU Emissions Trading System

Side-by-Side Comparison of the USCAP Blueprint for Legislative Action to the EU Emissions Trading System
February 2009

Click here for the document. (pdf)

On January 15, 2009, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) issued A Blueprint for Legislative Action – a detailed framework for legislation to address climate change that calls for an economy-wide greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program. This document (produced while as the Pew Center on Global Climate Change) provides an accessible comparison between the USCAP plan and the EU-ETS on the following key topics:

  • Targets & Timetables
  • Scope of Coverage 
  • Allowance Allocation
  • Offsets
  • Other Cap-and-Trade Cost Containment Elements
  • Additional Climate Related Measures Related to Coal, Performance Standards, Tranportation, and Energy Efficiency

USCAP is an unprecedented coalition of 5 leading non-governmental organizations, including the Center, and 25 major corporations. This diverse group of business and environmental leaders have come together to call for mandatory action, with a comprehensive approach involving near-, mid-, and long-term targets, and a range of effective policies.

Op-Ed: A Blueprint for Action

By Eileen Claussen
February 2009

This article originally appeared in Environmental Finance.

The prospects for serious US action to address climate change have never been better – and it’s not just because we have a new President. In fact, an important reason why we’re likely to see real action on this issue by the current Congress is because of leadership not in the world of politics but in the world of business. Even in the middle of a serious economic downturn, many of America’s top business leaders are standing firm in their support for climate solutions.

Just days before the inauguration of President Barack Obama on January 20, the US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) took its engagement on the climate issue to a new level, issuing “A Blueprint for Legislative Action.” The Blueprint represents two years and literally thousands of hours of work by USCAP members and offers federal lawmakers a consensus plan for an integrated package of policies to slow, stop and reverse the growth of US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

USCAP includes the CEOs of 26 major companies in industries from automobiles and oil to coal mining and coal-burning utilities, together with representatives of five non-governmental organisations, including the Pew Center. The coalition’s role as a catalyst for change, and one that has significant influence across the political spectrum, was evident when USCAP CEOs testified before the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee in January. During the hearing, the panel’s new chairman, Henry Waxman, pledged to pass a climate bill through the committee in May.

Since USCAP’s launch in 2007, its corporate members – which include General Electric, Duke Energy and DuPont – have been calling with their NGO partners for enactment of a domestic cap-and-trade programme. USCAP’s new landmark recommendations provide Congress with details for how such a programme could be designed to achieve steep reductions in emissions in an economically sustainable manner.

The USCAP Blueprint calls for a cap on US emissions of 14-20% below 2005 levels by 2020, 42% below by 2030, and 80% by 2050. USCAP believes we can achieve these targets while rebuilding and reinvigorating the US economy. Its key features include:

  • A robust carbon offsets programme, setting an overall annual upper limit for offset use starting at 2 billion metric tons with authority to increase the amount to 3 billion metric tons should market conditions warrant. Within this upper limit of 2 billion metric tons, domestic and international offsets would be limited so that each is no more than 1.5 billion metric tons in a given year. For example, the programme would allow for the use of 1.5 billion metric tons of domestic offsets and 500 million metric tons of international offsets;
  • A Carbon Market Board to oversee a strategic offset and allowance reserve pool, containing a sufficiently large set of other offsets and, as a measure of last resort, allowances borrowed from future compliance periods that could be released into the market in the event of excessive allowance prices; and
  • A combination of an auction of allowances with a significant initial free allowance allocation that facilitates the transition to a low-carbon economy for consumers and businesses, provides capital to support new low- and zero-GHG-emitting technologies, and funds adaptation measures. The free distribution of allowances would be phased out over time.

All of these measures were painstakingly negotiated as a way to both reduce emissions and revitalise the U.S. economy. They are joined in the USCAP Blueprint by a range of other proposals that would complement the national cap-and-trade programme with incentives for rapid technology transformation in areas from coal technology and transportation to buildings and energy efficiency.

Now to the question at the top of everyone’s mind: What are the actual chances of this kind of plan getting enacted during the 111th Congress? While we can only speculate at this point, the Pew Center’s belief is that the chances are very good. And we see several reasons why.

President Obama, in one of his first major policy statements after the election, reaffirmed his commitment to reducing US emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020 and to 80% below that by 2050, and to enacting a GHG cap-and-trade law. He has since appointed an environment and energy team with tremendous expertise and commitment to climate action.

In Congress, the Democratic leadership is made up of some of Congress’s strongest advocates of climate action, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the chairmen of the key committees: Waxman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Barbara Boxer of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Jeff Bingaman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Key Republicans are also continuing their leadership on the issue, including Senator John McCain, who plans to reintroduce a cap-and-trade bill with his longtime ally, Senator Joseph Lieberman.

Finally, we see the prospects for near-term enactment of a serious cap-and-trade law as good because of the very fact that these proposals have the backing of many of the nation’s leading businesses. Today, for the first time since climate change appeared as a faint bleep on the national radar screen in the mid-1980s, we are seeing what appears to be a critical mass of leadership and engagement in the White House, Congress and the business community.

However, while the stars may be aligned as never before, the push for serious climate action still faces enormous challenges. Designing an effective cap-and-trade programme will be very hard work – and hard politics.

But progress is possible, and we are beginning to see the outlines of a consensus approach to this problem. Even as the US is facing a significant economic challenge, the nation’s business and political leaders are increasingly vocal about their commitment to addressing climate change not at a later date but right now.

The current consensus bodes well for serious climate legislation finally emerging from Congress – and for the US finally to start exercising leadership on the most important global issue of our time.

- Eileen Claussen is President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

Appeared in Environmental Finance— by Eileen Claussen

Congressional Testimony of Elliot Diringer - Toward a Post-2012 Climate Treaty

Elliot Diringer
Vice President, International Strategies
Pew Center on Global Climate Change

Submitted to the United States House of Representatives,
Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming

February 4, 2009

Regarding
The Roadmap from Poznan to Copenhagen – Preconditions for Success


Mr. Chairman, Mr. Sensenbrenner, and members of the Select Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify on the international climate change negotiations and the path toward a post-2012 climate treaty. My name is Elliot Diringer, and I am the Vice President for International Strategies at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change is an independent non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to advancing practical and effective solutions and policies to address global climate change. Our work is informed by our Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC), a group of 44 major companies, most in the Fortune 500, that work with the Center to educate opinion leaders on climate change risks, challenges, and solutions.

Mr. Chairman, in requesting my participation in this hearing, you asked me to address several important questions. Before responding to each in turn, I would like to highlight the following key points:

  • Governments have made important progress since the 2007 Bali conference in strengthening their national efforts and in laying groundwork for a new multilateral agreement. In anticipation of new U.S. leadership, governments recently agreed to enter into “full negotiating mode” with the aim of achieving a comprehensive agreement later this year in Copenhagen.
  • To be effective, a post-2012 climate framework must establish verifiable commitments by all major economies, including economy-wide emission targets for developed countries, and a range of policy commitments for developing countries. The major challenges for Copenhagen are agreeing on: a range of “comparable” emission targets for developed countries; the basic terms of developing country action and a process to further specify them; the appropriate means and level of support for developing country actions; and how countries’ efforts are to be measured and verified.
  • The Copenhagen conference should be considered a major success if it produces a strong interim agreement that puts a full, final and ratifiable treaty within reach. This agreement should establish the basic architecture of a post-2012 framework; indicate the range of emission reductions and the level of support that developed countries are prepared to commit to; and initiate a process to determine the specific actions to be undertaken by developing countries.
  • To ensure success in Copenhagen, the United States must lead at home, by quickly enacting comprehensive mandatory legislation to reduce U.S. emissions, and abroad, through vigorous multilateral and bilateral engagement. In fashioning domestic legislation, Congress can strengthen the hand of U.S. negotiators. Provisions authorizing a stronger U.S. effort and stronger support for developing countries upon ratification of a new climate treaty could provide important leverage to secure stronger commitments from other countries.

1. What progress has the international community made since the negotiations in Bali?

The UN Climate Change Conference in Bali marked a significant turning point in the international climate negotiations. The United States and other parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) launched a two-year process with the aim of reaching a comprehensive agreement at the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties to be held later this year in Copenhagen. In the year since Bali, global emissions have continued to rise at an alarming rate. But there has been encouraging progress both at the national level, with many countries stepping up their climate efforts, and in multilateral discussions, with governments now weighing specific options for a new agreement.

Many developed countries have taken steps to strengthen or establish mandatory programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Most notable is the decision in December by European heads of state enacting a suite of policies aimed at achieving the European Union’s ambitious goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. These include an expansion of the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme, new measures in sectors not covered by the trading system, and individual member state targets to increase renewable energy to 20 percent of the EU’s overall energy mix. Separately, the United Kingdom set a mandatory target to reduce emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Elsewhere, the Australian government decided to develop a national cap-and-trade system and other measures to reduce emissions 5 to 15 percent below 2000 levels by 2020, and 60 percent by 2050. And the Japanese government launched a voluntary emissions trading system, and set a goal of reducing emissions 60 to 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. Japan plans to announce a mid-term emissions target later this year.

A number of major developing countries, meanwhile, have put in place national climate change strategies. China, which adopted a National Climate Change Program in 1997, issued a white paper last year elaborating its policies and actions. China also reported progress toward its ambitious energy intensity target, with energy consumption per GDP down nearly 3.5 percent in the first three quarters of 2008. India adopted a National Action Plan on Climate Change outlining existing and planned actions in eight areas, with a strong emphasis on energy efficiency and large-scale solar power. Brazil adopted a National Plan on Climate Change that includes policies to increase renewable energy and cut electricity consumption 10 percent by 2030. Brazil’s plan also calls for reducing deforestation rates about 70 percent by 2017 – avoiding nearly 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions – with support from the international community.
Mexico recently announced an aspirational goal to reduce emissions 50 percent below 2002 levels by 2050, and is developing sectoral targets with the aim of launching an emissions trading system by 2012. Finally, South Africa, following a detailed analysis of its mitigation options, has set a goal of stopping greenhouse gas emissions growth by 2020 or 2025, with absolute reductions to begin ten years later. The government intends to achieve its goals in part with an escalating price on carbon through a tax, emissions trading, or a combination of market mechanisms.

Beyond these national efforts, governments also have made progress since Bali in building common ground for an effective long-term global response. At the G-8 summit in July in Hokkaido, Japan, President Bush and other leaders supported a global goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at least 50 percent by 2050. In a declaration by leaders of the world’s major economies, China, India and other major developing countries pledged to pursue “nationally appropriate mitigation actions…with a view to achieving a deviation from business as usual emissions.” A new Clean Technology Fund launched at the World Bank through the Bush administration’s initiative will help developing countries by supporting the deployment of commercially available clean energy technologies.

Within the UN climate negotiations, meanwhile, governments have begun debating the key issues and options for a post-2012 agreement. Parties have come forward with dozens of concrete proposals addressing key elements under the Bali Action Plan, including developed and developing country efforts; mechanisms for financial, technology and adaptation support; and a long-term vision to guide the international effort. These proposals and debates have highlighted significant differences among parties. But they also reflect a wealth of new and serious thinking within governments about the practical challenges of crafting a workable climate treaty. Perhaps most encouraging are the proposals from a number of developing countries suggesting ways their actions can be strengthened and embedded in a new climate agreement.

For years, governments have engaged in a prolonged pre-negotiation, even as the evidence of accelerated warming continued to mount. In anticipation of new U.S. leadership, parties resolved in Pozna? in December that they were now ready to enter “full negotiating mode.” Conditions are finally set for a genuine negotiation to begin.

2. What are the major challenges faced on the way to Copenhagen?

The Pew Center believes that, to be effective, the post-2012 framework must establish verifiable commitments by all the major economies, and that in order to do so, it must allow some flexibility in the types of commitments taken by different countries.

We believe all developed countries should commit to economy-wide emission reduction targets. They are effective and efficient, and are the foundation of a global greenhouse gas market. For reasons both political and practical, however, most developing countries cannot be expected at this stage to assume economy-wide targets. For these countries, the framework should also allow for policy-based commitments. These would be commitments to implement nationally defined policies – such as energy efficiency standards, renewable energy targets, sustainable forestry plans, or other sectoral policies – to produce verifiable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, the framework must provide incentives to developing countries to reduce their emissions, through market-based mechanisms and public finance, and it must help the poorest and most vulnerable countries adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The major challenges for Copenhagen are to reach agreement on: a range of “comparable” emission targets for developed countries; the basic terms of developing country action and a process to further specify them; the appropriate means and level of support by developed countries for developing country actions; and how countries’ efforts are to be measured and verified. Each presents its own set of challenges; pulling them all together in a comprehensive package will be more challenging still.

Comparability of Developed Country Targets – Under the Bali Action Plan, a new agreement is to ensure the “comparability of efforts” among developed countries, a question that is likely to revolve primarily around mid-term emission reduction targets.

Comparability could depend on host of factors such as a country’s: emissions intensity (emissions per GDP); relative wealth, or ability to pay; economic and population trends; past efforts to reduce emissions; marginal costs of abatement; and other national circumstances (resource base, climate, geography, patterns of trade, etc.). Agreement on a quantified formula to determine respective targets seems unlikely, however. Rather, targets will likely be determined through a political negotiation in which parties take factors such as these into account.

In the United States, President Obama has called for a domestic cap-and-trade system with the mid-term goal of reducing U.S. emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, the same target adopted by the state of California and by the six other states and four Canadian provinces in the Western Climate Initiative. The European Union, by contrast, has set a goal of reducing emissions 20 percent below 1990 levels, and says it is prepared to go further if other developed countries agree to comparable reductions.

Viewed against a 1990 baseline (the base year employed in the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol), the EU target and the one proposed by President Obama appear very much at odds. Circumstances, however, have changed considerably since 1990. U.S. population has grown 19 percent, for instance, while Europe’s has held steady. For the United States, a return to 1990 levels by 2020 would require a very significant level of effort. Measured against a more recent baseline, the EU target and the one proposed by President Obama appear considerably more comparable – each would reduce emissions roughly 15 percent below 2005 levels. Numbers emerging elsewhere fall in a similar range. Australia is considering reductions up to 15 percent below 2000 levels. Canada has talked of reducing emissions 20 percent below 2006 levels. Japan has yet to formally propose a target, but a government analysis released last year suggested a maximum feasible reduction of 14 percent below 2005 levels.

Defining Developing Country Actions – A major step forward in Bali was the agreement by developing countries to negotiate “nationally appropriate mitigation actions.” One of the central challenges for Copenhagen is defining these actions in a way that is acceptable to developing countries and can be accepted by the United States and other developed countries as a genuine commitment.

The key issues are the form of developing country commitments, and the process for determining their specific content. As noted earlier, the Pew Center supports the use of policy-based commitments, in which countries agree to implement nationally defined policies producing verifiable emission reductions. Countries could tailor their policies to their natural circumstances, mitigation potentials, and development objectives. Policies could be sector-based or economy-wide, and could include standards, targets and fiscal or other measures. They should be defined in clear, verifiable metrics, such as energy intensity improvement, growth in renewable energy, reduced deforestation rates, or sectoral targets.

Beyond agreement on a general approach, a process is needed to define the specific actions of individual countries. This process could serve two purposes. The first would be to allow some assessment of the soundness and adequacy of the proposed actions. The second would be to determine the means and level of support to be made available to help implement the proposed actions; under the Bali Action Plan, developing country mitigation actions are to be “supported and enabled by technology, financing and capacity-building.” These two purposes are inherently related: the strength of a country’s commitment will depend in part on the support provided, and vice versa.

The expectations for any given country – and the nature and level of support it is likely to receive – will depend heavily on its particular circumstances. Developing countries strongly oppose any explicit differentiation among them beyond the categories already established in the Framework Convention, which gives special consideration to least developed countries and small island developing states. The bargaining process itself is likely to produce a de facto differentiation, however, with stronger commitments by the most advanced emerging economies, and perhaps none at all by many others.

Support for Developing Country Efforts – Agreement in Copenhagen will not be feasible without major progress on the question of incentives and support for developing country efforts. As noted, the Bali Action Plan makes developing countries’ mitigation actions at least partially contingent on support from developed countries. Developing countries need assistance in analyzing their mitigation potentials, developing and implementing effective policies, deploying climate-friendly technologies, and measuring and verifying their emission reductions. In addition, the Bali Action Plan calls for stronger support for adaptation in vulnerable countries. Although mobilizing support will be especially difficult under current economic conditions and budgetary constraints, early progress in this area will greatly enhance prospects for an agreement.

There is broad recognition that the majority of investment for mitigation will come from private flows, in part through greenhouse gas markets. But additional public finance is needed to supplement private flows for mitigation and to address adaptation. While the level of support to be provided will in the end be critical, other questions must be addressed first. These are the means by which any public finance is to be generated, the institutions through which it is to be disbursed, and their governance.

International climate funding has relied primarily to date on pledging by donor countries; resulting flows are modest and unpredictable. An effective agreement will require adequate, predictable funding. Countries could commit to certain funding levels or formulas, but actual flows would remain subject to national appropriations processes. International mechanisms proposed by some parties – such as levies on international emissions trading, or an auction of international emissions allowances – would not require national appropriations but would be subject to fluctuations in the greenhouse gas market.

Institutionally, the major issue is whether any new funds are managed directly under the Framework Convention, as developing countries have proposed, or at the Global Environment Facility or a multilateral bank, as many donor countries prefer. Governance is another issue, with developing countries insisting on a much stronger say than under traditional donor-weighted models. The new Clean Technology Fund points to a potential compromise – placing any new funds at an existing institution, avoiding the need to re-create institutional capacity, but with a more balanced governance structure.

Measurement, Reporting and Verification – The Bali Action Plan introduced a critical new construct into the climate negotiations with the requirement that the mitigation efforts of both developed and developing countries, as well as support for developing country actions, be “measurable, reportable and verifiable” (MRV). Credible approaches to MRV will be essential to establish and maintain parties’ confidence in their respective efforts and in the overall regime.
Existing practices under the Framework Convention and the Kyoto Protocol should prove adequate in the case of countries with economy-wide targets. New approaches will be needed for developing countries, which now have only minimal reporting requirements and are not subject to international review. If verification is done nationally, as proposed by developing countries, it should follow agreed international guidelines and be subject to international review. A review process could be strictly facilitative, providing expert advice where countries are falling short, or could entail consequences, such as a loss of financial support or access to the carbon market.

How support for developing countries is to be verified will depend on the way it is provided. As some support is likely to continue to flow through bilateral channels, common criteria are needed to distinguish “climate-related” assistance from other aid.

3. In what way should the US contribute to facilitating a success in Copenhagen?

The Copenhagen conference should be considered a major success if it produces a strong, balanced interim agreement that puts a full, final and ratifiable treaty within reach. Such an agreement could take the form of a decision of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties and should:

  • Outline the basic architecture of a post-2012 framework, including the types of mitigation commitments to be undertaken by different groups of countries, mechanisms of support for developing countries, and basic terms and mechanisms of measurement, reporting and verification;
  • Set an emissions target range, or minimum target levels, for developed countries;
  • Indicate the level of support to be provided for developing country actions, assuming a final agreement with appropriate developing country commitments; and
  • Initiate a process to determine the specific actions to be undertaken by individual developing countries.

An agreement of this type would settle fundamental legal and design issues. Further, by specifying the level of effort they are prepared to undertake, and the level of support they are prepared to deliver, developed countries would in essence be placing a concrete and comprehensive offer on the table. This would create the necessary conditions to then negotiate the specific terms of developing country action, the major additional element needed to form a ratifiable agreement.

No country could do more than the United States to ensure success in Copenhagen. Inaction by the United States – the world’s largest economy, and largest historic greenhouse gas emitter – has been the single greatest obstacle to global action on climate change. Over the coming year, the United States has the responsibility and the opportunity to instead drive the global climate effort through renewed leadership both at home and abroad.

First and foremost, the United States must exercise leadership at home by moving swiftly to enact comprehensive mandatory legislation to cap and reduce U.S. emissions. The Pew Center, along with the other members of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, urges Congress to enact legislation this year to establish an economy-wide cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions 14 to 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, 42 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050. We recognize that this timeline and these targets are ambitious. We believe they are achievable and economically sustainable, and that now is to the time to act.

The United States also must exercise leadership abroad through a full-fledged diplomatic strategy to achieve a comprehensive agreement under the UNFCCC establishing fair, effective and verifiable commitments by all major economies. President Obama’s recent pledge of vigorous international engagement and his appointment of a Special Envoy on Climate Change are encouraging signs that the Administration intends to move quickly.

The Administration must immediately engage in the ongoing UNFCCC negotiations, making clear its commitment to achieving the strongest possible outcome, while at the same time helping to set realistic expectations for Copenhagen. Stepping into a negotiation midstream requires great delicacy. The new Administration will surely be welcomed, but it must be mindful of decisions already taken, and it may have to work hard to overcome a deficit of trust. It will be especially important to acknowledge recent movement by developing countries, and to make early progress on incentives for developing country action.

Success in the negotiations will require vigorous efforts on other fronts as well. The United States should work with other countries to quickly reconstitute the Major Economies process launched by the Bush administration. Despite their initial reluctance, many governments have come to recognize the enormous value of a small-group dialogue in laying the foundation for a comprehensive agreement under the UNFCCC. At the same time, the United States must step up bilateral engagement with key countries. With Europe and other developed countries, the Administration must work toward consensus on emission targets and common approaches to developing country engagement. With developing countries, it must signal a strong willingness to provide the support they need, while being clear about what the United States needs in return.

Of all the bilateral relationships, perhaps the most critical, and most delicate, is with China. While China has shown a greater willingness to engage in climate discussions, and is sensitive to its new standing as the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, it is reluctant to be cast in the spotlight. Still, closer collaboration on clean coal technology and other energy and climate challenges could produce practical benefits for both countries and help pave the way for a multilateral agreement. Next week, the Pew Center will release a report produced jointly with the Asia Society outlining a proposed roadmap for U.S.-China cooperation on energy and climate change.


4. What are the inter-linkages between the ongoing national and international climate negotiations and how can they enhance and influence one another?

One of the most critical lessons of the Kyoto experience is how important it is that our domestic and international climate policies proceed in tandem. The United States should not repeat the mistake of allowing its climate diplomacy to move out ahead of its domestic policy process. This requires close coordination not only within the executive branch, but more importantly, between the Administration and Congress.

The United States’ leverage in the international negotiations will depend heavily on the pace of domestic climate legislation. The ultimate timing and stringency of U.S. legislation will bear directly on the timing and strength of a U.S. commitment. For that reason, U.S. negotiators may not be in a position to conclude a final agreement intended for ratification until domestic legislation has been enacted or is close to enactment. Still, with the general direction of domestic climate policy now emerging, the United States can and should begin negotiating the overall structure of a new international agreement. At the same time, the Administration should work with Congress to incorporate into legislation provisions that will help at the negotiating table.

Many of the core issues in the design of a domestic cap-and-trade system have implications for international engagement. Some approaches can provide strong positive incentives for developing country action. Allowing U.S. emitters to meet their targets in part through the purchase of international offsets can mobilize private investment to reduce emissions in developing countries. Revenue from the auction of emission allowances can be used to support both mitigation and adaptation efforts. Border measures imposing costs on energy-intensive imports have been advocated as a way to encourage stronger developing country action. However, these could lead to trade and other conflicts, and other approaches can better address the competitiveness concerns of energy-intensive industries.

In fashioning domestic legislation, Congress can build in provisions to strengthen the hand of U.S. negotiators. The targets set under domestic legislation must fundamentally guide the U.S. negotiating position, but reaching an agreement will be easier if negotiators have additional room to bargain. Congress could, for instance, authorize immediate assistance for capacity-building in developing countries, with assistance for technology deployment to be made available upon U.S. ratification and entry into force of a climate agreement. Similarly, Congress could set aside allowance auction revenues to be made available on entry into force for emission reductions overseas above and beyond a U.S. domestic target. Being able to offer an international target somewhat stronger than the domestic target could provide the negotiating leverage needed to secure stronger commitments from others.

To summarize, I believe we now have an historic opportunity to mobilize an effective multilateral response to climate change, and it is incumbent upon the United States to lead both at home and abroad to ensure its success. I commend the Select Committee for bringing the attention of the Congress to bear on these critical issues, and thank you for the opportunity to present our views. I would be happy to answer your questions.

Press Release: Diringer Testifies Before House Global Warming Committee

Press Release - February 4, 2009

Contact: Tom Steinfeldt, (703) 516-4146 
______________________________________________________________________________

PEW CENTER’S DIRINGER TESTIFIES BEFORE HOUSE GLOBAL WARMING COMMITTEE

U.S. Leadership At Home and Abroad Key to Success in Copenhagen

WASHINGTON, DC -- Elliot Diringer, Vice President for International Strategies at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, testified today before the U.S. House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. Diringer’s testimony focused on the major international climate change negotiations taking place later this year in Copenhagen, Denmark, and the path toward achieving a post-2012 climate treaty.

“The Copenhagen conference should be considered a major success if it produces a strong interim agreement that puts a full, final and ratifiable treaty within reach,” said Diringer. “We have before us an historic opportunity to mobilize an effective multilateral response to climate change.  It is incumbent on the United States to lead both at home and abroad to ensure its success.”

Diringer was one of four panelists invited to address the first House Committee hearing of the 111th Congress focused on international climate negotiations. The hearing examined critical preconditions for achieving success in Copenhagen. 

Diringer’s testimony highlighted the following key points. His full testimony is available online at www.c2es.org/testimony/diringer/02-04-09.

• Governments have made important progress since the 2007 Bali conference in strengthening their national efforts and in laying groundwork for a new multilateral agreement. In anticipation of new U.S. leadership, governments recently agreed to enter into “full negotiating mode” with the aim of achieving a comprehensive agreement later this year in Copenhagen.

• To be effective, a post-2012 climate framework must establish verifiable commitments by all major economies, including economy-wide emission targets for developed countries, and a range of policy commitments for developing countries. The major challenges for Copenhagen are agreeing on: a range of “comparable” emission targets for developed countries; the basic terms of developing country action and a process to further specify them; the appropriate means and level of support for developing country actions; and how countries’ efforts are to be measured and verified.

• The Copenhagen conference should be considered a major success if it produces a strong interim agreement that puts a full, final and ratifiable treaty within reach. This agreement should establish the basic architecture of a post-2012 framework; indicate the range of emission reductions and the level of support that developed countries are prepared to commit to; and initiate a process to determine the specific actions to be undertaken by developing countries.

• To ensure success in Copenhagen, the United States must lead at home, by quickly enacting comprehensive mandatory legislation to reduce U.S. emissions, and abroad, through vigorous multilateral and bilateral engagement. In fashioning domestic legislation, Congress can strengthen the hand of U.S. negotiators. Provisions authorizing a stronger U.S. effort and stronger support for developing countries upon ratification of a new climate treaty could provide important leverage to secure stronger commitments from other countries.

The hearing’s other speakers included John Bruton, delegation of the European Commission and ambassador to the U.S., Rob Bradley, director of the International Climate Policy Initiative at the World Resources Institute, and Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for 21st Century Energy.

For more information about global climate change and the activities of the Pew Center, visit www.c2es.org.

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The Pew Center was established in May 1998 as a non-profit, non-partisan, and independent 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.

 

Statement: Senator Boxer Issues Principles for Global Warming Legislation

This statement was issued in response to the global warming legislation principles announced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

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

February 3, 2009

Today Senator Barbara Boxer reaffirmed her desire to move quickly in enacting legislation that would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.  We agree with the principles she announced today and look forward to working with her and her colleagues in the Congress to craft workable climate legislation for the United States.

 

Click here to read Sen. Boxer's Principles for Global Warming Legislation.

 

Statement: Appointment of Todd Stern as Special Envoy on Climate Change

 - This statement was released in response to the announcement of Todd Stern as America's first special envoy on climate change.-

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

January 26, 2009

Secretary Clinton’s appointment of America’s first special envoy on climate change is another clear and early signal that the Obama administration is determined to address this issue head on.  This new position can help ensure strong and focused engagement at the highest levels as the United States works with other countries to forge a new international climate agreement.  As special envoy, Todd Stern brings the expertise, insight and judgment needed to represent renewed U.S. leadership in the global effort against climate change.

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