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
Comments by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change Regarding Interim Final, General Guidelines for the Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases (1605(b)) Program
June 27, 2005
These comments by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change are written in response to the notice of inquiry by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) regarding the “Interim Final, General Guidelines for the Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases (1605(b)) Program” (70 Fed. Reg. 15169 (March 24, 2005)). The Center appreciates the opportunity to comment on this important issue.
The Center previously submitted comments in response to the notice of inquiry by the U.S. DOE regarding “Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Reductions, and Carbon Sequestration” (67 Fed. Reg. 30370 (May 6, 2002)), as well as the “General Guidelines for Voluntary Greenhouse Gas Reporting; Proposed Rule” (68 Fed. Reg. 68204 (December 5, 2003)). While some of the issues raised in previous comments have been addressed in the Interim Final Guidelines, many significant points have not. The Center considers the issues reiterated below to be essential for the establishment of a successful program to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
The Center believes that a mandatory GHG reporting and disclosure program is the logical next step in any effort to address climate change. Even a voluntary emission reduction program requires mandatory reporting in order to determine the overall efficacy of the voluntary effort.
Absolute Reductions in Emissions vs. Reductions in Emissions Intensity
While we think that the reporting of emissions intensity data would be interesting, the emissions reduction picture would more transparent and helpful if absolute emissions reduction data were published alongside intensity data.
We appreciate the effort to clarify the definition of an “entity” to be used in entity-wide reporting. However, the fact that reporters retain the flexibility to establish their own approach to entity definitions—rather than requiring reporting at the highest (parent company) level in the U.S.—is likely to provide a skewed view of true entity-wide emissions and make comparison across firms impossible. Additionally, a future mandatory program might be based on the emissions of individual facilities within entities, therefore that information would also be useful to incorporate into this system.
Registering of Activities Prior to 2003
Perhaps of greatest concern is the limitation of registered reductions to post-2002 activities. Under the new two-tiered guidelines, entities may report (but not register) emission reductions achieved prior to 2003. Reductions that were reported to 1605(b) before 2003 could not earn registration status, even if the entities met the new guidelines. The DOE’s decision to distinguish between reductions achieved prior to 2003 and reductions achieved from 2003 is counterproductive and arbitrary. Not only would real, verifiable reductions that occurred before 2003 not be recognized under the proposed system, but entities would have no assurance that a future revision process would not similarly fail to recognize post-2003 registered reductions. While we understand the desire to measure progress toward the President’s goal of reducing emissions intensity 18% from 2002 levels, allowing entities to register reductions that occurred before 2002 would not detract in any way from the ability to measure reductions that have occurred since 2002.
The Center urges that entities be able to register pre-2003 emissions reductions so long as they meet all other requirements of the revised, more stringent 1605(b) guidelines. Many companies have taken responsible actions to curb their GHG emissions and undertake GHG reduction projects over the last decade, due to concern about climate change impacts and in response to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and various U.S. voluntary programs such as this one that have encouraged early action. A number of these firms acted in good faith reliance on representations from previous government statements suggesting these actions would be rewarded—or at least not punished. These companies should receive credit for their early action. A GHG reporting program should make it possible for such entities to register (and receive baseline protection for) emission reductions and offsets implemented since 1990, so long as the information is certified by the reporting entity and is reported under the established reporting standards. Companies should be able to select any base year in this timeframe for which their emissions are well documented and verifiable.
Press Release: New Reports Detail Challenges and Opportunities for Climate Change and Buildings, Electricity Sectors
For Immediate Release: June 16, 2005
Contact: Katie Mandes
BUILDINGS, ELECTRICITY AND CLIMATE CHANGE
New Reports Detail Challenges and Opportunities
Washington, DC —The U.S. buildings and electricity sectors—which together account for the largest portion of our economy’s physical wealth and enable almost every activity of our daily life – also account for approximately half of our nation’s CO2 emissions. Effective long-term climate change policy in the U.S. must address emissions from these two sectors.
Two new reports released today by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change identify a number of technologies and policy options for GHG reductions in both sectors. The first report is Towards a Climate-Friendly Built Environment, written by Marilyn Brown, Frank Southworth and Therese Stovall of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The other is U.S. Electric Power Sector and Climate Change Mitigation, written by Granger Morgan, Jay Apt, and Lester Lave of Carnegie Mellon University.
Long capital stock turnover, regulatory uncertainty and diverse and often competing interests all contribute to the difficulty of reducing GHGs from these two sectors. These reports find that a portfolio of affordable technology and policy options exist to completely transform the high-emitting buildings and electricity sectors to low-GHG emitting sectors over the next 50 years. However, the long lead time required to develop new technologies, deploy available technologies, and turn over capital stock, means that policies need to be launched now to create the impetus for change. Efforts must be sustained over time to achieve the deep reductions required.
"The importance of these two sectors to both the U.S. economy and to the issue of climate change cannot be over-stated,” said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, “This research shows that we can achieve enormous reductions in the building and electric sectors, but only if we craft a clear and comprehensive policy to guide them."
Some insights that emerge from the reports are:
- Policies are needed to enable meaningful GHG reductions from these sectors. The diverse and fragmented nature of the buildings sector, and the current state of regulatory uncertainty in the electricity sector prevent many available GHG reduction options from being adopted in the market in the absence of policies.
- Significant increases in R&D and deployment policies are essential if we hope to significantly reduce GHGs from these sectors. A significantly expanded R&D program is needed in the U.S. to develop new technologies, and deployment policies are needed to push and pull available fuels and technologies into the market in the near and long term.
- An elimination of most GHGs from these sectors is possible over the next 50 years. If managed properly, the electricity sector could undergo a complete capital stock turnover to low or non-GHG emitting generation sources over the next 50 years; while buildings in the U.S. could become net low-GHG energy exporters in the same time frame – but government policies are essential to provide clear policy direction in order to drive the massive public and private investments and choices necessary to enable such a future.
This report is part of the Solutions series, which is aimed at providing individuals and organizations with tools to evaluate and reduce their contributions to climate change. In 2003, the Solutions series released the first of its sectoral reports, Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from U.S. Transportation, written by David L. Greene of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Andreas Schafer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Other Pew Center series focus on domestic and international policy issues, environmental impacts, and the economics of climate change.
A complete copy of this report—and previous Pew Center reports—is available on the Pew Center's web site, /global-warming-in-depth/all_reports/.
The Pew Center was established in May 1998 by The Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the United States’ largest philanthropies and an influential voice in efforts to improve the quality of the environment. The Pew Center is an independent, nonprofit, and non-partisan organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. The Pew Center is led by Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.
Judith M. Greenwald, Director of Innovative Solutions at the Pew Center, Discusses Keeping the Nuclear Power Option Open
(This article appeared in Oxford Energy Forum, May 2005)
Addressing the challenge of global climate change will require a sustained and comprehensive commitment to climate-friendly policies and investments throughout the world. Such policies and investments must be focused on enabling a transition to a low-carbon economy through a significant reduction in annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. A commonly stated goal is to stabilize the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) at twice its pre-industrial level. Such a “decarbonization” in the context of increasing global demand for energy would necessitate an increase of roughly 100 to 300 percent of present-day worldwide “primary power” consumption from non-CO2-emitting sources such as renewables, nuclear power, the use of fossil fuels with carbon capture and sequestration, and energy efficiency improvements.
Achieving this transition depends on both near-term and long-term actions...
Congressional Testimony of Eileen Claussen: Regarding the Climate Change Technology Deployment in Developing Countries Act of 2005 (S.883)
STATEMENT BY EILEEN CLAUSSEN, PRESIDENT
PEW CENTER ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
REGARDING THE CLIMATE CHANGE TECHNOLOGY DEPLOYMENT
IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES ACT OF 2005 (S.883)
Before the International Economic Policy, Export and
Trade Promotion Subcommittee, The Foreign Relations Committee
United States Senate
May 19, 2005
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify on the Climate Change Technology Deployment in Developing Countries Act of 2005 (S.883) introduced by the chairman. My name is Eileen Claussen, and I am the President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
The Pew Center on Global Climate Change is 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. Thirty-nine major companies in the Pew Center’s Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC), most included in the Fortune 500, work with the Center to educate the public on the risks, challenges and solutions to climate change.
Global climate change is real and likely caused mostly by human activities. While uncertainties remain, they cannot be used as an excuse for inaction. Temperatures at the Earth’s surface increased by an estimated 1oF over the 20th century. The 1990s were the hottest decade of the entire century; perhaps even the millennium, and 1998, 2001, and 2002 were three of the hottest years ever recorded. The growing scientific consensus is that this warming is largely the result of emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from human activities including industrial processes, fossil fuel combustion, and changes in land use, such as deforestation. Projections of future warming suggest a global increase of 2.5oF to 10.4oF by 2100, with warming in the United States expected to be even higher. This warming, along with the associated changes in precipitation and sea-level rise, will have important consequences for the U.S. environment, economy and security.
I believe there are three things we in the United States must do to reduce the real and growing risks posed by global climate change: First, we must enact and implement a comprehensive national program to progressively and significantly reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gas emissions in a manner that contributes to sustained economic growth. While I am happy to elaborate on this point, that is not my intent today. Second, we must strengthen our efforts to develop and deploy climate-friendly technologies and to diffuse those technologies on a global scale. That is the primary thrust of the bill before you today. And third, the United States must work with other countries to establish an international framework that engages all the major greenhouse gas-emitting nations in a fair and effective long-term effort to protect our global climate. I would like to return to this point later in my testimony and offer specific ideas on how this third critical challenge can best be met. First, though, let me discuss the specifics of the Hagel bill.
We must strengthen efforts to develop and deploy climate-friendly technologies on a global scale. Standards of living are expected to rise in developing countries over the next few decades, and, as they do, energy demand will rise. China, for example, expects to build 544 gigawatts of new coal capacity between 2003 and 2030, far more than current coal capacity in the United States. Shanghai predicts a quadrupling of cars and trucks by 2020, and car sales in Delhi have risen 10% per year since the mid-1970s. If we are going to address the climate change problem, the huge growth in energy demand in developing countries has to be as climate-friendly as possible.
Sen. Hagel’s bill is intended to address exactly that challenge. The bill would have the Department of State identify the top 25 energy users among developing countries, describing among other things the quantities and types of energy they use, and the greenhouse gas intensity of their energy, manufacturing, agricultural and transportation sectors. The bill would require the development of a technology strategic plan, and provide for at least ten demonstration projects to promote the adoption of technologies and practices that reduce greenhouse gas intensity in developing countries. The bill would identify potential barriers to the export and adoption of climate-friendly technologies. All of these would be useful activities.
I would, of course, like to offer a few suggestions.
First, we should tailor the assistance provided to developing countries to their needs. It is in the interest of the United States for developing countries to develop, and thereby to increase the health and well-being of their people, and it is important to recognize that the path each country takes in its development will vary. Our efforts to promote the deployment of climate-friendly technologies will occur in the context of these varying paths to development. Rather than viewing climate-friendly technology deployment as an exercise in funding demonstration projects or increasing technology exports, our objective should be to integrate climate-friendly activities into national strategies for economic growth, poverty reduction, and sustainable development. We should be helping developing countries build their capacity to assess clean energy options and establish policy frameworks that will favor such options even after our funding assistance is gone.
The reality is that the highest priority for most developing countries is economic growth and development. Energy policies and plans are critical to achieving those priorities. Making climate change one of the drivers of energy policy, as the United Kingdom has done, will move us toward meeting our goal of a stable climate. It is in this context that we should support and promote efforts by the largest developing countries to identify specific goals for limiting their emissions of greenhouse gases – recognizing that their goals may vary in form, content and timing. One way to do that would be to require that the largest developing countries, in agreeing to receive assistance under this bill, would establish goals consistent with their development strategies, and periodically report progress towards meeting them.
Second, we would recommend tracking progress under this bill not only in terms of greenhouse gas intensity, but in terms of actual greenhouse gas emissions. Measuring intensity is useful in that it allows us to distinguish a reduction in emissions that results from a genuine improvement in the technology from a reduction due to reduced production. Intensity reduction, however, is not a surrogate for emission reduction, and our objective of achieving a stable climate must entail actual emission reductions. We therefore should be tracking our progress in those terms.
I would respectfully suggest that Senator Byrd’s International Clean Energy Deployment and Global Energy Markets Investment Act of 2005 (S.745) takes a useful approach to the issues I have just mentioned. It might be beneficial to merge these aspects of the Byrd bill with the Hagel bill.
An international technology deployment program, such as the Hagel bill, can only be effective in the context of an international framework that engages all major emitting countries in the effort against climate change. So even more critical, I believe, is the third challenge I identified at the outset: establishing a fair and effective international framework to engage all major emitting countries in the effort against climate change.
Through an initiative called the Climate Dialogue at Pocantico, the Pew Center has engaged with policymakers and stakeholders from around the world in a wide-ranging examination of specific options for advancing the international climate effort. I would like to share with you some of the insights and observations emerging from this ongoing dialogue.
First, there is no getting around national interest. Climate change is a collective challenge. However, the political reality is that nations will join in meeting this collective challenge only if they perceive it to be in their national interests. A multilateral framework must therefore recognize and accommodate the very real and significant differences among nations. The key here is flexibility. We need a framework flexible enough to allow different countries to undertake the different types of strategies best suited to their national circumstances. To accommodate different types of strategies, we must allow for different types of commitments. For instance, a quantified emissions limit may be appropriate for some countries, while for others some form of non-quantified policy commitment may be more feasible and effective. Also, commitments could apply economy-wide, or they could be structured around specific sectors.
There are many possibilities and the time to begin considering them is right now. In its present form, the Kyoto Protocol extends only to 2012. Under the terms of the Protocol, parties must begin consideration of new commitments this year. This process will begin when climate negotiators meet later this year in Montreal. While the United States is not a party to the Protocol, it can, if it so chooses, exert great influence on the pace and direction of these discussions. Other countries would very much welcome the United States’ engagement. Most have come to accept that the United States will never be a party to the Kyoto Protocol. And they understand that a truly effective international approach – one with the full engagement of the United States and the major developing countries – will require moving beyond Kyoto. The Administration has thus far taken the position that it is premature to discuss post-2012 options. Quite to the contrary, it is essential that we begin now, with the United States fully and constructively engaged.
Toward that end, I believe the most powerful step the Senate could take to reestablish U.S. leadership on this vital global issue would be to revisit and update the sense of the Senate on the future of the international climate effort. As we all know, Senate Resolution 98 of the One Hundred Fifth Congress – the Byrd-Hagel resolution – has had a profound influence on the climate debate here and abroad. As the international climate effort enters a new stage, a new Senate resolution can again shape the debate. It can help ensure that the United States is at the table and define the terms of U.S. engagement; and, in so doing, it can help achieve the best possible outcome.
I would strongly encourage the Foreign Relations Committee to consider, and to report to the full Senate, a resolution advising the Executive Branch to work with other nations, both under the Framework Convention and in other international fora, with the aim of securing U.S. participation in agreements consistent with the following four objectives:
First, to advance and protect the economic and national security interests of the United States. Potential climate change impacts such as chronic drought, famine, mass migration, and abrupt climatic shifts may trigger regional instabilities and pose a growing threat to our national security interests. Addressing climate change, on the other hand, can greatly strengthen U.S. security by reducing our reliance on energy imports. Sea-level rise and other climate impacts pose a direct economic threat as well, to U.S. communities and to U.S. businesses. On the other hand, our response to climate change, if not well conceived, could pose a different sort of economic burden. It is imperative that we both avoid the economic consequences of climate change, and minimize the costs of addressing climate change.
Second, to establish mitigation commitments by all countries that are major emitters of greenhouse gases. Ideally, a global challenge such as climate change should be met with a full global response. What is most critical at this stage, however, is getting the largest emitters on board. Twenty-five countries account for 83 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Seventeen of them are also among the world’s most populous countries, and twenty-two are among those with the highest GDPs. To be truly effective, these major emitters must be part of the solution. While we cannot expect all these countries to act in the same way, or necessarily in the same timeframe, we believe that all must commit to take action.
Third, to establish flexible international mechanisms to minimize the cost of efforts by participating countries. The United States has led the world in demonstrating that well-designed market-based approaches can achieve the greatest environmental benefit at the lowest cost. U.S. negotiators fought rightly and successfully to build market mechanisms into the Kyoto architecture. U.S. economic and business interests will be best served by an international climate strategy that uses emissions trading and other mechanisms to ensure that our efforts are as cost-effective as possible.
And, fourth, to achieve a significant long-term reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions. Our initial efforts to address climate change, both domestically and internationally, can be at best first steps. But in taking these steps, we must remain cognizant of our ultimate objective – stabilizing the global climate – and we should craft policies and agreements robust enough to drive and sustain the long-term efforts needed to achieve it.
I believe these four principles form a solid foundation for constructive U.S. engagement and urge that they be incorporated in a new Sense of the Senate resolution. Moreover, such a resolution strikes me as being very much within the spirit of the Hagel bill and could well be taken up as an amendment to it.
In closing, the most important thing Sen. Hagel has done in writing S.883, and that the subcommittee has done in holding this hearing, is to join the question of how best to address climate change. As Senator Hagel has said, “Achieving reductions in greenhouse gas emissions is one of the important challenges of our time.” And: “We all agree on the need for a clean environment and stable climate. The debate is about solutions. The question we face is not whether we should take action, but what kind of action we should take.” I thank and commend Sen. Hagel for placing these issues before you, and thank the subcommittee for the opportunity to testify. The Pew Center looks forward to working with the committee and Sen. Hagel on S.883 and on any future climate change legislation.
Download the full White Paper here (PDF Format).
The European Union Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS) is a landmark environmental policy, representing the world’s first large-scale greenhouse gas (GHG) trading program, covering around 12,000 installations in 25 countries and 6 major industrial sectors. The EU-ETS offers an opportunity for critical insights into the design and implementation of a market-based environmental program of such size and complexity. In addition, key lessons based on actual experiences of emissions trading will include the cost of emissions reductions, the implications on competitiveness of sectors and firms, and the development of new technologies and efficiency opportunities.
This analysis discusses the background to the EU-ETS in the context of ongoing emission abatement efforts and policy initiatives to meet EU-25 member state targets under the Kyoto Protocol. The key elements of the EU-ETS are detailed, focusing on its timetable, sectoral coverage, methodology for distributing emission allowances, provisions for banking, opt-outs, opt-ins and pooling mechanisms, the procedures for monitoring and verification, and the compliance mechanisms.
The paper then turns to the current status of the EU-ETS, focusing on the ongoing national allocation plans, and discussing key remaining uncertainties, namely the readiness of all parties to trade, linkages to other trading programs, availability and use of project-based allowances, the impact of Russian emission credits, strategies of new Central and Eastern European member states, the compliance role of governments, progress in emissions reductions from sectors outside the EU-ETS, and finally the importance of expectations of future targets and prices.
This paper concludes with early conclusions from this first large-scale GHG emissions trading program. The EU-ETS is up and running with significant trading volumes; it looks set to deliver real (vs. BAU) but modest reductions; these reductions are focused on the power sector; and ongoing concerns remain regarding detrimental impacts on industry competitiveness and the impact of higher electricity prices. Key remaining challenges include the remaining implementation issues of this novel trading system, and to retain political support for the EU-ETS in the years ahead. Key insights from the EU-ETS will include the price, traded volume and cost-savings from GHG trading, the longer term implications of the EU-ETS for technology development and the progression of global climate change policies, and direct lessons for U.S. policy makers as they debate domestic GHG trading proposals.
The 10-50 Solution: Options for a Low-Carbon Future
Prepared by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Download "The 10-50 Solution: Options for a Low-Carbon Future" In Brief (pdf)
View In Brief Figures:
- Figure 1: The Effect on the U.S. Wind Industry of the Expiration of the Production Tax Credit
- Figure 2: The Effect of Consistent Policy Support for Wind in Germany
- Figure 3: " Decision Analysis" of Hydrogen Energy as a Carbon Dioxide Mitigation Strategy for Transportation
February 7th and 8th, 2005
St. Regis Hotel
923 16th and K Streets, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006
Steve Owens, Director, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
William Ross Jr., Secretary, North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Gina McCarthy, Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection
Panel #2. Regional initiatives
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: Nancy Seidman, Director, Bureau of Waste Prevention, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (pdf)
West Coast Governors’ Global Warming Initiative: David Van’t Hof, Governor’s Sustainability Advisor, Oregon Governor’s Office (pdf)
Powering the Plains: The Honorable Jon Nelson, North Dakota State Representative
Western Governors’ Association’s Clean and Diversified Energy Initiative:
Craig O’Hare, Special Assistant for Renewable Energy, New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department (pdf)
Kevin Moran, Washington DC Office Director, Western Governors’ Association (pdf)
Lunch keynote speaker
Daniel Richard, Senior Vice President for Public Affairs, PG&E Corporation
Panel #3. Electric Utility Solutions Part A
Paul Hudson, Chairman, Public Utilities Commission of Texas (pdf)
Paul Kjellander, Chairman, Idaho Public Utilities Commission
Jay Braitsch, Director of Strategic Planning, Office of Fossil Energy, U.S. Department of Energy and Jackie Bird, Director, Ohio Coal Development Office (pdf)
Panel #4. Transportation
Eileen Tutt, Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary for External Affairs, California Environmental Protection Agency (pdf)
Tyler Duvall, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy, U.S. Department of Transportation
Marlin Gottschalk, Senior Policy Advisor, Environmental Protection Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources (pdf)
Keynote dinner speaker
The Honorable Jim Cooper, United States House of Representatives
Panel #5. Electric Utility Solutions Part B
Lola Spradley, former Speaker of the House, Colorado General Assembly
David Stewart-Smith, Assistant Director for Energy Resources, Oregon Department of Energy (pdf)
Robert Scott, Director, Air Resources Division, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (pdf)
Edward Garvey, Deputy Commissioner, Energy and Telecommunications, Minnesota Department of Commerce (pdf)
Panel #6. Solutions in agriculture and forestry
Alec Giffen, Director, Maine Forest Service (pdf)
Dan Desmond, Deputy Secretary for Energy and Technology Development, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (pdf)
Cydney Janssen, former Assistant Director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (pdf)
Lunch Keynote Speaker:
David Miller, Director of Research and Commodity Services, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (pdf)
Panel #7. Cross cutting themes and lessons learned: Congressional staff perspectives
Energy: Bob Simon, Democratic Staff Director, Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee (pdf)
Environment: Tim Profeta, Legislative Assistant and Counsel, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman
Agriculture: Aaron Whitesel, Legislative Assistant, Sen. Richard Lugar
Barry Rabe, Professor, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan
For Immediate Release: January 19, 2005
Contact: Katie Mandes
CLIMATE SOLUTIONS AND FORESTS
New report examines the economic and climate impacts of storing carbon in trees
Washington, DC — Cost-effective climate change policies should include storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) in U.S. forests, according to a new report from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
“Climate change is the major global environmental challenge of our time and in order to deal with it in the most cost-effective way, we need to consider the full range of solutions – and that includes carbon storage in forests,” said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. “If we ignore the potential for forest-based sequestration, any projection of the costs and feasibility of addressing climate change is going to be overly pessimistic and wrong.”
Most analyses of the climate issue have tended to focus on the implications of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from key industrial and transportation sources. Less attention is paid to the potential for storing (or “sequestering”) carbon in forests and other ecosystems. Both emissions reduction and carbon sequestration are important strategies for addressing climate change.
The Pew Center report, The Cost of U.S. Forest-based Carbon Sequestration, investigates the potential for incorporating land-use changes into climate policy. Authored by economists Robert Stavins of Harvard University and Kenneth Richards of Indiana University, the Pew Center report looks at the true “opportunity costs” of using land for sequestration, in contrast with other productive uses. The report also examines the many factors that drive the economics of storing carbon in forests over long periods of time.
Among the authors’ key conclusions: The estimated cost of sequestering up to 500 million tons of carbon per year—an amount that would offset up to one-third of current annual U.S. carbon emissions—ranges from $30 to $90 per ton. On a per-ton basis, this is comparable to the cost estimated for other options for addressing climate change, including fuel switching and energy efficiency.
A sequestration program on the scale envisioned by the authors would involve large expanses of land and significant up-front investment. As a result, implementation would require careful attention to program design and a phased approach over a number of years. Nevertheless, the report offers new evidence that sequestration can and should play an important role in the United States’ response to climate change.
“This report shows that large-scale forest-based sequestration can be a cost-effective tool which should be considered seriously by policymakers,” said the Pew Center's Claussen.
The full text of this and other Pew Center reports is available at http://www.c2es.org.
The Pew Center was established in May 1998 by The Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the United States’ largest philanthropies and an influential voice in efforts to improve the quality of the environment. The Pew Center is an independent, nonprofit, and non-partisan organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. The Pew Center is led by Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.
CLIMATE CHANGE: BEYOND A SIDEWAYS APPROACH
SPEECH BY EILEEN CLAUSSEN
PRESIDENT, PEW CENTER ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
DONALD BREN SCHOOL OF ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE
AND MANAGEMENT- UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA BARBARA
JANUARY 14, 2005
Thank you. I am delighted to be here – and I have to say it was awfully nice of the weather to clear up for my arrival.
Of course, I am not here to talk about the weather. I am here to talk about the climate. And the difference, as we all know, is that climate is what you expect. Weather is what you get. And California has certainly gotten more than it expected or deserved these last few weeks.
I am sure some of you saw the movie, The Day After Tomorrow, and it is hard not to think about it given the recent weather you’ve been having. This is the film that dramatized the effects of climate change by releasing tornadoes in downtown Los Angeles and flooding all of Manhattan. People called it left-wing propaganda, but I remember watching the movie and wondering why only Blue states were getting hit.
And then of course we have the new Michael Crichton book that you have probably heard about. The book, which is climbing the bestseller lists as we speak, tells a fictional tale of how climate change itself is a fiction created by overzealous environmentalists so that they can enact draconian regulations on big business.
The book is called “State of Fear,” and my only fear is that people will take seriously its absolutely wrongheaded portrayal of the problem of climate change.
I hope all of you will join me in reminding people that Mr. Crichton’s specialty is fiction – even if he does include all sorts of graphs and charts in the current book to make it seem like a scientific tract. This is the man who wrote such fantastical books as Jurassic Park, and it seems to me he has been hanging out with too many dinosaurs – people who are mired in the past and who simply cannot and will not accept the broad scientific consensus that we have a significant problem on our hands, and that there are practical and economically sound ways to tackle it.
The point is– whether we are talking about the movie or the book: They are both fiction.
In contrast to the book’s sensationalistic tone and style, your school’s emphasis on rigorous, interdisciplinary approaches to environmental problem-solving is something that is desperately needed in today’s world. With so many complex and urgent environmental issues on the agenda at the local, national and international levels, your work here is essential. And I applaud your interest in these issues and your commitment to solutions.
At the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, we are committed to solutions, too. And today, I would like to talk for a little bit about some of the potential solutions to the problem of climate change. More specifically, I want to talk about the nexus of technology and public policy – in other words, what policies do we need in order to unleash the global technological revolution that is necessary to protect the climate?
I understand there is a hit movie in theaters right now that was filmed in the wine country around here. The movie is called Sideways – and, unfortunately, this is a title that could just as easily apply to current U.S. policy on climate change. But in saying we are moving sideways, even that may be giving us too much credit. Perhaps Backwards would be more appropriate.
Clearly, we can do better. And today I want to talk about how. More specifically, I want to talk about a plan that the Pew Center is developing for U.S. action on the climate issue. We call it our Agenda – and it is something we have been working on in concert with business and government leaders and others to lay out a responsible and practical policy course for the United States for the years to come.
But, before I talk about that, I want to talk briefly about what is at stake here. And I want to paint a clearer picture of the problem we are trying to solve, the problem we must solve—that is, of course, global climate change.
Just last month, the World Meteorological Organization reported that 2004 was the fourth hottest year on record – and that the last four years were among the top five. Of even greater concern was the news we learned in November about the arctic region. This is the canary in the coal mine of climate change, the place where researchers have always said that the effects of this global problem will hit early and hard.
And in November, we learned just how hard. The report of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment showed that the Arctic region is indeed undergoing dramatic and alarming changes. The reason: It’s warming much more rapidly than previously known, at nearly twice the rate of the rest of the globe.
And it’s important to remember that this isn’t a random, out-of-left-field report. It is the result of an unprecedented, four-year scientific study of the region conducted by an international team of 300 scientists. And its conclusions should be a wake-up call for all nations.
According to the report, at least half the summer sea ice in the Arctic is projected to melt by the end of this century, along with a significant portion of the Greenland Ice Sheet. The Arctic region is projected to warm by an additional 7 to 13 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. These changes will have major global impacts, contributing to sea-level rise and even intensifying global warming as the disappearance of Arctic ice masses means that more incoming solar radiation will be absorbed at the Earth’s surface instead of being reflected back.
This is scary stuff. And, the fact is, we don’t have to travel to the Arctic to see that climate change is already being observed, even if the impacts in that region may be more pronounced and are occurring at a faster rate. Also in November, the Pew Center released a report showing some of the closer-to-home effects of climate change – effects right here in the United States. Right now.
For example, we are seeing a long-term trend toward an earlier spring, with earlier flowering and reproduction of plant and bird species. Butterflies here on the U.S. west coast are moving north and to higher altitudes in search of tolerable climate conditions, with some populations disappearing altogether from the southern end of their ranges. And this is only the beginning. In addition to their potential to lead to future declines in the diversity of U.S. wildlife, these ecological changes are indicators that global warming is already upon us and that adverse effects to other systems, and ultimately our economy, are just around the corner.
With warming for the next century projected to be two to ten times greater than the last, we’re heading toward a fundamental and potentially irreversible disruption of our ecology and natural systems, both in this country and around the world.
So what can we do? Well, at this point, we have to accept that some climate change already is built into the system – indeed, it is already happening, as I have said. But we do have the power to limit the scope and severity of climate change. And what we need to do is stabilize greenhouse gases in our atmosphere at a level that will keep this problem from becoming a global crisis.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, stabilization means shooting for the magic number of 550 parts per million – that would be roughly double the pre-industrial level of atmospheric greenhouse gases.
But to get to that level, we need to reduce global CO2 emissions by 55 to 85 percent below what is currently projected under a “business-as-usual” scenario. Fifty-five to 85 percent. Making this challenge even more daunting, energy demand around the world is growing at a breakneck pace. We need to act now to come up with ways to keep global economies growing while curbing the growth in greenhouse gas emissions around the world. And make no mistake: The United States, which is responsible for one-fourth of global emissions, needs to take the lead.
Over the past year, as I have said, the Pew Center has been working to develop a comprehensive plan for U.S. action on this issue. This Agenda is our attempt to develop and articulate a responsible course for addressing climate change.
It is built on six years of Pew Center analysis and experience with leading businesses, and through dialogue with international leaders and experts. And what we recommend in the Agenda is that the U.S. develop an Integrated National Climate Change Strategy. That means a strategy that combines technology development with wide-ranging policies on issues from mitigation and science to adaptation.
This last point, about adaptation, is a crucial part of what we have to do, because even if we push forward with an ambitious strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we’re already locked in to future changes in the global climate. There is no way around it. And these future changes will pose many challenges to ecosystems and natural resources, as well as human health and national economies. We need to plan now for these changes so that our society and others are able to adapt.
But adapting, of course, is not enough. We also need to take serious action to limit the extent of climate change by reducing our emissions. More than anything else, that will require a global technology revolution – and we need policies to make that revolution happen.
While it’s true that technology normally advances over time on its own, it does not always advance in the right direction. Also, we plainly do not have time to wait. The challenge before us requires a much more deliberate, enunciated effort to develop policies that will help push and pull climate-friendly technologies to the market. We need a guiding vision on the order of putting a person on the moon or developing a cure for cancer. And we need to look at the full range of policy approaches that will get us where we need to be – from market incentives and public-private partnerships to a range of R&D efforts focusing on everything from basic research to deployment.
Perhaps the best way to look at the technology and policy challenge we face is on a sector-by-sector basis. From manufacturing and electricity to buildings, agriculture, forestry and transportation, all sectors of the economy have important parts to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Let me talk briefly about just two: transportation and electricity.
The transportation sector is responsible for more than a third of our greenhouse gas emissions, and a quarter of U.S. energy consumption. To reduce these emissions, the Pew Center's Agenda identifies a range of specific policies-all aimed at speeding the development and deployment of new technologies. And what we need to do is focus on both short-term technologies such as hybrid gas-electric vehicles, as well as longer-term technologies such as hydrogen.
Looking first at the short term, we can do a lot more on the issue of hybrids. This is, in fact, a classic case of how smart policy can make a difference. Yes, hybrid vehicles are selling. But, despite their popularity, there is no way they will represent more than a small fraction of U.S. vehicle sales without government stepping in and creating a bigger market. What can government do? Well, we can do a lot more to step up consumer incentives for buying these low greenhouse gas emitting vehicles - and it is not just hybrids I am talking about but clean-diesel vehicles as well.
We can also remove incentives in the law for purchasing inefficient vehicles such as SUVs - it is frankly hard to believe these incentives exist, given the energy and climate challenges we face. And, last but not least, government can and should take steps to boost public-sector procurement of climate-friendly vehicles. The goal is to create and expand the market - and government can help do that with its own purchases.
Among the longer-term transportation technologies we need to be looking at are hydrogen, biofuels, and all-electric cars and trucks. But every one of these technologies faces substantial barriers that the private sector is unlikely to be able to resolve on its own. We need to ramp up funding for research, design and deployment. Just as important, we need demonstration programs. Everybody talks about a hydrogen economy, but you need a hydrogen infrastructure to make it work. And the government needs to work with industry to come up with demonstrations that will show what's feasible and practical - and how to do it right. For example, it is absolutely essential that we find environmentally friendly ways of producing hydrogen - because if we merely use fossil fuels to do it, the climate problem does not improve; it actually gets worse.
I have talked a lot about cars, but we need to look at other forms of transportation, too. Air, rail, marine transportation, road freight - all of these are a part of the problem, and all of them must be a part of the solution. In the Pew Center Agenda, we talk about the need for government to work with the International Civil Aviation Organization to adopt policies aimed at boosting the fuel efficiency of aircraft. The bottom line is that there are countless ways to reduce emissions from this vital and growing sector. Our challenge is to adopt policies that will ensure that those reductions happen sooner rather than later - when the damage may already be done.
People in California know what needs to happen. Your state is on the verge of establishing tough but achievable standards for greenhouse gas emissions from cars. You would be the first state to do this – and, if it happens, you’ll be charting a productive path forward for the rest of the country. Because the fact is we need national standards like those proposed for California. And, in the Pew Center Agenda, we recommend converting the United States' current fuel economy standards to a set of tradable standards based on greenhouse gas emissions. If you are looking to protect the climate, focusing on emissions is the way to go.
Another sector where we can and must achieve significant progress is electricity, which is responsible for almost 40 percent of U.S. emissions. And here I want to start by talking about coal. In 2003, coal provided 51 percent of U.S. electricity. Worldwide, it is the most abundant and widely distributed fossil fuel. Given current rates of production and use, we have 200 years of reserve supply. Whether you like it or not, coal is going to remain a major part of the energy mix for decades to come.
And so our challenge is twofold: we need to come up with better, cleaner ways to burn coal; and we also need to do everything in our power to figure out how to capture and store the carbon that is produced when we do burn it. There are technologies being developed that hold promise on both of these counts. But, once again, these technologies will go nowhere fast if we don’t light a fire under them, so to speak, with government R&D and other policies. We need tests to find out the practicality of geologic storage of carbon. We need demonstrations so we can understand the ins and outs of CO2 injection underground. We also need to build demonstration plants so we can learn more about coal gasification, which holds the promise of allowing us to burn coal with dramatically reduced carbon emissions.
All of these are smart and necessary investments – not just for climate reasons but also because they can place the United States in a leadership position around the world so we can then export these technologies to other countries with significant coal resources, such as India and China.
So that’s the story with coal. But what about other energy technologies? What about combined heat and power? This is when you capture and use the waste heat generated along with electricity. Want to know the overall efficiency of the U.S. electricity system – what we put in vs. what we get out? It’s 30 to 33 percent of input energy; that level has remained constant since the 1970s. This is inexcusable when you consider that combined heat and power systems can boost efficiency to upwards of 80 percent. Right now, these systems account for just 8 percent of U.S. energy supply, compared to 40 percent in Europe. What policy steps can we take to promote combined heat and power? Well, we can start by regulating utilities based on total energy output. A lot of these are just common-sense solutions.
Another promising energy technology is distributed generation, or DG. This is when you generate electricity close to the point of use. With distributed generation, you can reduce CO2 emissions in a number of ways. In fact, a major benefit of this technology is that you avoid so-called transmission and distribution losses; when electricity is moved over long distances, 7 to 8 percent of it is lost along the way. With distributed generation, you can also use waste heat for combined heat and power in ways that you cannot in a large, centralized power station. So it can be more efficient in that way too. But we need policies to make distributed generation more feasible -- for example, by allowing people to sell excess power back to the grid at a fair price.
Now, what about renewables? If you are talking about climate-friendly sources of energy, you have to talk about renewables – wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal and more. In the past, these technologies have cost significantly more than fossil fuels for the same energy output. But over time we have adopted policies at the national, state and local levels that promote renewables – tax breaks, consumer incentives, portfolio standards that require utilities to generate a set share of their power from these sources. California’s aggressive deployment policies in the 1980s helped bring the cost of wind power down to where it is today – close to the cost of fossil fuel generation in some markets. Yet, the lack of policy leadership in the U.S. meant that we lost our leadership position in the wind field to Europe.
So it is policy that has made these technologies more competitive, but policy needs to do more. We need to do things like extending the wind production tax credit, creating renewable portfolio standards at the state, regional and/or national level, and investing more in research and development. Given the energy security challenges we face in this country, not to mention the climate challenges, developing and deploying renewables should be at the top of our national agenda.
Burning coal in clean ways. Safely storing carbon. Investing in combined heat and power and distributed generation. And making renewables an integral part of our national energy mix. These are critical energy challenges for the future – and they are not the only ones. At the Pew Center, we have always been careful to remain “technologically neutral” – we will throw out the welcome mat for any and all technologies that can be part of the climate solution. And, in our Agenda, we address the need for policies to encourage the development and deployment of everything from advanced nuclear power to new energy-efficiency technologies. This problem is too big for any one solution.
We need to look at an array of technologies, and at an array of policies as well. We need strong R&D policies, government standards and codes, public infrastructure investments, public education programs, public-private partnerships and more. And we also need to look at broader, technology-neutral policies as well – policies that can encourage action across all sectors of the economy. Here I am talking specifically about the policy known as “cap and trade.”
Cap-and-trade is the approach taken in the Climate Stewardship Act introduced last year by Senators Joseph Lieberman and John McCain. Their bill attracted the support of 43 U.S. senators and prompted the first serious debate in Congress about exactly what we need to be doing to respond to the problem of climate change.
The reason cap-and-trade works is that it enables companies to reduce emissions as cheaply as possible. We all know the example of how trading has worked to achieve cost-effective reductions in emissions of the pollutants that cause acid rain. In fact, it was because of the United States’ successful use of trading to reduce sulfur emissions that our country insisted that trading be a central element of the Kyoto Protocol. And now, inspired by Kyoto, the European Union is on the verge of launching the broadest emissions trading system ever established.
What’s more, right here in the United States, nine Northeastern governors, led by New York Governor George Pataki, are developing a multi-state regional “cap-and-trade” initiative aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. This effort is proceeding well, and we expect them to complete their work by this spring, with agreement on a model rule.
Now, it will probably be some time before we establish a national, economy-wide cap-and-trade system in the United States—the political support for it is not there. But what might be possible is a series of interlinked trading systems – the east coast with Europe and perhaps with Canada and the west coast as well. Such a “bottom-up” system could be robust enough both to achieve some environmental benefit and to keep costs down. And it would be a valuable learning experience for both sides on this issue, hopefully one that would show that taking action to protect the climate is both practical and affordable.
Of course, cap-and-trade is not the only broad policy that we need to think about. We also need a climate-conscious energy policy for the United States. In Great Britain, the government has developed an energy blueprint for the next 50 years that makes climate change a key driver of that country’s energy policy, along with price and security of supply. The United States would be wise to follow suit.
I have tried in these remarks to talk about what we need to do here at home in order to approach the climate issue in a serious way. We need a robust, climate-friendly energy policy. Incentives and requirements for clean technologies. A cap-and-trade program to reduce emissions at the lowest cost. But it is important to remember that we need to engage on this issue at the international level too. Climate change is a global problem. Even if we were to get dead serious about reducing our emissions tomorrow, we won’t get where we need to be unless all countries become a part of the solution.
In December, as many of you know, delegates from the United States joined representatives of other nations at a climate meeting in Buenos Aires. The ostensible purpose of the meeting was to tie up any loose ends that remained before the Kyoto Protocol goes into force in February. The Protocol, of course, is the international agreement that commits all of its signatory countries to specific targets for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions before 2012. The Buenos Aires meeting also, it was assumed, would begin to lay the groundwork for the next steps in the international climate effort – in other words, what happens after 2012?
The only problem with the latter assumption is that the United States, which is not even a party to the Protocol, was opposed to any discussion of the future. In a truly Orwellian quote, the lead U.S. negotiator at the meeting was heard to say, “We need to absorb and analyze lessons learned before committing to new actions.” End quote. New actions? I didn’t know that we had committed to any old actions. And it is hard to learn any lessons when you’re doing next to nothing.
We might as well have had Michael Crichton as the head of our negotiating team. At least he would have made it more interesting.
In any case, the events in Buenos Aires underscore how far the U.S. has strayed since 1992, when President George H.W. Bush signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This is the treaty where the nations of the world acknowledged that climate change was a problem and pledged to act – voluntarily, I might add – to reduce their emissions. Even during the Clinton administration, despite signing the Kyoto Protocol, we clearly were not willing to own up to our global responsibility on this issue.
Climate change requires that we act at both the international and the national levels, and my goal today has been to give you some ideas and examples of the kinds of things we need to do. Now, at this point I could wrap up by remarks by comparing what we need to do with what is actually happening. And, I would start by talking about the relatively low level of investment in this issue on the part of the federal government. I would then have to mention the Administration’s goal of growing our emissions. And I would come back again to our reluctance to enter the debate on how we might move forward on this issue globally. But I don’t want to leave you depressed, particularly given the fact that you have had such frightening weather these last few weeks.
Instead, I will leave you with a look on the bright side of this issue. Because, despite everything else, we have seen a few signs of progress in the past year. One of these, of course, is the fact that the Kyoto Protocol is ready to enter into force in February – no matter what you want to say about it, this is an historic achievement. And, in a related development that I already mentioned, we have seen the launch of the EU trading system for carbon dioxide – it is another historic achievement and, hopefully, the first of many such trading systems around the world.
Next, I want to pay tribute to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has spent a good part of the past year touting climate change as one of two key issues he intends to work on as president of both the EU and G-8 group of industrialized nations.
Yet another thing to celebrate is the work of many U.S. states to get a handle on this issue, even despite the lack of action in Washington. I mentioned the work of the Northeastern governors on cap-and-trade. And I also talked about what’s happening here in California with regard to motor vehicle emissions. And there are many more stories from the states about people stepping up to their responsibility to act. U.S. states are a large source of greenhouse gas emissions – California’s exceed those of Brazil. And, while national policies are essential, we also need the states to do their part.
Last but not least, I want to celebrate what is happening in many corners of the business community to address this problem. Many of the companies we work with at the Pew Center are adopting voluntary targets for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. And, not only that, they are taking action to meet their targets by investing in new technologies, increasing efficiency, and developing energy-saving products, clean fuels, biomass energy, and more.
In closing, let me say that the forecast for the future needn’t be gloomy. A lot is happening to address the climate change problem. But we need to do a lot more. And I encourage all of you to do what’s needed to make sure your state remains a leader in addressing this issue in the years ahead. We need to show that solutions are within our grasp, that smart, forward-thinking policies can drive the development and deployment of new, low-carbon technologies, and that progress is possible.
Climate change is the most important global environmental challenge we will face in the years ahead. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s fiction. You know better. And it is going to be people like you who come up with the solutions we need.
Thank you very much.
CLIMATE CHANGE SOLUTIONS: A SCIENCE AND POLICY AGENDA
SPEECH BY EILEEN CLAUSSEN
PRESIDENT, PEW CENTER ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
COUNCIL OF SCIENTIFIC SOCIETY PRESIDENTS
DECEMBER 6, 2004
It is a pleasure to be here, and I welcome the opportunity to address such a distinguished group of science leaders. I know that a lot of you are here from out of town, and I have to say that I appreciate what you have done to raise this city’s collective IQ, if only for a couple of days.
I also want to say that I applaud the theme of your meeting, Setting the Agenda for 21st Century Science. If I accomplish nothing else in my remarks, I hope I can leave you with a stronger sense that one of the most important items on the science agenda for this century is climate change and how we respond.
Science holds the key not just to advancing our understanding of this complex problem but also to advancing our ability to reduce the very real risks it poses to the world. Science also will be critical as we try to figure out how best to adapt to climate change in the years and decades ahead. This is one of the most important issues of our time. And each of you, together with your organizations and the scientists and engineers you represent, can and must play a leading role in shaping solutions.
Today, I want to talk with you about what those solutions might entail – and about how you and your organizations can help make them happen. But first, considering that we are here in the nation’s capital, I’d like to spend a few minutes talking about how Washington has responded to climate change so far.
In providing this report card on our elected leaders’ efforts on this issue, I am reminded of the teacher who told the parents of a failing student that they could at least rest assured of one thing. “With grades like these, he couldn’t possibly be cheating.”
Now I know you heard yesterday from a representative of the Bush administration about its approach to the issue of climate change. And I am certain that you heard a lot about our government’s hard work in areas from advancing climate science to promoting technology development and working with industry on an array of programs and initiatives. But the fact of the matter is that the Bush administration’s climate policies represent little more than a “business-as-usual” approach.
With their limited R&D investments, their reliance on voluntary measures, and their lack of planning for how this nation and others can adapt to climate change, the policies advanced by the White House are simply inadequate. They reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature and potential severity of the problem.
The science tells us in no uncertain terms that we need to be doing all we can to, number one, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions today, and, number two, spur the investments needed to achieve even greater reductions in the years and decades ahead. We also need to get real about the fact that climate change is happening now—and that its impacts will accelerate in the years ahead. We need a proactive approach to adapt to climate change so we can limit the damage, economic and otherwise, that this problem will cause.
The Administration, of course, makes much of the ongoing effort to address the “uncertainties” in today’s climate models – specifically concerning the rate and magnitude of global warming. I cannot tell you how often my staff and I, in our meetings with members of Congress and other opinion leaders, hear the refrain that the science on this issue just isn’t there yet – and that the uncertainties in the science suggest that action is not necessary or desirable at this time.
Our response is that, yes, uncertainties certainly exist about future trends. But the certainties and near certainties are equally important. Today, the scientific community agrees on three key points: 1) the earth is warming; 2) the primary cause of this warming is fossil fuel consumption; and 3) if we don’t act now to reduce emissions, this problem will only get worse.
Despite this concensus among scientists, our nation’s climate change policies have changed very little in the last several years. The first President Bush, when presented with evidence that climate change was a problem, pursued a strategy of scientific research and voluntary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The evidence is much stronger and much more conclusive today, and yet our basic strategy has not changed.
The White House’s new Climate Change Science Program, for example, has a budget comparable, in inflation-adjusted dollars, to its predecessor during the 1990s, the Global Climate Research Program. There are the more substantive R&D initiatives embraced by this administration – I am talking here about the Hydrogen Fuels Initiative and FutureGen, the much-touted public/private initiative to develop clean coal technologies. But these initiatives, while of value, represent only modest investments in technologies that are decades away from being deployed.
The real proof of our nation’s climate policies, of course, should be in the results, and the bottom line is that the United States is not even close to doing what’s needed to reduce our emissions and put on us a path toward meeting the long term objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to which the United States is a party.
In order to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at roughly double pre-industrial levels (that is the equivalent of 550 parts per million), developed countries such as the United States must undertake a concerted effort to deploy existing energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, and aggressively promote more advanced technologies as old energy capital is retired. Allowing our near-term emissions to grow will only make this task more daunting and expensive. But this is precisely the path we are on, and this is because we continue to rely on a voluntary approach to mitigation.
The current Administration’s plan to reduce the “greenhouse gas intensity” of the U.S. economy actually will result in an increase in absolute emissions. These emissions will grow by roughly 14 percent above 2000 levels and 30 percent above 1990 levels by 2010. Needless to say, this is not the direction in which we want to be headed.
Clearly, we can do better. We must do better. I have often said that climate change calls on us to create the conditions for an energy technology revolution. But a revolution needs two things: an impetus, or spark; and a vision, a vision of the change we want and need to see.
The impetus for the revolution I am talking about, I believe, will have to come from political will. We have seen some important gains on this front in the last couple of years, as various members of Congress, together with state and local officials, have developed and proposed policies that reflect a real understanding of what’s at stake. But an energy technology revolution will not happen without broader support from our political leaders. It will not happen unless and until industry receives clear and consistent policy signals from government that climate change is a priority – and that reducing emissions and developing low-carbon technologies is not a choice but a condition for doing business in America. This is going to take a level of political will that we have not yet seen, but that I hope, with your help, we can generate in the months and years ahead.
What about the vision of where we need to go? At the Pew Center, we recently developed something we are calling the “10-50 Solution” to climate change. By 10-50, we mean we should be looking ahead and thinking about where we want to be on this issue in 50 years. However, at the same time that we are establishing a long-term goal, and making the necessary investments that will allow us to meet it, we also need to identify the strategies and policies we can start pursuing in the next 10 years and in each decade that follows.
The bottom line is that we need a sense of urgency as well as a recognition of the long-term nature of both the climate change problem and its ultimate technological solution. The United Kingdom for example has set 2 goals, a near term goal of a 12.5-percent greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2012 and a longer term one for a 60-percent reduction within 50 years. The United States needs to adopt something similar, setting targets that will, in turn, drive the development of the policies and technologies we will need in order to reach our goals.
After hearing all the hemming and hawing around this issue in Washington, you wouldn’t know that near-term reductions in our emissions are readily available – principally through investments in energy efficiency. Over the decades to come, more advanced technologies such as carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, and possibly advanced nuclear energy can be tapped to provide for the steeper reductions that are ultimately needed. These technologies will require policies to both push and pull them to the markets, and over time these technologies also must be made available to the developing world. But we must start now. Because of the long-lived nature of greenhouse gases, there will always be a substantial lag between the reductions we achieve and the effect of those reductions on atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.
As we consider how to reach our long-term climate objectives, I believe we need to consider three approaches at once.
The first approach is based on the notion of targets and trading. Government cannot mandate a revolution. But it can create the conditions for one. By establishing clear and definitive goals, or targets, and then summoning the powers of the marketplace to meet them.
From its inception, the Pew Center has supported cost-effective, market-based approaches to climate change – chiefly, through an economy-wide cap-and-trade system. This is a policy that sets targets for greenhouse gas emissions and then allows companies the flexibility to trade emission credits in order to achieve their targets in the most economic manner.
This is the approach taken in the Climate Stewardship Act introduced last year by Senators Joseph Lieberman and John McCain. Their bill garnered the support of 44 U.S. senators and prompted the first serious debate in Congress about exactly what we need to be doing to respond to the problem of climate change.
Cap-and-trade works because it enables companies to reduce emissions as cheaply as possible. We all know the example of how trading has worked to achieve cost-effective reductions in emissions of the pollutants that cause acid rain. In fact, it was because of the United States’ successful use of trading to reduce sulfur emissions that our country insisted that trading be a central element of the Kyoto Protocol. And now, inspired by Kyoto, the European Union is on the verge of launching the broadest emissions trading system ever established.
What’s more, right here in the United States, nine Northeastern governors, led by New York Governor George Pataki, are developing a multi-state regional “cap-and-trade” initiative aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. This effort is proceeding well, and we expect them to complete their work, as planned, by April of next year, with agreement on a model rule.
Of course, it will likely be some time before we establish a national, economy-wide cap-and-trade system in the United States—the politics (or the spark) isn’t there yet. But what might be possible is a series of interlinked trading systems – the east coast with Europe and perhaps with Canada and the west coast as well. Such a “bottom-up” system could be robust enough both to achieve some environmental benefit and keep costs down. And it would be a valuable learning experience for both sides on this issue, hopefully one that would show that taking action on this issue is both practical and affordable.
The second pathway to the future that I want to focus on is the need for sectoral solutions to climate change. Simply put, any effort to address climate change must include greenhouse gas reductions from all sectors. The two biggest sectoral sources of these emissions are transportation and electric power. Transportation alone accounts for more than a quarter of U.S. energy consumption, and more than a third of our greenhouse gas emissions. And the electricity sector is responsible for almost 40 percent of emissions.
If we want to achieve progress in reducing emissions, we have to achieve major reductions from these two sectors – and that means serious (short-term) efficiency improvements followed by major technological changes. But not surprisingly within these sectors there is real resistance to this kind of approach.
The advantage we have in addressing transportation emissions is that the auto industry is highly concentrated – and global as well. The 10 largest manufacturers account for 74 percent of the global market. The vast majority of cars are produced – and used – in a relatively small number of countries. Major fuel producers are also relatively small in number. What we really need here, and what should be achievable, is an effort to bring all the key players together and chart a path toward a zero emissions future in, say, 30-50 years.
This is not a proposal to dictate specific technologies – each major manufacturer seems to be going down a different technology path, and they should be allowed to do so – but I believe we will be most successful and efficient and if we adopt a set of globally consistent performance standards.
No, it wouldn’t be easy, and many will argue that it is simply too hard. But is it easier, or smarter, to tackle the problem nation by nation, or state by state? At the moment, there are different auto efficiency or CO2 emission standards or goals in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, Japan, China, Korea, and Taiwan. And now here in the US we have a proposal from California to establish greenhouse gas standards for vehicles – a proposal that, if it goes into effect, will doubtless be followed by other states. I wonder if the time isn’t close for the private sector to decide that a rational, long-term effort, in which they are “at the table” and can help set the milestones, might not be better than the alternative.
The power sector, for its part, is very different. Power supplies are much more distributed -- there are hundreds, if not thousands of players (far too many to put into a room, let alone around a table), and there are many different ways to generate power. So here we might focus on selected energy sources, the most important of which, both politically and in terms of emissions contribution, is coal. There is no denying that coal will figure heavily in our energy future. It is globally available and it is cheap. Virtually all of the new power plants being planned here in the United States will burn coal. China is projected to add as much as 300 gigawatts of generating capacity over the next 10 years, nearly all of it coal.
How then do we continue to provide power but minimize the impact on the climate? How do we shift investment away from traditional coal plants to newer technologies that will be compatible with the efforts underway to capture CO2 emissions and sequester them deep in the ground? Here, too, I think we need a combination: a global R&D effort, and a clear set of mandates to pull new and better technologies into the market. Many in the coal industry are beginning to see the need for a more proactive strategy, and if they can be assured a place in the future, they may be willing to give up the technologies of the past.
To put it simply, I think every sector that is a part of the problem has to be a part of the solution – including agriculture and forestry, as well as power and transportation.
The third pathway to the future that I want to talk about is one that integrates both climate and development.
We cannot expect developing countries to become full partners in the climate effort if it continues to be seen as a purely environmental issue, a constraint on economic growth and development. Frankly, this is true in developed countries as well. We need policies that speak both to climate and to core development priorities. The place to start, I would suggest, is with national energy policies. Each nation needs to accept that climate change must be one of the drivers of energy policy, as the UK has. Along with security of supply and price, we need energy policies that will not only power the global economy and raise living standards, but that will also help us in our efforts to stabilize the climate.
Similarly, for economies to grow, and for individuals to have the mobility they desire, we must find ways to make our transportation systems more sustainable and more climate friendly. Charting these paths forward will be crucial if we are to succeed in meeting our long-term climate objective.
And to meet that objective, we need your help.
As scientists and engineers, you make decisions about how this nation’s vast technical resources – including human resources – are mobilized. You decide what research problems to focus your attention on and what solutions look most promising. You are responsible for training and nurturing the next generation of scientists and engineers. How grant monies are used, how scholarship funding is allocated, even how course curriculums are designed – all of these questions play a role in setting the stage for the technology revolution we need to address the climate challenge. In a sense, our future is in your hands.
Some of you may be aware that the U.S. Department of Energy has issued a “Grand Challenge” to the scientific community to work on the critical issue of hydrogen storage. While the Pew Center prefers to be “technology neutral”, I would say that there are at least two other “grand challenges” that the scientific community needs to become more engaged in over the next 10 years. These are:
· First, the development of low-cost and reliable technologies and processes for carbon dioxide capture and geologic sequestration; and
· Second, the development of low-cost renewables and the infrastructure and storage technologies that will enable them to become widespread.
All three of these challenges – hydrogen storage, carbon capture and storage, and low-cost renewables – are currently at different points on the RD&D spectrum. But they can all benefit enormously from your brains and your help.
This is why I was so delighted to be invited to speak with this group today. We need your engagement on this issue. Obviously, some of you and your institutions have been working tirelessly on climate issues for a long time. But the level of human, institutional and monetary resources that are currently dedicated to these challenges does not fit the magnitude of the problem. Within your universities, your research institutions, your organizations and the broader group of NSF (or “grant-making”) funding committees, there needs to be significantly greater attention to the challenge of a low-carbon energy future – and research resources need to be allocated accordingly.
And it is not just the challenge of reducing the potential severity of climate change that we need to focus on – as I stated at the top of my remarks, we also need to figure out how to adapt to climate change. Unfortunately, because of the momentum of the climate system and, perhaps more importantly, our own economy and technology, we are beyond the point of preventing climate change.
For example, if we were to somehow cease all greenhouse gas emissions today, we would still be committed to additional global warming of about one degree Fahrenheit over the course of the 21st century. If we set a more realistic, but still ambitious, target of limiting atmospheric CO2 to a doubling of its pre-industrial concentration, we’d likely experience at least an additional three degrees of warming on average globally, with some regions, including the United States and the poles, expected to warm more.
This is not a doomsday scenario – quite the contrary, this is one of the most optimistic outcomes we can expect. But even with such valiant efforts to reduce our emissions, climate change will pose many challenges to our natural ecosystems and resources, economy, and human health. In fact, we’re already starting to see the effects. Therefore, we must find a way to adjust or adapt to these challenges – in other words, we need to prepare ourselves for that level of climate change that we can no longer prevent.
Here, too, scientists and engineers have important roles to play. To adapt to climate change, we must first understand how our environment will respond to the changes in temperature, precipitation, and sea level that are currently projected.
How will our water resources be affected? Which coastal communities lie in harm’s way? Which species are at greatest risk? Then, we must devise methods for preparing these systems for a changing climate – new water management strategies, new coastal development plans, new wildlife conservation efforts. And, we must do all of this against the backdrop of an ever-growing U.S. and global population, using more resources, more land, and further altering the global environment.
Although we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking we can engineer ourselves out of this problem, prudence dictates that we seek ways to improve our resilience to climate. The loss of life in Europe during the summer heat wave of 2003, or the death and destruction we witnessed in the Caribbean and the United States from this year’s hurricane season, are the harbingers of what we can expect in a world of continued warming.
I’m sure many of you currently collaborate with colleagues from all over the world. But how many of those colleagues are from developing countries? Building bridges with scientists in the developing world is invaluable for enhancing the capacity of other nations to assess and respond to the challenge of climate change.
I have talked about a number of priorities today. I have talked about the need for an energy technology revolution. I have talked about establishing a long-term goal of achieving a low-carbon economy. I have talked about three pathways for achieving that goal – through targets and trading, sectoral approaches, and integrating climate and development. And I have talked about adaptation.
This is complex stuff, Albert Einstein famously stated that people do not truly understand something unless they can explain it to their grandmother. Well, the unfortunate fact is that people don’t truly understand the problem of climate change. All of us need to do a better job explaining this issue in a way that resonates with people – grandmothers and grandchildren alike.
In a recent paper for the journal Global Environmental Change, scholars Maxwell and Jules Boykoff reported on their analysis of 14 years of climate change coverage in four major daily newspapers: The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times. During the period they covered, 1988 to 2002, a clear consensus emerged among climate scientists that climate change was real—and that human activities were a principal cause. And yet, in the newspapers, the majority of articles (nearly 53 percent) gave roughly equal space to this consensus view and to the view of climate-change skeptics that any warming we have seen is the result of natural fluctuations.
This is the challenge we are up against. Science has produced a clear case for action on this issue, but people, including some important government leaders, are still are not getting the message. And I encourage all of you, in your communications with the media and the general public, to make every effort to convey to people what is truly at stake here. At the same time, I encourage you, as scientists, to help us debunk all the junk science that’s out there and help people focus on what we know to be true.
The junk science on this issue comes from all over, but there appears to be a cottage industry of industry-funded think tanks that trumpet every objection they can find to the consensus view that climate change is happening and will only get worse.
So I am asking for your help:
- If you or someone in your organization is talking to the media about this issue, please emphasize the clear and overwhelming consensus among scientists that this is a very real problem we need to begin addressing right now.
- If you see or hear policymakers stressing the uncertainties in the climate science, please also set them straight about the certainties and what they tell us about the need for real and serious action.
- The same goes for media reports on climate change that give equal weight to the scientific consensus on this issue and to the claims of the skeptics. It is important that scientists become engaged, with letters to the editor, op-ed articles, radio call-ins, whatever it takes.
It will take some time and persistence, but as the compelling, robust and irrefutable evidence of the human impact on the earth’s climate continues to accumulate, it will become impossible to ignore.
As scientists, you have the credibility to challenge this nation to step up to the problem of climate change in a manner that reflects the seriousness of this issue. And, together with your peers throughout the country, you have the capability to come up with the new ideas and the solutions that will create a safer world in the decades to come. This is your mission, and it is our mission at the Pew Center as well. And I hope we can work together so that future generations aren’t left wondering why we did so little – when we knew so much.
Thank you very much.