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Climate Change Politics: A Landscape Transformed





It is wonderful to be here in Albuquerque.   I am honored to be a part of this conference, and to kick off Session III of these proceedings.  

And what a journey you have been on.  Your agenda shows that you have moved from the Desert Dryland of Session I through the Middle Ground of Session II . . . and today you have reached Session III:    Oasis.   I am just glad this Convention Center has ample parking for all of your camels. 

Your journey reminds me of an old New Yorker cartoon.   It shows a caravan in the desert with the camels piled high.  A child in the group asks his mother the age-old question: “Are we there yet?”  And the irritated mother replies: “Of course not, we’re nomads!”

So let me begin by paying   tribute to the Xeriscape Council of New Mexico for bringing all of us—all of you—together.  The Council understands that, when it comes to issues of how we use water and how we interact with the natural environment, we simply cannot continue blindly on our current course.  We cannot keep treating the environment as an instrument for meeting our every whim and need.  Or, at least, we cannot do this and expect our actions not to have repercussions, some of them quite severe.

I am here this morning, of course, to talk about climate change.   And, given the Council’s interest in water issues, I want to talk a little bit about the relationship between climate change and water supplies. But, mostly, I want to talk about politics.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: Oh, great. Someone is here from Washington to talk about politics. As if we don’t get enough politics in the news already.

But what I want to talk about is the politics of climate change—and how the political landscape in this country is changing in favor of stronger action to protect the climate. And it is changing for the same reason that events such as this conference are attracting more and more participants. Because people recognize that we have some very serious environmental problems on our hands—and because people see that there are solutions.

Of course, I am talking about people like you. And I am also talking about people like New Mexico’s governor, Bill Richardson.

Just last week, as I am sure you know, Governor Richardson joined with the chief executives of four other western states in a bold agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change. I’ll talk more about this later, but for now I merely want to alert you to the fact that solutions to climate change are sprouting up right here in your own backyard. New Mexico and its neighbors, in fact, are at the vanguard in showcasing the new politics of climate change that I want to talk about today.

But let me start with a few words about water. Earlier this year, a United Nations panel called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a highly anticipated report on the current science of climate change.  This report represents the combined efforts of hundreds of top scientists from around the world. And it received a great deal of attention in the media—chiefly, for confirming once and for all that sea level and global temperatures both increased at an accelerating pace during the 20th century.

Also newsworthy was the fact that the IPCC expressed a much higher level of confidence than in past reports (a greater than 90-percent certainty, in fact) that the changes we are seeing are the result of human actions. The primary culprit, of course, is emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels.

But there was other news in the IPCC report as well—and a lot of it had to do with water. For example, the report confirmed that mountain glaciers and snow cover have declined on average in both the northern and southern hemispheres. It also found that more intense and longer droughts have been observed over wider areas since the 1970s, particularly in the tropics and subtropics.

And that just covers what has happened to date. The IPCC also issued projections for the decades ahead. And, again, the news is not good. Global temperatures, according to the report, will rise by 3.2 to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, and sea levels will rise one-half to two feet. In addition, there is a 90-percent or greater chance that the world will see more hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation events. And it is likely that we will see more droughts as well.

There it is: the dreaded D-word. The likelihood of more droughts is an obvious concern for people across the Southwest. The American Meteorological Society held a briefing on the IPCC report the other week in Washington, and Dr. Richard Seager of Columbia University made some very sobering points.

He said the report essentially confirms that the southwestern United States began a transition to a drier climate at the end of the 20th century, and that a new, drier climate is, in fact, well established as the 21st century gets under way. According to state-of-the-art models, conditions approximating a perpetual 1950s-style drought are likely to become the new climate of the Southwest in the decades to come.

In other words: If you want to keep a garden in New Mexico, and if you’re not into xeriscaping now, there is a 90-percent or greater chance you will be soon. There is no doubt about it: the changing climate will have serious implications for the Southwest. It will affect development, the allocation of water resources, cross-border relations with Mexico, everything.

And that’s just the forecast for the Southwest. Looking more broadly, the most recent IPCC report confirms beyond any reasonable doubt that climate change is a real problem, that it is caused in large part by human activity, and that it will accelerate in the years to come. If there is any silver lining in the contents of this report, it is this: the IPCC has provided the latest in a long line of scientific studies and pronouncements that have helped to change the political landscape on this issue in favor of solutions. And that is what I would like to talk about during the remainder of my remarks.

In his January State of the Union address, President Bush called global climate change a “serious challenge.” And, while his answers to the challenge fall far short of doing what’s needed, it is a remarkable rhetorical (and political) u-turn for this White House to even acknowledge that this is a challenge, let alone a serious one.

The reason for the u-turn can be found in part, as I said, in the increasing scientific certainty about climate change. Every month, it seems, the scientific case for action has become stronger—to the point that no responsible, thinking person can any longer deny that this is a real problem.

But science is not the only force that has compelled this White House and others to see that it is in their political interest to go public with their concern about this challenge. Equally important, I believe, is the fact that this Administration has become politically isolated on this issue, as governors and congressional leaders have stepped up and not only acknowledged the challenge but tried to shape real solutions.

The announcement last week by the five Western governors is a perfect example of this. People are not happy about the lack of leadership on this issue from Washington, and they’re setting out to fill the void.

Under the western governors’ agreement, New Mexico would join with Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington to set a regional target for greenhouse gas emissions.  And, by August 2008, the states will establish a market-based system to enable companies and industries to meet the target as cost-effectively as possible.  These five states combined emit more carbon dioxide than Canada, while accounting for more than 11 percent of total U.S. emissions.  So this is a significant achievement. 

New Mexico also is one of 12 U.S. states that have adopted their own statewide targets for capping and, ultimately, reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.  And New Mexico’s are among the most ambitious targets out there--emissions will reach 2000 levels by 2012, they will be 10 percent below 2000 levels by 2020, and 75 percent below 2000 levels by 2050.  

In December, Governor Richardson signed an executive order to help the state reach its targets.   Among the steps he approved were the creation of a greenhouse gas registry, advances in technology to capture and store carbon emissions from power plants, and the promotion of renewable fuels.

New Mexico is the first major coal, oil and gas-producing state to set targets like these.  New Mexico also is working with its neighbors in Arizona on a plan called the Southwest Climate Change Initiative.  The goal: to pursue collaborative opportunities to reduce emissions.

The residents of this state deserve to be proud of all of the forward-looking things that are happening right here to address climate change.   But New Mexico is not alone among the states.  Over the past several years, lawmakers from coast to coast have been embracing new programs and policies to reduce their states’ greenhouse gas emissions. 

California, like New Mexico, established an ambitious greenhouse gas emissions target—and California has gone the next step and passed legislation, with real enforcement, to give the targets the force of law.  California also has taken steps to begin regulating carbon dioxide emissions from cars and trucks (a policy that 10 other states are poised to follow if it survives a legal challenge from the automakers).  If the courts uphold it, California’s new standard for vehicles will reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions in the state by 30 million tons by 2020.

Many, many states are taking steps to rein in their emissions.   For example, 22 states, including large emitters like Texas and California, have required that electric utilities generate a specified amount of electricity from renewable sources.  Twenty-eight states have climate action plans.

And other states are working across their borders in the same spirit as New Mexico and its western neighbors.   Seven Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states have signed their own regional initiative.  Known as RGGI, it is aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in the region. 

Now, you might think that one state’s actions could not possibly affect a global problem like climate change. But if you combine the RGGI states with the five western states that are taking collaborative action, that’s 22 percent of U.S. emissions that could soon be subject to emission targets under a market-based system.  If all of these states were a single country, they would be the fourth largest emitting nation in the world.  And consider this:   California’s emissions exceed those of Brazil.   Texas comes out ahead of Canada, the UK and Mexico.    And Illinois produces more CO2 than the Netherlands.

States are a significant part of the climate problem, and many of them are showing they can be a significant part of the solution as well. 

The states also are showing that it is politically possible to take action on this issue.    In November, Governor Richardson was reelected to office with the support of 69 percent of New Mexico voters.  It was the largest margin of victory for any governor in the history of the state.  Think his support for serious action on climate change hurt him at the polls?  Doesn’t look like it. 

The same goes for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Polls have confirmed that his strong support for climate action helped him enormously with California voters in the 2006 election.  The governor won the election with a strong 56-percent majority of the vote, vs. 39 percent for his Democratic opponent.  

So, yes, the politics of climate change are different today.  And it is not only because state leaders are stepping up and advancing solutions to the problem.  Business leaders, too, have gotten into the act—making the case that it is possible to protect the climate while also protecting—and, in many cases, advancing—our goals for economic growth. 

At the Pew  Center, we work with a council of leading businesses that are committed to protecting the climate.   Our Business Environmental Leadership Council began with 13 companies; it now includes more than 40 companies representing more than 3 million employees and with a combined market value of over $2.4 trillion.  Members include a who’s who of U.S. corporate leadership, from Alcoa and GE to IBM and Intel,  and many more. What are these companies doing to protect the climate?  Here are a couple of examples:   Over the last 20 years, Alcoa has reduced the electricity required to produce a ton of aluminum by 7.5 percent.  Another Council member, IBM, has instituted energy conservation measures that resulted in a savings of 12.8 billion kilowatt hours of electricity between 1990 and 2002.  The resulting reduction in carbon dioxide emissions: 7.8 million tons.    And the resulting savings to the company’s bottom line: $729 million in reduced energy costs.

We can’t cut emissions?   These companies don’t think so.  And they’re showing it’s possible to do so in ways that do not compromise economic growth. 

For many if not all of these companies, addressing climate change is about both opportunity and risk.   Many business leaders see real risks to their operations from climate change.   According to the global insurance giant, Allianz, climate change already is increasing the potential for property damage at a rate of between 2 and 4 percent every year.  Tourism, agriculture, insurance, finance … all of these industries (and more) face serious and compelling risks.  And consider the risks for electric utilities and other businesses that do nothing to address this issue now—and then are forced to play a costly game of catch-up down the road as governments finally (and inevitably) get serious about reducing emissions.

On the other hand, there are also many obvious opportunities tied to developing and deploying new and emerging low-carbon technologies.  GE, for example, has committed to doubling its investment in environmental technologies to $1.5 billion by 2010.   That is the equivalent of starting a new Fortune 250 company focused exclusively on clean technology.

Ten years ago, corporate America was a reliable ally for those opposed to any kind of serious action to address climate change.  Well, that’s just not the case any more.  And, in fact, many of the companies we work with are combining independent, voluntary action to reduce their emissions and develop climate-friendly technologies with high-profile public support for new policies to protect the climate.

Just last month, several of the businesses on our Council joined with the Pew  Center and others in a high-profile appeal for U.S. government action to address climate change.  The group is known as the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, and this wasn’t just a blanket call for government to do something.  Rather, the USCAP group issued a specific proposal with specific targets and timetables—a real plan of action to slow, stop and reverse U.S. emissions.

Among the companies that were part of this unique call-to-action was Albuquerque’s own PNM Resources.   PNM, of course, is the energy holding company whose utility and energy subsidiaries provide power to 941,000 homes and business in New Mexico and Texas.

Now, think for a moment about how an announcement like this changes the political landscape on this issue.   When Fortune 500 CEOs take a stand for policies that in the past were tagged by private sector leaders as extreme or unwarranted, and worse, it moves the politics to a new place.   Like the state leaders who have come out in favor of strong and effective policies, the business leaders we’re working with are sending a clear message to Washington, and the message is this:   We must act to address this issue now, and we can do it without putting our economy at risk.

And Washington, finally, is beginning to listen.    Beyond the President’s rhetorical bows to climate change, our nation’s elected leaders are laying the groundwork for substantive action on this issue in the months and years ahead.    In 2005, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan measure calling for a national, mandatory, market-based program to slow, stop and, ultimately, reverse the growth in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.  Although the measure was nonbinding, it marked the first time the Senate has gone on record to support mandatory action on this issue. 

And now, there is a new Congress in place with leaders who are strong supporters of climate action.   The change at the top of the U.S. Senate committee with jurisdiction over climate change is a case in point.  Gone as chairman is Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who infamously referred to climate change as a quote-unquote “great hoax.” Replacing him is Senator Barbara Boxer of California, who could not pose more of a contrast as author of one of the most aggressive climate bills yet introduced in Congress.

In addition to Senator Boxer at the head of the Environment and Public Works Committee, we now have a Senate Majority Leader and a Speaker of the House who consistently have supported mandatory climate action.  And we have leaders of other key committees on both sides of Capitol Hill who have expressed their support for action.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signaled her intention to have the House pass a climate bill by July 4.  And the biggest political development of the year on this issue may be that Congressman John Dingell of Detroit now agrees that it’s time to act. 

As chairman of the powerful House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Congressman Dingell has long been considered an obstacle to serious action on climate change.  But now he is saying that his committee will report a bill by early June.  And his support for action, I believe, is very likely to bring in other Democrats who have been less than enthusiastic, and more Republicans too. 

What all of these developments point to, if all the stars align, is a so-called “cap-and-trade” bill emerging from Congress, potentially before the 2008 elections.  In the Senate alone, there are currently five bills proposing some form of cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions

Cap-and-trade, as most of you know, is a policy that requires emissions reductions while allowing companies to trade emission credits.   The most important benefit of this approach: it establishes a value for emissions reductions, as well as an economic advantage for technologies that can achieve them. 

The cap-and-trade model already has proven successful in this country in reducing emissions of the pollutants that cause acid rain.  We know it can work.  Cap-and-trade, in fact, is how California intends to achieve its emission targets.  It is also the basis for the multi-state plans I mentioned here in the West and back East as well. 

So there is, in fact, a great deal of movement on this issue in Washington.   And there is additional pressure for solutions due to the upcoming 2008 Presidential contest.  (Well, I suppose you can’t call it an “upcoming” contest anymore—sadly for all of us, it is already well under way). 

In any case, on the Democratic side you have a number of candidates who have pledged to make climate change an important part of their platforms.  And, among the Republicans there is U.S. Senator John McCain, who co-wrote the first cap-and-trade bill in the U.S. Congress way back in 2003.  Conveniently, his measure currently is co-sponsored by two colleagues named Obama and Clinton (meaning we could see at least one point of agreement during the 2008 presidential debates). 

Given the support for climate action among these high-profile contenders for President, I believe that the words “cap and trade” will become an important part of the political dialogue in this country in the lead-up to the 2008 election.  And I also believe that, given the changed politics on this issue, it is plausible that the United States could have this kind of mandatory policy in place by 2008, and it’s likely we will have such a policy by 2010. 

But implementing a cap-and-trade policy, while critical, is not all we need to do.  We need a wider range of policies.  We need to invest in research to develop some of the most critical, long-term, climate-friendly technologies.  And we need policies to ensure that technologies that reduce emissions can gain a solid foothold in the marketplace. 

And then there are policies aimed at specific sectors of the economy.   For example, governments around the world have adopted more stringent policies than the United States to reduce tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions and/or increase the fuel economy of cars and trucks.     Even China has higher standards than we do.  If all of these countries are doing this and we aren’t, that says to me that it’s possible—that, despite the automobile companies’ resistance, technologies exist to reduce emissions from this sector.  And by adopting tougher but reasonable standards, we can hasten the rollout of cost-effective, commercially available technology to reduce vehicle emissions.       

It is also going to take international policies.   This, too, is not in question.  Climate change is a global problem requiring global action.  Even if we were to get smarter about reducing the United States’ contribution to climate change, global energy use will continue to surge and climate change will remain a significant threat.  We cannot protect the climate without a global framework that enlists all countries to do their part to reduce emissions, and that provides poorer countries with the support they need to do so.

And, in fact, a number of countries around the world already are taking action on this issue, which is another factor that has changed the political landscape here in the United States.   The European Union, for example, has adopted its own emissions trading scheme.  And countries like the United Kingdom have embraced ambitious goals for reducing their emissions and developing low-carbon energy sources. 

While all of these other countries are moving forward, however cautiously, and trying to figure out how to reduce their emissions, the United States until now has remained largely on the sidelines.   And we have remained on the sidelines despite the enormous risks that climate change poses for our economy—and the enormous economic opportunities as well.  

As both the risks and the opportunities become clearer to U.S. leaders, the political landscape will continue to change.  And we will see our country come around, once and for all, and embrace real action to protect the climate—and to ensure that our water supplies and other resources are protected as well.

And, by real action, I am talking about more than a prevention-only approach.  Although reducing greenhouse gas emissions is critical to limiting the ultimate damage caused by climate change, it is clear that we must also adapt to what is already here and coming in the near future. The latest IPCC report tells us that, even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, the average temperature of the earth would continue to rise significantly for decades to come, precipitation patterns would continue to change, and sea level would continue to rise for hundreds of years because of the inertia in the climate system.   Obviously, we will not stop emitting greenhouse gases today, so the changes to come will be significant.  We are going to have to adapt.

By reducing your water demand, you—the xeriscape community—are in the vanguard of the grassroots adaptation movement.    But in the same way that voluntary action alone is not enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change, voluntary action alone will not ensure we can adapt.  There is an essential role for government and public policy, including lots of planning at the local and state levels for droughts, storms, water shortages, extreme heat and other consequences.  Water supplies, storm drainage, peak power capacity, emergency care and relief systems, evacuation planning—all of these and more will have to be enhanced.

There will be large costs associated with adaptation but there will be no choice, as the alternative is simply to suffer.    Fortunately, we do have an opportunity, through aggressive mitigation, to minimize both the ultimate costs of adaptation and the amount of human suffering that our children and grandchildren will have to endure in the future. Every dollar spent avoiding climate change will save more dollars spent later on adapting to and repairing the damage.

Looking forward, the challenge of reaching agreement on effective national climate policies is not all that different from the challenges you face as gardeners.   We need to prepare the soil by making our opinions known.  We need to turn all of these buds and shoots I have talked about into healthy, thriving plants.  And we need to pay close attention to issues of design—how we design policies to work together in the most effective ways. 

In closing, I will go back to the question posed by the child in the caravan of camels: “Are we there yet?”   And the answer is, we are certainly not.  But unlike the nomads in the cartoon, we at least have a clear destination.    We just need to get going.  

Thank you very much.

Congressional Testimony of Eileen Claussen Regarding The Effects of Global Warming



At the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means

February 28, 2007

Regarding The Effects of Global Warming

Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak to the committee about the important issue of global climate change.   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.  Forty-two major companies participate in the Pew Center’s Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC), making the BELC the largest U.S.-based association of corporations focused on addressing the challenges of climate change.  Many different sectors are represented, from high technology to diversified manufacturing; from oil and gas to transportation; from utilities to chemicals.  These companies represent $2.5 trillion in market capitalization, employ over 3.3 million people, and work with the Center to educate the public and policy-makers on the risks, challenges and solutions to climate change

As you have heard from Drs. Schneider and Prinn, it is now well established that climate change is occurring and that humans are primarily responsible.  The recently released summary of the IPCC’s 4th assessment report calls the evidence of climate warming “unequivocal” and expresses over 90% confidence that most observed warming is due to human influence.  Left unabated, climate change will have tremendous consequences on our country and the world.

The greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that contribute to climate change come from a wide variety of sources and sectors throughout the economy.  These include transportation, electric power generation, use of energy in our homes and offices, manufacturing, and many others.  Just as there is no single sector or emissions source that is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions,   there is also no single technology or policy that will solve global warming.  We need a portfolio of policies and technologies to meet this challenge. 

The Pew Center believes 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 mandatory market-based program to progressively and significantly reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in a manner that contributes to sustained economic growth.  Second, while taking the necessary first step of placing limits on our own emissions, the United States must also 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.  Third, we must strengthen our efforts to develop and deploy climate-friendly technologies and to diffuse those technologies on a global scale.    Only in this way will we achieve our environmental objectives and keep costs to a minimum.

Recently, the Pew Center joined with 3 other NGOs and 10 companies, including BP, Caterpillar, Duke Energy, DuPont, and GE in announcing the US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP).  Together, we are calling for a combination of mandatory approaches, technological incentives and support for demonstration projects.

We chose emission reduction targets with technology in mind:  to allow for capital stock turnover and for the development and deployment of new technologies.   In five years, emissions should be between 100 and 105% of today’s levels, ­ in other words, no more than 5% above current levels.  In ten years, emissions should be 90-100% of today’s levels.  By 2050, we would like to see emissions cut 60 to 80% from current levels.   It is the considered judgment of the US Climate Action Partnership that these cuts are both technologically achievable and economically sound.  

The USCAP went into detail as to how we think these goals should be achieved.  Given this committee’s interests and jurisdiction, I will highlight only the recommendations focused on federal technology research, development, demonstration, and deployment.  But let me reiterate that we will need a portfolio of technologies.  The U.S. will continue to burn coal and natural gas; we will continue to use nuclear energy; and we will need to ramp up our use of renewable energy sources.  Transportation will also be a key part of our future, but given our interests in both energy security and climate change, we will need to see far greater use of biofuels, advanced diesels and hybrids in the short term, as well as continuing innovation in fuels and technologies over the longer term – including use of electric- or hydrogen-powered vehicles.

The USCAP recommends the following key characteristics of a technology program:

  • A mix of deployment policies to create incentives to use low-GHG technologies and address regulatory or financial barriers.   Such policies could include loan guarantees, investment tax credits and procurement standards.  For example, production tax credits currently available to some categories of renewables could be extended to other zero-GHG electricity sources.  Likewise, tax incentives currently available to a limited number of hybrid-electric cars and trucks could be extended to a larger number of qualifying vehicles.
  • Stable, long-term financing (for example, in the form of a dedicated revenue stream or other means not reliant upon annual Congressional appropriations);
  • Joint public/private sector cost-sharing and oversight. The Department of Energy’s FutureGen project is an example of a joint public/private initiative, with costs shared between the government and the companies in the project’s Alliance.   The USCAP believes, however, that we need more demonstration projects to demonstrate the potential for long-term sequestration in a variety of geologic structures.
  • Establishment of performance criteria and a technology roadmap to guide RD&D and deployment program investment decisions; and
  • Establishment of a public/private institution to govern the administration of the RD&D and deployment program fund.

It is important that incentives be consistent enough to provide the certainty needed for large-scale investment decisions.  For example, the short-term nature of the production tax credit for wind power has resulted in a boom and bust cycle in which investments have been strong while the credit is in effect but drop quickly as it expires, hampering consistent growth in this sector.

From our own work on technology policy, the Pew Center has found that government has not always been good at picking technology winners, so it is best to have programs and incentives that serve to promote a variety of technologies and approaches.   Projects could be selected via a reverse auction, allowing proposals for reduction projects to compete on a level playing field for funding.  An auction could specify technology categories as well as offer a broad competition to elicit new, as-yet-unknown technologies.

The committee could also consider incentives for energy efficiency measures in businesses, homes, and vehicles; for capture and sequestration of carbon that would otherwise be emitted from coal burning power plants; for energy efficient transmission and distribution systems; and for transportation planning measures that reduce miles driven.

Many of the companies we work with have set voluntary targets and reduced their GHG emissions significantly.  The majority have done so by finding efficiency opportunities in their operations and most have had no net cost to implement those reductions.  This is not to say that all reductions will be free, or that a regulatory scheme alone would be a sufficient response to climate change.  But it does suggest that moving forward with both a push (through technology incentives) and a pull (through a price signal) could allow us to meet a series of emission reduction objectives such as those recommended in the USCAP proposal.

Here are some examples of what companies have been able to achieve.        

  • DuPont used seven percent less total energy in 2004 than it did in 1990, and has lowered its GHG emissions by 70% during that time despite an almost 30 percent increase in production. Compared to a linear increase in energy with production, this achievement has resulted in $2 billion in cumulative energy savings.
  • From 1990 to 2002, IBM’s energy conservation measures resulted in a savings of 12.8 billion kWh of electricity—avoiding approximately 7.8 million tons of CO2 and saving the company $729 million dollars in reduced energy costs.
  • The pharmaceutical company Baxter reduced its process-related GHG emissions by 99 percent between 1996 and 2002 by phasing out the use of certain solvents. These process changes resulted in reductions equivalent to over 3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.  Alcoa’s aluminum smelters reduced generation of PFC’s (powerful greenhouse gases) by 75% from 1990 to 2002.

These leading firms are curbing their contributions to climate change, but their voluntary efforts are not enough to achieve the comprehensive reductions in greenhouse gases needed across the economy.  To achieve that goal, we need to enact the measures discussed above.

I thank the committee for considering steps to address global climate change and look forward to your questions.

Congressional Testimony of Eileen Claussen: Regarding USCAP



February 13, 2007

At the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality

Regarding The U.S. Climate Action Partnership

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify on the U.S. Climate Action Partnership.  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. Forty-two 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.

The Pew Center is one of fourteen organizations currently belonging to the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP). On January 22, the USCAP announced an interconnected set of recommendations for the general structure of climate protection legislation that we would urge Congress to enact as quickly as possible. Among other things, the USCAP recommends enactment of a greenhouse gas cap and trade program, federal technology research and development, and policies and measures pertaining to specific sectors.

Allow me to discuss a few specific elements of the climate legislation we would recommend.

Cap and Trade is Essential. The USCAP believes that our environmental goal and economic objectives can best be accomplished through an economy-wide, market-driven approach that includes a cap and trade program that places specified limits on GHG emissions. This approach will ensure emission reduction targets will be met while simultaneously generating a price signal resulting in market incentives that stimulate investment and innovation in the technologies that will be necessary to achieve our environmental goal. The U.S. climate protection program should create a domestic market that will establish a uniform price for GHG emissions for all sectors and should promote the creation of a global market.

Cost Control Measures. One issue often raised in discussions of cap and trade programs is the projected cost of the policy and how the program can be designed to keep costs reasonable. Cost control measures are policies designed to provide capped entities with greater confidence that their cost will be limited. The USCAP believes that the most powerful cost control measure is a robust cap and trade program that covers multiple greenhouse gases and sectors, and allows offsetting reductions from non-capped firms and international sources. The cap and trade approach allows for firms that can make inexpensive reductions to provide allowances for firms that cannot. At the same time, it encourages investment in efficiency and innovative technologies. Any additional cost-control option considered by Congress must ensure the integrity of the emissions cap over a multi-year period and preserve the market’s effectiveness in driving reductions, investment, and innovation.

As policy makers weigh additional cost control options, we would recommend that they consider which parts of the economy are affected, the time duration of the impact and remedy, implications for international competitiveness, the implications for international emissions trading, and how the measure affects the price signal necessary to stimulate investment and technological innovation. Additional cost control options could include a safety valve, borrowing, strategic allowance reserve, preferential allocations, dedicated funding, technology incentives and transition assistance. If used, cost control measures must be designed to enable a long-term price signal that is stable and high enough to drive investment in low- and zero emitting technologies, including carbon capture and storage.

Sector-Specific Policies and Measures. USCAP believes that policies and measures are needed to complement an economically sound cap and trade system to create additional incentives to invest in low-GHG approaches in key sectors. The need and scope of sector specific measures will depend on the stringency of targets, scope of coverage, and point of regulation in the cap and trade program. Some of the sector-specific measures are intended to be transitional in nature and should be phased out over time. USCAP recommended sector-specific measures for new coal-based energy facilities and other stationary sources, carbon capture and storage, transportation, and buildings and energy efficiency.

New Coal-Based Energy Facilities and Other Stationary Sources. USCAP recognizes that coal supplies over fifty percent of our current electricity generation and will play a continuing role in our energy future. Policies are needed to speed transition to low- and zero emission stationary sources that can cost effectively capture CO2 emissions for geologic sequestration. We do not take a position as a group on any specific project, even though as individual organizations many USCAP Members do have such positions.

Carbon Capture and Storage. USCAP recommends that Congress should require EPA to promulgate regulations promptly to permit long-term geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide from stationary sources. Funding should be provided for at least three sequestration demonstration projects in depleted and abandoned oil and gas fields and saline aquifers with carbon dioxide injection, each at levels equivalent to emissions produced by a large coal-based power plant.

Transportation Sources. USCAP believes that climate protection legislation must achieve substantial GHG emission reductions from all major emitting sectors of the economy, including the transportation sector. We recommend Congress enact policies to reduce GHG emissions in the transportation sector, including consideration of policies to:

  • promote lower-carbon transportation fuels;
  • cost-effectively decrease allowable GHG emissions of automobile manufacturers’ fleets and promote new low-emissions vehicles, for example with GHG or fuel economy performance standards;
  • efficiently decrease vehicle miles traveled and enhance mass transit and other less carbon-intensive transportation alternatives;
  • promote better growth planning;
  • educate consumers; and
  • address emissions from air, rail, and marine transport.

Buildings and Energy Efficiency. USCAP believes that policies are needed to realize the full potential of energy efficiency as a high priority energy resource and a cost-effective means of reducing GHG emissions. To achieve this objective, we recommend that climate legislation should establish federal and state policies that align financial and regulatory incentives with utilities’ business interests to aggressively pursue energy efficiency programs and promote policies that “decouple” utility sales and revenues in conjunction with requirements for utilities to pursue all cost-effective energy efficiency savings. Stronger energy efficiency codes and standards are needed for whole buildings and for equipment and appliances, as are incentives and tax reform measures to advance the infrastructure necessary to support new "smart" and highly-efficient technologies and distributed generation. Finally, the legislation should create separate incentives for regulated entities, building owners, and other parties not subject to the cap to go even further in producing energy efficiency savings.

Accounting for the Global Dimensions of Climate Change. Let me close by discussing the international dimension of this issue. The effects of climate change are global, as are the sources of GHG emissions. Success will require commitments by all of the major emitting countries. Toward this end, the U.S. government should become more involved in developing the post-2012 international arrangements for addressing climate change that are now being discussed. So, while taking the necessary first step of placing limits on our own emissions, Congress should strongly urge the Administration to safeguard U.S. interests by engaging in these negotiations with the aim of establishing commitments by all major emitting countries. The members of USCAP believe strongly that U.S. action to implement mandatory measures and incentives for reducing emissions should not be contingent on simultaneous action by other countries. Rather, we believe that U.S. leadership is essential for establishing an equitable and effective international policy framework for robust action by all major emitting countries.

I thank and commend Chairman Boucher and the subcommittee for taking on this critically important issue. The Pew Center looks forward to working with the subcommittee as it continues its work.

Congressional Briefing Series on Science and Impacts: Sea Level Rise

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 
Sea level rise is one of the most widespread climate impacts expected to result from human-induced global warming. New evidence from modern satellite observations on the one hand, and from the study of how large polar ice sheets responded to ancient global warming events on the other, suggests that global warming is already causing sea level to rise and that it could rise faster and to a greater extent this century—and beyond—than previously estimated. This briefing will help congressional staff understand recent scientific progress and current scientific thought on sea level rise.

Friday February 9, 2007
10:00-11:30 AM
2325 Rayburn House Office Building


Sea level rise is one of the most widespread climate impacts expected to result from human-induced global warming. New evidence from modern satellite observations on the one hand, and from the study of how large polar ice sheets responded to ancient global warming events on the other, suggests that global warming is already causing sea level to rise and that it could rise faster and to a greater extent this century—and beyond—than previously estimated. This briefing will help congressional staff understand recent scientific progress and current scientific thought on sea level rise.

Following a brief introduction to global climate change by Dr. Jay Gulledge, two leading sea level experts, Dr. Steve Nerem and Dr. Jonathan Overpeck, will describe the present state of the science on global sea level rise, with emphasis on state-of-the-art satellite measurements of contemporary sea level change, the various climate processes that contribute to sea level rise, and lessons learned from studying ancient climate–sea level relationships. Following short scientific presentations from each scientist, there will be ample time for the audience to interact directly with these internationally recognized experts.


R. Steven Nerem, Ph.D.
University of Colorado
Dr. Steve Nerem is Professor of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. Prior to joining the CU faculty in 2000, he was Assistant Professor and then Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering for four years at the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to that he was a geophysicist with NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center for six years. He earned his Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Nerem has authored approximately 60 peer-reviewed journal publications covering a variety of topics related to his specialty, which involves satellite orbit determination, remote sensing, and measuring the Earth's shape, gravity field, and sea level from space. He is a Contributing Author for the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Dr. Nerem has received more than a dozen awards for his work, including NASA's Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for his research in the area of gravity field determination.

Jonathan T. Overpeck, Ph.D.
University of Arizona
Dr. Overpeck is Director of the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth and professor of Geosciences at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Prior to joining the faculty in 1999 he was head of the NOAA Paleoclimatology Program at the National Geophysical Data Center in Boulder, Colorado for nine years. He earned a Ph.D. in geological sciences from Brown University. Dr. Overpeck has authored over 100 papers that focus on global change dynamics, with a major focus on how and why climate systems vary on timescales of decades and longer. Current work focuses on the Asian and West African Monsoon systems, tropical Atlantic variability, El Niño-Southern Oscillation dynamics, Arctic environmental change, and reconstruction of ancient environments. He is a Coordinating Lead Author for the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Dr. Overpeck has received numerous awards recognizing his climate research, including the U.S. Department of Commerce Gold Medal and the American Meteorological Society Walter Orr Roberts Award.

Jay Gulledge, Ph.D.
Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Dr. Gulledge is Senior Research Fellow for Science and Impacts at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. He serves as the Center’s in-house scientist and coordinates its work to communicate the state of knowledge on the science and environmental impacts of global climate change to policy-makers and the public. He is also an adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Wyoming, home to his academic research on biological cycling of atmospheric greenhouse gases, which he publishes regularly in peer-reviewed journals. Prior to joining the Pew Center, he served on the faculties of Tulane University and University of Louisville. Dr. Gulledge earned a PhD in ecosystem sciences from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He currently serves as an associate editor of Ecological Applications, a peer-reviewed journal published by the Ecological Society of America.

Response to the 2007 State of the Union Address

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

"Across the United States, scientists, CEOs, environment groups, state governments, and members of Congress are seeking a comprehensive approach to global climate change and what the President is proposing is really only a very small step in that direction; his plan only affects the transportation sector, which accounts for roughly one-third of US greenhouse gas emissions; and it is unclear how real this commitment is.

If we hope to deal with climate change in a reasonable manner, we need an approach that is both economy-wide and mandatory, and that will put us on a path toward significant greenhouse gas reductions."


We welcome the President's mention of climate change in the State of the Union address, but his commitments fall short of actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The plan to reduce gasoline use by 20% comes from the following two measures:

1) Fuel standards calling for 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels (15%); and
2) Reforms to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard for cars (5%).

The overall 20% improvement claim is based on projected future gasoline use--not a reduction from current levels.

The increase in renewable fuels could provide a push for some climate-friendly alternative fuels; however, less GHG-friendly alternatives can also be used, leaving the climate benefits uncertain.

The proposed 5% reduction in gasoline use (to achieve the 20% goal) is based on an improvement in current CAFE of 4% per year (roughly 1 mile per gallon per year). However, the President's proposal does not commit to a new fuel economy standard for cars. He asks Congress to give the Administration authority to revisit the automobile standard but not to specify an actual numerical target.

At best, these two measures taken together could slow or stop expected growth in emissions from the transportation sector*, which represents roughly 1/3 of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. No specific proposals were offered to deal with emissions from other key sectors such as electricity generation, manufacturing, or buildings. Given all of the calls for action from CEOs, religious leaders, state and local governments, and the general public, it's unfortunate that the President missed this opportunity to outline a meaningful, comprehensive proposal to deal with climate change.

Related Content

View a chart of climate legislation recently proposed in the Senate (pdf).

Read the Pew Center's recommendations for U.S. climate policy:
Agenda for Climate Action.

Read about the new coalition of businesses and NGOs calling for national legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, United States Climate Action Partnership.

*The White House Policy Initiative Twenty in Ten: Strengthening America's Energy Security notes that "The President's plan will help confront climate change by stopping the projected growth of carbon emissions from cars, light trucks, and SUVs within 10 years."

USCAP: Background Materials

On January 22, 2007, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) released a landmark series of principles and recommendations calling for the federal government to quickly enact strong national legislation to achieve significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. The USCAP is an unprecedented alliance of leading non-governmental organizations, including the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (at the time named the Pew Center on Global Climate Change), and major corporations, including several members of our Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC).

C2ES has extensive resources on domestic policy initiatives, including its Agenda for Climate Action, released in February 2006. Please visit our Policy page for further research and analysis, and Climate Action in Congress for a summary of recent congressional action.

Click here (pdf) to see how the USCAP recommendations compare to climate legislation recently proposed in the Senate.

Note: The reports posted below were prepared by C2ES (at the time named the Pew Center on Global Climate Change). They are not products, nor do they represent the consensus views, of USCAP. They are intended solely to provide further information and detail on major topics and recommendations contained in USCAP's "A Call for Action."

Key Themes from USCAP, "A Call For Action"

Additional C2ES Background Resources

Science and Impacts

The Science of Climate Change: Global and U.S. Perspectives

Observed Impacts of Global Climate Change in the U.S.

Climate Change 101: The Science and Impacts

Business and Economic Opportunities

Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC) Company Profiles: the BELC is the largest U.S.-based association of companies convened to advance progressive climate policy and solutions, with 44 companies collectively comprising over $2 trillion in combined revenues, nearly 4 million employees, and operations in almost every U.S. state and country worldwide.

Corporate GHG and Energy Strategies

Getting Ahead of the Curve: Corporate Strategies That Address Climate Change

Climate Change 101: Business Solutions

Capturing the Emerging Market for Climate-Friendly Technologies: Opportunities for Ohio

International Policy

International Climate Efforts Beyond 2012: Report of the Climate Dialogue at Pocantico

International Climate Efforts Beyond 2012: A Survey of Approaches

The Lugar-Biden Climate Change Resolution

Climate Change 101: International Action

Technology Development

The 10-50 Solution: Technologies and Policies for a Low-Carbon Future

Induced Technological Change and Climate Policy

U.S. Technology and Innovation Policies: Lessons for Climate Change

Market Mechanisms

Emissions Trading in the U.S.: Experience, Lessons and Considerations for Greenhouse Gases

Early Observations on the European Union's Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme: Insights for United States Policymakers (PDF)

Market Mechanisms for Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions: Lessons for California

Registries and Inventories

In Brief: Greenhouse Gas Reporting and Disclosure: Key Elements of a Prospective U.S. Program

An Overview of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Verification Issues

States with GHG Reporting and Registries

Credit for Early Action

Early Action and Global Climate Change: An Analysis of Early Action Crediting Proposals

Early Action Conference Summary and Presentations

Energy Policy

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

U.S. Electric Power Sector and Climate Change Mitigation

U.S. Energy Scenarios for the 21st Century


Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions From U.S. Transportation

In Brief: Taking Climate Change Into Account in U.S. Transportation

Comparison of Passenger Vehicle Fuel Economy and GHG Emission Standards Around the World

Buildings and Energy Efficiency

Towards a Climate-Friendly Built Environment

In Brief: Building Solutions to Climate Change

United States Climate Action Partnership

USCAPThe Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (at the time named the Pew Center on Global Climate Change) was a founding member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) — an unprecedented alliance of 22 major businesses and 5 non-governmental organizations. This diverse group of business and environmental leaders came together to call for mandatory action to address climate change.

Members include AES, AlcoaAlstom, Boston Scientific Corporation, Chrysler, The Dow Chemical Company, Duke Energy, DuPont, Environmental Defense FundExelon Corporation, Ford Motor Company, General Electric, Honeywell,  Johnson & Johnson, Natural Resources Defense CouncilThe Nature Conservancy, NextEra Energy, NRG Energy, PepsiCo, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, PG&E Corporation, PNM ResourcesRio Tinto, Shell, Siemens Corporation, Weyerhaeuser and the World Resources Institute.

USCAP was formed in January 2007 and issued A Call for Action. This document includes a series of principles and recommendations calling for the federal government to quickly enact strong national legislation to achieve significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Since its founding, USCAP has issued additional reports and briefs:

The Center's resources related to USCAP:

Congressional Briefing Series on Science and Impacts: South American Glacier Loss

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 
Two leading experts, Dr. Mathias Vuille and Mr. Walter Vergara, will present the state of knowledge regarding the science and impacts of mountain glacier loss in tropical South America, with special focus on the Andes Mountains of Peru, where glacier retreat is particularly advanced.

October, 20, 2006

The tropical Andes is one of the regions of the globe where recent climate change is most evident.  Andean glaciers are receding rapidly, with potentially severe consequences for the availability of water for drinking, irrigation, mining, and hydropower. Climate models predict an additional warming of 7-9 °F in the region if atmospheric carbon dioxide doubles from pre-industrial levels by the end of this century. Some glaciers are already destined to disappear completely; for many more, the threshold for disappearance will be reached within the next 10 to 20 years unless conditions change quickly.

Rapid glacier retreat places in doubt the sustainability of current patterns of water use and ultimately the viability of the economies and ecologies of the Andes.  The changes induced by tropical glacier retreat constitute an early case of the need for adaptation and therefore an example of the impacts caused by climate change.

Two leading experts, Dr. Mathias Vuille and Mr. Walter Vergara, will present the state of knowledge regarding the science and impacts of mountain glacier loss in tropical South America, with special focus on the Andes Mountains of Peru, where glacier retreat is particularly advanced.

Mathias Vuille, Ph.D.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Dr. Vuille Research Associate Professor at the Climate System Research Center, Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst.  His research interests are in tropical climatology and paleoclimatology, with particular interest in linking observed modern climate dynamics to paleoclimatic interpretation of proxy data.  He is the lead investigator on a research project funded by the National Science Foundation to investigate the "Impact and consequences of predicted climate change on Andean glaciation and runoff."  He has published more than 40 peer-reviewed papers on paleoclimate and glaciology.  Dr. Vuille earned his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from University of Bern, Switzerland.

Walter Vergara
The World Bank
Mr. Vergara is Lead Engineer in the Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Department of the World Bank’s Latin America and Caribbean Regional Office.  Mr. Vergara works on climate change issues and has participated in development of the carbon finance portfolio in the region, as well as initiatives on adaptation to climate change, transport and climate change, air quality, application of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to wastewater, solid waste management, and renewable energy.  He is the author of four books and numerous technical articles, and currently manages an extensive portfolio of climate initiatives in the region.  Mr. Vergara is a chemical engineer and graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and the Universidad de Colombia in Bogotá.

Jay Gulledge, Ph.D.
Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Dr. Gulledge is Senior Research Fellow for Science and Impacts at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. He serves as the Center’s in-house scientist and coordinates its work to communicate the state of knowledge on the science and environmental impacts of global climate change to policy-makers and the public. He is also an adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Wyoming, home to his academic research on the carbon cycle. He has published more than a dozen refereed journal articles on microbial ecology and biogeochemical cycling of atmospheric greenhouse gases, and serves as an associate editor of Ecological Applications, a peer-reviewed journal published by the Ecological Society of America. Dr. Gulledge earned a PhD in Ecosystem Sciences from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Press Release: Pew Center Reports Spotlight Role of Farms, Forests in Reducing Global Warming

Press Release
September 21, 2006

Contact: Katie Mandes, (703) 516-0606        


WASHINGTON, DC – America’s farms and forestlands have a major role to play in reducing the threat of climate change, according to two reports released today by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.  Changes in agricultural practices coupled with foresting marginal agricultural lands could offset up to one fifth of current U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, while at the same time creating potential new sources of farming income.  In addition, the nation could reduce emissions by 10 to 25 percent by replacing fossil fuels with biofuels made from agricultural crops. 

The two reports being released today are: Agriculture’s Role in Greenhouse Gas Mitigation by Keith Paustian, John M. Antle, John Sheehan, and Eldor A. Paul, and Agricultural and Forestlands: U.S. Carbon Policy Strategies by Kenneth R. Richards, R. Neil Sampson, and Sandra Brown.

The Pew Center reports showcase the unique position of the agriculture and forestry sectors both as sources of greenhouse gas emissions (including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) and as “sinks” that can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The reports also stress that we need to bolster existing programs and develop new ones in order to capitalize on the opportunity to contribute to climate solutions inherent in these two sectors.

“Climate change is the major environmental challenge of our time. In order to address it in the most cost-effective way, we must take advantage of the full range of solutions—and that means rethinking how we manage our forests and farmlands,” said Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

In Agriculture’s Role in Greenhouse Gas Mitigation, the authors make the case for “suitable payments” to encourage farmers to adopt new management practices to store carbon in agricultural soils and reduce agricultural emissions of methane and nitrous oxide. Policy incentives also are needed, the authors say, to reduce costs of producing biofuels and accelerate key technologies. The report notes that climate mitigation could potentially become a source of new income and cost reductions for farmers. However, access to financing, changes in economic conditions and technologies, and policies will be key factors that will affect farmers’ willingness to play a part in climate solutions.

The second Pew Center report, Agricultural and Forestlands: U.S. Carbon Policy Strategies, considers a range of policy approaches that would ensure a prominent role for U.S. agricultural and forestlands in national climate mitigation plans. Among the potential policies: changing practices on public lands; land use regulations for privately owned forestlands; and incentives designed to promote climate-friendly practices on agricultural lands.

“We have always known that America’s farms and forests could play an important part in reducing the risks of climate change,” said Claussen. “But these sectors aren’t going to do this on their own—policymakers need to create the framework for these solutions through vigorous incentives and other policies.”

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

Congressional Testimony of Judi Greenwald on DOE's Plan for Climate Change Technology Programs



September 20, 2006

At the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Subcommittee on Energy Hearing: The U.S. Department of Energy’s Plan for Climate Change Technology Programs

Madam chair and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify on the U.S. Department of Energy’s plan for climate change technology programs.  My name is Judi Greenwald, and I am the Director of Innovative Solutions for 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.[1]  Forty-one major companies participate in the Pew Center’s Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC), making the BELC the largest U.S.-based association of corporations focused on addressing the challenges of climate change. Many different sectors are represented, from high technology to diversified manufacturing; from oil and gas to transportation; from utilities to chemicals. These companies represent $2 trillion in market capitalization, employ over 3 million people, and 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. To quote the National Academy of Sciences, in a statement signed by the academies of ten other nations, as well: “The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action. It is vital that all nations identify cost-effective steps that they can take now, to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global GHG emissions.”

The Pew Center believes 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 (GHG) emissions in a manner that contributes to sustained economic growth. Given that U.S. GHG emissions have risen steadily despite fifteen years of voluntary efforts to reduce them, any such national program must include mandatory reductions. Second, the United States must work with other countries to establish an international framework that engages all the major GHG-emitting nations in a fair and effective long-term effort to protect our global climate. Third, we must strengthen our efforts to develop and deploy climate-friendly technologies and to diffuse those technologies on a global scale.

I would like to address the questions you posed to me directly first:

1. What do you see as the key strengths and weaknesses of the plan?

While the draft Strategic Plan provides a fine overview of GHG-reducing technologies and the opportunities each could present over the long term, it does not provide a plan for deploying these technologies, nor does it provide a path to stabilizing concentrations of GHGs. The technologies considered in the Plan are vitally important; however, merely compiling information about them is not sufficient to ensure their widespread penetration into the marketplace.

Markets work when individuals can balance out their own costs and benefits. As with many environmental problems, individuals generally do not receive financial benefits from taking action on climate change. There is clearly a value to society in minimizing damaging climate effects, but the market does not capture that benefit for those who bear the costs. Therefore, simply creating a supply of carbon-reduction technologies does not mean there will be a demand for them. A mandatory constraint on emissions, on the other hand, will make emissions reductions financially valuable to the individuals producing them, creating a demand for emissions-reducing technologies in the marketplace.

The estimates of the technologies’ potential contributions to emissions reductions in the Strategic Plan are derived from a report prepared by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The report, “Climate Change Technology Scenarios: Energy, Emissions and Economic Implications”,[2] considers a range of energy scenarios accompanied by a range of possible emissions constraints. Three hypothetical scenarios are included, along with a reference (business-as-usual) scenario. The three scenarios are each evaluated for four different emissions-constrained cases of varying levels of stringency. Only the reference scenario is considered under a “no emissions constraint” case. Yet the reference scenario with no emissions constraint—the situation that best matches the current U.S. technology market and policy direction—is not noted in the Strategic Plan. Instead, only the analyses that include emissions constraints—an approach contrary to current U.S. policy—are included in the estimates of the technologies’ potential contributions to GHG reductions. This makes it impossible to evaluate the likelihood of the Plan’s success under current policies, and also supports what most people who seriously examine this issue know – that potential reductions are driven by the existence of constraints on emissions and the demand for technology to deal with those constraints, rather than purely on the federal effort invested in technology research and development.

A combination of technology “pushing” activities (such as those discussed in DOE’s plan) with technology “pulling” legislation that mandates reductions of U.S. GHG emissions would be the most effective and efficient way to deploy climate-friendly technology throughout the economy. Our analysis indicates that combining push and pull will give better results than relying on either alone: studies indicate, for example, that combining R&D incentives with carbon caps will cost the economy an order of magnitude less than relying on either R&D incentives or emissions reduction policies alone.[3]

2. Will the CCTP enable the Administration to meet its goal of cutting GHG intensity by 18 percent by 2012? Does the CCTP put the United States on a path to stabilizing GHG emissions?

The Plan is likely quite adequate for meeting the current goal of 18% reduction in intensity, but that is only because the goal largely reflects business as usual. But neither the Plan nor the 18% intensity reduction goal will put the U.S. on a path to stabilizing GHG emissions. Even if this goal is met, emissions will continue to rise rather than stabilize.

It should also be noted that the U.S. commitment under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is noted in the Plan, is not to stabilize emissions, but rather to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of GHGs. The UNFCCC commitment further specifies that concentrations should be stabilized “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”;[4] While there is not yet a global consensus on the concentration at which this would occur, it is important to consider the full extent of this commitment in evaluating the Plan’s success in achieving it. Impacts generally considered to indicate dangerous interference range from the disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet, eventually raising sea levels by as much as 20 feet, [5] increased hurricane intensity, compounding the danger to millions of citizens in the Southeast and Gulf coasts,[6] depleted water resources in the Western United States due to reductions in winter snow pack,[7] and the threat of extinction of thousands of species,[8]particularly those dependent on highly sensitive habitat (for example, polar bears, threatened by the melting of the arctic ice pack; pika, threatened by the desiccation of alpine meadows, and corals threatened by thermal stress and ocean acidification). Most experts now believe that a doubling of CO2 concentrations (i.e., around 550 ppm) is too high to avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, such as the impacts just listed. We do not know what a safe level is, though many are proposing 450 ppm as a level that has potential to avoid large-scale effects on the climate. (See Schellnhuber, Cramer, Nakicenovic, Wigley and Yohe, 2006, “Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change,” Cambridge University Press.)

While it is understandable that the CCTP has not chosen a specific atmospheric concentration of GHGs to be achieved—this is not its charge—the absence of such a target in the nation’s strategy presents another difficulty in assessing the Plan’s likelihood of success. While a 450ppm constraint is considered in the Plan, it is the most stringent of all options considered. The other cases involve concentrations well above this level (up to 750ppm—almost a tripling of pre-industrial levels) and have a large potential to reflect dangerous anthropogenic interference. Given the Plan’s consideration of a range of potential stabilization targets, it would be far more helpful if the Plan described the pace and scale of deployment that would be needed to achieve each of the targets considered. A strategy for CO2 stabilization at 450 ppm might look very different from a strategy for stabilization at 750 ppm, but those differences would not become evident unless the paths to the targets are outlined. This would aid policy makers in understanding the technological implications of various targets that might be adopted, as well as aid the CCTP in choosing its technology priorities.

Unfortunately, while the Plan gives a fine overview of GHG-reducing technologies and the role that each could play, the analysis of potential reductions is limited to scenarios that do not match current conditions or stated policy directions. As demonstrated in the estimates made in this Plan, it is mandatory emissions constraints in conjunction with technology investment—rather than technology investment alone—that will spur technology deployment and diffusion. In the absence of these constraints, the potential reductions outlined in this Plan will not be achieved.

3. Does the draft strategic plan provide an integrated framework of sound guidance, clear goals and next steps for agencies and researchers to use when prioritizing and selecting future research efforts? If so, please explain. If not, how should the Administration set R&D investment priorities among various climate change technologies and CCTP agencies?

The Pew Center is pleased to see that the plan does not pick winners, but rather it examines a broad portfolio of technologies that have the potential to reduce emissions on a large scale, making the most cost-effective technologies available for reductions in the future. The Pew Center supports the Portfolio Planning and Investment Criteria that the CCTP uses to evaluate various technologies: maximizing return on investment, supporting public-private partnerships, focusing on technology with large-scale potential, and sequencing R&D investments in a logical, developmental order are essential in determining what technologies to support. In addition to this evaluation of known technologies, efforts to explore new and innovative opportunities should also be promoted. The small portion of section 9 that describes the importance of doing exploratory research aimed at pursuing novel concepts not elsewhere covered should be given more emphasis. The fact remains that, while there are myriad technologies that we currently know can contribute to GHG emissions over the long term, it may be technologies that have not yet been discovered that will have the most impact. With accommodations for these unknown opportunities, the report acts as a useful summary of the current and future technologies that may have a significant impact on reducing carbon emissions if deployed.

Regarding your overarching questions 1 and 2, please see my response to questions 2 and 3 above. I would like to address your third overarching question specifically.

3. How could the CCTP plan be improved? What next steps are needed to implement a clear climate change technology strategy?

The U.S. Department of Energy is doing a good job in running a rational research and development program for technologies that are likely to contribute to solving the climate change problem in the future. As mentioned, however, what is lacking is an emphasis on deployment. Technologies that sit on the shelf are not useful. Deployment depends on private companies deciding to use these new technologies rather than their old, more carbon-intensive technologies. Without a mandatory GHG constraint, private companies do not have sufficient incentives to do so. The end result is an increase in technology innovation but little demand for those technologies in the market.

Finally, the technology initiatives discussed in the plan can only be effective if they are adequately funded and managed, and implemented with some urgency. DOE and the other federal agencies run a mind-boggling collection of programs that could promote climate-friendly technologies. There are numerous domestic and internationally focused programs, many of these intended to advance the climate-friendly technologies we would want deployed, including the Asia-Pacific Partnership, Climate Leaders, Climate VISION, Climate Challenge, Clean Cities, the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative, the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, the Methane-to-Markets Partnership, the Industrial Technology Project, the SmartWay Transport Partnership, the Partnership for a Hydrogen Economy, FreedomCAR, Energy STAR, Generation IV Nuclear Initiative, Vision 21, 21st Century Truck, Nuclear Power 2010, ITER22, FutureGen, Future Fuel Cells, Industries of the Future, and Turbines of Tomorrow.

While it is difficult to tell exactly how much has been budgeted for each of these programs, according to the Administration?7;s Federal Climate Change Expenditures Report to Congress (April 2006), the total FY 2006 budget authority for all CCTP initiatives amounts to about $2.8 billion, with a $207 million increase proposed for 2007. This increase is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough. In addition, it is crucial not just that these initiatives be funded, but that they be funded in a long-term, stable way—even forward-funded—to ensure that research managers are able to make the kind of plans that large-scale technology development requires.

Related to this is the challenge of implementing so many initiatives on a timely basis. Because it is far easier to explain to the press and public the launch of an initiative than to explain the boring details of its implementation, the political rewards of launching initiatives greatly outweigh those of implementation. Our sense is that DOE and the other federal agencies are doing a good job implementing these programs, but we are concerned that the Administration may not be placing sufficient priority on them.

It would be a shame if three years from now, in another oversight hearing, we learned that all these programs were under funded and given insufficient priority within the Administration. We simply cannot afford to lose the time.

I thank and commend the chair and the subcommittee for holding this hearing and for the opportunity to testify. The Pew Center looks forward to working with the subcommittee in its oversight capacity and on the development, enactment and implementation of any future climate change legislation.

[1] For more on the Pew Center, see www.c2es.org.

[2] Placet, M., K.K. Humphreys, N.M. Mahasenan. 2004. “Climate Change Technology Scenarios: Energy, Emissions and Economic Implications”, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, August 2004.

[3] See Induced Technological Change and Climate Policy, Lawrence H. Goulder, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Arlington, Virginia, October 2004.

[5] Alley, R.B., et al., 2005 “Abrupt Climate Change”

[6] Emanuel, K, et al 2005 “Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years

[7] Mote, P et al., 2003 “Preparing for climatic change: The water, salmon, and forecasts of the Pacific Northwest.”

[8]Thomas, C.D., et al., 2004 “Climate change and extinction risk”

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