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
Community Adjustment to Climate Change Policy
Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Judith M. Greenwald, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Brandon Roberts, Brandon Roberts & Associates
Andrew D. Reamer, Andrew Reamer & Associates
Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
A Pew Center report series on the economics of climate change has identified many ways in which economic modeling can be improved to more reliably project the costs of greenhouse gas reduction policies. These studies show that better model design – for instance, more realistically portraying technological progress and flexibility in the economy – can yield substantially lower projections for the costs of addressing climate change. They provide strong evidence that a rational climate policy that sets realistic short-, medium-, and long-term goals can achieve significant environmental gains while minimizing economic costs.
At the same time, it is important to recognize that the costs of addressing climate change are likely to fall disproportionately on certain industries, communities, and workers, and to explore ways to minimize these adverse impacts. This report is one of three focusing of these critical transition issues. It draws from past community assistance efforts to recommend ways the government can best assist communities that may suffer economic disruption as a result of climate change policies. A report released simultaneously looks at potential impacts on American workers and a future Pew Center report will evaluate competitiveness issues.
In the case of community assistance, the government has considerable experience assisting communities adversely affected by policies such as trade agreements, defense downsizing, and forest protection. For this report, authors Judith Greenwald, Brandon Roberts, and Andrew Reamer apply lessons learned from previous adjustment programs to the challenges posed by addressing climate change. Specifically, the report examines the risks faced by communities whose economies rely heavily on energy production and energy-intensive industries. The authors conclude that a new federal adjustment program for at-risk communities should be part of U.S. climate change policy. The report recommends that the U.S. government take the following actions:
- Designate and fund the Economic Development Administration (E.D.A.) of the U.S. Department of Commerce to design and implement an economic adjustment program for communities;
- Identify and assist communities that are particularly dependent on energy-producing and energy-intensive sectors before dislocations occur;
- Leverage and integrate additional resources by involving multiple federal agencies and state and local governments through federal and regional task forces; and
- Be flexible in addressing community needs by supporting locally determined, comprehensive strategies for five to seven years after the implementation of new climate policies.
C learly, some steps recommended in these reports will require funding. As policies to address climate change are developed, revenue streams from related fees (e.g., from permit fees or auction revenues) could be used to assist with these programs. Addressing climate change through sound policy will make it possible to achieve our environmental objectives while shielding workers and communities from potential economic harm. The authors and the Pew Center are indebted to Robert Atkinson, Ev Ehrlich, and Phil Singerman for their comments on previous drafts of this report.
The world is becoming increasingly concerned about the risks of global warming from the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but many American decision-makers are worried about the economic impacts of policies that may be needed to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The overall size and distribution of the impacts of such policies are uncertain, and depend greatly upon how governments, businesses, consumers, and workers respond to the challenge. Efforts to avert global warming would put some American businesses, workers, and communities at risk of economic dislocation. This paper focuses on how the federal government can best assist at-risk communities. Since the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas to produce energy is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, such communities include those with high reliance on jobs in energy production — say, coal mining in Wyoming, or oil and gas production in Louisiana — and in energy-intensive industries such as steel manufacturing in Pennsylvania.
This is not the first time that important national policies have forced economic change on particular communities. The same story has been told for trade agreements, defense downsizing, and forest protection, for example. In each case, the U.S. government helped affected communities through various forms of economic adjustment assistance. In addition, in the last 20 years, numerous U.S. communities have sought to adapt to wrenching economic change brought about by global competition and recession, both with and without federal assistance.
The United States has substantial infrastructure and experience at the federal, state, and local levels in community economic adjustment. Thus, a foundation is in place for creating a new government program to help communities adversely affected by global climate change policy. Experience in the United States and elsewhere suggests that, although economic adjustment programs do not usually remove the pain of economic disruption, appropriately designed programs can lessen that pain considerably. At the same time, there is substantial room for improvement in existing adjustment efforts.
This paper recommends a new federal adjustment program for communities as part of global climate change policy. Specifically, the United States should do the following: (1) commit to address the problem by designating a single agency, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and authorizing about $550 million dedicated dollars, to design and implement an economic adjustment program; (2) be proactive by identifying communities that are particularly dependent on energy-producing and energy-intensive sectors, and by helping communities to take action before dislocations occur; (3) leverage and integrate additional resources by involving multiple federal agencies and state and local governments through federal and regional task forces; and (4) be flexible in addressing community needs by supporting locally determined, comprehensive strategies for five to seven years.
Such a program would take advantage of available experience and expertise at all levels of government, and would take into account the wide variability in local circumstances and opportunities. By doing so, it would minimize economic dislocation and maximize opportunities to create jobs and protect the environment.
About the Authors
Judith M. Greenwald
Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Brandon Roberts & Associates
Brandon Roberts, president of Brandon Roberts & Associates since 1990, is a public policy consultant specializing in economic and workforce development matters. He works primarily with state- and local-level organizations to develop and implement effective policies and program activities, and to evaluate the benefits of past efforts. He has worked in California, Delaware, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington; in large cities such as Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Miami, and Portland; and on a number of projects involving community-based organizations.
Before starting his own consulting firm, Mr. Roberts served as Deputy Director of the Council of State Community Development Agencies in Washington, D.C., where he worked extensively with state economic and community development agencies and helped develop policies and strategies to address the employment needs of low-income individuals. He also has held positions in the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the Executive Office of the President. Mr. Roberts has a BS in government (1975) and a MSP in urban and regional planning (1977) from Florida State University.
Andrew D. Reamer
Andrew Reamer & Associates
Andrew Reamer, Ph.D., is Principal of Andrew Reamer & Associates, a Boston-based consulting firm specializing in economic development and public policy. Dr. Reamer received a Ph.D. in Economic Development and Public Policy (1987) and a Masters in City Planning (1981) from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Remarks of Eileen Claussen
President, Pew Center On Global Climate Change
City Club of Portland
December 14, 2001
Greetings and thank you very much. It is wonderful to be here in Portland, and I want to thank the people at the City Club for inviting me to be a part of your Friday Forum. I noticed on the club's schedule that next week's Friday Forum presenters will be the Oregon Repertory singers. I sincerely hope that none of you got the dates mixed up. I always try to be somewhat entertaining in my speeches, but singing a few holiday favorites definitely crosses the line.
Seriously, I'm glad to have the chance to be here today to talk to you about one of the most profound challenges of the 21st century. That, of course, is the challenge of global climate change. I'd like to tell you where we stand right now in the effort to deal with climate change, both here in the United States and internationally. And I'd like to tell you where we are headed - the kind of world we will leave our children and grandchildren if we stick to business as usual. But most importantly, I'd like to tell you where we need to be headed - the path that instead will allow us to pass to future generations a safer, healthier, more prosperous planet. It is not a simple path. For what is needed, I believe, is a second industrial revolution - one that takes us beyond oil and beyond coal to cleaner, more secure ways to power our global economy. Government must have a hand, a strong hand, in launching this revolution. But it can succeed only if our corporate leaders rise to the challenge as well. For while government can set the goals, only the marketplace can spur the innovation and mobilize the resources needed to achieve them. Fortunately, a growing number of forward-thinking companies already are leading the way.
First, though, I'd like to tell you why the state of Oregon holds such a special place in my heart. Some of you, I'm sure, remember back in the 70' s when Oregon became the first state in the nation to require a deposit on bottles and cans. At the time, I was a young staffer in EPA's office of solid waste. And I thought: Hey, they've got a great idea out there in Oregon. We should let other people know about it. So I put together a nifty little pamphlet describing Oregon's groundbreaking program and EPA started distributing it. Well, not everyone agreed that bottle bills were such a grand idea. The beverage industry was, shall I say, unhappy. And they let my bosses know it. I'm told, in fact, that the chairman of Pepsi raised the matter directly with the president. Soon thereafter EPA decided to "loan" me to an obscure office in Congress where I couldn't cause any more trouble. And when I was finally allowed to return, I was assigned a new area of responsibility: sewage sludge.
I'm pleased to say I was eventually able to rise above sewage sludge. I'm also pleased to note that, all these years later, Oregon is still leading the way on the environment. In fact, I know of no state that is doing more to meet the challenge of global warming. Oregon was the first state to enact mandatory controls on carbon dioxide - requiring that all new power plants meet a tough new emissions standard. The city of Portland and Multnomah County were the first local governments in the United States to adopt a plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And through your commitment to light rail and other smart growth strategies, you are demonstrating that protecting the climate goes hand in hand with preserving Oregon's enviable quality of life. These efforts really do reflect the spirit behind the Oregon state motto, "She flies with her own wings." May you soar higher and higher.
But are others joining you in flight? Climate change is by definition a global challenge. And the best efforts of any one city, state or nation will come to naught unless, ultimately, we all act together. We're by no means there yet - not even close. But it might surprise you to learn that we are in fact making headway. The reason this might surprise you is that the one thing most people heard about climate change over the past year was that President Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol. His decision indeed was a setback. But let's look at what's happened since.
First, let's look at the international picture. For those of you new to this topic, the Kyoto Protocol is an agreement negotiated in 1997 that does two things: it sets targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from industrialized countries; and it allows them to meet those targets through market-based strategies like emissions trading. Don't worry. I'm not going to get too far into this. But it's worth taking a minute to understand why these market-based strategies are so important. Basically, they put the market to work to cut emissions as cost-effectively as possible. In other words, they deliver the greatest environmental benefit at the lowest possible cost. And they create market incentives that drive companies to keep coming up with better and cheaper ways to cut emissions. This is how we've tackled acid rain faster and cheaper than anyone ever imagined. Emissions trading is a concept born here in America, and it was the United States that insisted it be part of the Kyoto Protocol.
While Kyoto established a broad framework, the nitty-gritty rules still had to be negotiated before countries could ratify it. A year ago, those negotiations were at a standstill. Then President Bush rejected the Protocol. Suddenly, the rest of the world was rallying to its defense. In negotiations last July in Bonn, and then last month in Marrakech, nations made the tough compromises and worked out the rules. They're not perfect, but they do establish a workable international system for beginning to tackle this problem. The agreements in Bonn and Marrakech have been rightly declared a triumph of multilateralism. They represent a triumph as well for the principle of harnessing the global market to protect our global environment. It's true, Kyoto's targets take us only a decade into the future, and provide only a small fraction of the emissions reductions we must ultimately achieve. But the bottom line is that we have to start somewhere, and much of the world has now established that starting point. The priority now is to ensure the Protocol's swift ratification and entry into force so we can, at long last, begin to deliver on Kyoto's promise and achieve real progress.
What, then, of the United States? With just 4 percent of the world's population, we generate 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Each year, our emissions grow higher. We've rejected Kyoto, yet we have no real strategy of our own. I'm afraid I have little expectation that the Bush administration is prepared to put forward the kind of proposals needed to launch a serious effort, at least not at the moment. Nor, for that matter, was the previous administration. But just as President Bush's rejection of Kyoto helped rally international support for the Protocol, it has stimulated a very interesting and encouraging bipartisan response on Capitol Hill. Suddenly, both Democrats and Republicans seem eager to demonstrate their commitment to tackling climate change.
For instance, Senator Robert Byrd, a leading Democrat from coal-producing West Virginia, and Senator Ted Stevens, a leading Republican from oil-producing Alaska, are teaming up on a bill that would devote billions to researching and developing climate-friendly technology. It also would establish a climate change office in the White House and give the President one year to develop a comprehensive strategy aimed at stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. A first step, but an important one.
Other bills would require companies to track and disclose their emissions of greenhouse gases, an essential step toward building a comprehensive emissions reduction strategy. This is an idea that the White House seems at least open to considering. In the Senate, there's a serious debate brewing over new pollution standards for power plants - in fact, the first real debate at the federal level over the kind of mandatory controls on carbon dioxide that Oregon already has in place. Finally, another bipartisan duo, Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, have said they plan to introduce legislation establishing an emissions trading system covering major sources of greenhouse gases throughout the economy. It's hard to imagine a bill like that moving through Congress anytime soon. But the very idea that two such prominent lawmakers would be advocating such a far-reaching strategy was virtually unthinkable just a year ago.
To be certain, there are many in Congress and elsewhere who remain adamantly opposed to concrete action against climate change. Perhaps they assume, in the greatest tradition of laissez-faire economics, that a rising sea level lifts all boats. There are even those who continue to question whether global warming is real. President Bush expressed his own doubts about the science when he first took office. He asked the National Academy of Sciences to undertake a special review. The NAS came back and said, yes, there are some uncertainties in the science. There always will be, I'm sure. But the NAS went on to say that, despite those uncertainties, the evidence for global warming is strong and growing stronger.
Here's what the science tells us. First, the earth is indeed getting warmer. The 1990s were the hottest decade of the entire millennium, and 1997, '98, and '99 were three of the hottest years ever. Second, this warming trend is almost certain to continue. Projections of future warming suggest an average global increase of two to ten degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the evidence strongly suggests that human activities, in particular the burning of fossil fuels, are largely to blame.
What will the impacts of this warming be? How will all this affect our children and grandchildren? Some people like to see the bright side of global warming. Lower heating bills in winter, for instance, and longer growing seasons in the Midwest. But there's good reason to believe that any potential benefits will be far outweighed by the costs.
Rising sea levels will flood coastal areas - a very real worry along portions of the U.S. coastline but a much greater worry for low-lying countries like the Netherlands and Bangladesh. Higher temperatures mean an increase in extreme weather-more flooding, more drought, and more severe storms. Historic patterns of rain and snowfall will be disrupted, putting water supplies at risk. Here in the Pacific Northwest, for instance, warmer winters will mean less snow pack in the mountains and an earlier springtime melt. Water shortages are likely to grow worse. Many of our most threatened species and ecosystems will face even greater risk. Declines in river flow, for instance, could destroy any chance of saving this region's precious salmon runs. And hotter, drier summers will stress the forests and pose an ever greater threat of wildfire.
One of the tremendous inequities of climate change is that the people facing the greatest risks are those least able to bear them. Wealthy nations like the United States can find ways to lessen the impact. We can build sea walls to protect our coasts. Our farmers can switch to other crops better suited to a warmer climate. We can strengthen our public health system to guard against diseases like malaria and dengue fever. But poorer nations struggling to feed and house their people cannot so easily adapt. And, scientists predict, they will be the ones hardest hit. For them, prolonged drought doesn't mean parched lawns and water rationing. It means starvation. Rising sea levels won't just be an inconvenience for those with beachfront property. They'll mean mass migrations and increased competition for scarce land. Lest you think this is all conjecture, it's worth noting that the people of Tuvalu, a small island nation in the Pacific, recently decided to abandon their homeland before it's swallowed by rising seas. All 11,000 residents will be relocating to New Zealand beginning next year.
So this is the kind of world that awaits us if we continue on our present course. What is the alternative? What will it take to keep our planet from overheating? Well, quite obviously, it requires dramatically reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that trap heat in our atmosphere. What is the primary source of these gases? The combustion of fossil fuels. So our goal, over time, must be to end our reliance on coal and oil and to develop new sources of energy that can power our growing economy without endangering our climate. Yes, it is a tall order. As I said earlier, it will take nothing short of a second industrial revolution.
Let me be clear: This revolution cannot take place overnight. It will, in fact, take decades. But there are important steps we should take right now to begin the transition. First, we need to be more energy efficient, so we use less energy to achieve the same results. The United States has made significant improvements in energy efficiency over the last decade. But countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Brazil are all far less energy intensive than we are, and we have clearly have much further to go. Some of this could be as simple as turning off the lights, buying a compact fluorescent next time you need a new light bulb, or carefully checking the energy efficiency ratings the next time you buy a new washer or dryer. We also should be insisting on more energy-efficient cars. The technology exists. The new Toyota Prius, a hybrid car that uses both an electric motor and an internal combustion engine, can go more than 50 miles on a gallon of gas. It's proven so popular you have to wait months to get one. If everyone in America drove a hybrid, we would save about 1.6 billion gallons of oil a year - far more than we import from the Middle East.
Improving efficiency is not enough, though. To address climate change, we will also have to emit much less carbon, and this means switching to less carbon intensive fuels. Some fuel switching can be done now, but we need a serious effort to begin laying the groundwork for the fuels of the future. We've been through energy transitions before. In the 18th century, we still relied largely on wood. In the 19th century, the steam engine took over. In the 20th century, we turned to oil. Now we must develop new fuels to meet the needs of the 21st century.
I can't tell you what the fuel of choice should be a hundred years from now. That will depend on the ingenuity of our scientists and engineers; investment decisions made in boardrooms; the unpredictable course of technological development; and the whims of the marketplace. Solar, wind and geothermal power all hold tremendous promise. But one technology that is generating real interest right now is the hydrogen fuel cell.
Fuel cells are what NASA puts on board rockets to generate power in space. They can run on different kinds of fuels. But whatever the fuel source, the only byproduct is heat and water - pure water. In other words, no smog-forming pollutants and no carbon dioxide. Fuel cells could be used to power cars, and many automakers are now engaged in efforts to make fuel cell cars a reality. They could be used to power businesses or homes. Instead of buying electricity from a coal-burning utility, a fuel cell in your basement no bigger than a central air conditioner could generate all the clean power you need. The use of hydrogen to power fuel cells is appealing because there are so many different ways to produce it. Hydrogen can be extracted from coal, oil or natural gas - or, preferably, produced from renewable energy sources. And it can take different forms. Some energy experts envision the day when, instead of filling your car at the gas pump, you'll pick up "fuel in a box" from the convenience store or a vending machine. You could go about 250 miles on a six-pack.
That's just one possibility, and there are many, many more. The point is that if we are to realize them - if we are to discover and pursue the most promising options - we must get started. This second industrial revolution requires technological and economic transformation on an unprecedented scale. And we must begin making investments now to ensure its success.
There are those who say we can't afford to address climate change, particularly when our economy is slowing. I believe they are wrong, for a host of reasons. I could tell you how the economic models they rely on exaggerate the costs of cutting emissions and fail to take into account the full range of benefits. But instead, let me tell you about the concrete experiences of the companies we work with at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Thirty-seven major companies are now members of our Business Environmental Leadership Council. These are primarily Fortune 500 companies - names you'd recognize, like Weyerhauser, Intel, Boeing, DuPont, Shell and Alcoa. Together these companies employ more than 2 million people and generate revenues of nearly $900 billion. And through their investments in emissions-cutting and climate-friendly technologies, they are demonstrating that what is good for the climate can be good, too, for the bottom line.
Many of these companies have adopted voluntary targets for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. We recently released a report that took a close look at six of them. It looked at the reasons why they took on targets, and what the results have been. The companies said one of the motivations for taking on a target was to improve their competitive positioning in the marketplace. And that, in fact, has been the result. Each of the companies is on track to meeting or exceeding its greenhouse gas goal. Together, they've delivered reductions equal to the annual emissions of three million cars. And all the companies are finding that their efforts are helping to reduce production costs and enhance product sales today.
So, yes, I am confident that with smart strategies that tap the power of the marketplace instead of squelching it, that do not expect more than can be delivered, and that take into account capital stock turnover cycles, we can afford to address climate change. In fact, we can strengthen the long-term health of our economy. Whatever the economic indicators for the latest quarter, over the long haul, increased efficiencies can only improve the bottom line. There are real economic opportunities that come with taking action on climate change. It would be a mistake not to seize them.
Before closing, I'd like to say a word about the new concerns now dominating our national agenda. I refer, of course, to the horrible, haunting events of September 11. The security of our nation is now, and will for some time remain, the overriding concern in Washington, and with good reason. As a result, a host of other vital issues - climate change among them - will for now take a lower profile. But I believe those of us working on climate change can still make an important contribution. We can help show how, with the right strategies, we can both protect our nation and advance the fight against global warming. This is most obvious in the case of "energy security." We all know that continuing to rely so heavily on imported oil is a costly mistake. To some the answer is drilling in the Arctic refuge. But whatever your views on the Arctic, it is clear that no amount of domestic drilling will significantly reduce our reliance on foreign oil. If we are serious about energy security - whether or not we're serious about addressing climate change - we must move beyond oil.
So, where are we in the effort against climate change? Internationally, after a decade of difficult negotiations, we are for the first time on the verge of enacting binding emissions limits for all industrialized countries but one. In the United States, despite our refusal to join the rest of the world in the Kyoto Protocol, there is a growing bipartisan recognition that we cannot continue to blithely ignore our responsibilities as the world's largest greenhouse gas polluter. In a growing number of boardrooms, corporate leaders are seeing climate change not only as a challenge but as an opportunity. And in communities like Portland, ordinary citizens are acting locally to meet what is truly a global challenge. We have a long, long way to go. But we have begun. And that is good. Thank you very much.
Worker Transition & Global Climate Change
Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Jim Barrett, Economic Policy Institute
Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
A Pew Center report series on the economics of climate change has identified ways in which economic modeling can more reliably project the costs of greenhouse gas reduction policies. These studies show that better model design — for instance, more realistically portraying technological progress and flexibility in the economy — can yield substantially lower projections for the costs of addressing climate change. They provide strong evidence that a rational climate policy that sets realistic short-, medium-, and long-term goals can achieve significant environmental gains while minimizing economic costs.
At the same time, it is important to recognize that the costs of addressing climate change are likely to fall disproportionately on certain industries, communities, and workers, and to explore ways to minimize these adverse impacts. This report draws from past worker transition efforts to recommend ways the government can best assist workers who may suffer economic dislocation as a result of climate change policies. A Pew Center report released simultaneously examines potential impacts on U.S. communities, and a future Pew Center report will evaluate competitiveness issues.
In the case of worker transition, the government has considerable experience assisting workers adversely affected by policy choices and market forces. Author Jim Barrett draws lessons from these government programs and outlines the building blocks of a worker transition program that could assist workers adversely affected by climate change policies. The report recommends that such a program include:
- Substantial retraining and/or education for laid-off workers;
- Substantial income support for program participants;
- A bridge to retirement for workers nearing retirement age that maintains their standards of living and retirement benefit levels;
- Maintenance of laid-off workers’ health and pension benefits until they find suitable employment;
- Rapid response programs to ensure prompt service provision, and avoidance of detailed eligibility requirements;
- Advance notice of layoffs when possible;
- Work with unions to inform workers about program availability and to administer services;
- Performance standards that avoid the unintended consequences of the overly simplistic standards used in the past; and
- Requirements and funding for assessments of the program’s effectiveness by comparing outcomes for participants and non-participants, and allowing for mid-course corrections.
Clearly, some steps recommended in these reports will require funding. As policies to address climate change are developed, revenue streams from related fees (e.g., permit fees or auction revenues) could be used to assist with these programs. Addressing climate change through sound policy will make it possible to achieve our environmental objectives while shielding workers and communities from potential economic harm. Pew Center and the author wish to thank Susan Teegarden, Andrew Hoerner, Robert Ginsburg, Ev Ehrlich, Yolanda Kodryzycki, and Les Leopold, who offered helpful comments on previous drafts of this report. The author also would like to thank Brigit O’Brien and Terrel Hale for their research assistance.
With most scientists and politicians agreeing that human-induced climate change is a potentially serious problem, the question of how nations respond to it, if at all, now seems to hinge on the perceived costs of action and inaction. Several attempts have been made to estimate the cost to the U.S. economy of reducing carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. While there remains substantial debate over the net costs (or benefits) of various policy alternatives, there is little debate over the fact that reducing emissions will have potentially negative impacts for certain sectors of the economy and their workers. Any major reduction in carbon emissions in the United States will almost certainly require a decline in demand for fossil fuels, and, therefore, will result in employment losses in the coal, petroleum, and electricity industries, and possibly other sectors as well.
The question often arises: What policy options are available to address the needs of impacted workers?
The United States has substantial experience with programs aimed at helping workers dislocated both by policy choices, such as trade agreements and environmental regulations, and by market forces, such as the ongoing shift away from manufacturing and toward a service-based economy. The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program established in the 1960s was designed to aid workers displaced by the effects of international trade, while the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) was aimed at workers displaced for any reason. The experiences of these programs can provide valuable guidance for the design of policies aimed at dealing with workers displaced by climate change policies. In 2000, both programs were subsumed by the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which would serve workers dislocated by climate policies if they were to be laid off today.
Examinations of TAA and JTPA raised important questions about the effectiveness of their training components. Studies have found that the majority of participants who subsequently found jobs were employed in occupations unrelated to their training programs. A closer look at the evidence shows that there can be sizable gains from retraining displaced workers, with some studies finding significant benefits through higher wages at reemployment. The evidence also appears to indicate that the quality of training may be as important as the quantity.
In addition to training and education, another important aspect of worker displacement programs has been income support for participants. Both TAA and JTPA are meant to provide support for their participants, although many, including the vast majority of JTPA participants, received little or no support. Aside from the obvious hardships this can impose on workers and their families, it also had substantial impacts on the ability of the programs to move workers successfully into new jobs. A study of one JTPA program found that over the first year following layoff, program participants earned about 20 percent less than displaced workers who did not join a program. While participants’ earnings recovered substantially over time, the cost of participating in the program, in terms of lost earnings over the first year, represents a substantial barrier to participation.
While some workers likely opted out of programs due to lack of income support or other reasons, some may have been discouraged from participating. The use of performance-based contracts, which pay service providers based on reemployment and wage replacement rates, can give providers the incentive to filter out the workers who are more difficult to place and who might bring averages and compensation down. TAA had substantial problems in serving its intended population as well. One audit found that the eligibility determination process arrived at an incorrect conclusion in over 60 percent of cases.
There are a wide range of lessons that can be drawn from previous programs to help inform the design and administration of a successful program to assist workers affected by climate change policies. A critical, if broad, lesson is that numerous tradeoffs exist that can make designing an effective program difficult. At the same time, some tradeoffs that are assumed to exist may not. Continuing to assume that they do can be equally limiting.
Both TAA and JTPA have tried to strike a balance between providing compensation to workers and providing incentives to leave programs as quickly as possible. For JTPA, those incentives appear to have been too strong. A large majority of eligible workers (as many as 93 percent) never entered programs in the first place. Under JTPA and now WIA, the goal of compensation has been sacrificed in the name of efficiency. However, income compensation and training appear to be complementary, so that increasing compensation can enhance training outcomes and program success. With limited resources, unfortunately, training and compensation appear to be substitutes at least in the budgetary sense.
While providing for substantial retraining is an essential element of a successful transition program, it is no guarantee of success. Despite the relatively long training programs in TAA projects, reemployment outcomes have been disappointing, due largely to inadequate job search and placement services and to mismatches between training programs and labor market demand. Careful design of training programs and the provision of job search and placement services will be critical to the success of a climate change transition program, particularly given the long tenure and deteriorated labor market skills likely to characterize many of the program’s participants.
In addition to some of the larger issues like income support, there are numerous factors in the administration of transition programs that can help determine their success or failure. Some of these issues have already been addressed in WIA. The continuous operation of WIA offices and rapid response teams can help keep the lag time between layoff and program entry low. Addressing layoffs at the earliest possible stage can increase the legitimacy of the program and help workers face the reality of permanent separation from their jobs. This approach increases participation rates and reduces the lag time between layoff and program entry.
To ensure that these workers have access to training options, two conditions must exist. First, training programs must be offered that can serve their needs. Second, training providers must have a limited ability to exclude or discourage clients who are difficult to place. If these conditions are met, it may be possible to employ performance-based standards successfully. To ensure that programs suitable for the hard to place are available, a successful program needs to offer sufficient incentive to trainers to offer such programs. One approach is to offer higher payments for placements of the difficult to place. Rather than offer payment based on the number of people placed, a system could offer payment based on the expected intensity of training required. This approach would offer increased incentives for training providers to design programs for workers who need the most help.
A more fundamental issue is the appropriateness of a program explicitly designed to serve one type of worker and not another. To a laid-off worker, and possibly to society as a whole, it may seem arbitrary to deny or approve benefits based on whether it can be proven that climate change policies contributed to the layoff. Climate change policies may be only one of a combination of causes leading to a layoff, particularly for industries already in decline. Any eligibility restriction based on climate change policies will thus be difficult to implement.
The following elements appear critical to the success of a transition program aimed at helping workers dislocated by climate change policies or other causes:
- Substantial retraining and/or education should be available for laid-off workers.
- The program should provide substantial income support for program participants.
- For those workers nearing retirement age, the program should provide a bridge to retirement that maintains their standard of living as well as their retirement benefit levels.
- The program should maintain health and pension benefits of laid-off workers until they find suitable reemployment.
- To help ensure that services can be provided as quickly as possible, rapid response programs should continue to be employed, and detailed eligibility requirements should be avoided whenever possible.
- The program should encourage advance notice of layoffs when possible.
- The program should work with unions to inform workers about the availability of programs and to administer services.
- The program should establish performance standards that avoid the unintended consequences of the overly simplistic performance standards used in the past.
- The program should require, and provide funding for, assessments of the program’s effectiveness by comparing outcomes for participants and non-participants, and allow for mid-course corrections.
Press Release: Easing the Burden: Two New Reports Identify Steps for Reducing the Economic Impacts of Climate Action
For Immediate Release:
December 5, 2001
Contact: Katie Mandes
Easing the Burden: Two New Reports Identify Steps for Reducing the Economic Impacts of Climate Action on Affected Communities and Workers
Washington, DC - Policymakers can do a great deal to ease the economic burden of addressing climate change by taking specific steps to assist affected workers and communities. This according to two new reports released today by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
"Responding to climate change means reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and that means making a shift from the current carbon-intensive economy to an economy that relies less on fossil fuels," said Pew Center President Eileen Claussen. "This shift is in everybody's interest, but it will not affect everybody equally. As a result, we need to be thinking now about how to assist those workers and communities that will be affected by the policy choices we make. Rather than leave them behind in our quest for a new economy, we must give them the tools and the resources they need to play their rightful role in our future success."
Focusing on the workers and communities that are likely to be most affected by efforts to address climate change, the Pew Center reports recommend worker retraining programs, economic adjustment initiatives for affected communities, and other steps. According to Claussen, the cost of these and other initiatives would amount to a small fraction of the overall bill for dealing with climate change. She added that permit fees and other revenues related to the implementation of new climate policies could provide an important source of funding for the transition efforts.
Worker Transition & Global Climate Change
Any major reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the United States will almost certainly cause a decline in demand for fossil fuels. The result could be employment losses in the coal, petroleum, and electricity industries, and possibly in other sectors as well.
Worker Transition & Global Climate Change is a Pew Center report written by Jim Barrett of the Economic Policy Institute. The report draws lessons from the government's experience assisting workers who were adversely affected by policy choices and market forces in the past. The author also outlines the building blocks of a worker transition program that could assist workers adversely affected by government efforts to address climate change.
This report recommends that a worker transition program include:
- Substantial retraining and/or education for laid-off workers, as well as income support for program participants;
- A bridge to retirement for workers nearing retirement age that maintains their standards of living and retirement benefit levels;
- Maintenance of laid-off workers' health and pension benefits until they find suitable employment; and
- Advance notice of layoffs whenever possible.
Community Adjustment to Climate Change Policy
Efforts to avert global climate change are also likely to place certain communities at risk of economic dislocation. Affected communities could include those with large numbers of jobs in energy production, such as coal mining communities in Wyoming or oil producing areas of Louisiana. Also affected could be communities with energy-intensive industries-for example, parts of Pennsylvania with steel manufacturing operations.
Community Adjustment to Climate Change Policy was authored by Judith M. Greenwald of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Brandon Roberts of Brandon Roberts & Associates, and Andrew D. Reamer of Andrew Reamer & Associates. Based on a survey of how policymakers in the United States and elsewhere have responded to similar challenges in the past, the report suggests that appropriately designed programs can lessen the pain of economic adjustment considerably.
The report recommends a new federal adjustment program for communities as part of global climate change policy, and calls on U.S. policymakers to take the following steps:
- Designate and fund the Economic Development Administration (EDA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce to design and implement an economic adjustment program for communities;
- Identify and assist communities that are particularly dependent on energy-producing and energy-intensive sectors before dislocations occur;
- Leverage and integrate additional resources by involving multiple federal agencies and state and local governments through regional task forces; and
- Support the development and implementation of locally determined, comprehensive adjustment strategies.
A future Pew Center report will address the issue of competitiveness for those industries affected by climate change policy.
The full text of both reports is accessible on the Internet:
The Pew Center was established in May 1998 by the Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the United States' largest philanthropies and an influential voice in efforts to improve the quality of the environment. The Pew Center is conducting studies, launching public education efforts and working with businesses to develop market-oriented solutions to reduce greenhouse gases. The Pew Center is led by Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. The Pew Center includes the Business Environmental Leadership Council, which is composed of 36 major, largely Fortune 500 corporations all working with the Pew Center to address issues related to climate change. The companies do not contribute financially to the Pew Center - it is solely supported by contributions from charitable foundations.
Press Release: Nobel Prize Recipient Dr. Joseph E. Stiglitz Calls for Immediate Action Against Climate Change
For Immediate Release:
October 11, 2001
Contact: Katie Mandes
Nobel Prize Recipient Dr. Joseph E. Stiglitz Calls for Immediate Action Against Climate Change
Dr. Joseph E. Stiglitz, co-recipient of the 2001 Nobel Prize in economics, called on governments today to join in a comprehensive global strategy to address the long-term threat of global climate change.
In a keynote address at a workshop sponsored by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Dr. Stiglitz said that despite uncertainties over the pace and precise impacts of climate change, governments can and should take immediate cost-effective steps to begin reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
"Climate change is probably the most important environmental problem we face in the world," Dr. Stiglitz told 40 scientists, economists and other experts at the Pew Center's Workshop on the Timing of Climate Change Policies. "We need a framework for collective action."
Dr. Stiglitz, a professor of economics at Columbia University, was one of three U.S. economists awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science on Wednesday for their seminal work on the role of "asymmetric information" in markets. He previously served as chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers and as chief economist at the World Bank.
"We congratulate Dr. Stiglitz on his prestigious award and are delighted that he could share with us his keen insights on the challenge of climate change - particularly on what is such a remarkable day for him," said Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
In a paper presented at the workshop, Dr. Stiglitz and his co-authors explored the challenges of crafting a global strategy to address climate change given uncertainties in the science and economics and the diverse and conflicting interests of nations.
The paper states, "A global consensus now exists that climate change represents a significant potential threat to the world's well-being&Put simply, we favor immediate action," the authors state. "Although policymakers are forced to make decisions under uncertainty, they can undertake actions that help reduce this uncertainty. In particular, pursuing some emissions abatement policies now allows policy-makers to learn more about the costs of emission reduction."
The full text of his paper, co-authored with Peter R. Orszag of the Brookings Institution and Joseph E. Aldy of Harvard University, is available on the Pew Center website, www.c2es.org.
Dr. Stiglitz was introduced at the workshop by Dr. Kenneth J. Arrow of Stanford University, a previous recipient of the Nobel Prize in economics and a member of the Pew Center's board of directors.
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.
Pew Center Workshop on the Timing of Climate Change Policies
The Westin Grand Hotel, Washington, DC
On October 10-12, 2001, The Pew Center on Global Climate Change held a Workshop on the Timing of Climate Change Policies in Washington, D.C. This workshop brought together leading economists, scientists, policy-makers, business leaders, and others interested in climate change science and policy. The purpose of the workshop was to investigate the appropriate timing of the world's policy response to the challenge of global climate change. The workshop produced a consensus that action on climate change needs to begin now to satisfy a variety of concerns. This volume includes a summary of the workshop proceedings, final texts of peer-reviewed papers commissioned for the workshop, and other presentation materials.
Climate Change: A Strategy for the Future
Speech by Eileen Claussen, President
Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Honors Colloquium on a Just and Sustainable Future
University of Rhode Island
September 25, 2001
I am very happy to have the opportunity to address this honors colloquium, and I want to pay tribute to the faculty, staff, and students here at the University of Rhode Island's Sustainable Communities Initiative for trying to come to terms with a very serious question-and that is, how do we create a just and sustainable future?
This, of course, is an extraordinary time, and a just and sustainable future may seem very far away as we ponder the horrific events of two weeks past. Usually, when I give a speech, I try to begin with some humor, and I do this because I think it is important that we not take ourselves, or our specific issues and interests, too seriously. But I think the events of September 11th have cast an enormous shadow over all of us-and, with it, a sadness and a seriousness of purpose that we cannot escape. And so I ask you, for the next short while at least, and for longer if you can, to be thoughtful about the issue of climate change, because it, too, requires us to be serious and reflective and determined about what we need to do to make the world a safer place.
In talking about climate change today, I want to touch first on the science - and, more specifically, on the ever-solidifying scientific consensus that this is a very serious problem that demands very serious action. I'd like to talk broadly about the challenge we face, and the ways in which many in the business community are rising to that challenge. I'll turn then to the essential role of government - both internationally and here in the United States. And, finally, I will suggest how we might forge a common path forward that is sustainable, just, and fair to all.
Our goal must be to facilitate the arrival of a second industrial revolution. And this means doing all we can to accelerate the development of new technologies that will move us closer to a low-carbon world economy.
The Science of Climate Change: A Few Observations
Let us focus first on the science of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (or IPCC) is a body created by the United Nations to reach scientific consensus about the magnitude and nature of the climate problem. In its "Third Assessment Report," approved in January of this year, the IPCC said it now expects the global average surface temperature to rise by between 2.5 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the course of the 21st century. This is a much greater increase than projected just five years ago. Even at the low end of the projection, the warming trend is expected to cause significant problems-more sea level rise, droughts and floods; increasingly violent storms; damage to our ecosystems; effects on the availability of water; and impacts on our forests and agriculture. And the higher-end projections of 10 degrees or more could prove catastrophic. Studies from the IPCC and others also confirm that greenhouse gases produced by human activities, mainly the burning of fossil fuels, are the principal cause of the continuing warming trend.
These findings were confirmed in June by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences, put together at the request of President Bush, and including some scientists who had previously expressed skepticism about the nature and pace of global climate change. The NAS report also affirms that temperatures at the Earth's surface already are rising and that the warming trend has intensified in the last 20 years.
What will be the impact of climate change here in Rhode Island? While it is hard to pinpoint impacts on a state-by-state basis, it is fair to say that Rhode Islanders-and, indeed, all New Englanders-will see temperatures rise, along with significant increases in precipitation. Fragile coastal ecosystems could be at risk as global sea levels rise, barrier reef islands are inundated, and we see an increase in the frequency and severity of storms-as scientists expect we will. Sea-level rise also could lead to flooding of low-lying property, loss of coastal wetlands, erosion of beaches, saltwater contamination of drinking water, and damage to low-lying roads, causeways, and bridges. Agricultural production will surely be affected both here and elsewhere because of warmer temperatures, less soil moisture, and other climate change-related problems. And the possibility of health problems, including increases in heat-related illnesses, cannot be discounted.
The bottom line is that if we need a reason to act on this issue, the latest science certainly provides one. The fact that there is uncertainty about exactly how much temperatures will rise or what the precise effects will be should be expected. Both the IPCC and the NAS have identified a number of critical research challenges that need to be addressed in the coming years. But, increasingly, the science tells us we would be irresponsible not to take the threat of climate change very seriously.
A Second Industrial Revolution
How, then, do we address this threat? How do we avert the many risks that the scientific community is warning us about? Quite obviously, we must reduce our emissions of the greenhouse gases that are contributing to climate change. And to do that, we must launch a new industrial revolution.
This will be a revolution characterized more than anything else by a growing reliance on low-carbon and even no-carbon energy sources to power the world's continuing economic development and growth. We must embrace the possibility of "decarbonizing" our economies. At the same time, we must also be realistic about what can be done and in what time frame. Before you start to think of me as a latter-day Pangloss, let me assure you that I am fully aware that all countries will continue to use petroleum and coal for many years to come. The challenge with respect to these traditional fuel sources will be to promote ever-increasing levels of efficiency in their transmission and use at the same time as we are working to develop and deploy cleaner energy sources for the future. Coal currently accounts for 24 percent of the United States' total primary energy supply-and a remarkable 57 percent of China's. Even if these numbers edge downward-as they are already doing with the introduction of increasing numbers of natural gas-fired power plants-the predominance of coal in the worldwide energy mix means we need to find and embrace cleaner-burning ways of using it. And we need to think seriously about sequestering coal-related carbon dioxide emissions.
But these types of steps clearly will not be enough. The bottom line is that we need new technologies to meet the energy and environmental challenges we face. To effectively address climate change, we need to lower carbon intensity (that is, the amount of carbon we emit per unit of GDP); we need to become more energy efficient, so that we use less energy to achieve the same results; we need to promote carbon sequestration, so that the carbon we do emit does not enter the atmosphere and affect the climate; and we must find ways to limit emissions of non-CO2 greenhouse gases. This will require fundamentally new technologies, as well as dramatic improvements in existing ones. New, less carbon-intensive ways of producing, distributing, and using energy will be essential. The redesign of industrial processes, consumer products, and agricultural technologies and practices will also be critical.
These changes need not take place overnight. They can be introduced over decades as we turn over our existing capital stocks and establish new infrastructure. But we must begin making the investments needed to usher in this new industrial revolution, and we must begin making those investments now.
Industry Takes the Lead
Many businesses, in fact, already are taking important steps to address climate change. About half of the 36 companies that are part of the Pew Center's Business Environmental Leadership Council have set specific, quantitative targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and others are working toward establishing these objectives. Consider DuPont, a corporation that is well on its way to achieving its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent before 2010, relative to 1990 levels. Or Baxter International, which is committed to improving its energy efficiency by 30 percent below 1996 levels by 2005. Or IBM, which has committed to having 90 to 100 percent of its new model computers meet Energy Star criteria for energy efficiency.
Other companies, too, are making process and efficiency improvements that are yielding real reductions in emissions. The energy company Enron, for example, reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by controlling leaks in its natural gas pipelines. And TransAlta Corporation improved its energy efficiency by about 4 percent when it upgraded old, less efficient turbines and other systems.
In addition to these types of steps, some companies are investing in dramatic changes to their production processes. Alcoa, for example, is developing a new technology for smelting aluminum that, if successful, will allow the company to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to half their 1990 levels over the next nine years. Similarly, Shell aims to achieve its greenhouse gas reduction target by revamping its disposal of the waste gases resulting from oil and gas production, even as it puts increasing emphasis on renewable energy sources.
The States are Moving
We are also beginning to see real movement on this issue from a number of states. On August 28th of this year, the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian premiers approved a comprehensive Climate Change Action Plan at their annual meeting. This plan includes goals of returning the levels of greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2010, reducing them to 10% below that level by 2020, and putting in place a process to review, adjust and add new goals.
The state of New Jersey is hoping to reduce its levels of greenhouse gases by 3.5% from 1990 levels by 2005. The state of Oregon has put in place carbon dioxide standards for new power plants. The state of Massachusetts is regulating its highest emitting power plants, and expects to see significant reductions in emissions by 2008. And many others are experimenting and beginning to implement different approaches to addressing the climate change issue.
The Role of Federal Government Action
All of these are important developments-and they show how increasing numbers of leading companies and states see a clear interest both in reducing their emissions and in helping to shape the energy economy of the future. But voluntary actions undertaken on a largely random basis by some members of the business community or by a small handful of states are not enough. In the United States, we have had voluntary efforts in place for much of the past decade, and still we have seen a dramatic rise in emissions - almost 12 percent over 1990 levels.
In the end, there is little incentive for any company or state to undertake real action unless, ultimately, all do-and unless all are in some manner held accountable. Markets, of course, will be instrumental in mobilizing the necessary resources and know-how. Market-based strategies such as emissions trading will also help deliver emissions reductions at the lowest possible cost. But markets can move us in the right direction only if they are given the right signals. It is our national government's job to send the right signals.
Government can and must play a critical role in establishing the ground rules for the energy economy of the future. Because this is a global problem that must eventually be solved globally, it means sending global signals and establishing mandatory global frameworks for action, because each country must be assured that others will act too. And it means, in turn, the adoption of mandatory programs on a country-by-country basis. What truly matters, of course, is what individual countries and individual businesses do to reduce their individual contributions to this problem. And there is no substitute for actually requiring countries and businesses to reduce emissions, because it is in the process of trying to meet clear objectives that innovation will flourish.
The Significance of the "Kyoto Compromise"
Is government rising to the challenge? Looking first to the international arena, we see that the world community-minus one very important player-has at long last agreed on a set of first steps to address climate change.
As all of you know, over the summer in Bonn, Germany, 178 nations reached a tentative compromise on the rules that will allow the Kyoto Protocol to enter into force. The Kyoto Protocol, of course is the agreement first negotiated in 1997 that requires developed countries to reduce or limit their emissions of greenhouse in relation to 1990 levels, with different countries agreeing to different targets.
In addition to establishing targets, the Kyoto Protocol outlines how countries can achieve them-for example, by making emission reductions at home, by trading emission credits with others, and by using "sinks" such as farms and forests to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Although many of the details on how these mechanisms will work still need to be decided, the compromise reached in Bonn will likely provide countries with a high degree of flexibility in how they use these various strategies. And this, I believe, is a very important and positive development, because it will permit countries and businesses to meet their objectives in the most cost-effective ways.
But the Kyoto Protocol is just a first step on what will be a long march to a less carbon-intensive world. Its initial targets for emission reductions take us only to the 2008-2012 period, and they represent just a very small down payment on the level of reductions that scientists say we must achieve in order to have a real effect on mitigating climate change.
It is also important to note that the ultimate impact of the Kyoto Protocol will be severely limited by the United States government's decision not to be a party to the agreement. The Bush Administration has said repeatedly that it believes Kyoto is fatally flawed and not acceptable to the United States. Granted, the Protocol does have its problems-it is, after all, an agreement of approximately 180 countries with differing aspirations, differing economies, and differing views of the environment. But I believe that the other nations of the world, in agreeing to a compromise solution in Bonn, decided to send a message to the United States that an imperfect agreement is better than none-and that we cannot wait any longer to begin working together to solve the most important environmental issue facing the world today.
The Kyoto compromise very clearly does not amount to a solution to the problem of climate change. Rather, it is a first, strong statement of purpose and will to deal with this problem. And, therefore, it is an essential and historic step.
Launching Domestic Efforts in the U.S.
And what of the United States? Interestingly, in the same way that the Bush Administration's rejection of Kyoto seems to have galvanized international support for the Protocol, it appears to have generated new momentum on Capitol Hill to finally begin tackling the challenge of climate change. It is too early to know how the tragic events of September 11 will affect this and so many other vital issues in the months ahead. But prior to those events, there were strong indications that Congress was more prepared than ever to begin building the programs needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions here in the United States.
It is important to note that this new support comes from both sides of the aisle. Perhaps the biggest sign of a "changing climate" in Congress is legislation introduced by Senator Robert Byrd of coal-producing West Virginia and Senator Ted Stevens of oil-producing Alaska. In addition to providing money for technology research, the Senators' bill would require the President to develop a climate change strategy aimed at stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman - another bipartisan team - are going even further. They have announced that they plan to introduce major legislation to require greenhouse gas reductions throughout the economy under an emissions trading system - a proven way to cut emissions cost-effectively, and one that we strongly support.
What are some of the other key elements of a serious domestic program? We need, first and foremost, an energy policy that is climate-friendly. We need policies to deal with energy-using products, such as automobiles and appliances, so that they use fuel more efficiently and are compatible with different, non-fossil fuels. And we need a technology policy that will speed our development and diffusion of new technologies.
None of this will happen overnight. But there is good reason to believe that as we approach the mid-term congressional elections next year, and the presidential election in 2004, the prospects will grow only stronger. And as the United States begins to demonstrate real effort to curb its own emissions, it can credibly reenter the international dialogue and work more closely with other nations to chart a common path forward.
Which leads me to the "strategy for the future" that is mentioned in the title of my remarks. The strategy, in my view, is to insure that the Kyoto Protocol stays on the road to ratification and entry into force, while the United States begins to pursue good-faith domestic efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. To the extent that U.S. efforts are compatible with the Kyoto framework-and I hope they will be compatible-then the world can still hold out hope that the two roads will eventually merge, yielding a truly global plan of action.
Resolving the Equity Issue
Achieving that global strategy, however, will mean coming to terms with an issue that has loomed over the climate debate from the start, but has yet to be faced head-on - and that is the issue of fairness. For as the title of your colloquium, "A Just and Sustainable Future," rightly suggests, this is not about sustainability alone, but justice as well. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a future that is truly sustainable unless it is also fair and just.
From Rio in 1992 through Kyoto in 1997 and up to the most recent round of negotiations in Bonn, the international climate talks have proceeded on the basis of a common understanding: developed countries must act first. This bargain of sorts - which obligates one group of countries to act with the understanding that the other group will follow - acknowledges the fundamental inequities presented by climate change. It is an undeniable fact that developed countries account for the vast majority of the greenhouse gases put in the atmosphere over the past century, and that their per capita emissions are many times those of developing countries. (The United States, for example, contributed nearly a third of worldwide emissions last century and continues to produce roughly a quarter of global emissions with only 4 percent of the world's population.)
But historic responsibility for climate change is just one piece of the equity equation. It is also undeniable that those least responsible, the developing countries, face a disproportionate share of the impacts of global warming - from flooding to disease to famine - while having fewer resources with which to cope.
So while many in the United States, including President Bush, fault Kyoto for letting developing countries off the hook, I believe it is only fair that the developed countries act first. But I also believe that, in time, the developing countries must act too. Indeed, the emission reduction efforts finally getting underway in the industrial world will be pointless unless developing countries agree in some way to restrain the rapid rise in their own emissions.
It is important to recognize the steps already being taken by developing countries. Measures such as market reforms and energy efficiency improvements, while more often motivated by concerns other than climate change, are, in fact, resulting in significant emissions savings. China, for example, cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 10 percent over the last five years. But far more effort is needed. In a series of reports looking at electric power in developing countries, the Pew Center found that emissions from that sector alone will triple by 2020 under a business-as-usual scenario. However, we also found that efficiency improvements and the introduction of low-emission technologies could cut this increase in half while maintaining economic growth. Once again, technology is absolutely critical.
Arriving at a truly global strategy, then, will require a fundamental rethinking of the approach taken so far. The straightforward targets set by Kyoto - cutting each country's emissions by an agreed percentage - will hopefully succeed in starting industrialized countries on the right path. But a framework that encompasses both developed and developing countries, and fairly apportions responsibility among them, will have to be more sophisticated. It will have to accommodate the legitimate desire of developing countries to raise their living standards. It will have to recognize that different countries face very different challenges - for developed countries, the challenge is converting from the existing energy infrastructure to a clean one, while for developing countries, it is much more a matter of building the infrastructure right in the first place. An effective global strategy also will have to mobilize the flow of technology, know-how and resources from wealthier nations so that poorer countries are in a position to keep up their end of the bargain. In that sense, our challenge is to ensure not only that the new industrial revolution is launched, but also that its fruits are shared quickly and fairly.
These are my thoughts on where we stand in our effort to spare future generations the grave risks of an overheated planet. Enormous challenges lie ahead. But there are promising signs, both internationally and here in the United States, that we are at last mustering the will to begin confronting them. We must seize on that momentum, and keep moving forward. Thank you.
July 2001 | Download the PDF
- Tracking and Reporting Greenhouse Gas Emissions
- Promoting Clean Technologies and Practices
- Securing Emissions Reductions
The United States is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs), accounting for roughly 25 percent of global emissions. No strategy to address global climate change can ultimately succeed without substantial and permanent reductions in U.S. emissions. Voluntary efforts in a number of sectors over the past several years have failed to curb the overall growth in U.S. GHG emissions. A number of policy options are available to secure additional emissions reductions. However, to be effective and affordable, a long-term emissions reduction program must couple mandatory GHG reductions with technology development and market mechanisms.
To date, efforts to reduce U.S. GHG emissions have been limited almost exclusively to voluntary activities at the federal, state, local, and corporate level. Many of these efforts were spurred by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which set a non-binding target of reducing emissions from industrialized countries to 1990 levels by 2000. Though some voluntary efforts have resulted in significant emissions reductions – some companies, for instance, have cut emissions 10 percent or more – in the aggregate, they have not succeeded in curbing the overall growth in U.S. emissions.1 While technology has improved the energy intensity of products and processes over the last 50 years, this greater efficiency has been outpaced by increased demand driven by economic expansion, population growth, and changing consumer preferences. U.S. emissions rose roughly 12 percent over the past decade, and are projected to continue rising for the foreseeable future.2
Source: U.S. EPA. Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-1999. 2010 projections for CO2 are from: U.S. DOE. Annual Energy Outlook 2000. 2010 projections for non-COs gases are from: U.S. EPA. Annual Energy Review (2000).
(See Figure 1.) Voluntary programs can make an important contribution to a domestic climate change program, and can provide valuable experience for designing future efforts, but they cannot stimulate the broad engagement that will be necessary to achieve the level of emissions reductions that will ultimately be required.
Climate change is a long-term challenge that will require sustained global action and investment over many decades. Ideally, a national strategy would be guided by a specific long-term emissions goal. It would also couple short- and long-term measures – and both supply and demand elements – to signal markets to begin the transition toward that ultimate objective. More specifically, short-term measures are needed to improve energy efficiency and encourage the use of lower-carbon fuels; long-term measures are needed to encourage sustained investment in development of the technology and infrastructure needed to facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy. Further, because energy consumption is an important component of GHG emissions, any domestic energy policy program must be geared toward long-term GHG emissions reductions. (See Figure 2 for chart of emissions by sector in carbon dioxide equivalents [CO2E].)
A domestic strategy ultimately must reflect any international commitments by the United States. However, its design and implementation should proceed now even if the United States is not yet prepared to enter into an international agreement. As domestic and international programs evolve, close coordination between them is critical. This is especially important for companies that operate and compete both domestically and abroad, and for U.S.-based companies that sell products abroad, as they will be subject to rules dealing with climate change in other countries. In addition, coordination is necessary to maximize the effectiveness of emissions trading and other flexibility mechanisms now being developed at the international level.
The cost of meeting a given emissions target can vary by orders of magnitude depending on the approach taken. In general, the most cost-effective approaches allow emitters flexibility in deciding how to meet a target or performance level; provide early direction so targets can be anticipated and factored into major capital and investment decisions; and employ market-based mechanisms such as emissions trading to achieve reductions where they cost the least. To ease the transition and enlist the broadest possible participation, early targets should be realistic and achievable without stranding major capital investments or imposing undue economic hardships. These could be followed over time by more stringent constraints that allow for the turnover of existing capital stock and the development of new breakthrough technologies and innovative measures for reducing GHG emissions. This paper outlines possible elements of a comprehensive domestic strategy that couples short- and long-term measures. The proposed elements – some voluntary, others mandatory – aim to:
- improve the tracking and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions;
- promote new technologies and practices; and,
- provide a foundation upon which to secure long-term emissions reductions.
Source: U.S. EPA. Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-1999.
Note: Emissions from electricity produced by industries but sold to the grid is included in the "Industrial" category. Emissions due to other industrial activities as well as residential and commercial use of electricity are included under "Electric Utilities." Excludes emissions from U.S. territories.
While each of these objectives can be pursued in a number of different ways (several options for securing emissions reductions are proposed), an effective strategy must address all three.
No effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can succeed without the accurate measuring and tracking of emissions. Improved tracking and reporting of emissions reductions could provide the basis for government assurances that companies will not be penalized for their early reductions under a future climate policy. Public disclosure of emissions data can also serve as a powerful incentive for reductions.
A first step is establishment of a registration program to more accurately and reliably measure, report, and track GHG emissions. This could be done through legislation that builds on current efforts such as the Department of Energy’s 1605(b) program. The current program has limited value because its reporting standards lack rigor, there are no verification requirements, and many companies choose not to report. In an improved registry program, a company would establish a baseline consisting of current aggregate emissions from all major GHG sources under its control in the United States. Gross emissions on an annual basis could be compared to this established baseline. In addition to accounting for emissions from a company’s core operations, an improved registry should over time develop the means to measure, report, and track GHG emissions resulting from: the use of products manufactured by that company; offsets achieved through sequestration projects designed to store carbon in forests, soils, oceans, or underground; and offsets achieved through increased energy efficiency.
A reliable registry would make it possible to provide “baseline protection” for companies taking action now to reduce their emissions. These entities could be assured that – in the event of future controls involving the allocation of emissions allowances or requiring emissions reductions – they would not be penalized for reductions already achieved voluntarily. The improved registry program could also provide a mechanism to recognize the emissions reductions resulting from companies manufacturing more efficient or carbon-saving products. Finally, it could ensure that GHG reductions and sequestration offsets are of sufficient integrity that they can be traded and sustain their value in future years. This registry would include reductions and offsets achieved outside of the United States, in both developed and developing countries. In this manner, both gross and net (reductions and offsets) emissions would be recorded.
An additional step would be to require public disclosure of GHG emissions data for all facilities or companies whose emissions exceed a given threshold. At present, only electric generating sources must report their CO2 emissions and, although publicly available, emissions data are not tabulated and disclosed in a manner that encourages companies to reduce their emissions voluntarily. To address these shortcomings, a mandatory GHG reporting program should apply to all major source categories of GHG emissions and require public disclosure as is now required under the federal Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program. Disclosure reports would be subject to verification and reporting entities would face enforcement action if emissions were misrepresented. As with the TRI program, reported data would be aggregated and made available on facility-specific, company-wide, and source-category bases. Under the TRI program, such disclosures have encouraged companies to assess potential mitigation opportunities and reduce emissions voluntarily, and the same is likely with a GHG reporting program. Gross emissions from an entity’s U.S. sources as well as net emissions (after considering sequestration activities and trading) would be reported to encourage comprehensive mitigation strategies.
A mandatory GHG reporting obligation (and an improved registry) could be linked to a voluntary program for mitigating GHG emissions. Such linkage would likely increase the effectiveness of each initiative, judging by the success of the voluntary pollution prevention programs that were coordinated with mandatory TRI reporting.3 Following the model used in EPA’s 33/50 (Industrial Toxics) Project, the voluntary program could establish clear performance targets to be achieved by each sector within specified time frames. Although voluntary, participation in the program could be limited to only those companies willing to make corporate-wide commitments to achieve minimum reduction levels from their core business operations or prescribed performance levels for products sold in the United States. Setting minimum standards would likely increase the pressure for companies to step forward with voluntary commitments achieving substantial emissions reductions. The minimum standard approach could also be combined with a graduated scale of incentives for those who make voluntary commitments, rewarding those who exceed their emissions goals with greater financial or other incentives like tax credits.
Finally, improved registries coupled with reporting requirements would also serve as an important foundation for mandatory approaches to reducing GHGs.
The ultimate success of a climate change strategy will hinge on the timely development and deployment of technologies that over time can substantially reduce the carbon intensity of the overall U.S. economy – including industry, the transportation sector, and residential/commercial activity. (See Figure 3 for historic energy use of these sectors.) In the short term, improved technologies can significantly enhance energy efficiency, provide opportunities to store – or sequester – carbon, and expand use of lower-carbon fuels (such as natural gas). In the long term, new technologies will be needed to develop non-fossil energy sources such as biofuels, wind, hydrogen, and solar, and provide opportunities for more permanent forms of sequestration.
Source: U.S. DOE. Energy in the United States: A Brief History and Current Trends (1999).
A successful technology strategy demands sustained, coordinated investments at a very high level from all stakeholders. A variety of incentives and direct investment tools can be used to promote technological innovation, from basic research to deployment:
- Targeted tax credits or low-interest loans can encourage the development and adoption of energy-efficient technologies (such as combined heat and power, and state-of-the-art lighting); clean fuel technologies (including advanced fossil fuel technology, hydrogen, fuel cells, and biofuels); and carbon storage in forests and agricultural soils, using innovative management techniques.
- Investment in basic research may be especially critical in inventing breakthrough technologies that will facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy.
- Public-private partnerships, such as Industries for the Future and the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, can team government and corporate researchers to accelerate technology gains.
- Basic research and tax credits could accelerate the development and diffusion of climate-friendly alternatives to non-CO2 greenhouse gases or technologies and practices that reduce their emissions.
- Investment in training to improve agricultural practices can decrease the release of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O).
- Public education through the use of required labeling and other means can help consumers reduce their contribution to climate change.
- Incentives to builders and landlords can encourage the use of energy-efficient materials and appliances in new construction and rental units.
Finally, improved product efficiency standards – coupled with incentives to exceed minimum requirements – can achieve significant emissions reductions. Under the traditional command-and-control approach, the incentive is to meet, but not exceed, a government-set standard. A combined hybrid standard/incentive approach (e.g., one that combines a minimum efficiency standard with a sliding tax or emissions credit for those who go beyond the standard) would provide incentive to exceed minimum regulatory requirements. This approach should be added to existing product standards as they come up for review and employed for new products for which standards have not yet been set.
An especially critical element of a domestic climate change program will be the design of a market-based GHG emissions management framework to ensure significant long-term reductions in emissions. Also, an effective program ultimately will entail some form of mandatory requirements. The approaches that follow include voluntary activities that could be implemented in advance of, or alongside, mandatory emissions reductions:
Enter into agreements with companies willing to make significant, enforceable commitments to achieve net GHG emissions reductions in lieu of future GHG control requirements.
Securing regulatory certainty may be a powerful incentive for those willing to undertake substantial GHG reduction commitments. By committing to take action yielding specified reductions over an established period of time, a firm could receive a commitment from the government that (as long as its contractual obligations are met) it would not be bound by subsequently developed GHG controls over the same time period. For example, if a company were to commit to significant reductions over a 20-year period (e.g., a 20 percent reduction achieved either through steady declines of 1 percent per year or through a major capital investment at some point during this timeframe), the company could avoid additional mandatory GHG control obligations during the same 20-year period.4 This approach would allow companies to move forward with substantial capital investments that will secure significant emissions reductions.
Under this approach, reductions below company baseline levels (e.g., 1990 GHG emissions) could be achieved through meeting either rate-based or specified net targets. These commitments would provide baseline protection, and shelter firms from additional requirements developed during the term, in exchange for legally binding agreements containing measurement, verification, and reporting requirements. Such an approach would require enabling legislation authorizing the Executive Branch to enter into these agreements. This legislation should include provisions for public notice and comment. Companies also could be allowed to enter into similar agreements with respect to their services or products manufactured and sold in the United States.5
|Ultimately, the ability of the United States to achieve significant long-term GHG reductions depends on our success in the design and implementation of a mandatory program to reduce emissions.|
Additional features could include allowing program participants to trade emissions credits and allowing credit for reductions achieved through sequestration and offsets. In other words, companies that reduce their emissions beyond the levels specified in the agreement would be able to trade these additional emissions reductions with firms that were unable to meet their reduction targets under a future regulatory program. Similarly, credit for real, quantifiable, and verifiable sequestration activities could be granted towards the obligations and, when in excess of specified targets, could be sold in an emissions trading market.
Set voluntary emissions reduction targets for major industry sectors with a trigger mechanism for imposing mandatory requirements if a sector falls short of its targets.
A second approach would establish initial rate-based or specified reduction targets for major industry sectors, but impose stricter controls for sectors that do not meet their initial targets. The program, for example, could call for a sector to stabilize its emissions at year 2000 levels over the 2005-to-2010 period, while providing federal authority to impose stricter mandatory control requirements by a later date if the sector as a whole fails to achieve its reduction target. Similar performance targets could be set for products, such as automobiles and appliances. Companies would receive shelter from the stricter requirements so long as they achieve their proportionate share of the reduction target.
One advantage of this approach is that it would promote immediate action towards the reduction target, even while the details of the mandatory control program are being developed. Another advantage is that it would enable companies to coordinate their emissions control strategies for conventional air pollutants with their carbon dioxide reductions. This would be especially important for those sectors whose near-term control obligations for conventional air pollutants (involving major capital investments) may conflict with a long-term GHG control strategy for that sector.
New legislation would be required to either establish general criteria that apply economy wide or set out design elements specific to individual sectors. In the latter case, for example, the legislation could specify for the power generation sector: (a) the initial and “backstop” reduction levels, (b) the reduction timeframes, (c) allocation of emissions allowances through a generation performance standard, (d) the ability of participants to trade emissions credits, and (e) the flexibility to “bank” allowances for future use.
In addition, if a sector that makes products fails to meet its target, those companies not doing a proportionate share could have tighter efficiency standards imposed.
Allow an opt-in for coverage of carbon dioxide emissions in conjunction with air regulatory programs.
Many companies – particularly utilities – are interested in addressing their CO2 emissions in conjunction with new reduction obligations likely to be enacted for other pollutants. Many studies have documented substantial environmental and economic benefits of harmonizing the timing and reduction levels of multiple air pollutants.6 An “opt-in” approach would permit these companies to consider reduction obligations and goals comprehensively, thereby minimizing the chance of stranding pollution control investments aimed at conventional pollutants without regard for CO2. By providing an opt-in strategy, overall emissions (including GHGs) could be considered simultaneously – avoiding the now-common scenario that control strategies devised for reductions in traditional pollutants have little or no beneficial impact on GHG emissions. (Post-combustion controls aimed at reducing conventional pollutants, in fact, often increase GHG emissions. In contrast, all GHG reduction strategies that reduce fuel consumption – the largest GHG emissions source – also reduce conventional air pollutants.) Harmonizing time frames for achieving reductions could avoid piecemeal and uncoordinated implementation of conventional and GHG emissions.
At the same time, streamlining the existing New Source Review (NSR) program for changes in facilities could enable power plants, refineries, and other major stationary sources to improve their production efficiencies more easily. Such efficiency improvements directly translate into lower CO2 emissions. Companies participating in this “opt-in” could be allowed to implement environmentally beneficial projects without triggering the NSR requirements.
Design and implement an economy-wide domestic emissions program to meet a mandated cap.
Ultimately, the ability of the United States to achieve significant long-term GHG reductions depends on our success in the design and implementation of a mandatory program to reduce emissions. Since such a program will take time to design and administer, the near-term approaches discussed above should be developed in such a way that they are consistent with important design elements of a future mandatory program. The most cost-effective method of obtaining such reductions is likely to come in the form of a domestic emissions trading program that could be integrated with an international trading regime.
Elements of an effective domestic trading program could include:
- allocation of permits to existing and new sources based on historic emissions, output levels, auction, or – preferably – some combination thereof;
- creation of an independent authority to oversee the GHG registry and trading activity;
- providing for a declining cap in permitted GHG levels over time;
- including credit for other GHG emissions on a CO2-equivalent basis;
- establishing a multi-year compliance period for meeting any GHG emissions reduction obligation; and,
- recycling revenues from auctioned permits to reduce other tax burdens, increase R&D, and provide transition assistance to affected workers and communities.
Ideally, a domestic program should be compatible with trading programs in other countries to allow credit for reductions undertaken abroad. Also, with improved confidence in measuring and monitoring sequestration-related activities (both domestically and abroad), credit for carbon storage should be included.
To address global climate change effectively, the United States must actively pursue real reductions in GHG emissions at home and abroad. The steps outlined here chart a course for a sound, credible, and cost-effective domestic program. Starting now on a path to reduce these emissions is necessary both to meet the environmental objective of moderating human interference with the climate system and to avoid the need for more costly measures in the future.
1 A significant investment has been made in a variety of federal programs to encourage voluntary reductions. Such programs include: the U.S. DOE’s Climate Challenge Program for electric utilities; and U.S. EPA programs such as Climate Wise, the Landfill Methane Outreach Program, the Coalbed Methane Outreach Program, Energy Star, and the Green Lights Program, as well as the U.S. Initiative on Joint Implementation. In addition, DOE’s Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Program required by Section 1605(b) of the Energy Policy Act of 1992 records the results of voluntary measures to reduce, avoid, or sequester carbon. During 1999, a total of 201 U.S. companies and other organizations reported on 1,715 projects that achieved reductions and sequestration equivalent to 226 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, or about 3.4 percent of total 1999 greenhouse gas emissions. (Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases, 1999, DOE/EIA – 0608(99), February 2001.)
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2 In the United States, the transportation, industry, and combined residential/commercial sectors are each responsible for roughly one third of overall emissions.
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3 EPA enjoyed considerable success in encouraging substantial voluntary reductions of 17 toxic chemicals by linking the TRI reporting program with a voluntary pollution prevention program. Entitled the 33/50 (Industrial Toxics) Project, this entirely voluntary program established an interim goal of a 33 percent reduction by 1992 and an ultimate goal of a 50 percent reduction by 1995 in aggregate emissions of 17 high-priority toxic chemicals. Individual companies entered into voluntary, non-binding commitments to achieve specific reductions on a company or facility basis. In addition to achieving the ultimate goal in 1994 (one year ahead of schedule), the 33/50 Program enhanced the effectiveness of the TRI reporting program. Most importantly, participating facilities reported substantially more reductions of the 33/50 targeted chemicals than of other TRI chemicals.
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4 Similar relief has been provided for voluntary early reductions in other regulatory contexts. For example, section 112(i)(5) of the Clean Air Act provides a 6-year compliance extension from air toxic control standards set under section 112(d) for achieving early reductions of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). The 6-year extension applies to those facilities achieving a 90 percent reduction in listed HAPs (95 percent reduction in the case of HAP particulates) before the proposal of the applicable HAP emissions standard(s). The reduction obligation must be federally enforceable and incorporated into the facility’s permit issued under Title V of the Clean Air Act.
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5 In such cases, companies would make binding commitments to improve the performance of their products sold by specified amounts over the term of the agreement. Auto manufacturers, for example, could agree to meet declining GHG emissions budgets reflecting improvements in fuel efficiency of vehicle fleets sold for each model year during the agreement. Appliance manufacturers could commit to improving efficiency of their products by set amounts over a fixed period of time.
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6 See, for example, STAPPA/ALAPCO, Reducing Greenhouse Gases and Air Pollution: A Menu of Harmonized Options (October 1999); and EIA, Analysis of Strategies for Reducing Multiple Emissions from Power Plants: Sulfur Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxides, and Carbon Dioxide (December 2000).
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The Climate Challenge Begins at Home
By Eileen Claussen and Elliot Diringer
The Washington Post
August 19, 2001
Now that the rest of the world has resolved to move ahead with the Kyoto global warming treaty, pressure is mounting on the Bush administration to get back in the game.
The administration, surprised that other nations struck agreement last month in Bonn despite U.S. rejection of the treaty, does not yet know how it intends to approach the next round of talks this fall in Marrakech. The advice from Capitol Hill, however, has been clear and remarkably bipartisan. Voting 19-0, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has urged the administration to return to the negotiating table and to bring with it a new proposal for a retooled Kyoto accord or some other "binding" climate treaty.
In the long run, certainly, no strategy against climate change can succeed unless it secures binding commitments from all countries that are major emitters of greenhouse gases -- a roster, as we all know, led by the United States. But pushing the administration to offer up its vision of a Kyoto alternative is probably not the way to get there. While that may have made sense before the July meeting in Bonn, it is too late now to devise a quick diplomatic fix. Instead, the administration should focus its efforts on the more immediate challenge: launching a national strategy to rein in America's soaring greenhouse gas emissions.
Right now it is more critical that we take concrete steps at home to curb emissions than figure out how to reengage the United States in the broader international effort. The sooner we succeed at the former, in fact, the easier it will be to achieve the latter.
As it happens, prospects are suddenly better than ever for getting legislation through Congress to at least begin laying the foundation for genuine emissions reduction. Bush's rejection of the Kyoto pact not only galvanized international support for the treaty; it sparked a new dynamic on the Hill, where both parties now seem eager to show they're serious about global warming.
Democrat Robert Byrd, of coal-producing West Virginia, and Republican Ted Stevens, of oil-producing Alaska, won quick committee passage for a bill that boosts funding for technology research and gives the administration one year to develop a strategy to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. That, incidentally, is the far-reaching goal of the 1992 Rio climate treaty signed by the first President Bush and ratified by the Senate.
Meanwhile, Dianne Feinstein and Olympia Snowe are leading a bipartisan drive in the Senate to improve the fuel efficiency of SUVs; and Jim Jeffords is using his new perch as chairman of the Senate environment committee to move legislation that would cut carbon emissions from power plants.
Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman have just teamed up behind an even more ambitious proposal, called "cap-and-trade." Their idea is to set a nationwide cap on emissions and, by letting companies buy and sell emissions credits, allow the market to find the most cost-effective ways to meet it.
"Cap-and-trade" may well be the best way to go. It meets two key tests of an effective, affordable strategy: It sets a binding target, or series of targets, that signals markets to invest in cleaner, more efficient technologies; and it gives companies the flexibility and incentive to cut emissions at the lowest possible cost.
Constructing a workable economy-wide system cannot be done overnight, which is why it is important to start now. McCain and Lieberman say they will meet soon with industry leaders to hear their views on what can be achieved and when, an important first step in designing a system that works for both the environment and the economy.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of immediate steps we can take. For starters, we should require all major emitters to accurately track and disclose their annual greenhouse gas releases. We should create tax credits for new technology development and diffusion, and negotiate arrangements with industry to reduce emissions before mandatory targets are set. And we must ensure that future regulation does not penalize companies that take the lead by acting now.
Achieving the long-term emission cuts needed to avert climate disaster is a monumental undertaking. Our challenge, ultimately, is to wean the global economy from fossil fuels through a second industrial revolution that delivers cleaner alternatives. Fostering better technology is the key, and, given the right signals, the marketplace will do just that. It is government's job to send the right signals.
That has yet to happen here in the United States. American leadership on climate change has been continually undermined by our failure to get our own house in order. Having now abandoned the Kyoto treaty, the United States can return credibly to the negotiating table only when it has shown it is serious about cutting emissions.
We must chart a path that in time will make the United States a full partner in the international effort against climate change. That path begins at home.
Eileen Claussen is president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Elliot Diringer is the center's director of international strategies.
© 2001 The Washington Post Company
Foes of Global Warming Could Thank George Bush
By Elliot Diringer, director of international strategies at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
San Francisco Chronicle
August 5, 2001
Suddenly, things are looking up in the fight against global warming.
While the United States may want nothing to do with the Kyoto Protocol, the rest of the world just struck a difficult deal proving that the treaty is still very much alive.
On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, prospects are better than ever for starting to rein in America's greenhouse gas emissions - with Kyoto or without. The latest and most sweeping proposal came Friday from an interesting duo, Democrat Joe Lieberman and Republican John McCain.
It's a surprising but welcome turn of events, and oddly enough, we may have George W. Bush to thank.
A few months back, when the president abandoned his campaign pledge to cut power plant emissions - and then ditched Kyoto, too - it appeared we were quickly losing what little ground we'd gained. But if the goal was killing Kyoto and any other effort to curb U.S. emissions, the effect so far has been quite the opposite.
On the diplomatic front, U.S. rejection of a treaty 10 years in the making has only stiffened the resolve of other nations to push ahead. Rather than acquiesce in Washington's unilateral declaration that "Kyoto is dead," 178 countries meeting in Bonn last month made the hard compromises that eluded them eight months earlier in The Hague, setting the stage to bring the treaty into force as early as next year.
Ironically, the Bonn deal is one that, in most major respects, almost certainly would have satisfied U.S. negotiators last year in The Hague. In other words, with the United States now counting itself out, other nations were willing to make the concessions that conceivably might have kept it on board.
In the long run, no international strategy to stem global warming can succeed without the United States, the world's largest climate polluter. Having declared so early, so often, and so emphatically that Kyoto is beyond repair, the Bush White House is not about to reconsider. Nor is it likely to offer up an alternative that will be seen as credible by other nations.
But that may be just fine. There's time enough to get the U.S. to join Kyoto or a successor agreement. What's more critical right now is launching serious efforts at home to achieve real reductions in U.S. emissions. And here, too, the president is inadvertently lending a helping hand.
In Congress, Bush's stark stance has given Democrats one more thing to rally against, and given moderate Republicans fresh cause to prove their environmental credentials. The result: a sudden bipartisan clamor to demonstrate to voters that not everyone in Washington is oblivious to the threat of global warming.
- The House approved a modest increase in fuel-economy standards for SUVs and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-San Francisco, launched a drive for a much bigger increase.
- The Senate began to weigh a bipartisan bill that commits significant new money to climate research and directs the administration to map a comprehensive global warming strategy.
- The Senate Foreign Relations committee unanimously approved a resolution calling on the administration to get back to negotiating a binding climate treaty.
A nd Sen. James Jeffords, the ex-Republican from Vermont, in his first order of business as new chair of the Senate Environment Committee, opened hearings on legislation to curb carbon dioxide from power plants - the idea Bush embraced as candidate and abandoned as president.
Now, Lieberman and McCain have teamed up to call for a "cap-and-trade" system that would tap market forces to cut emissions by setting an economy- wide cap and letting companies buy and sell emissions credits.
They said they would meet with industry leaders in coming weeks to begin crafting a bill.
None of this suggests that we are on the verge of meeting the greatest environmental challenge of our time. Confronting climate change demands sustained effort over decades to gradually wean industrialized nations from fossil fuels, and to keep the booming developing world from becoming ever more dependent. It calls for, in essence, the largest experiment in directed change ever undertaken.
Kyoto, even once up and running, would be only a modest start. It promises just a fraction of the reduction in greenhouse gases that ultimately is needed to avert climatic disaster, and offers no real strategy to bring developing countries on board.
But it gets the rest of the world on the right path. And if the United States can start putting its own house in order, it should be possible to merge the parallel efforts in due time.
That may not be the scenario Bush had in mind. But if we can pull it off, he'll deserve much of the credit just the same.
Former Chronicle reporter Elliot Diringer, an environmental adviser and deputy press secretary in the Clinton White House, is now director of international strategies at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
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