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Transportation in Developing Countries: An Overview of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategies

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Transportation in Developing Countries: An Overview of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategies

Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
May 2002

Daniel Sperling and Deborah Salon,
University of California, Davis

Press Release

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Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

This report focuses on transportation in developing countries, where economic and social development not climate change mitigation are the top priorities. Yet decisions on infrastructure, vehicle and fuel technologies, and transportation mode mix are being made now that will significantly affect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for decades. The key is to identify strategies that address high-priority local issues while also reducing GHGs. There are many such options but no one-size-fits-all approach. Thus building the capacity of local institutions is especially critical.

Vehicle ownership rates in developing nations are low compared to wealthy ones, but lead to far worse traffic congestion and air pollution. Motorization is skyrocketing and populations increasing, stretching limited infrastructure and institutional capacity. Despite these challenges, there are many opportunities for improvement. Some have worked in the past; others could leapfrog over some of the costly and environmentally damaging paths taken by developed countries.

This overview is part of a five-report series on transportation in developing countries and draws on the four other reports on specific cities and countries. The case studies were researched and co-authored with experts from Chile, China, India, and South Africa, and estimated high and low projections of transportation emissions in 2020 compared to 2000. The case studies key findings include:

  • Rapid growth in transportation GHG emissions is unavoidable in most developing countries. The 2020 low emission scenarios in the four case studies showed only one decrease 12 percent in South Africa and up to a quadrupling in Shanghai, China. The high scenarios ranged from an 82 percent increase in South Africa to a sevenfold increase in Shanghai.
  • Delhi, India. Delhi demonstrates that personal mobility can be achieved at relatively low incomes but at a high economic, environmental, and social cost. With an average income of $800 per capita, Delhi has 200 motor vehicles (mostly motorbikes) per thousand people while Chile has an average income of $5,000 and only 100 motor vehicles per thousand (mostly cars). Delhis promotion of more efficient vehicle engines will go a long way in restraining emissions.
  • Shanghai, China. After years of deferred investment, Shanghai invested billions in its transportation infrastructure in the 1990s, balancing investments in roads and transit, integrating transportation and land use planning, and restraining vehicle ownership. But rapid economic growth, planned decentralization of this very dense city, and auto industry promotion will accelerate increases in motorization, energy use, and GHGs. Intelligent transportation systems and leapfrog technologies such as roads built for minicars are among Shanghai's options to restrain its emissions.
  • Chile. Chile is one of the world's most sophisticated at transferring transportation infrastructure and services provision to the private sector and could pioneer market-based approaches to transportation and environmental challenges. Examples include the sale of operating concessions, implementing vehicle fees during rush hour travel, and adjusting parking fees according to trip purpose and length of stay.
  • South Africa. South Africa has very high per capita vehicle ownership and GHG emissions for its income due to reliance on carbon-intensive synthetic fuels, protected vehicle manufacturing, subsidies for company cars, and land use patterns that are a legacy of the country's past apartheid policies.

The Clean Development Mechanism could be used to finance climate-friendly improvements such as switching to less carbon-intensive feedstock in synthetic fuel production. The Pew Center gratefully acknowledges Ralph Gakenheimer of MIT and Michael Walsh, an independent transportation expert, for their reviews of earlier drafts.

Executive Summary

Worldwide, greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster in transportation than in any other sector. Rapid motorization - more cars and trucks - is the principal cause. This report focuses on the challenges faced by developing countries in accommodating and managing motorization and the demand for improved transportation.

Enhanced mobility has many positive effects on economic development and social welfare, including more efficient movement of goods and improved access to jobs, health services, and education. However, if enhanced mobility is achieved primarily through increased reliance on conventional private cars, it can mean diverting substantial financial resources to roads and suffering worse air pollution and traffic congestion. The benefits are enormous, but the costs can also be substantial. These positives and negatives are accentuated in the developing nations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Most are experiencing rapid population growth and urbanization, and many have fast-growing economies. The number of private vehicles is increasing in almost all developing countries.

The challenges posed by motorization are unprecedented for these countries. When the more developed countries were building their transportation infrastructure, their populations were small compared to those in much of today's developing world, and the cost of motorized vehicles was relatively high. Today's megacities of the developing world are already huge and still expanding. There is little time or money to build public transportation systems or to expand roads to handle the new traffic. They are already experiencing serious congestion, economic and environmental damage, and major safety problems. Yet the problems are not uniform; each city and country faces different circumstances.

This report provides a broad characterization of transportation in developing countries, identifying common challenges and opportunities for policymakers, and suggesting policy options that aim to slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. The most important observations of this report are the following:

  • Rapid motorization - and rapid growth in transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions - are unavoidable in most developing nations. Most developing countries today have low per capita transportation emissions, largely because few people have access to personal transportation. Rapid motorization is transforming transportation and accelerating increases in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The relationship between car ownership and income is not fixed. While it is true that income is the primary force of motorization - explaining perhaps half the growth in vehicle ownership - there is much variation in vehicle ownership among cities and countries at similar income levels.
  • Once people have personal vehicles, they use them even if alternative transportation modes are available. This is because the variable cost of operating a vehicle is relatively low compared to the fixed cost of purchasing one.
  • There are many sensible policies and strategies that would slow the growth of transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions. Key strategies include increasing the relative cost of using conventional private cars and enhancing the quality and choices of alternative transportation modes.
  • Many of the strategies for slowing and eventually reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation have local as well as global benefits. Local benefits include reduced air pollution, less traffic congestion, and lower expenditures for road infrastructure.

This report explores strategic paths and alternative futures that could break the link between economic and greenhouse gas emission growth in developing countries. Successful efforts underway in some developing countries - examples of which are highlighted in some of the case study reports that contributed to this overview - demonstrate that developing countries can forge a more sustainable transportation future. Is there a single city that can be looked to as a model for others? This report suggests that the answer is no. There are cities and countries that have embraced innovative and effective strategies, but none represents a universally applicable model or pathway.

Energy use and carbon emissions around the globe are increasing faster in transportation than in any other sector, and transportation emissions are increasing fastest of all in developing countries. This report does not suggest that developing nations should adopt entirely different transportation systems than currently operate in more developed countries. There is no perfect solution or leapfrog technology at hand. The reality is that most transportation modes and technologies are already being used internationally. The fundamental desire for personal transportation, and for greater mobility at lower cost, is universal. It is neither realistic nor fair to ask those in the developing world to deprive themselves of the things they need and want, from meeting their basic transportation needs to having access to cars.

Instead, this report suggests that developing countries can choose a more sustainable growth path. They can learn from the experiences of industrialized countries in crafting integrated land use and transportation plans, encouraging more efficient forms of vehicle ownership and use, and accelerating the introduction of environmentally sensible vehicle technologies and fuels. Indeed, as a 1996 U.S. National Academy of Sciences report concluded, greater reliance on nonpolluting modes of transportation in developing-country cities, coupled with the strong integration of residential and economic activities, suggests those cities may be in a position to avoid some of the most costly mistakes of transportation investment in the industrialized countries.1

However, the economies and populations of many of these cities are growing at unprecedented rates and personal vehicles are often available to people with very low incomes. Policy and investment decisions with far-reaching implications must be made quickly, or the consequences could be catastrophic economically, environmentally, and socially. But even with the greatest sophistication and best managers, the choices are not obvious. Simply replicating the choices of other cities in most cases would be ineffective. The elements of a successful transportation strategy are likely to vary greatly depending on local circumstances and institutional strengths and weaknesses.

Without new measures, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation in the developing world will exceed those in the industrialized world sometime after 2010. While the need to limit greenhouse gas emissions may not be a driving force for developing countries in the foreseeable future, many of the strategies that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions would also address the more immediate problems of local air pollution, access to basic transportation, and infrastructure financing pressures. This report focuses on strategies and policies that not only slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, but also help achieve local priorities.  

About the Author

Dr. Daniel Sperling

Daniel Sperling is Professor of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science and Policy, founding Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS-Davis) at the University of California, Davis, and co-director of UC Davis's Fuel Cell Vehicle Center and New Mobility Center.

Dr. Sperling is Associate Editor of Transportation Research D (Environment), founding chair of the Alternative Transportation Fuels Committee (1989-96) of the U.S. Transportation Research Board, a recent member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences committees on Personal Transport in China (2000-02), and serves on other advisory committees and Boards of Directors for similar organizations. Recognized as a leading international expert on transportation technology assessment, energy and environmental aspects of transportation, and transportation policy, he consults for international automotive and energy companies, major environmental groups, and several national governments. He has testified numerous times to the U.S. Congress and various government agencies.

Dr. Sperling earned his Ph.D. in Transportation Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley (with minors in Economics and Energy Resources). During 1999-2000, he was a visiting scholar at the OECD (European Conference of Ministers of Transport). He has won numerous awards, and worked as an urban planner in the Peace Corps in Honduras.


Daniel Sperling
Deborah Salon

Linking U.S. and International Climate Change Strategies

This working paper identifies potential scenarios for the linkage of U.S. and international climate strategies; describes how emerging national and international emissions trading regimes will shape the context within which such linkages could take place; and examines issues that must be considered in the design of a U.S. climate strategy to ensure its compatibility with an international regime.

Among the key findings:

The United States could, as a legal matter, decide to recognize Kyoto permits for purposes of compliance with U.S. emission reduction targets without needing the permission of the Kyoto Protocol parties (for example, via an amendment) and even if the two systems were not fully compatible.

Sales of non-Kyoto emissions permits to the Kyoto system would require an amendment to the Protocol, which parties would be unlikely to consider unless they believed that the U.S. and Kyoto trading systems were generally compatible.

In the long term, the more compatible U.S. and international climate policies are, the easier it will be to achieve convergence both politically and legally. Conversely, given the significant inertia in political and economic systems, the further U.S. and international climate policies travel down divergent roads, the more difficult it will be to bring them back together again in the future.

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by: Daniel Bodansky, University of Washington

Daniel Bodansky

Climate Change: From Awareness To Action

Climate Change: From Awareness To Action

Keynote Address By Eileen Claussen, President
Pew Center On Global Climate Change

Environmental Horizons 2002 Conference
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

April 1, 2002

Thank you very much. It is a pleasure to be here for Environmental Horizons 2002. I'd like to commend everyone involved with the University's Environmental Council for putting together such an inspiring and informative program.

There's just one thing missing from the program - an awards ceremony. So I thought I'd begin my remarks today by handing out a few honors. Actually, I was inspired by last week's Academy Awards. I got to thinking about some of the recent developments in Washington on the issue of climate change, and wondered what kind of Oscars I would award to some of the key players. And here's what I decided.

First, I would have to say that the award for best performance in a non-supporting role goes to the U.S. Senate for refusing once again to deal head-on with the question of fuel efficiency standards for American cars and trucks. There's always a lot of tough competition in this category, but this year, the Senate won it hands down.

Next, the award for the best misdirection, and the clear winner this year is the Bush White House for its new climate policy. The Administration did its best to make the policy look meaningful and serious, but anyone who's seen the uncut version knows, unfortunately, that it is not.

Finally, I'd like to offer a special posthumous award to the Clinton administration. For talking big about climate change on the international stage but doing next to nothing about it at home, I present the Clinton White House with the award for best costumes.

In all seriousness, I'm here today to talk about the challenge of global climate change. I believe this is one of the most profound challenges of our time, and I believe it is a challenge that can be met. But it will not be met easily. Because the causes and consequences of global warming cut across every nation, every sector, and every community around the world. And an effective response to global warming requires action in every nation, every sector, and every community around the world. What is needed, in short, is a fundamental transformation in the way we power our global economy. We must, over the next several decades, make the leap from a fossil fuel-based economy to one that runs on clean energy. I'd like to talk today about how to make that happen. And I'd like to talk about the powerful forces that must be brought to bear - the force of technology, the force of the marketplace, the force of government, and finally, the force of individuals and communities around the globe.

Let me begin, though, with the force of science. With this issue, science is always the best place to start because our efforts must rely on the best science possible. So what does the science tell us? First, it tells us that 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 on record. Second, this warming trend is almost certain to accelerate. Scientists project an average global increase of two to ten degrees Fahrenheit over the next century - the largest swing in global temperature since the end of the last ice age 12,000 years ago. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the evidence strongly suggests that human activities, in particular the burning of fossil fuels, are largely to blame.

You can find scientists who will dispute these findings. But these three broad conclusions - the earth is warming, this warming trend will worsen, and human activity is largely responsible - represent the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community. They are among the key findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N. body that draws on the expertise of hundreds of climate scientists around the world. And they were confirmed by a special panel of the National Academy of Sciences asked by President Bush to review the state of climate science.

What, then, does the science tell us about the potential impact of this warming? Put another way, what kind of future are we creating for 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 here 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. In summer, higher temperatures will mean a greater risk of deadly heat waves. By 2100, for instance, the people of Chicago may be 25 times more likely to endure three straight days of 100-degree heat. Higher temperatures will also mean an increase in extreme weather-more flooding, more drought, and more severe storms. Rain and snowfall patterns will be disrupted, putting water supplies at risk. The Great Lakes are projected to drop 4 to 5 feet over the next 100 years, threatening irrigation supplies for farmers. And the lakes could be 5 degrees warmer, threatening the survival of native species like rainbow trout. Indeed, in the long run, the greatest risk may be the steady unraveling of ecosystems, the support systems for all life on earth.

There are, of course, uncertainties in the science, particularly when it comes to projecting the magnitude and timing of the kinds of impacts I've just described. But these uncertainties cut both ways. Yes, it's possible that the impacts of global warming won't be as bad as we now project. But it's just as likely they will be worse. For instance, most of our computer modeling assumes a linear relationship between rising temperatures and impacts: as the planet warms, the impacts grow worse, proportionately. But many scientists worry about the potential for a non-linear, or catastrophic, event. Last week, scientists reported the sudden breakup of an Antarctic ice shelf the size of Rhode Island. That same kind of event on a much larger scale - for instance, the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet - could trigger a catastrophic rise in sea level well beyond what is ordinarily predicted. So, for me, uncertainty in the science is hardly a reason to delay action. Quite the contrary - it's a reason to act now.

What kind of action must we take? For the moment, let's stick with the science. The earth is warming because we are adding carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Right now, there is about 40 percent more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than there was at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. If we continue with business as usual, CO2 levels will be twice the pre-industrial level by the middle of this century. This doubling of CO2 concentrations is the scenario most scientists have relied on in projecting the likely impacts of global warming. But what is now becoming clear is that it will be extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to stabilize concentrations at this level anytime within this century. Indeed, it now seems likely that by 2100 greenhouse gas concentrations will be approaching three times the pre-industrial levels. And that suggests that we may well face consequences more severe than those already projected.

Our goal, ultimately, must be to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at levels that are reasonably safe. There is no consensus at the moment on what those levels might be. And this is not a question science can answer for us. The level of risk we as a society are willing to accept is, in the end, more a matter of values. But scientists generally agree that to stabilize concentrations at any reasonably safe level we must over time reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases 50 to 80 percent from current levels. Let me repeat that: we must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases 50 to 80 percent from current levels. Since emissions worldwide are now rising, and are certain to continue rising for some time to come, we clearly have a very long way to go.

How do we get there? What it is going to take, I believe, is nothing short of a new industrial revolution. As I said earlier, meeting the challenge of climate change requires a fundamental transformation in the way we power our economy. We must steadily reduce our reliance on coal and oil - the principal sources of the greenhouse gases we are putting into the atmosphere. And we must make the transition to clean sources of energy that can keep the global economy healthy, and keep it growing, without endangering the global environment. Industrial societies have been through major energy transitions before - we've gone from wood to coal, and from coal to oil. But unlike past transitions, we can't afford to wait for this one to happen on its own. We must make it happen. We must bring to bear the forces necessary to mount this new industrial revolution.

First is the force of technology - or, more accurately, the force of many new technologies. There is no silver bullet. Our ultimate success against climate change hinges on the development and deployment of a vast array of technologies that dramatically reduce the carbon intensity of our economy. Technologies that change how we produce electricity, how we move from place to place, how we farm and manage our forests, how we manufacture products - even how we build and manage our buildings. And the technologies that will enable industrialized countries to make the transition to clean energy must also be adapted and shared with developing countries, so they can leapfrog past carbon dependence and choose a more sustainable path from the start.

Looking at the major energy-using sectors of our economy, you can see on a broad scale the kinds of changes that are needed here in the United States. In the electricity sector, for instance, we need to gradually shift the supply mix away from coal, the dirtiest of the fossil fuels, toward natural gas, which is much lower in carbon, and towards solar, wind and other renewables. In transportation, we have to reverse the decline in the fuel efficiency of our cars and SUVs, because the internal combustion engine will be with us for a while longer and we do have the technology to make it more efficient. But we must also hasten the arrival of its successor, whether it be the hydrogen fuel cell or another technology. In buildings, where we use a third of our energy, smart technologies and smart design can deliver enormous energy savings without sacrificing comfort or quality of life. And finally, in manufacturing, we need to find ways to reduce emissions at every step - from changing inputs to redesigning production processes to reworking the entire product mix.

It's one thing to envision the kinds of technologies we need. It's another thing to make them real. For that, I believe, we must bring to bear a second force - the force of the marketplace. This is true not only because the necessary changes - whether they be new products, new processes, or new sources of energy - must take place within the marketplace. It is also true because only the marketplace can mobilize the investment, the productive capacity, and the ingenuity that is needed. The inspiration behind a new technology may spring from the mind of a scientist, an engineer - or maybe an overachieving undergraduate. But only the marketplace can quickly adapt this new technology to society's needs and desires, can produce and deliver it on a mass scale, and can figure out how to do it at the least possible cost. Just think how efficiently the market has put a cell phone into the hands of so many men, women and children over the last a few years.

So the marketplace, while quite obviously a driving force behind the continued rise in greenhouse gas emissions, must also be a driving force behind the solution. We must put the market to work to protect the climate. And if we do it right, not only the environment will benefit - the market will benefit as well. Many people still think that environmental protection and economic growth are inherently antagonistic goals. I believe they are wrong, and I believe the experiences of the companies we work with at the Pew Center show they are wrong.

One of the things we did when we launched the Pew Center four years ago was to bring together a group of major corporations that support action to address climate change. We call it the Business Environmental Leadership Council. The Council now includes 37 companies - primarily Fortune 500 firms - including Weyerhaeuser, Intel, Boeing, Dupont, Shell and Alcoa. Together these companies employ more than 2 million people and generate revenues of nearly $900 billion a year.

In their efforts against climate change, many of these companies have adopted targets for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. Dupont, for instance, is working to reduce its emissions 65 percent below 1990 levels by 2010. Alcoa is aiming for a 25 percent reduction. Last month, Lord John Browne, the chairman and CEO of BP, announced that his company had already met its goal of a 10 percent reduction - eight years ahead of schedule - and is now committed to capping emissions at that level through 2012 even though BP's revenues are projected to grow 5.5 percent a year.

We published a study recently that analyzed a number of companies that have taken on voluntary greenhouse gas targets. These targets take many different forms. Some companies are ramping up their use of clean energy or improving their energy efficiency. For instance, Baxter International, a healthcare firm based outside Chicago is boosting its energy efficiency by 30 percent. Other companies are going beyond the production process and pledging to reduce emissions from the products themselves. In Europe, for instance, the major automakers - including, I would note, the American automakers - have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their fleets 25 percent by 2008.

Our report took a close look at six of these companies - why they chose to adopt targets, and what their experiences have been. The companies cited several motivations: They believe the science of climate change is compelling, and in time the public will demand strong climate protections. They want to get ahead of the curve by reducing their own emissions, and by encouraging government policies that work well for business. But the companies all cited one other important motivation for taking on a target: to improve their competitive position in the marketplace. And that, in fact, has been the result. Each of these six companies is on track to meeting or exceeding its greenhouse gas goal. Together, they've delivered reductions equal to the annual emissions of 3 million cars. And at the same time, the companies are finding that these efforts are helping to improve operational efficiencies, reduce energy and production costs, and increase market share - all things that contribute to a healthier bottom line.

These voluntary efforts demonstrate that companies can internalize the costs of climate protection. They show how the very act of setting a goal spurs innovation and puts competitive instincts to work in a new direction. They demonstrate the ability of the marketplace to mobilize technology to address climate change. They are commendable, and they are instructive. But they are not enough. For the market will deliver only if it perceives a demand. And for that, we must bring to bear a third force - the force of government.

Government has several critical roles to play in sparking this new industrial revolution. We must look to government, first, to set the goal - to send a clear signal to the marketplace that this is the direction we must go. We must look to government, second, to prime the pump - to provide strategic assistance that will help spawn new technologies and then move them from the laboratory to the marketplace. And we must look to government, third, to keep everyone on track - to make sure we not only stay focused on the goal, but meet it - or face clear consequences. The marketplace can drive the technology; but only if government drives the marketplace.

Let me be clear: I am not advocating a draconian command-and-control system that says do it, and do it this way, or else. We've had enough experience with such approaches to know they won't work here. Rather, I am suggesting a thoughtful strategy that understands, respects and mobilizes the marketplace. I am suggesting a comprehensive but careful mix of measures that provides the marketplace with the necessary incentives - and the necessary flexibility - to get us to our goal, and do it cost-effectively.

So, what kind of signal is government sending the marketplace now? Let's look first on the international side. Over the last year, we saw both the greatest success and the greatest setback since the international effort to address climate change was launched a decade ago. The success was that after years of wrangling, nations finally agreed on a set of rules for implementing the Kyoto Protocol. The Protocol, which was negotiated in 1997, establishes the first binding international limits on greenhouse gas emissions. It points industrialized countries, at least, in the direction of emissions reduction. And it establishes a set of mechanisms to help countries meet their targets by tapping the power of the marketplace. Through a system of greenhouse gas trading, for instance, countries can buy emissions credits from other countries that are able to cut their emissions more cheaply. By harnessing the law of supply and demand, you achieve the greatest environmental return for every unit of investment. This approach, I would note, was written into Kyoto largely at the insistence of the United States, which pioneered the practice of emissions trading.

With the rules for implementing Kyoto now settled, the next step is ratification. The European nations are well on track, while vigorous debates are underway in Japan, Canada and other industrialized countries that face some serious challenges in meeting their Kyoto targets. It's by no means a sure bet, but I would say the prognosis is good for the Protocol to enter into force either this year or next. And that would be a major achievement.

The setback, of course, was President Bush's outright rejection of Kyoto early last year. I don't intend to spend any time here debating the merits of Kyoto, but let me say this: I agree with the President that the Protocol is flawed, but do not believe, as he does, that it is fatally flawed. The reality, though, is that he is the president. And given that, there is virtually no prospect of the United States returning to Kyoto, at least in the short term. The emphasis now must be on building a credible climate program here in the United States - one that, hopefully, can in time converge with the international effort to form a truly global strategy.

The national climate plan announced by President Bush in February is, unfortunately, not an auspicious start. It was encouraging in one respect: The Administration says it will develop rules to ensure that companies voluntarily reducing their emissions receive appropriate credit toward any mandatory measures that might later be put in place. Insofar as this tacitly acknowledges that mandatory measures may in fact be necessary, it represents a measure of progress. But beyond that, the President's plan offers only a promise - a promise that over the next decade the United States will do really no better than it's doing right now.

The President set a goal - a voluntary goal - of reducing the greenhouse gas intensity of the U.S. economy 18 percent by 2012. That means 18 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions for every dollar of GDP. That sounds good. But when you do the math, you see that an 18-percent reduction in greenhouse gas intensity amounts to a 12-percent increase in actual emissions. The Administration says emissions are projected to grow even more, so the President's goal represents a real improvement. But if you look at data on what's actually happening, you see that greenhouse gas intensity is already improving in the United States, and the President's goal essentially continues the trends of the last two decades. In other words, it's more or less business as usual.

There are, however, signs that this issue is being taken more seriously at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Despite the Administration's lackluster efforts - or, perhaps, inspired by them - there is growing bipartisan interest in Congress in doing something about climate change. In fact, there were nearly twice as many climate change bills introduced over the past year as in the previous four years combined.

These bills cover everything from regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants to boosting research and development on alternative fuels. Several would establish a national system for tracking and reporting greenhouse gas emissions - an important first step. The farm bill passed recently by the Senate would provide strong incentives to farmers to adopt practices that suck carbon out of the atmosphere. And Senators Lieberman and McCain plan to introduce a bill later this year to establish a nationwide cap-and-trade system - in other words, to cap greenhouse gas emissions nationwide and let companies buy and sell emissions credits. It's a bold idea - one that frankly I can't see being enacted for some time, probably years. Still, for the first time, Congress is engaged in serious debate about how the United States should meet its responsibilities on climate change.

And beyond the Beltway, we see not just debate, but action. States and local communities, instead of waiting for leadership from Washington, are taking up this challenge on their own. Over the past year, the Pew Center worked with the National Association of State Energy Officials to gather information on state programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In February, we posted the initial results on our web site: a searchable database describing 21 state programs that have delivered real emissions reductions.

Oregon, for example, requires all new power plants to limit or offset their carbon dioxide emissions, making it the first state in the nation to enact mandatory carbon controls. Texas requires that all its electricity providers generate about 3 percent of their power using renewable sources. New Hampshire plans to cut emissions and save $4 million a year through energy-saving retrofits on state-owned buildings. Here in Illinois, a new Clean Energy Community Foundation is helping local governments and community groups improve energy efficiency and promote renewable power. And last fall, Chicago became the first city in America to join a voluntary emissions trading system called the Chicago Climate Exchange. Finally, here's one of my favorite examples: In Pattonville, Missouri, high school students have teamed up with state officials to run their school's boilers using methane captured from a neighboring landfill. Perhaps if we could channel the energies of high school students everywhere we'd have this thing licked.

But most high school students, I'm afraid, are channeling their energies elsewhere. And, unfortunately, so are many governments. Ten years after the Earth Summit in Rio, where nations pledged themselves to the fight against global warming, they are just barely getting started. Governments have yet to deliver a clear, unequivocal message to the marketplace that climate change can no longer be ignored.

What kinds of policies would get the message across? Here in the United States, we need a firm mandate that puts us on the path to long-term emissions reduction. And we need flexible policies that give companies room to find the most cost-effective ways to fulfill that mandate. Internationally, assuming Kyoto does get off the ground, we must start looking well beyond its short-term goals. As with a domestic program, firm mandates that move us toward our goal of stabilizing concentrations of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are key. This will take more than keeping those countries committed to Kyoto on a downward emissions path. It will take putting the United States firmly on that path. And it will take moving major emitting countries in the developing world on cleaner energy paths as well. In short, we will need to forge an effective global strategy that combines the force of governments with the force of the marketplace.

So why haven't we made more progress? Because, I believe, we have not yet brought to bear the fourth, and perhaps most critical, force. That is the force of people--the sheer force of public pressure. Like the marketplace, government will deliver only if it perceives a demand. The polling shows that most Americans believe that global warming is real and that more should be done to address it. But those sentiments have yet to translate into an effective call for action. People are concerned, but they're also confused. And many feel powerless in the face of such a monumental challenge.

Let me suggest a few ways in which we do have power if we choose to exercise it. First - and I'm speaking now, of course, to those of you who are so inclined - don't underestimate your power as a citizen to sway your elected leaders. Next time one of your Senators is touring the state, show up at a town hall meeting and ask what he's doing to make our cars and tucks more fuel efficient, or our electricity supply less carbon-intensive. Believe me, it makes a difference. Second, you have power as a consumer. Once you understand the fundamental link between climate change and our use of energy, you can send your own signals to the marketplace. Every time you replace a regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent, or choose a more efficient appliance or car, you express a demand for climate protection. Third, you have power as an investor - at least those among you with something to invest. The more companies are asked by investors about their greenhouse gas emissions, the quicker they will reduce them.

These may seem like small steps, but they can add up. We all bear responsibility here. And only when we accept our responsibility and act on it - as citizens, as consumers, as investors - will government and the marketplace respond. The science, I believe, paints a compelling picture: Future generations face grave risks. The technology to avert those risks is, I believe, within reach. The marketplace has the power to deliver it. But government will demand it only when we do - only when we bring our force to bear.

Thank you very much. 

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Press Release: Report Shows Emerging Greenhouse Gas Market

For Immediate Release:
March 19, 2002

Contact: Katie Mandes

Report Shows Emerging Greenhouse Gas Market

Washington, DC - Emissions trading has become the "policy of choice" for addressing climate change, according to a new report from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change that documents the emergence of a market for greenhouse gas emissions.

While the market remains fragmented, the report concludes that trading activity has increased around the world over the last five years. Among the forces bringing trading to the fore are progress in the international climate talks, new carbon trading systems in Europe, and private sector trading initiatives in the United States and elsewhere.

The Pew Center report, The Emerging International Greenhouse Gas Market, describes the characteristics of the market to date and key features of early trades. In the absence of a ratified international agreement, the report's authors conclude that the new market is evolving in a fragmented way. Regional, national, and subnational trading programs are operating under different rules, which could inhibit "market convergence" and increase the costs of trading.

"Despite the United States' inaction, it is abundantly clear that we are beginning to see the outlines of a genuine greenhouse gas market," said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. "Governments and businesses around the world understand that emissions trading is essential if we're going to address this issue in the most cost-effective way possible".

"The challenge now is to forge links between these emerging regimes in order to ensure that trading systems are compatible, " Claussen said. "We are already beginning to see interest in the U.S. Congress, and private sector efforts to build a trading system are even farther along. The need for certainty, consistency, and a level playing field will encourage a merging of trading regimes.

The report also evaluates the potential evolution of the greenhouse gas market, particularly in light of recent developments in climate change policy in the United States and internationally.

The report's conclusions are based on a review of greenhouse gas transactions to date, including case studies of two transactions between four utilities: TransAlta and HEW, and PG&E and Ontario Power Generation. According to the authors of the report, the experiences of these companies illustrate the benefits of trading, as well as the challenges of conducting trades in a nascent market that is lacking in clear rules.

Part of "Solutions" Series
The Emerging International Greenhouse Gas Market was authored by Richard Rosenzweig and Matthew Varilek of Natsource, LLC, and Josef Janssen of the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. It is the latest report in the Pew Center's Solutions series, which is aimed at providing individuals and organizations with tools to evaluate and reduce their contributions to climate change. Other Pew Center series focus on domestic and international policy issues, environmental impacts, and the economics of climate change.

A complete copy of this report -- and previous Pew Center reports -- is available on the Pew Center's web site,


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.

The Emerging International Greenhouse Gas Market

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The Emerging International Greenhouse Gas Market

Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
March 2002

Richard Rosenzweig, Matthew Varilek, Ben Feldman, and Radha Kuppalli of Natsource, LLC

Josef Janssen, University of St. Gallen

Press Release

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Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

As businesses, policy-makers, and other stakeholders around the world have become familiar with greenhouse gas emissions trading, it has emerged as the policy of choice to address climate change. Now—with the recent agreements in Bonn and Marrakech, with new carbon trading systems in Europe, and with private sector interest and activity across many economic sectors both here and abroad—we are beginning to see the outlines of a genuine greenhouse gas market.

In this Pew Center report, authors Richard Rosenzweig, Matthew Varilek, Josef Janssen et al. describe the various public and private programs under which many early trades have occurred, the characteristics of the emerging market including the key features of early transactions, and the potential evolution of the market given the concurrent development of domestic and international climate change policy. Case studies of actual trades between four power companies—TransAlta and HEW, and PG&E and Ontario Power Generation—help illustrate leading companies’ motivations for engaging in trading, as well as the challenges they have faced in the absence of clear guidelines in the nascent market.

Despite the impressive interest in greenhouse gas trading, the market that has developed thus far remains fragmented. For example, as originally proposed, the trading regimes put forth by the United Kingdom and the European Union differ in important respects: the former is voluntary and the latter is not; the former covers the full basket of six greenhouse gases while the latter is restricted to carbon dioxide. This results in higher transaction costs just as the market is getting off the ground. The challenge ahead, for business, policy-makers, and others, is to work together to help forge linkages between the emerging regimes, and ultimately to achieve convergence.

I am optimistic that we can meet this challenge. We are beginning to see the first glimmers of interest in the U.S. Congress, although the debate is expected to be long and difficult. Perhaps more encouraging are private sector efforts to build a greenhouse gas trading system, such as the Chicago Climate Exchange. Also, many companies have set up their own internal trading systems to “learn by doing,” and have been eager to participate in early trades. The need for certainty, for consistency, and for a level playing field all will work to encourage a merging of regimes. Policy-makers must do their best to ensure that all systems are compatible.

The authors and the Pew Center would like to thank the companies featured in this report for sharing their experiences and perspectives, and acknowledge the members of the Center’s Business Environmental Leadership Council, as well as Aldyen Donnelly of GEMCo; Erik Haites of Margaree Consultants; Richard Sandor of Environmental Financial Products, L.L.C.; and Tom Wilson of EPRI for their review and advice on a previous draft of this report. 

Executive Summary

A market for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has begun to emerge over the past five years. This market is driven in large part by ongoing negotiations of an international global climate change treaty, which will likely impose limitations on GHG emissions. The market has been shaped by successful emissions trading programs established over the past decade, such as the sulfur dioxide (SO2) trading program incorporated in the U.S. Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA) of 1990.

This paper describes: (1) programs and initiatives that have provided a framework for early trades and policy development; (2) characteristics of the emerging GHG market and key features of early transactions; (3) potential evolution of the market due to ongoing concurrent domestic and international climate change policy development; and (4) potential scenarios regarding the U.S. response to climate change.


Greenhouse gas trading has its origins in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Adopted in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992, the UNFCCC established the goal for industrialized countries to return to their 1990 GHG emissions levels by the year 2000 and a long-term objective of stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” In 1995, the Parties reviewed their progress and concluded that the non-binding goal would not lead to the achievement of the Convention’s objective of atmospheric stabilization. In response, Parties agreed to pursue a complementary agreement that would establish quantified emissions limitations and reduction obligations for developed countries. This culminated in the negotiation of the Kyoto Protocol in December of 1997.

The process to develop rules, mechanisms, and institutions necessary to bring the Protocol into force is ongoing, including the seventh Conference of Parties (COP-7), held in Marrakech, Morocco, during November of 2001. Though significant progress was achieved there and in previous negotiations, the Protocol has not yet entered into force, and few national governments have imposed limitations on domestic GHG emissions or established trading rules. Thus, the GHG market is evolving under a loosely constructed, ad hoc framework. To date, it has evolved from a variety of mostly project-based emissions trading programs, which have been voluntary in nature and which collectively serve as precursors to formal GHG regulation. More recently, the United Kingdom and Denmark have developed national regulatory programs.

Project-Based Programs

The UNFCCC allows industrialized countries to meet their emissions reduction commitments “jointly with other Parties” through a form of project-based emissions trading. This program became known as Joint Implementation (JI). Subsequent programs have provided practical experience with key aspects of project-based emissions trading. These programs and initiatives include the U.S. government’s Initiative on Joint Implementation (USIJI); the pilot phase of international project-based emissions trading known as Activities Implemented Jointly (AIJ); Ontario, Canada’s multi-stakeholder Pilot Emissions Reduction Trading program (PERT); Oregon’s Climate Trust; the Dutch government’s Emission Reduction Unit Procurement Tender (ERUPT); and the World Bank’s Prototype Carbon Fund (PCF), among others.

Each of these programs is governed by a unique set of rules. However, they exhibit some common elements that constitute a de facto (though non-binding) set of minimum quality criteria that govern the creation of credible emissions reductions. These common elements include: (1) establishment of a credible counterfactual emissions baseline; (2) proof of environmental additionality; (3) evidence that the reductions are surplus to existing regulatory requirements; (4) proof of permanence or durability of the reductions; (5) demonstration that the emissions-reducing project will not cause emissions to increase beyond the project’s boundaries (referred to as “leakage”); (6) establishment of credible monitoring and verification procedures; and (7) proof of ownership of the reductions.

Market Characteristics

Even though few sources of GHG emissions presently confront binding emissions limitations, a growing number of companies and governments have begun to purchase reductions generated in most part by the programs described above. Few trades of GHG emissions to date have involved an exchange of emissions permits such as “allowances” or “credits,” since these terms refer to government-issued commodities that only exist within the context of formal trading systems. Most GHG trades have taken place under a voluntary ad hoc framework involving a commodity defined by the trade’s participants and known commonly as verified emissions reductions (VERs). These carry only the possibility, but not a guarantee, that governments will allow them to be applied against future emissions reduction requirements.

The authors estimate that approximately 65 GHG trades for quantities above 1,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)1 have occurred worldwide since 1996. This figure includes trades of reductions as well as financial derivatives based on reductions. However, the figure probably understates actual market activity because not all trades are made public, and internal corporate trades and small trades are excluded. It is important to note also that this figure refers to purchases of emissions-related commodities and excludes countless investments in projects that either purposely or incidentally reduce GHG emissions. Prices for VERs have ranged between $.60 and $3.50 per metric ton of CO2e. Some of the price differentials between trades can be explained by differences in the features of the reductions such as their type and vintage, geographical location, and the rigor of the monitoring and verification procedures. Other factors that affect reductions’ commercial value include contractual liability provisions, seller creditworthiness, and demonstration of host country approval of the emissions-reducing project.

Two case studies provide a detailed look at actual GHG trades in this market, illustrating some of the challenges and benefits of early GHG trading as described by market participants. The first case study reviews a purchase of VERs by TransAlta, a Canadian electric utility, from HEW, a German utility. HEW generated reductions by displacing some of its fossil fuel-based generation with electricity generated by wind. The second case study examines a purchase of VERs by Ontario Power Generation, a Canadian utility, from US Gen, a subsidiary of the U.S.-based PG&E National Energy Group. US Gen created reductions by capturing and destroying methane produced at a landfill. Both case studies demonstrate that while participants benefited from these early GHG trades, the lack of clear trading rules has increased transaction costs and been a significant impediment to the development of a more robust GHG market.

National Trading Programs

Several governments have moved forward in designing domestic trading systems while international trading rules remain under development. At the national level, the United Kingdom and Denmark have each established domestic emissions trading programs. Some trading in these programs has already begun. The European Union (EU) and other countries are in various stages of domestic policy development. At the sub-national level, the state of Massachusetts, for example, will require reductions of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants and will allow sources to use trading as a means of compliance.

The development of these and other trading programs demonstrates that emissions trading has gained acceptance as a preferred policy instrument in the world’s efforts to reduce GHG emissions. These programs will boost GHG trading activity and motivate more rapid emissions abatement than if governments had waited for the international community to conclude negotiation of the Kyoto Protocol. Already, the initiation of these programs is producing a shift in the commodity that market participants prefer to trade. Some buyers’ interest is starting to shift away from VERs, whose eligibility for use as a hedge against binding emissions limitations is uncertain. Interest is beginning to shift towards government-issued permits created by the programs, which are by definition eligible for use against an emissions limitation in their jurisdiction of origin. Permits also stand a superior chance of being transferable into foreign jurisdictions for purposes of compliance.

Significant benefits have and will result from the current development of domestic trading systems. However, some adverse impacts have also resulted from the concurrent development of international and domestic climate change policy. Emissions trading systems currently in operation or under development exhibit unique features that may render them incompatible with each other. For example, the Danish and United Kingdom (UK) systems allow for trading of different gases, cover different economic sectors, and utilize different mixes of allowance and credit-based trading. To date, they have not developed rules governing interchange and mutual recognition of their tradable units with each other, which could impede or preclude beneficial cross-border transactions. There are also significant differences between each of these systems and the one being developed in the European Union. Already, the European Commission has warned that the differences in the UK and the EU systems “could create market distortions in the future.”2 Had the treaty been concluded more rapidly, the international framework would have made it easier for Parties to conform their systems leading to increased trading. Several private-sector and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) also have developed initiatives to help build the market and to create and take advantage of trading opportunities. They include the Partnership for Climate Action (PCA), the Emissions Market Development Group (EMDG), and the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX).

Future Outlook

Recent international agreements negotiated at Bonn and Marrakech resolve many details concerning implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, providing greater clarity to Parties developing domestic trading programs. These agreements will increase the likelihood that future domestic climate change policy measures will be consistent with the rules of the Protocol. However, several issues still must be resolved, and, although likely, the treaty’s entry into force is not yet assured. Thus, in the near future, international and domestic GHG policy will continue to develop concurrently, with the risk that incompatibilities between regional, national, and sub-national climate change policies will lead to market fragmentation and sub-optimal economic and environmental outcomes. Such fragmentation does not mean that market participants will not trade across systems. Indeed, market participants will likely devise methods of trading across jurisdictions. However, devising such structures and mechanisms will increase costs.

Prospects for a well-functioning international GHG market have greatly improved as a result of the agreements reached in international climate change negotiations during 2001. However, significant barriers remain, including the unwillingness of the United States, the world’s largest emitter, to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. A qualitative analysis of several scenarios related to the United States’ future climate policy response reveals that, while in the near term the lack of an emissions constraint may provide an advantage to U.S. firms against foreign competitors confronting such constraints, continued policy uncertainty may be detrimental in the longer term.

In order for the market to achieve its intended environmental and economic results, much work remains to be done. The international community must make an ultimate decision on the legal nature of Parties’ compliance obligations with the Kyoto Protocol’s provisions and must resolve several other key issues. Institutions governing the treaty’s mechanisms must move forward expeditiously to implement the details of the Protocol. Such action will provide Parties with clear policy guidance allowing them to conform their domestic programs to international rules and to enjoy the full economic and environmental benefits of GHG emissions trading.  

About the Authors

Richard Rosenzweig
Natsource, LLC

Richard Rosenzweig provides consulting services to private firms, governments, international financial institutions, and associations on all aspects of the climate change issue, including risk management, market entry strategies, international climate change negotiations, and domestic policy development. He joined Natsource from the Washington law firm of Van Ness Feldman, where he was Principal. Mr. Rosenzweig counseled clients on Clean Air Act matters and provided strategic government affairs counsel on global climate change and energy matters. Mr. Rosenzweig has extensive experience in all aspects of emissions trading and risk management. He represented several companies in the design of the U.S. Acid Rain Program and the Nox SIP Call. Mr. Rosenzweig was involved in the first transactions of UK and Danish greenhouse gas allowances. He also assists companies to determine their risk to the climate issue and develop appropriate risk management strategies. Mr. Rosenzweig served as Chief of Staff to the U.S. Secretary of Energy from 1993-96. His national policy responsibilities included key roles in the development of the first U.S. Climate Change Action Plan. He also helped to negotiate voluntary agreements between the Department of Energy and more than 600 electric utilities in the "Climate Challenge" program.

Matthew Varilek
Natsource, LLC

Matthew Varilek is an emissions markets analyst in Natsource's Strategic Services unit. Since joining Natsource in 1999, he has led projects for clients including the World Bank, the European Commission, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Government of Uganda, and several multinational companies. Previously, Mr. Varilek lectured for Columbia University on international environmental agreements as an environmental policy teaching assistant at Biosphere 2 Center in southern Arizona. Mr. Varilek has a Masters degree with distinction in Economic Development from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and a B.A. with distinction in Philosophy and Environmental Policy from Carleton College, Minnesota.

Dr Josef Janssen
University of St. Gallen

Josef Janssen is an expert in financial and economic aspects of greenhouse gas emissions trading and the Kyoto Mechanisms. He is head of Emissions Trading and Climate Policy at the Institute for Economy and the Environment (IWOe) at the University of St. Gallen (HSG) in Switzerland ( He is also scientific coordinator of the European R&D project entitled "Implementing the Kyoto Mechanisms - Contributions by Financial Institutions." In early 2001, he completed his PhD in economics at the University of St. Gallen. In his PhD thesis (Risk Management of Investments in Joint Implementation and Clean Development Mechanism Projects) he focuses on carbon portfolio risk diversification and insurance.

Dr. Janssen has advised several firms and organizations on the Kyoto Mechanisms, including UBS, Swiss Re, Sanpaolo IMI, Landesbank Baden-Württemberg, and the World Bank. In 1998 he was a member of the Italian delegation to the international climate policy negotiations at the EU and UN level. Dr. Janssen frequently speaks on greenhouse gas emissions trading at international commercial and academic conferences, and has published a number of articles on this subject.  

Ben Feldman
Josef Janssen
Matthew Varilek
Radha Kuppalli
Richard Rosenzweig

Climate Change: Ten Years After Rio

Climate Change: Ten Years After Rio

Remarks of Elliot Diringer
Pew Center on Global Climate Change

Delhi Sustainable Development Summit
New Delhi, India

February 11, 2002

I'd like to thank TERI for providing me the opportunity to speak here today. The concerns we are addressing at this summit reach across the globe. But too often, I am afraid, we understand them only from a single vantage point. I am very grateful to be here in New Delhi to share my perspective and, more importantly, to learn from the perspectives of others.

I represent the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, a US-based NGO dedicated to achieving fair and effective action against climate change. The Pew Center brings together expert analysis and a progressive business perspective. We work with scientists, economists and other experts to examine and explain the many dimensions of climate change. And we work with major corporations to develop and promote practical, cost-effective strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Our goal is a smooth transition to a clean energy economy that ensures both a stable climate and strong, sustainable growth. We have two overriding policy objectives: the establishment of flexible, mandatory measures to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States; and the creation over time of a global framework that helps put all countries on the path to climate protection and sustainable development.

One of the signature achievements of the Earth Summit in 1992 was the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which commits nations to the long-term goal of a safe and stable climate. Ten years after Rio, we are at last in a position to report some measure of progress toward that goal. Despite the withdrawal of the United States, or perhaps in part because of it, other industrialized nations have resolved to push forward with the Kyoto Protocol. The recent agreements in Bonn and in Marrakech, while imperfect, establish a sound, workable framework for cost-effective emissions reduction. They represent a triumph not only for multilateralism, but also for the principle of harnessing the global market to protect our global environment. Having made the hard compromises, nations must now move forward with ratification, and implementation, so they can begin to deliver on Kyoto's promise.

Whether or not it is party to Kyoto, the United States must also commit itself to concrete action to reduce emissions. In time, the United States must again become a full partner in the international effort. But it does not appear that time will come soon. There is virtually no chance the present administration will reverse its opposition to Kyoto. Nor does it appear the administration is prepared to advance serious domestic measures to curb emissions. Yet there are signs that the United States is in fact moving closer to recognizing and beginning to meet its responsibilities as the world's largest greenhouse gas polluter. Just as President Bush's rejection of Kyoto helped galvanize international support for the Protocol, it has helped stir support for domestic measures as well. It has elevated the issue in the press, and in Washington. And it has spurred bipartisan interest in Congress, where leading lawmakers from both parties have introduced measures that could start the United States on the path to emissions reduction. It may be years still before the United States launches the kinds of efforts that ultimately are needed. But I believe public support, and the prospects for action, will continue to build.

Support is growing, as well, within the U.S. business community. Many in the private sector, it is true, are pleased with the present administration's approach. But a growing number of companies - including the 37 major corporations that are members of the Pew Center's Business Environmental Leadership Council - are taking concrete steps to reduce their emissions. What's more, these companies favor government action mandating broader efforts. Many, particularly the multinationals, may be disadvantaged by the U.S. withdrawal from Kyoto. They will not be able to manage their emissions reductions as cost-effectively and they may miss important market opportunities. We believe it is important that any domestic regime in the United States provide opportunities for international trading and emissions offsets, and that it be as compatible as possible with the international regime to help pave the way for their ultimate convergence.

We must of course recognize that Kyoto's entry into force, and any U.S. effort that may emerge in parallel, will represent only first steps. And while the road from Rio to Marrakech was difficult, the road ahead will be more difficult still. If we are to construct the full global framework needed to achieve the objective of the Framework Convention, we must begin focusing right now on the next set of critical challenges. One challenge is deciding whether the Convention's long-term objective must be translated into an agreed, quantifiable target - and if so, how. Others include devising medium-term emissions targets that can most effectively mobilize investment in climate-friendly technologies; and creating stronger mechanisms to ensure that these technologies are widely shared.

But the most critical - and most difficult - challenge ahead is reaching consensus on an equitable sharing of responsibility for addressing climate change. Ultimately, we can achieve the objective set in Rio only if all nations are assured that each is contributing its fair share to this collective effort. And this can happen, I believe, only if we understand climate change - both the challenges it presents, and the opportunities - in the broader context of sustainable development. In the efforts they are already undertaking, developing countries themselves are providing powerful evidence of the linkages between climate and sustainable development. Through actions to protect their local environments, reform their energy markets, strengthen their economies and create a more promising future for their people, many developing countries are at the same time achieving extraordinary progress in reducing or avoiding greenhouse gas emissions. The very impressive efforts underway here in India to improve energy efficiency and expand the use of renewable power are prime examples. These efforts by developing countries must be more broadly recognized. And they must be nurtured. Strengthening the incentives for investment and technology flows, and the capacity to fruitfully absorb them, will better enable developing countries to meet their critical development needs while contributing further to the effort against climate change. Developing countries are understandably reluctant to consider taking on binding commitments until developed countries demonstrate real progress in meeting their own. But we must begin now to open a new dialogue - a dialogue grounded in a deeper understanding of the links between climate and sustainable development - so we may in time arrive at an equitable sharing of our "common but differentiated" responsibilities.

In closing, I'd like to offer some brief thoughts on the opportunities presented by the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Translating the vision of sustainable development into tangible benefits for the millions around the world who have yet to share in the fruits of globalization requires action on many fronts - action to protect freshwater resources, improve basic health services, enhance agricultural productivity, and grow new industries. Each of these, in turn, depends at least in part on the availability of adequate energy resources. This new energy must be not only affordable and reliable - it must also be clean. A major aim for Johannesburg, one that would address both climate and sustainable development, should be the launch of substantial new efforts to deliver clean energy in developing countries. The need, the benefits, and the barriers are well understood. What is needed now is for governments and the private sector to commit additional resources.

Ten years after nations pledged themselves to the fight against climate change, we can at last report some progress. A real and sustained commitment to clean energy development would help build on this progress, and would help ensure future generations a fairer, safer, more prosperous world.

Thank you very much. 

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Transportation in Developing Countries: Greenhouse Gas Scenarios for South Africa

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Transportation in Developing Countries: Greenhouse Gas Scenarios for South Africa

Prepared for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change
February 2002

Jolanda Pretorius Prozzi, Cambridge Systematics
Clifford Naudé, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research: Transportek, South Africa
Daniel Sperling and Mark Delucchi, University of California, Davis

Press Release

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Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change

South Africa has relatively high aggregate and per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to other developing countries, and to world averages. Transportation sector emissions are increasing, but climate change competes with urgent economic, social, and public health concerns for government attention. As a party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and an active participant in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations, South Africa may be able to address transportation emissions through projects under the Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism.

The two major forces affecting South Africa's transportation sector are the country's legacy of apartheid and privatization. Apartheid-era policies cause high greenhouse gas emissions in two ways: (1) Blacks lived in separate townships and homelands, forcing them to travel long distances to jobs in commercial or white residential areas; and (2) anti-apartheid sanctions resulted in South Africa using high-carbon synthetic fuels based on domestic coal and boosting the local vehicle manufacturing industry. Privatization in the 1980s resulted in freight transportation shifting from rail to more energy-intensive trucks. Intense competition within the trucking industry has resulted in poor maintenance and extended use of inefficient vehicles by small entrepreneurial companies. This problem is more widespread in the minibus 'jitney' sector, which evolved to serve the unmet travel needs of black South Africans.

This report creates two scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions in 2020. In the high business as usual scenario, residual land use policies continue to aggravate transportation problems. Personal car use accelerates as car prices drop and consumer credit becomes more widely available. In the low GHG scenario, mobility, accessibility, and safety concerns drive the government to play an active role in land use and transportation policies. More efficient use of urban land and energy resources improves the quality of life and reduces GHG emissions. Low-emissions scenario strategies are not necessarily costly but require strong political commitment.
Some key results are:

  • GHG emissions increase 82 percent in the high scenario; but decrease 12 percent in the low scenario.
  • Coordinating land use, housing, and passenger transportation policies would promote more efficient urban land use patterns that reduce travel distances and correct spatial imbalances.
  • Both (1) restructuring commuter services so that rail serves the densest population centers, buses serve secondary routes, and minibus jitneys provide feeder or local services; and (2) dedicated taxes on vehicle purchases and use, would improve and help sustain public transportation.
  • Changing technology, such as cleaner feedstock for synthetic fuel, would reduce GHG emissions.
  • Providing incentives to domestic auto manufacturers to produce buses and minibuses instead of cars would reduce the car orientation of the transportation system.

Transportation in Developing Countries: Greenhouse Gas Scenarios for South Africa is the third report in a five-part series examining transportation sector GHG emissions in developing countries. The findings are based on a Lifecycle Energy Use and Emissions Model developed by the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California at Davis, which estimates GHG emissions from the transportation sector. The Pew Center gratefully acknowledges Ogunlade Davidson of the University of Cape Town, Ralph Gakenheimer of MIT, Talia McCray of the Université de Laval, and Michael Walsh, an independent transportation consultant, for their review of earlier drafts. 

Executive Summary

The performance and structure of South Africas transportation system is largely explained by two phenomena: the legacy of apartheid and privatization. Apartheid had far-reaching impacts, even extending deep into the country's transportation and energy system. Largely as a result of these policies, the country's contributions to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are high compared to those of other African nations, both in aggregate and per capita terms. Some of the transportation and energy effects of apartheid include the following:

  • Land use policies were based on race and ethnicity, in which black residential areas were moved to the outskirts of growing urban areas and beyond, creating long commuting distances for most of the black poor.
  • Energy investments in innovative coal-based synthetic fuel processes were greatly expanded following international sanctions during the 1970s and 1980s.
  • Import substitution economic policies promoted the domestic motor vehicle manufacturing industry.
  • Generous company car allowances and subsidized vehicle schemes nurtured a market for private cars to support the domestic auto industry.
  • Public transportation services designed to serve long-distance commuters with low levels of service inspired black entrepreneurs to create informal services by minibus jitneys - van-type vehicles - for the many unserved travel needs. These services tend to be provided with inefficient vehicles resulting in higher energy consumption and emissions.

The good news is that South Africa has emerged from decades of apartheid policies with a functioning economy and extensive social and physical infrastructure. The bad news is that besides creating pervasive economic and social problems, apartheid polices led to a set of travel behaviors and transportation-related investments that increased energy use and GHG emissions.

Privatization is a second major phenomenon shaping South Africa's transportation system and its energy and environmental performance. The country is steadily privatizing both its passenger and freight transportation systems, largely because of shrinking government funds and an inability to manage urban sprawl. The effects of privatization in the transportation sector have been positive in many ways - including expanded transit service and lower freight costs. But dwindling government subsidies and rapid growth in minibus jitney services have led to sharp ridership losses on the extensive rail and bus systems. This change has resulted in more energy use, GHG emissions, pollution, road deaths, and, paradoxically, continuing urban sprawl.

Minibus jitneys have come to dominate the provision of passenger transportation services. They are almost totally owned by black South Africans. In only two decades, jitneys have expanded to account for two-thirds of all public transportation services and over one-third of total passenger travel in South Africa. They are expensive relative to bus and rail transit, but ubiquitous, providing service to many poor travelers. Financial problems in the minibus jitney industry have led to increasingly old, dilapidated, uncomfortable, and unsafe vehicles, resulting in higher energy consumption and GHG emissions. The government is now attempting to organize and regulate the minibus jitney sector.

Privatization in the freight sector has also propelled large modal shifts from rail to truck. Until 1988, trucks were not allowed to compete with the government-owned railroad. When the freight sector was deregulated in 1988, truck use rapidly expanded, resulting in lower freight tariffs, and a large drop-off in rail use.

Overall, the combined effect of privatization and the apartheid legacy is inflated travel demand, growing use of motor vehicles and trucks, and use of high-carbon fuels. The challenge is to devise policies and strategies to redirect these behaviors and investments to create a more economical, environmental, and socially beneficial transportation system.

Numerous policy options exist to reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector. These policies affect when, how, where, and why people travel. Options range from adopting efficient advanced vehicle technologies to various administrative controls (including parking controls and car restriction zones) and economic measures (including additional vehicle and fuel taxes).

Environmental quality is not a high priority in South Africa, one of the few countries that does not regulate motor vehicle emissions of air pollutants. However, leaders are motivated to improve mobility, accessibility, and road safety, and reduce traffic congestion. Many of the strategies targeted at those goals will restrain GHG emissions:

  • Improve accessibility and mobility. Due to racial segregation, most South Africans live far away from employment centers and economic services. Improved public transportation is the most efficient means of enhancing mobility and accessibility. Enhanced public transportation would restrain growth in the use of personal vehicles, with associated reductions in the growth of GHG emissions.
  • Improve road safety. Road safety is a serious concern in South Africa. Policies that improve road safety, such as enforcing speed limits, scrapping older vehicles, and improving vehicle maintenance could help reduce GHG emissions.
  • Reduce traffic congestion. Congestion is increasing in all major areas and is expected to become a major problem shortly. Since South Africa does not have the funding to build many more roads, an improved public transportation system will be vital to ensure mobility for the vast majority of its people.
  • Increase tax revenue. Increasing fuel and vehicle taxes - an important source of government revenue - would help pay for social expenditures and raise the cost of private vehicle use.
  • Respond to international pressure. By ratifying the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, South Africa has become part of the global community that is committed to taking responsibility for its GHG emissions.

Two transportation scenarios were designed for South Africa - one that yielded higher GHG emissions by 2020, and one that yielded lower emissions. These scenarios draw upon extensive interviews with decision-makers and experts in South Africa.

The higher GHG scenario assumes a continuation of observable and emerging trends. In this 'business-as-usual' scenario, the government remains entangled in crisis management. It focuses on health, education and social unrest related to skewed income distributions, and ignores transportation concerns. Residual land use policies from apartheid continue to aggravate transportation problems. Cities remain divided and land developers give little consideration to the implications of long commuting distances. The automotive industry remains a pillar of economic development. Personal car use accelerates as car prices drop and consumer credit becomes more widely available.

In this scenario, private cars and minibuses increase their share of total passenger-kilometers from 51 percent in 2000 to 59 percent in 2020, while public transits share decreases from 49 to 41 percent. Minibus jitneys retain 60 percent of the public transit modal share. The effect on greenhouse gases is significant: South African emissions increase by 82 percent from 2000 to 2020.

In the lower GHG scenario, the motivation for change and government action are driven by mobility, accessibility, and safety concerns. The government plays an active role in land use policies and surface passenger transportation. Land use and housing policies are adopted that promote more efficient urban land use patterns, gradually correcting spatial imbalances and reducing travel distances. The government promotes public transportation, restructuring the minibus jitney, bus, and commuter rail sectors. Under the new structure, trains serve the routes with the densest population, buses serve the secondary routes and minibus jitneys provide feeder or local services. The sustainability of the public transportation system is ensured through revenues raised from dedicated taxes on vehicle buyers and users. South African auto manufacturers are provided with incentives to design and build buses and minibuses appropriate to the local market. Sasol, the large industrial company in South Africa that produces synthetic oil from coal, starts to use natural gas as feedstock in the production of synthetic fuel. This change would avoid the high costs of impending capital investments in coal mining, while harnessing the environmental benefits associated with the use of a cleaner feedstock.

This low-emissions scenario leads to enhanced quality of life and more efficient use of resources - urban land and energy - and decreased GHG emissions. The modal share of private cars and public transit remains approximately constant at 48 and 52 percent, respectively, but minibus jitneys suffer a significant decline in public transit modal share, from 65 percent in 2000 to 56 percent in 2020. Bus and rail transportation account for the remaining share of public transit mode share at 19 and 25 percent respectively. The result is a 12-percent decrease in GHG emissions despite the fact that passenger-kilometers increase by about 54 percent. The strategies in the low-emissions scenario are not necessarily costly, but they do require strong political will and a commitment that has yet to be demonstrated by South African leaders. 

About the Author

Jolanda Pretorius Prozzi

Ms. Jolanda Prozzi holds a Master of Science in Transportation Technology and Policy from the University of California (Davis) and a Master of Commercial Sciences from the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa), with specialization in transport economics. Ms. Prozzi has almost nine years of professional and research experience in transportation economics and policy analysis, including a number of environmental policy studies. Prior to joining the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Texas, Austin, Ms. Prozzi was a Transportation Analyst at Cambridge Systematics, Inc., a Consultant Transport Economist for the World Bank and a Researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR): Division of Roads and Transport Technology in Pretoria, South Africa. 

Clifford Naude
Daniel Sperling
Jolanda Pretorius Prozzi
Mark Delucchi

Implications for U.S. Companies of Kyoto's Entry into Force without the United States

This working paper examines some of the potential implications for U.S. business of the Kyoto Protocol's entry into force – in particular, the effects of the U.S. decision to stay out of the Protocol.

The Bonn and Marrakech meetings adopted generally sound rules regarding the Kyoto mechanisms. However, the implications for U.S. business will depend as much or more on the domestic policies and measures of Annex B parties1 as on the Kyoto rules themselves. The Kyoto rules merely establish the general framework within which national implementation will take place. Although bad Kyoto rules might have precluded efficient implementation of the Protocol, the Bonn and Marrakech rules do not ensure efficiency, since this will depend on the extent to which governments choose to utilize the Kyoto mechanisms to achieve their targets.

The implications of Kyoto for U.S. business will also depend significantly on whether the United States decides as a matter of domestic policy to undertake emission reduction requirements, and the stringency of any such requirements. This paper generally assumes a scenario in which the U.S. does not take significant domestic action to control emissions. In the final section, it considers an alternative scenario involving adoption of strong U.S. domestic measures to reduce emissions.

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by: Daniel Bodansky, University of Washington

Daniel Bodansky

Fundamentals of Climate Change

Fundamentals of Climate Change

Remarks of Elliot Diringer

Environment, Education, and the United Nations:
Working Towards Sustainable Development
United Nations, New York

January 11, 2002

Thank you. I'd especially like to thank the organizers of this conference for inviting me here this morning. It's a tremendous honor to be speaking to you here at the United Nations. And I particularly appreciate the opportunity to speak to you about an issue that so exemplifies the mission of the U.N. - the challenge of global climate change. For climate change is not simply an international issue - it is a quintessentially global issue. It implicates literally every nation, and every person, on Earth. And ultimately it can be overcome only if all nations work together. It was in that spirit that world leaders signed the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, launching the international effort against climate change. The decade since Rio has shown us how hard it is to translate that spirit into action. We have made some important headway, but there is still a very long way to go. And I believe that you, as educators, are in a unique position to help get us there.

I'd like to say at the outset, though, that I'm not here to try to enlist you in a cause. For many years I was a journalist. I believed my role was to inform and illuminate, not to advocate. And I'm sure many of you feel the same way about your work. Instead, I'd like to offer some thoughts on how you, by teaching about climate change, can help our children better understand the world in which they live. Yes, climate change is a profound challenge. But it is also a profound window on our world. It is a window on both our past and our future; on the intricate relationship between man and the environment; and on the often difficult relations among nations. Climate change teaches us about the limits of science and the importance of economics. It touches on the most mundane and commonplace: how we heat our homes, cook our food, move from place to place, even how we till our soil. And at the same time, it raises fundamental issues of fairness, and the responsibility of one generation to the next. You can see, there are many directions you might go. The question is where to begin.

Here's where I'd like to begin. I'm not going to focus on causes and consequences and solutions. There is plenty of good material out there. If you stop by our display, you can see some of the reports we've produced on everything from health impacts to emissions trading. We also have a list of on-line resources, including several excellent websites geared specifically for educators. So rather than cover those basics, I'd like to step back a bit and try to describe for you some of the fundamental characteristics of climate change. What are the attributes that really define this challenge, that make it different from any other we have faced before? I believe there are four.

First, as I've already said, climate change is a truly global phenomenon. With the exception of the threat to the Earth's ozone layer, which it appears we are well on our way to addressing, we have never before faced a challenge so comprehensive in its reach. The buildup of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere influences physical and chemical systems that shape climate literally everywhere on Earth. The impacts of global warming will vary widely from place to place. But no nation is immune. By the same token, every nation bears some responsibility for meeting this challenge. Each molecule of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere presents the very same risk whether it originates from a taxi in New York or from a power plant in New Delhi. And for that reason, it is futile for any one nation to limit its greenhouse gas emissions unless, ultimately, all do.

That is not to say that every nation must act at the same time or in the same way. I'll come back to this question later. But in time, all must assume their fair share of this common responsibility. Ten years after Rio, we are now at a point where most industrialized countries appear finally on the verge of beginning to tackle their greenhouse gas emissions. Negotiations last fall in Marrakech put the finishing touches on the Kyoto Protocol, which sets the first binding international targets for cutting emissions. Countries are now moving toward ratification and some hope to bring the treaty into force by the 10th anniversary of Rio later this year. Of course, this progress is tempered considerably by the fact that the United States has now abandoned Kyoto. What the United States is prepared to do on its own remains to be seen. But in time, we must bring it back into the international effort, and we must build on Kyoto to forge a framework for action that is as global in reach as the threat it addresses.

A second characteristic of climate change is that it is a long-term challenge. Measured in geologic time, the rapid buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the past century, and the impacts that are likely to follow, might seem sudden and precipitous. But measured on the scale of a human lifetime, climate change is very slow moving. The added carbon dioxide now burdening our atmosphere has accumulated over the course of generations. Scientists believe the warming trend has now begun. The 1990s were the hottest decade of the past millennium. 1997, '98, and '99 were three of the hottest years ever, and last year was the second hottest on record. Scientists also believe they are beginning to see the first impacts. The Arctic ice cap is getting thinner. Spring is arriving earlier here and in Europe. And all around the world, glaciers are retreating. Yet the kinds of impacts that will inflict serious harm - extreme flooding and drought, dramatic sea level rise, the spread of tropical diseases, and the disruption of our agricultural and water supplies - those are still decades down the road. And the full impact of today's emissions will not be felt until next century.

But just as global warming is slow in coming, doing something about it is also a long-term proposition. Certainly, there are steps we can and should take right now - for instance, there are countless ways we could be using energy more efficiently. But ultimately what is needed is a fundamental transformation in the way we power our homes, our factories, our cars - in short, in the way we power our entire economy. We must wean ourselves from fossil fuels, the principal source of greenhouse gas emissions, and adopt alternatives that emit little or no carbon. This means nurturing technologies now in their infancy, and devising others not yet even imagined. Clearly, this can't happen overnight. It will take time - which is all the more reason to get started now.

But here is the dilemma: We must make investments and take actions now to avert threats that might not even materialize in our own lifetimes. If you could calculate the real costs and the real benefits of reducing emissions - something our most sophisticated economic models can only take a stab at - I'm confident the long-term payoff would be well worth the investment. But our decision-making structures are not geared to taking the long-term view. Our investment decisions are made with an eye to the quarterly earnings reports. Our political decisions are made with an eye toward the next election. Part of confronting climate change, then, is learning to think, and to act, for the long term.

Here is a third characteristic of climate change - uncertainty. There is much we do not know about climate change. We know it is happening. But we cannot accurately predict how much the earth's temperature will rise or how quickly. Will it be just two degrees over the next century, which is the low end of the scientists' best estimate? Or will it be 10 degrees, the high end? Nor can we forecast precisely what impacts will be felt where. Is it safe to assume a gradual rise in temperature and impacts? Or, as some scientists believe, is there a significant risk of triggering sudden changes in the climate system that will have swift and catastrophic consequences? There are tremendous economic uncertainties as well. How quickly can our engineers perfect climate-friendly technologies? How quickly will companies and consumers adopt them? Might the economic benefits of addressing climate change be greater than we think because we will at the same time be solving other problems, like air pollution and our costly reliance on imported oil?

We don't have good answers to these questions. So how do we, as a society, act in the face of such uncertainty? One approach is to wait and see. Maybe the warming won't be as bad as the scientists say. So why not give them more time to figure all this out before investing a lot of money that could go to other priorities? The problem is that uncertainty cuts two ways. Maybe the warming will be much worse than the scientists say. Do we want to take that risk? As I said earlier, the strategies needed to address climate change must be implemented over many years. The sooner we begin the less costly they will be. Can we really afford to wait? Climate change forces us to weigh the knowns against the unknowns. Do we insist on absolute certainty? Or do we begin to act now, with smart, flexible strategies that allow us to change course as we learn more?

There is one more characteristic of climate change I'd like to discuss: It is deeply unfair. Earlier I said that climate change affects us all and, that to successfully overcome it, all of us must act. It represents a common threat, and a common challenge. But climate change confronts us as well with extraordinary inequities. First, who is responsible for it? If you look only to the past, the answer seems clear: the industrialized countries. Nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere over the past century as a result of human activity came from developed countries. Nearly a third was contributed by the United States alone. That is not because our populations are larger, but because we are wealthier and consume more. Per-capita emissions are nearly 20 times higher in the United States than in India. If you look forward, however, the calculus changes. As developing countries build their economies, their emissions are growing. And within a few decades, they will surpass those of the industrialized world. In the long run, climate change cannot be effectively addressed without limiting their emissions also. But developing countries are understandably reluctant to sacrifice hard-won gains, or their aspirations for the future, to solve a problem that is not of their making.

There is an even crueler inequity, however - and that is the unequal distribution of the impacts of climate change. Simply by virtue of their location on the planet and their natural endowments, different nations will be affected very differently. And it appears the worst impacts will fall disproportionately on the poorer nations. Countries like Bangladesh, where the flooding of low-lying lands could displace millions. Or small island states like Tuvalu in the southern Pacific, whose people have decided to abandon their homeland before it is swallowed by rising seas. Or the nations of Africa, where increased drought and desertification could mean widespread famine. In other words, the consequences of climate change will fall most heavily on the countries that bear least responsibility for it, and are least able to cope with them.

Ten years ago, in Rio, these inequities were understood, and it was agreed that for all these reasons, the developed countries would act first. That is why the Kyoto Protocol sets emissions limits only for developed countries. President Bush said he was rejecting Kyoto, in part, because it was unfair - it imposed limits on the United States while requiring nothing of large developing countries like China and India. Fairness, it would seem, is a matter of perspective. But one thing, I believe, is clear: We cannot expect nations to agree on an effective global plan against climate change, let alone abide by it, unless each perceives it to be fair. Finding an equitable way of sharing this common burden may the toughest dilemma of all.

Those are four fundamental characteristics of climate change: it is global; it is long-term; it is fraught with uncertainties; and it confronts us with deep inequities. These characteristics define what I believe to be one of most profound challenges we face in this new century. Meeting this challenge will severely test the capacity of the global community, and institutions like the United Nations, to forge a common, effective path forward. It will require political will. It will require tremendous creativity and resourcefulness. It will require new ways of thinking. It will require understanding.

That is where you can help. I said at the outset that I was not here to enlist you as advocates. That is not your role. Yet I am confident that any honest examination of these issues can only help lead us in the right direction. No matter where we begin - by exploring the evidence buried deep in Arctic ice, or the energy systems that sustain our economy, or the ethical quandaries of what is fair - we can arrive at a clearer, deeper understanding of the world in which we live. And by imparting that understanding to our children, we can help ensure a fairer, safer, more secure world for generations yet to come. Thank you very much for listening. 

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Press Release: New Report on Discounting the Benefits of Future Climate Change Mitigation

For Immediate Release:  
December 20, 2001

Contact: Katie Mandes

New Report on Discounting the Benefits of Future Climate Change Mitigation

Washington, DC - How do we compare the costs of greenhouse gas reduction measures taken today with the future benefits of these actions? How do we calculate the value of investments when benefits will continue to accrue over centuries? These are important questions, because the way we value the benefits of greenhouse gas emission reductions will guide the development of cost-effective solutions to the threat of global climate change. A report released today by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change addresses these crucial questions.

The report, Discounting the Benefits of Future Climate Change Mitigation: How Much Do Uncertain Rates Increase Valuations?, by Richard Newell and William Pizer of the independent nonprofit research institute Resources for the Future, highlights an important variable that often goes unexamined in current climate change models-uncertainty in future interest rates. Climate models incorporate discount rates to compare costs and benefits over time-in essence, they tell us how high future benefits need to be to justify spending a dollar today. Most climate models choose one rate and hold it constant over the time horizon of the model.

This study questions that conventional approach, arguing that future rates are uncertain. The authors demonstrate that acknowledging uncertainty about future interest rates leads to a higher valuation of the future benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions today - regardless of the initial rate one chooses. The authors conclude that, by ignoring uncertainty, current approaches used in economic modelling may be consistently undervaluing the future benefits of current climate change mitigation efforts. The report shows that including the effect of interest rate uncertainty in climate models could raise valuations of mitigation efforts by as much as 95 percent relative to conventional discounting at a constant rate.

"This report indicates that immediate action to address global climate change could yield significantly greater benefits in the long-run than conventional economic models have estimated," said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center. "This information will be especially useful for policymakers as they seek to balance near-term mitigation costs with long-term economic and environmental benefits."

This report is the first to be published as a technical report in the Pew Center's economics series. The results of this work - and additional ongoing Pew Center analyses - will be incorporated into a dynamic general equilibrium model in order to better capture the full complexity of the climate change issue.

A complete copy of this report and other Pew Center reports can be accessed from the Pew Center's web site,

The full text of this report is accessible on the Internet:
Discounting the Benefits of Future Climate Change Mitigation: How Much Do Uncertain Rates Increase Valuations? Report.


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 37 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.

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