Climate Change Activities in the U.S.: 2004 Update
This recently updated publication provides an overview of climate-related efforts in the United States, including activity:
- In Congress, where in October 2003, the U.S. Senate for the first time voted on legislation that would cap U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and establish a national GHG trading system;
- At the state level, where governments are enacting mandatory carbon controls and other programs that reduce GHG emissions;
- In the business community, where a growing number of corporations are setting GHG reduction targets and achieving significant emission reductions.
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An Overview of Climate Change Activities in the United States
Action by the United States—the world’s largest economy and largest emitter of greenhouse gases—is critical to the success of any long-term strategy to address global climate change. Several lessons emerge from this overview that are relevant to the development of comprehensive U.S. policy to address climate change:
- Numerous opportunities exist to reduce GHG emissions cost-effectively while achieving multiple benefits. Companies are finding that they can improve efficiency, save energy costs, and improve their competitiveness through new, climate-friendly products and processes. States are finding that they can simultaneously promote economic development, energy security, and environmental protection.
- There is no single solution to climate change. GHG emissions come from thousands of activities; they can be reduced through thousands of approaches.
- To take advantage of these opportunities and to achieve the right mix of solutions, federal policies are needed with certain ends and flexible means. U.S. policy must harness market forces to spur innovation and to motivate companies and jurisdictions to identify and implement solutions that can be tailored to specific circumstances.
While encouraging, the activities described in this publication represent only a start toward the sustained, comprehensive effort needed to significantly reduce U.S. GHG emissions. Overviews of the kinds of measures that could help launch such an effort are provided in other Pew Center publications, The U.S. Domestic Response to Climate Change: Key Elements of a Prospective Program and Designing a Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program for the U.S.
The current U.S. Administration is supportive of research and development of new climate friendly technologies, which is one important component of the needed domestic response. For example, through the FutureGen project, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) plans to work together with private companies to develop a full-scale commercial demonstration of an integrated coal gasification combined cycle power plant with carbon capture and geological sequestration. However, the Administration has proposed no policies that would create a market for such technologies.
Examples of such policies include targeted tax incentives for purchasing low-emitting technologies, and a GHG “cap-and-trade” program that would establish an overall constraint on GHG emissions and allow companies to trade emissions credits to meet that constraint at the lowest possible cost. Instead, the Administration has rejected the Kyoto Protocol without proposing an alternative international framework, set a voluntary domestic GHG intensity target that would allow U.S. emissions to actually increase by 12 percent by 2012, and established no mechanism for ensuring that even that target will be met.
Other developments in Congress, at the state level, and in the business community suggest growing support for stronger efforts to reduce U.S. emissions. This report focuses on these other developments. New steps are being taken, and a genuine debate over U.S. climate policy has begun.