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The 2008 Candidates and Climate Change: A Guide to Key Policy Positions

For the first time, both major party candidates for the presidency are deeply concerned about global climate change and publicly support a mandatory, economy-wide cap-and-trade system for reducing the U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that contribute to global climate change. Global climate change now occupies a place of unprecedented importance in American politics, as the debate has advanced beyond the causes of global climate change to the actions needed to address it. This guide outlines key climate positions of Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama, examines the records of their respective vice-presidential nominees, and details relevant portions of the Republican and Democratic Party platforms, with links to related resources focused on critical climate change policy issues.

As a non-partisan policy center, the Center will not be endorsing a specific candidate, and will be working to inform the policies of whoever is elected president. This brief guide discusses a few notable details of the presidential contenders' plans to combat global climate change. A detailed, bullet-point summary of the candidates' policies is contained in the appendix.

Alternatively, you can jump directly to specific portions of the guide by clicking on the corresponding links below:


GHG Cap and Trade as Primary Method of Reducing GHG Emissions

Both Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain support a mandatory, economy-wide GHG cap-and-trade program as a primary tool for reducing U.S. GHG emissions. In a cap-and-trade system, the government sets a declining annual cap on total GHG emissions, requires facilities that emit GHGs to acquire one "allowance" for each ton of their emissions, and allows the facilities to buy and sell allowances from each other or from the government (e.g., at an auction). In this way, while government establishes the environmental objective, industry, through the marketplace, decides the most cost effective way to achieve it.

Sen. McCain's proposal for a cap-and-trade program incorporates several details drawn from the cap-and-trade bills he co-authored with Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (ID-CT) in the Senate in 2003, 2005, and 2007. Sen. Obama cosponsored the 2005 and 2007 McCain-Lieberman bills, but has taken different positions on two aspects of a cap-and-trade program: the pace of GHG reductions and the method of initially distributing GHG allowances.

As GHGs accumulate in the atmosphere, they adversely affect the climate for decades. Unfortunately, the United States' annual GHG emissions have been rising steadily – they were 14.7% higher in 2006 than they were in 1990. Sen. McCain's plan calls for limiting U.S. GHG emissions at the 2005 levels by 2012; at 1990 levels in 2020 (15% below 2005 levels); and at 22% below 1990 levels in 2030 (34% below 2005 levels).

Sen. Obama has not specified short- and mid-term goals, but materials on his campaign's web site state that he "will start reducing emissions immediately in his administration by establishing strong annual reduction targets."

In the longer term, Sen. Obama has called for an 80% reduction of U.S. GHG emissions below 1990 levels by 2050, while Sen. McCain's plan calls for a 60% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050.

Initial allowance distribution is among the most contentious elements in the design of a cap-and-trade program. While allowance distribution does not affect the environmental integrity of the program (the quantity of GHGs emitted is determined by the cap levels mentioned above), it does have several other important policy implications. Under a cap-and-trade program, there are several methods by which allowances could be initially put into the market. Among other things, allowances could be: given for free to emitting facilities or manufacturers facing higher energy costs to assist the transition to low-carbon energy sources; auctioned to raise revenue for a variety of purposes, including protecting low-income consumers from higher energy costs, aiding the transition of workers, subsidizing the development and deployment of low-carbon energy technologies, and managing the physical impacts of global climate change; or auctioned to provide revenue for the general treasury that could be used to offset tax cuts or to reduce the federal deficit, for example. Any combination of these methods may be employed.

Sen. Obama has proposed the auction of 100% of GHG emissions allowances, with an estimated $250 billion a year in auction revenues being used for a variety of purposes, including an investment of $150 billion over 10 years to develop and deploy lower-emission energy supplies and create new jobs. Sen. McCain has been less specific on the subject of initial allowance distribution. His campaign's website states that his program would eventually auction allowances, and would "work to maximize the amount of allowances that are auctioned by 2050." Similarly, the McCain-Lieberman bills would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to determine how best to distribute allowances.



Complementary Policies to Slow or Reduce GHG Emissions

Cap-and-trade is essential to reducing U.S. GHG emissions, but by itself cap and trade will not be sufficient to bring domestic and international emissions down to safe levels. Transportation policies, building codes, energy efficiency, and low-carbon energy generation are just a few of the areas that will need to be part of a successful comprehensive climate change policy.

Sen. McCain strongly favors dramatically expanded nuclear power generation. He has called for 45 new nuclear reactors by 2030 and for 100 new nuclear plants in the long term. Sen. Obama is open to increasing nuclear generation, saying, "it is unlikely that we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we eliminate nuclear power as an option," but "before an expansion of nuclear power is considered, key issues must be addressed including: security of nuclear fuel and waste, waste storage, and proliferation."

Both candidates support research, development and deployment (RD&D) of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology for coal-fired power plants. CCS is also sometimes referred to as "clean coal technology." Sen. McCain has called for $2 billion per year for CCS RD&D, while Sen. Obama would direct the Department of Energy to enter into public-private partnerships to develop five commercial-scale coal?fired plants with CCS.

The candidates disagree over a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) (also called a renewable energy standard [RES]), which would set a federal mandate for the percentage of electricity consumed in the U.S. that must come from renewable sources. Sen. Obama favors an RPS of 10% of all consumed energy by 2012. Sen. McCain opposes such a mandate, supporting instead tax incentives to encourage renewable energy production.

Both candidates have made recommendations that could reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector. Sen. McCain would establish a "Clean Car Challenge," a tax credit of $5,000 for every consumer who buys a zero-carbon emission car; McCain would also establish a $300 million prize for the development of advanced battery technology for plug-in hybrid and fully electric automobiles. Sen. Obama proposes a $7,000 tax credit for the purchase of advanced technology vehicles, and has set a goal of 1 million plug-in electric vehicles on the road by 2015. Both candidates support expanded production of flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) ¬¬– American automakers are already committed to make 50% of their cars FFVs by 2012, and Sen. Obama pledges to make 100% of all new cars are FFVs by 2012, while Sen. McCain "calls on automakers to make a more rapid and complete switch to FFVs."

Changing the vehicles we drive is one important way to reduce GHG emissions from transportation, but addressing the emissions from transportation fuels themselves is also critical. To that end, Sen. Obama would establish a national Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), which would, starting in 2010, require fuel suppliers to reduce the carbon content of their fuel by 5% by 2015, and by 10% by 2020. Sen. Obama would also increase fuel economy standards by 4% a year. Sen. McCain would "effectively enforce" existing fuel economy standards, and would eliminate mandates, subsidies, tariffs and price supports that focus only on corn-based ethanol, which would "level the playing field for all alcohol-based fuels," including cellulosic ethanol.

Both candidates recognize that improving energy efficiency across the economy can be a powerful tool for reducing GHG emissions. Sen. McCain would apply higher efficiency standards to new or retrofitted buildings leased or purchased by the Federal government, which is currently the largest energy consumer in the world, and occupies 3.3 billion square feet of space worldwide. Sen. McCain would also promote investment to upgrade the national electricity grid, and supports deploying smart metering technology. Sen. Obama would set a national electricity efficiency goal of reducing demand by 15% from DOE's projected 2020 levels. Sen. Obama would also set a goal of making all new buildings carbon-neutral or zero-emission by 2030, and set a national goal of improving new building efficiency by 50% and existing building efficiency by 25% over the next decade. Like Sen. McCain, Sen. Obama pledges to reduce Federal energy consumption, improving energy efficiency in all new Federal buildings by 40% within 5 years, and ensuring that all new Federal building are zero-emitting by 2025. Sen. Obama also pledges to invest in a smart grid, and to incentivize states to adopt regulations allowing utilities to decouple profits from increased energy usage.



International Climate Agreements

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process is actively moving towards a new international climate change agreement, with an ambitious target completion date of December 2009. Both candidates have expressed their intent to actively engage in these negotiations, and their approach to international climate policy is profoundly different from the current administration.

Both candidates have also expressed their intent to provide incentives for developing countries to reduce their GHG emissions. Sen. Obama would create a technology transfer program within the Department of Energy to transfer lower-polluting American energy technology to the developing world to fight climate change; Sen. McCain would establish "government incentives and partnerships for sales of clean tech to developing countries."

Regarding major emerging economies, such as China and India in particular, Sen. McCain would "provide incentives for rapid participation by India and China, while negotiating an agreement with each," while Sen. Obama would "cooperate with China and India to reduce demand for oil," and in general "ensure the U.S. works with developing countries on climate change," including "confronting deforestation and promoting carbon sequestration."

In addition, Sen. Obama "would create a Global Energy Forum – based on the G8+5, which include all G-8 members plus Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa – of the world's largest emitters to focus exclusively on global energy and environmental issues." McCain has not publicly proposed an additional international process.

Additional Resources:



EPA Regulations for CO2

Updated on October 31, 2008

The Supreme Court, in the 2007 case Massachusetts v. E.P.A., ruled that the government has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the current Clean Air Act, overruling the Bush Administration argument that it did not have such authority. Despite the ruling, the Administration has declined to regulate GHGs, and maintains that the Clean Air Act is too unwieldy an instrument to use for GHG regulation.

The campaigns of both Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain have said their candidate prefers reducing GHG emissions through Congressional legislation than through the Clean Air Act's regulatory mechanisms. But in the absence of such Congressional action, top advisers to both McCain and Obama have said their candidate would comply with a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that allows the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) and other GHGs.

"The EPA is obligated to move forward in the absence of Congressional action," Jason Grumet, Sen. Obama's energy advisor said. "If there's no action by Congress in those 18 months, I think any responsible president would want to have the regulatory approach." [Bloomberg, October 16]

Sen. Obama would, "initiate those rulemakings," Grumet said. "He's not going to insert political judgments to interrupt the recommendations of the scientific efforts."

Obama campaign officials have since said Grumet was explaining that producing complex government regulations generally takes about 18 months. [E&ENews PM, October 29]

Similarly, top McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin said McCain, if elected, would comply with the Supreme Court ruling on GHGs. [E&ENews PM, October 29]

However, two McCain advisers' have expressed the candidate's preference for regulating the gas through Congressional legislation—former Central Intelligence Agency director and current McCain adviser James Woolsey said on October 6 that new rules may conflict with Congressional efforts, while policy adviser Rebecca Jensen Tallent said in August that McCain prefers a bill debated by Congress rather than regulations "established through one agency where one secretary is getting to make a lot of decisions." [Bloomberg, October 16]



On the Campaign Trail

Sen. John McCain:

"We must use all resources and develop all technologies necessary to rescue our economy from the damage caused by rising oil prices and restore the health of our planet." – Speech accepting the Republican nomination for President, Sep. 5, 2008.

"We now know that fossil fuel emissions, by retaining heat within the atmosphere, threaten disastrous changes in climate. No challenge of energy is to be taken lightly, and least of all the need to avoid the consequences of global warming.

"Over time, we must shift our entire energy economy toward a sustainable mix of new and cleaner power sources. This will include some we use already, such as wind, solar, biofuels, and other sources yet to be invented. It will include a variety of new automotive and fuel technologies, clean-burning coal and nuclear energy, and a new system of incentives, under a cap-and-trade policy, to put the power of the market on the side of environmental protection. To make the great turn away from carbon-emitting fuels, we will need all the inventive genius of which America is capable. We will need as well an economy strong enough to support our nation's great shift toward clean energy.

"Global warming presents a test of foresight, of political courage, and of the unselfish concern that one generation owes to the next. We need to think straight about the dangers ahead, and meet the problem with all the resources of human ingenuity at our disposal. We Americans like to say that there is no problem we can't solve, however complicated, and no obstacle we cannot overcome if we meet it together. I believe this about our country. And now it is time for us to show those qualities once again." – Speech to the Clinton Global Initiative, Sep. 25, 2008.

"… [President Bush] and I have not seen eye to eye on many issues. We've disagreed over energy policy and climate change …" – June 3, 2008.

"We have many advantages in the fight against global warming, but time is not one of them. Instead of idly debating the precise extent of global warming, or the precise timeline of global warming, we need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters, and all the endless troubles that global warming will bring. We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great. The most relevant question now is whether our own government is equal to the challenge.

"There are vital measures we can take in the short term, even as we focus on long-term policies to mitigate the effects of global warming … Each one of the consequences of climate change will require policies to protect our citizens, especially those most vulnerable to violent weather. Each one will require new precautions in the repair and construction our roads, bridges, railways, seawalls and other infrastructure. Some state and local governments have already begun their planning and preparation for extreme events and other impacts of climate change. The federal government can help them in many ways, above all by coordinating their efforts, and I am committed to providing that support.

"To lead in this effort, however, our government must strike at the source of the problem ¬– with reforms that only Congress can enact and the president can sign. We know that greenhouse gases are heavily implicated as a cause of climate change. And we know that among all greenhouse gases, the worst by far is the carbon-dioxide that results from fossil-fuel combustion. Yet for all the good work of entrepreneurs and inventors in finding cleaner and better technologies, the fundamental incentives of the market are still on the side of carbon-based energy. This has to change before we can make the decisive shift away from fossil fuels.

"For the market to do more, government must do more by opening new paths of invention and ingenuity. And we must do this in a way that gives American businesses new incentives and new rewards to seek, instead of just giving them new taxes to pay and new orders to follow. The most direct way to achieve this is through a system that sets clear limits on all greenhouse gases, while also allowing the sale of rights to excess emissions. And this is the proposal I will submit to the Congress if I am elected president ¬– a cap-and-trade system to change the dynamic of our energy economy." – June 25, 2008.



Sen. Barack Obama:

"I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease." – Speech accepting the Democratic nomination for President, Aug. 28, 2008.

"No single issue sits at the crossroads of as many currents as energy. Our dependence on oil and gas funds terror and tyranny; it has forced families to pay their wages at the pump; and it puts the future of our planet in peril. This is a security threat, an economic albatross, and a moral challenge of our time. The time to debate whether climate change is manmade has past – it's time, finally, for America to lead.

"The first commitment that I'll make today is setting a goal of an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

"To do our part, we'll implement a cap-and-trade program so that there's a price for pollution, and resources to transform our energy economy. I've proposed an investment of $150 billion in alternative energy over ten years, which will create millions of jobs and break the cycle of our addiction to oil. We need to do more than drill. Now is the time to develop every form of alternative energy – solar, wind, and biofuels, as well as technologies that can make coal clean and nuclear power safe. We need to raise fuel economy standards, put more plug-in hybrid cars on the road, and find new ways to be energy efficient.

"Abroad, the United States must get off the sidelines. We'll reach out to the leaders of the biggest carbon emitting nations and ask them to join a new Global Energy Forum to lay the foundation for the next generation of climate protocols. We'll build an alliance of oil-importing nations, and work together to reduce our demand, and break the grip of OPEC. And as we develop clean energy, we should share technology and innovations with the nations of the world.

"This effort to confront climate change will be part of our strategy to alleviate poverty. Because we know that it is the world's poor who will feel – and who may already be feeling – the affect of a warming planet. If we fail to act, famine could displace hundreds of millions, fueling competition and conflict over basic resources like food and water."

– Speech to the Clinton Global Initiative, Sep. 25, 2008.

"As President, I will set a hard cap on all carbon emissions at a level that scientists say is necessary to curb global warming ¬– an 80% reduction by 2050. To ensure this isn't just talk, I will also commit to interim targets toward this goal in 2020, 2030, and 2040. These reductions will start immediately, and we'll continue to follow the recommendations of top scientists to ensure that our targets are strong enough to meet the challenge we face.

"In addition to this cap, all polluters will have to pay based on the amount of pollution they release into the sky. The market will set the price, but unlike the other cap-and-trade proposals that have been offered in this race, no business will be allowed to emit any greenhouses gases for free. Businesses don't own the sky, the public does, and if we want them to stop polluting it, we have to put a price on all pollution. It's time to make the cleaner way of doing business the more profitable way of doing business."

"…to combat climate change [I will] call on businesses, government, and the American people to make America 50% more energy efficient by 2030. This is by far the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to curb our emissions and save money at the same time. Since DuPont implemented an energy efficiency program in 1990, the company has significantly reduced its pollution and cut its energy bills by $3 billion, and cities like Keene and Portland, Oregon have led in meeting new efficiency standards. There is no reason the rest of America can't do the same.

"We will start by dramatically improving the efficiency of our buildings, which currently account for nearly half of all carbon emissions in America today. When I am President, we'll set a goal of making our new buildings 50% more efficient within several years. The federal government will lead by making all of its buildings carbon neutral by 2025. And I will set a national goal of making all new buildings in America carbon neutral by 2030." – October 8, 2007.

"One of the most dangerous weapons in the world today is the price of oil...this immediate danger is eclipsed only by the long-term threat from climate change, which will lead to devastating weather patterns, terrible storms, drought, and famine. That means people competing for food and water in the next fifty years in the very places that have known horrific violence in the last fifty: Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Most disastrously, that could mean destructive storms on our shores, and the disappearance of our coastline." – July 15, 2008.

"Our changing climate is placing our planet in peril." – Aug. 4, 2008.



The Vice-Presidential Candidates

Sen. Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE):

Sen. Biden is a long-time supporter of climate action, having voted for the 2003 and 2005 McCain-Lieberman bills, and having strongly advocated for U.S. engagement in international climate change treaty negotiations. In 2003 and 2005 with Senator John F. Kerry (D-MA), and in 2005 and 2007 with Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), he cosponsored a nonbinding resolution calling for U.S. participation in international climate change negotiations. Sen. McCain voted for this resolution in 2005.

Sen. Biden also cosponsored, with Senators Lugar and Hagel (R-NE), legislation which would authorize $2 billion for the Clean Technology Fund, an initiative of President George W. Bush, which would be administered by the World Bank to promote lower- and zero-carbon energy production projects in the developing world.


Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK):

While Gov. Palin has taken state and regional action on climate change ¬– such as establishing a special Climate Change Sub-Cabinet, and making Alaska an observer of the Western Climate Initiative (in which seven other U.S. states and four Canadian provinces are developing a mandatory cap-and-trade program to reduce the region's greenhouse gas emissions) ¬– she has also expressed skepticism about the extent to which human activities are contributing to global climate change and associated impacts. Alaska has not as yet adopted any measures to reduce its GHG emissions.

In December 2007, she told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, "I'm not an Al Gore, doom-and-gloom environmentalist blaming the changes in our climate on human activity. But I'm not going to put my head in the sand and pretend there aren't changes."

In a January 5, 2008, op-ed in The New York Times Palin treads this line. She argued against listing polar bears as an endangered species because of threats to their habitats caused by global climate change, writing "the possible listing of a healthy species like the polar bear would be based on uncertain modeling of possible effects. This is simply not justified."

In August 2008, before Sen. McCain selected her as his running mate, she told Newsmax.com "A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made."

On September 3, in her first interview as the Vice-Presidential nominee, however, she told ABC News, "I believe that man's activities certainly can be contributing to the issue of global warming, climate change."

A September 30, 2008, interview for CBS News with Katie Couric featured an extensive exchange on climate change and cap and trade:

Couric: If [climate change] is not man-made, then one might wonder, well, how can human beings contribute to a solution?

Gov. Palin: Well, human beings certainly are contributing to pollution today. And to some adverse effects on the environment. And it's all of our jobs to do to clean things up. And that's what we're committed to doing."

Couric: So you do believe … that man is contributing to global warming, because you just said they're causing pollution. Of course, pollution causes global warming.

Gov. Palin: I believe that there are a lot of causes. And there is one effect. And one is changes in the climate. And there are things that we can do to make sure we're cleaning up the environment. I also formed an integrity office that solely is focused on petroleum, on pipelines, on those things that we do up there in Alaska to contribute to the U.S. domestic supply of energy.

Where we can focus solely on environmental protections. There are a lot of things that I've done there in that arena of environmental protection that have kind of ticked off some in my own party thinking that I went too far. But I've always been of the mind that, you know, we gotta prove that we can do this right. Safely, ethically, environmentally friendly developments, or we're not gonna be allowed to unlock our lands and tap these supplies.

Couric: John McCain proposed legislation calling for mandatory caps on global warming gases or CO2 emissions. Do you agree with that?

Gov. Palin: I support his position on that. Absolutely.

Couric: But he somewhat backtracked on the campaign trail saying it wouldn't, they wouldn't, the caps wouldn't be mandatory, they'd be voluntary. So what do you think? Do you think voluntary caps go far enough? Or they should be mandatory?

Gov. Palin: He's got a good cap and trade policy that he supports. And details are being hashed out even right now. But, in principle, absolutely, I support all that we can do to reduce emissions and to clean up this planet. And john McCain is right on board with that.

Couric: Voluntary or mandatory in your view?

Gov. Palin: We're gonna keep working on how it can be implemented to actually make sense and make a difference.



The Party Platforms

The Republican Party:

"As part of a global climate change strategy, Republicans support technology-driven, market-based solutions that will decrease emissions, reduce excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, increase energy efficiency, mitigate the impact of climate change where it occurs, and maximize any ancillary benefits climate change might offer for the economy.... Republicans caution against the doomsday climate change scenarios peddled by the aficionados of centralized command-and-control government.... [W]e will insist on reasonable policies that do not force Americans to sacrifice their way of life or trim their hope and dreams for their children. This perspective serves not only the people of the United States but also the world's poorest peoples, who would suffer terribly if climate change is severe – just as they would if the world economy itself were to be crippled. We must not allow either outcome."

Click here to read the complete Republican Party platform. The Environmental Protection section on page 35 discusses climate change.


The Democratic Party:

"We will help pay for [clean energy programs] by dedicating a portion of the revenues generated by an economy-wide cap-and-trade program – a step that will also dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and jumpstart billions in private capital investment in a new energy economy."

Click here to read the complete Democratic Party platform. The Protecting our Security and Saving our Planet section on page 42 discusses climate change.



Appendix: Candidates' Climate- and Energy-Related Policy Positions

Sen. Barack Obama

Candidate's website

  • "Global warming is real, is happening now and is the result of human activities."
  • Implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
  • Invest $150 billion over the next ten years to develop and deploy climate-friendly energy supplies, protect our existing manufacturing base, and create millions of new jobs.
  • Improve energy efficiency to reduce the energy intensity of our economy by 50 percent by 2030.
  • Reduce our dependence on foreign oil and reduce oil consumption overall by at least 35 percent, or 10 million barrels of oil, by 2030.
  • Make the U.S. a leader in the global effort to combat climate change by leading a new international global warming partnership.

Climate policy positions:

  • Cap-and-trade with 100% auction.
  • Invest revenue for a clean energy future.
    • Invest in basic research.
    • Invest in a skilled clean technologies workforce. This includes a youth jobs program to invest in disconnected and disadvantaged youth.
    • Invest in energy efficiency improvements and address transition costs, including helping American workers affected by this economic transition and helping lower-income Americans afford their energy bills by expanding the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, expanding weatherization grants for low-income individuals to make their homes more energy efficient, and establishing a dedicated fund to assist low-income Americans afford higher electricity and energy bills
    • Develop next generation of biofuels.
    • Expand locally-owned biofuel refineries.
    • Develop and deploy clean coal technology. "Obama will use whatever policy tools are necessary, including standards that ban new traditional coal facilities, to ensure that we move quickly to commercialize and deploy low carbon coal technology."
    • Safe and secure nuclear energy: "Four key issues: public right-to-know, security of nuclear fuel and waste, waste storage, and proliferation."
    • Establish a national Low Carbon Fuel Standard.
    • Clean Technologies Deployment Venture Capital. To be "modeled on the Central Intelligence Agency In-Q-Tel program. In-Q-Tel is a non-profit, independently-managed venture capital fund led by seasoned venture capital professionals to develop new intelligence technologies for the CIA. The first five years of In-Q-Tel funding led to 22 new technologies being used in 40 government programs."
    • Extend federal Production Tax Credit for renewable energy for five years.
    • Convert manufacturing centers into clean technology leaders.
  • 25% renewable electricity standard by 2025.
  • 30% renewable electricity standard for the Federal government by 2020.
  • Improve building efficiency.
  • Expand federal efficiency grants.
  • Phase out incandescent light bulbs.
  • Invest in smart grid.

International positions:

  • Re-engage with UNFCCC.
  • Create new forum of largest GHG emitters: "Barack Obama will take seriously the U.S.'s leadership role in combating climate change. Obama will signal to the world the U.S. commitment to climate change leadership by implementing an aggressive domestic cap-and-trade program coupled with increased investments in clean energy development and deployment. Obama will build on our domestic commitments by creating a negotiating process that involves a smaller number of countries than the nearly 200 countries in the current Kyoto system. Obama will create a Global Energy Forum – based on the G8+5, which includes all G-8 members plus Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa – of the world's largest emitters to focus exclusively on global energy and environmental issues."
  • Transfer American technology to the developing world to fight climate change: "Obama will create a Technology Transfer program within DOE."
  • Cooperate with oil importers (China, India) to reduce demand.
  • Ensure the U.S. works with developing countries on climate change.
  • Confront deforestation and promote carbon sequestration.


Sen. John McCain

Candidate's website

Sen. John McCain's Cap and Trade Policy:

  • Greenhouse Gas Emission Targets And Timetables:
    • 2005 levels in 2012 (18% above 1990 levels)
    • 1990 levels in 2020 (15% below 2005 levels)
    • 22% below 1990 levels in 2030 (34% below 2005 levels)
    • 60% below 1990 levels in 2050 (66% below 2005 levels)
  • Coverage:
    • Electric power, transportation fuels, commercial businesses, and industrial businesses.
    • Just below 90% of all emissions. Small businesses would be exempt. Initially, participants would be allowed to either make their own GHG reductions or purchase "offsets" – financial instruments representing a reduction, avoidance, or sequestration of greenhouse gas emissions practiced by other activities, such as agriculture – to cover 100 percent of their required reductions. Offsets would only be available through a program dedicated to ensure that all offset GHG emission reductions are real, measured and verifiable. The fraction of GHG emission reductions permitted via offsets would decline over time.
  • Allocation and Auction:
    • "Emissions permits will eventually be auctioned to support the development of advanced technologies. A portion of the proceeds of these auctions will be used to support a diversified portfolio of research and commercialization challenges, ranging from carbon capture and sequestration, to nuclear power, to battery development. Funds will also be used to provide financial backing for a Green Innovation Financing and Transfer (GIFT) to facilitate commercialization."
    • "A portion of auction proceeds" will also go to "reduce impacts on low-income American families."
    • "Early allocation of some emission permits on sound principles. This will provide a significant amount of allowances for auctioning to provide funding for transition assistance for consumers and industry. It will also directly allocate sufficient permits to enable the activities of a Climate Change Credit Corporation, the public-private agency that will oversee the cap and trade program, provide credit to entities for reductions made before 2012, and ease transition for industry with competitiveness concerns and fewer efficiency technology options."
    • "A commission will also be convened to provide recommendations on the percentage of allowances to be provided for free and the percentage of allowances to be auctioned, and develop a schedule for transition from allocated to maximum auctioned allowances. Cap-and-trade system will also work to maximize the amount of allowances that are auctioned off by 2050."
  • Cost-containment:
    • Full banking and borrowing.
    • Initially, firms will be able to use domestic and international offsets for 100% of their compliance obligation.
    • Trading will be integrated with other international markets.
    • A Strategic Carbon Reserve will be established as a national source of permits "during periods of economic duress."
  • International:
    • "John McCain will engage the international community in a coordinated effort by:
      • Actively engaging to lead United Nations negotiations;
      • Permitting America to lead in innovation, capture the market on low-carbon energy production, and export to developing countries – including government incentives and partnerships for sales of clean tech to developing countries;
      • Provide incentives for rapid participation by India and China, while negotiating an agreement with each."
  • Adaptation:
    • "John McCain will develop a climate change adaptation plan.
    • A comprehensive approach to addressing climate change includes adaptation as well as mitigation.
    • An adaptation plan should be based upon national and regional scientific assessments of the impacts of climate change.
    • An adaptation plan should focus on implementation at the local level which is where impacts will manifest themselves.
    • A comprehensive plan will address the full range of issues: infrastructure, ecosystems, resource planning, and emergency preparation."

The Lexington Project for Energy Independence

  • 45 new nuclear reactors by 2030.
  • Long-term goal of 100 new nuclear plants.
  • $2 billion/year to clean coal RD&D.
  • Clean Car Challenge to automakers: The first zero-emission car will earn $5,000 tax credit for each customer. For other vehicles, the lower the carbon emissions, the higher the tax credit.
  • Goal of a "swift conversion of American vehicles away from oil."
  • $300 million prize for advanced vehicle battery technology.
  • Renewables to be incentivized through cap-and-trade program.



Press Release: Offset Quality Initiative Releases White Paper


News Release: For Immediate Release — July 28, 2008

Alexia Kelly, The Climate Trust, 541-514-3633
Tom Steinfeldt, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, 703-516-4146


Group Receives Major Grant from the Energy Foundation

PORTLAND and WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Offset Quality Initiative (OQI) will release a white paper today in San Diego at a briefing to be held before the opening of the Western Climate Initiative stakeholder meeting. Titled “Ensuring Offset Quality: Integrating High Quality Greenhouse Gas Offsets Into Cap-and-Trade Policy,” the document offers policymakers practical recommendations regarding the integration of greenhouse gas offsets into emerging regulatory systems at the state, regional and federal levels. OQI, a coalition of six leading non-profit organizations—The Climate Trust, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, California Climate Action Registry, Environmental Resources Trust, Greenhouse Gas Management Institute, and The Climate Group—was founded in November 2007 to provide leadership on GHG offset policy and best practices. 

“The availability of high-quality offsets is key to containing the cost of climate policy while delivering real greenhouse gas emission reductions,” said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. “A rigorous and adaptable offset program design can ensure that offsets play a valuable role in an effective cap-and-trade system. OQI’s work will assist policymakers seeking to develop core components of a credible offsets program.”

In addition to regulatory design guidelines, the white paper addresses the key criteria for offset quality and discusses offset project types most appropriate for inclusion in emerging regulatory systems. OQI member organizations will discuss their recommendations with policymakers and other stakeholders over the next several weeks, beginning with today’s briefing in San Diego.

“Establishing confidence in the environmental integrity of offsets is critical for the successful launch and acceptance of future cap and trade regulatory systems.  The goal of our paper is to provide policymakers with well-conceived and comprehensive recommendations for offset program design based on the collective knowledge and experience of the OQI members.  Each nonprofit member of the coalition is a well-respected and established organization in climate change and brings valuable experience and knowledge to the group,” said Gary Gero, President of the California Climate Action Registry.

OQI recently received a one-year grant of $235,000 from the Energy Foundation to support its work. “We were excited and honored to receive the grant,” said Mike Burnett, Executive Director of The Climate Trust, which was awarded the grant on behalf of OQI. “This generous support from the Energy Foundation highlights the need for the unique work and perspective of OQI. We will use the funds to continue to advance sound greenhouse gas offset policy.”

For a copy of the white paper or for more information on the briefing, please visit www.offsetqualityinitiative.org.


About the Offset Quality Initiative
The Offset Quality Initiative (OQI) was founded in November 2007 to provide leadership on greenhouse gas offset policy and best practices. OQI is a collaborative, consensus-based effort that brings together the collective expertise of its six nonprofit member organizations: The Climate Trust, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, California Climate Action Registry, the Environmental Resources Trust, Greenhouse Gas Management Institute, and The Climate Group.

The four primary objectives of the Offset Quality Initiative are:

  • To provide leadership, education, and expert analysis on the issues and challenges related to the design and use of offsets in climate change policy.
  • To identify, articulate, and promote key principles that ensure the quality of greenhouse gas emission offsets.
  • To advance the integration of those principles in emerging climate change policies at the state, regional, and federal levels.
  • To serve as a source of credible information on greenhouse gas offsets, leveraging the diverse collective knowledge and experience of OQI members.

White Paper: Ensuring Offset Quality

Ensuring Offset Quality: Integrating High Quality Greenhouse Gas Offsets Into North American Cap-and-Trade Policy
An Offset Quality Initiative White Paper
July 2008

Download full paper (pdf)

Download executive summary (pdf)

Read press release

This paper aims to provide policymakers with practical recommendations regarding the integration of greenhouse gas (GHG) offsets into emerging regulatory systems. Offsets have an important role to play in controlling the costs associated with regulating and reducing GHGs, and in driving technology transformation in sectors not mandated to reduce their GHG emissions. In order for offsets to deliver on their intended purpose — the achievement of a real and verifiable reduction in global GHG emission levels beyond what would have otherwise occurred —regulatory programs must be designed to ensure the quality and effectiveness of offsets used to meet GHG reduction requirements. Policymakers must also have a clear understanding of both the opportunities and challenges presented by the integration of offsets into GHG emission-reduction systems.

This document represents the consensus of the member organizations of the Offset Quality Initiative: The Climate Trust, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, California Climate Action Registry, Environmental Resources Trust, Greenhouse Gas Management Institute and The Climate Group. The GHG mitigation field is evolving at a rapid pace and will continue to do so over the next several years; this document will be updated over time to reflect any changes in the Offset Quality Initiative’s consensus positions.

The work of the Offset Quality Initiative is generously supported by the Energy Foundation.


Press Release: New Paper Examines Key Federal and State Roles in U.S. Climate Policy

Press Release
June 27, 2008

Contact: Tom Steinfeldt, (703) 516-4146 

Shared Responsibilities Can Help Meet Climate Challenge

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Of the myriad challenges facing policymakers as they seek to take action on climate change, determining the appropriate respective roles of federal and state governments within comprehensive national legislation is one of the most difficult. In the absence of federal leadership, states are fulfilling their key functions as policy innovators and drivers of new ideas. From their participation in regional greenhouse gas reduction efforts to the implementation of low-carbon energy standards, states are taking action to curb emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

While state action is an important component of climate policy, achieving the significant emissions reductions needed to tackle climate change requires comprehensive national action. A new paper released by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change explores this challenge by examining how to best delineate federal and state government roles in crafting a new national climate change policy.

“Toward a Constructive Dialogue on Federal and State Roles in U.S. Climate Change Policy” delivers critical insights into national climate policy approaches that seek to balance federal and state responsibilities. The paper, authored by Franz T. Litz of the World Resources Institute, explores a range of policy options from heavy reliance on federal action to state-dominated policy prescriptions. While political decisions will greatly influence any eventual national climate plan, this paper explains that a well-designed policy will leverage the strengths of each level of government.   

“In order to reduce emissions cost-effectively and to the levels scientists say are necessary, we need the federal government to step up to the plate at the same time the states are doing their part,” said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. “As this paper makes clear, a strong U.S. climate policy will take advantage of the things states do well – such as building efficiency codes and smart growth – and let Washington do things that only Washington can do, such as developing a national cap-and-trade system and negotiating with other countries. There are many ways for states to play a role in the cap-and-trade program, and the national legislation should explicitly address this. I think there is more than enough responsibility and hard work to go around.”

The paper examines shared authority between federal and state governments while providing relevant context for determining appropriate roles. Key sections of the paper include:

  • An historical overview of state and federal actions and shared authority on environmental issues;
  • A summary of federal preemption in the United States;
  • The federal-state partnership under the Clean Air Act; and
  • The benefits and challenges in possible policy approaches.

This paper was first presented in draft form at the Pew Center’s workshop on Innovative Approaches to Climate Change, held in February 2008. The event brought together legislative staff and officials from state and federal governments to share their experience developing climate policies, and to discuss the appropriate roles of each level of government in implementing future national policy. Participants explored how federal policy might be informed by, and interact with, existing state efforts.

For more information about global climate change and the activities of the Pew Center, visit www.c2es.org.


The Pew Center was established in May 1998 as a non-profit, non-partisan, and independent organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. 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 Earth’s climate is rapidly changing. In the United States and other nations, people are seeing how the impacts of rising global temperatures affect their communities, their livelihoods, and the natural environment. Substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions is essential to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. But mitigation alone is not enough. Even with emission reductions, some warming will still occur. Adaptation planning at the local, state, and national levels can limit the damage caused by climate change, as well as the long-term costs of responding to climate-related impacts that are expected to grow in number and intensity in the decades to come.

To learn more about adaptation, read Climate Change 101: Adaptation and check out the additional resources below. 

U.S. Federal Adaptation Resources:

U.S. States & Regions Adaptation Resources:

Markets & Business Adaptation Resources:

International Adaptation Resources:

Statement: Senate Vote Supporting Mandatory Climate Action

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

June 6, 2008

The vote, while only procedural, shows growing support in the Senate for mandatory climate action and, in particular, GHG cap and trade. Forty-eight Senators voted in favor, including several who had not previously supported climate action. Six more who were absent said they would have voted yes if present ­- including the presumptive Democratic and Republican presidential nominees.

This week's debate showed that the terms of debate have shifted. Apart from a couple of remaining skeptics, there was no challenge to the broad scientific consensus on climate change. The Senate is now debating the best means ­- and the cost ­­- of reducing emissions. These are extraordinarily complex issues and it will take many more hours of debate before Congress works through them. But this is the right debate and it's now well under way.


Click here to read our June 6 summary putting the Senate vote in context.

Distribution of Allowances in S. 3036 Boxer-Lieberman-Warner Substitute Amendment

Graphical Illustrations Depicting the Distribution of Allowances in the Bill
June 3, 2008

Click here to view the figures. (pdf)

Daily Updates: Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act

Daily Updates:

June 6, 2008:

This morning, June 6, 2008, for the first time, a majority of the United States Senate signalled its support for mandatory climate action and, in particular, greenhouse gas (GHG) cap-and-trade.

Specifically, the Senate voted on whether to end debate (i.e., to "invoke cloture") on the Boxer substitute to S.3036, the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, a bill that would establish a GHG cap-and-trade program and other measures to reduce U.S. GHG emissions.  Had the motion passed, the Senate would have moved to a post-cloture debate on the bill, followed by a vote on the substitute itself.  The motion received only 48 votes, with 36 voting against, falling short of the 60 votes required to invoke cloture.  In addition to the 48 yes votes, six Senators who were absent – including presumptive presidential nominees McCain (R-AZ) and Obama (D-IL) – entered statements into the record saying they would have voted for cloture had they been present. 

Not every vote for this procedural question can be read as support for the bill itself.  In particular, 10 of the Democrats who voted for cloture shortly afterwards sent a letter to Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) and Sen. Boxer (D-CA) stating their opposition to the bill in its current form and listing the issues that would need to be resolved to win their support.  Nevertheless, it is generally understood that the 54 Senators put themselves on record in support of greenhouse gas cap-and-trade.  Moreover, seven of the Senators who either voted against cloture or remained silent on the vote have either cosponsored or voted for previous GHG cap-and-trade bills. 

Today's vote shows that the next President will come to office with a majority of support in the Senate for GHG cap-and-trade, and very possibly with the 60 votes needed for passage for the right bill.

June 4, 2008:

The Senate debate on the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill (S.3036) began in earnest yesterday, June 3, 2008. While the process forward is not yet clear, and there were no votes held, Senators rehearsed arguments for and against the bill, and announced their intention to offer several amendments.

The following Senators spoke in favor of the bill: Senators Boxer (D-CA), Lieberman (ID-CT), Warner (R-VA), Casey (D-PA), Dole (R-NC), Feinstein (D-CA), Kerry (D-MA), Sanders (I-VT), Snowe (R-ME). It is worth noting that Sens. Dole and Warner did not vote for the Lieberman-McCain cap-and-trade bill in 2003 and 2005.

The following Senators spoke strongly against the bill: Senators Inhofe (R-OK), Barrasso (R-WY), Corker (R-TN), Craig (R-ID), Domenici (R-NM), Enzi (R-WY), Grassley (R-IA).

Other Senators—Alexander (R-TN), Gregg (R-NH), and Specter (R-PA)—acknowledged the need to take climate action but spoke against the bill in its current form. These senators described changes they would like make to the bill and indicated forthcoming amendments to do so. However, it is not clear whether these Senators would vote for the bill if amended as they desire. It is worth noting that Sen. Gregg voted for the Lieberman-McCain bill in 2003 and 2005.

These Senators discussed the following amendments:


  • Would establish a cap-and-trade system for fossil-fuel-fired power plants only, and a separate low-carbon fuel standard for transportation fuels to take effect in 2023.

Gregg: ­­

  • Would use revenue from allowance auctions to offset taxes, dollar-for-dollar for "working Americans."


  • Would replace the GHG reduction targets in S.3036 with the more conservative ranges in his bill (S.1766), which aims for 1990 emission levels in 2030, with further reductions dependent on international action.
  • Would replace S.3036's cost-containment provisions with the safety valve in S.1766, which would effectively establish a ceiling price on emissions allowances.
  • Would replace S.3036's international trade provisions with those from his own bill, which give less discretion over how imports of certain energy-intensive commodities from countries that do not have cap-and-trade systems are treated.

June 3, 2008:

Last night, the Senate began debate on the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008 (S.3036). This is the first time that greenhouse gas (GHG) cap-and-trade legislation has proceeded through regular order—that is, through the committee process, and potentially to votes on the Senate floor. A previous version of this bill, then designated as S.2191, was passed 11-8 by the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee in December 2007. The legislation currently under debate has been extensively revised from the version of the Act passed by the EPW Committee.

If enacted into law, the bill would establish a market-based GHG cap-and-trade program in the United States, and establish other measures to reduce GHG emissions. Most observers consider it unlikely that the Senate will pass the bill this year. To win final passage, it would not only have to garner a simple majority of 51 votes, but also attract the 60 votes needed to break the threat of a filibuster which would likely follow any motion to report it out of the Senate. Moreover, President Bush has promised to veto S.3036 should it ever reach his desk. Nevertheless, the bill's proponents —led by Senators Boxer (D-CA), Lieberman (ID-CT), Warner (R-VA), and Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV)—are seeking a result that shows the Senate is ready to pass legislation to reduce GHG emissions, even if S.3036 falls short this year. Proponents of the bill will be speaking to two audiences in the coming debate—the public and other Senators—with the goal of convincing them that the costs of the bill will be minimal compared to the benefits of changing the way the United States uses energy, and avoiding the worst consequences of climate change.

Opponents of cap-and-trade, and of GHG emissions mandates—led by Sen. Inhofe (R-OK)—are hoping for an opposite result. They joined proponents in voting Monday night (June 2, 2008) to allow the bill to inch through the Senate process, and then insisted on the 30 hours of debate due to them under Senate rules before amendments to the bill can even be considered. They will use this time to cast climate change legislation in the most unfavorable light possible. Today (Tuesday) will see opponents decrying the bill for its supposed disastrous effects on the economy, and as a measure which is ill-considered in a time of rising gasoline prices and possible recession.

Where the process goes from here is yet unclear. The current version of Lieberman-Warner has been in circulation for just over a week. A number of Senators who support action on climate change are still familiarizing themselves with its provisions and not guaranteed to vote for it. Only after gauging their support will Reid and the other leaders decide their strategy. This will probably be developed sometime today, though may not be made clear to the public before Wednesday or Thursday.

Analysis of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008

The Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008 was debated in the Senate in early June 2008. This page pulls together various resources on the bill, including insights from economic modeling analyses, a bill summary and quick reference guide to the bill, as well a daily update on debate proceedings. Bookmark this page to easily access key material about the Lieberman-Warner bill.

Eileen Claussen shares her thoughts on last week's Senate activity on the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (June 12, 2008)

Quick Reference Guide:

On June 6, 2008, for the first time, a majority of the United States Senate signaled its support for mandatory climate action and, in particular, greenhouse gas (GHG) cap-and-trade.

Specifically, the Senate voted on whether to end debate (i.e., to “invoke cloture”) on the Boxer substitute to S.3036, the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, a bill that would establish a GHG cap-and-trade program and other measures to reduce U.S. GHG emissions. Had the motion passed, the Senate would have moved to a post-cloture debate on the bill, followed by a vote on the substitute itself. The motion received only 48 votes, with 36 voting against, falling short of the 60 votes required to invoke cloture. In addition to the 48 yes votes, six Senators who were absent – including presumptive presidential nominees McCain (R-AZ) and Obama (D-IL) – entered statements into the record saying they would have voted for cloture had they been present.

Not every vote for this procedural question can be read as support for the bill itself. In particular, 9 of the Democrats who voted for cloture shortly afterwards sent a letter to Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) and Sen. Boxer (D-CA) stating their opposition to the bill in its current form and listing the issues that would need to be resolved to win their support. Nevertheless, it is generally understood that the 54 Senators put themselves on record in support of greenhouse gas cap-and-trade. Moreover, seven of the Senators who either voted against cloture or remained silent on the vote have either cosponsored or voted for previous GHG cap-and-trade bills.

Today’s vote shows that the next President will come to office with a majority of support in the Senate for GHG cap-and-trade, and very possibly with the 60 votes needed for passage for the right bill.

Related Resources:

Insights from Modeling Analyses of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act

May 2008

Models only provide a simplified view of our economy. In the case of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (S.2191), models can capture many of the key policy elements (e.g., the impacts of targets, timing, and offsets) but cannot incorporate all of them.

This In-Brief examines some of the models that have been used to assess the economic impacts of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (as reported out of Committee in December 2007) and puts them in context for consumers of this modeling information.

Download the In-Brief (PDF)

Powerpoint Presentations:

In this paper:



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