Agenda for Climate Action

Over the past seven years, the Pew Center has published more than 60 reports on the science, economics, solutions, and policy options related to global climate change. Over that time, the scientific consensus on this issue has only strengthened, but there is, as yet, no consensus on the appropriate portfolio of policies that are required to address global climate change successfully. This Agenda for Climate Action is C2ES’s attempt to fill that gap. It takes a comprehensive look at a suite of climate, energy, and technology policies that could provide meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions throughout the economy.

This report finds six areas in which the U.S. must take action: (I) science and technology research, (II) market-based emissions management, (III) emissions reductions in key sectors, (IV) energy production and use, (V) adaptation, and (VI) international engagement. In the areas of science and technology research, we call for increased stable funding for both, along with innovative approaches to distribute funds efficiently. We propose a mandatory GHG reporting system, which can form the basis for tracking voluntary reductions, accompanied by a large-source, economy-wide cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases. This combination of technology investment and market development will provide for the most cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gases, as well as create a market for GHG-reducing technologies.

While these broader efforts are critical, sector-specific actions are also needed. To address emissions from the transportation sector, we propose converting the struggling Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program into a more ambitious but tradable GHG standard, along with increased support for low-emission vehicles and fuels. For the industrial sector, we encourage greater outreach and incentives for improvements in process efficiency and the manufacture of low-GHG products. In the agriculture sector, biological sequestration programs in Farm Bill legislation must receive proper funding and prioritization. Because energy is at the heart of this issue, we tackle this sector separately, making recommendations for each major energy source. To enable continued use of coal in a climate-friendly manner, we promote aggressive research and development on carbon separation and capture technologies, development of a regulatory framework for geologic sequestration, and advanced generation coal plants. Natural gas is an important transition fuel, and we support the expansion of natural gas transportation infrastructure and production. We propose extending incentives for renewable fuels and electricity generation, an increased focus on biomass, and federal-level support for renewable credit-trading programs. We also support continued use of nuclear power generation, pending resolution of issues such as safety and waste storage. There are vast opportunities for improving efficiency on an economy-wide basis, so we promote improved efficiency in electricity production (through distributed generation, combined heat and power technologies), in electricity transmission (through test beds for an advanced grid), and during energy use (through building codes, product standards, and manufacturing process improvements).

Because none of these efforts will fully prevent all potential effects of climate change (indeed, many impacts are already being observed), we propose the development of a national adaptation strategy and the funding of early warning systems. Last but not least, while the Agenda focuses on domestic actions, it argues for greater participation by the U.S. in international negotiations to engage all major emitters in a global solution.

Despite the specificity of many of the steps included here, there is still much room for ongoing refinement and elaboration of these recommendations. While we have consulted with many stakeholders in the development of this report, we look forward to building upon the suggestions described here through further outreach and consultation.

This report follows the publication of International Climate Efforts Beyond 2012: Report of the Climate Dialogue at Pocantico, an examination of options for advancing the international climate effort post-2012. Taken together, these two documents offer a promising path forward for the U.S. and the world in tackling global climate change.