State and Corporate Action on Climate Change: Multiple Benefits From Multiple Approaches

State and Corporate Action on Climate Change: Multiple Benefits From Multiple Approaches

Speech by Eileen Claussen, President
Pew Center on Global Climate Change

National Governors Association Workshop
Washington, DC

February 28, 2002

Thank you. I'm delighted to be here this morning to talk with all of you about climate change. And, before I begin, I want to tap into the spirit of the recently concluded Olympics by awarding a few medals. The first medal goes to the White House. It is for speed skating around an issue, and is awarded in recognition of the Bush Administration's recently announced climate policy. This policy could just as easily have won the slalom competition for the way it zigs and zags around the real problem. Or perhaps it should have been entered in the downhill race, because that's where it will inevitably lead us-downhill.

That said, I think there are plenty of medals to go around. The former administration, for example, is a prime candidate for the gold in the biathlon. This is the competition, of course, in which you do two entirely different things-such as talking big on the international stage about your commitment to addressing climate change while doing next to nothing at home to put any kind of serious policies in place. I apologize for being so harsh in my assessment, but you can rest assured I was not pressured in any way by other judges on the panel.

Seriously, though, it's always a pleasure to spend some time with a group of people who are not only interested in learning about climate change, but are in a position to do something about it. A little later on I'll talk about what many states already are doing about it, and why it's in your state's interest as well as the national interest for you to do even more. But first I'd like to spend just a couple of minutes looking at where we stand in our efforts to address climate change, both here in the United States and abroad, and where ultimately we need to go.

The best place to start, I think, is with the science. And here, I believe, the consensus that has emerged is quite clear. Both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the report prepared last year by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences are agreed on three main points: 1) the earth is warming; 2) human activity is largely to blame; and 3) the warming trend is likely to accelerate in the years ahead. And the implications are profound, affecting everything from farming and tourism to the reliability of the water supply and the livability of our coasts. Of course there are always uncertainties, and there always will be. But these uncertainties cut both ways, and are not an excuse for inaction. For example, it is possible that the impacts will be less severe than we expected. But it is equally possible that the effects will not be linear, and that we are in for some serious and negative climate surprises, such as a dramatic shift in the Gulf Stream current that warms Western Europe.

So, with or without uncertainty, I believe it is absolutely essential that we act. Now what is it we need to do? There are lots of ways we can begin to attack this problem, and I'll come back to those. But right now I want to lay out the big picture - the grand scheme, if you will. I'll be blunt about it: In the long run, the only solution is a fundamental transformation in the way we power our global economy. To keep our planet from overheating, we must dramatically reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The primary source of these gases is the combustion of fossil fuels. So our goal, over time, must be to end our reliance on coal and oil and to develop new sources of energy that can power our growing economy without endangering our climate. Yes, it is a tall order. It implies technological and economic transformation on an unprecedented scale. In fact, it demands nothing short of a second industrial revolution.

Is this revolution underway? Let's look first at the international picture. 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, which sets the first binding international limits on greenhouse gas emissions. European nations are well on track to ratifying the Protocol. Vigorous debates are underway in Japan, Canada and other industrialized countries that face some serious challenges in meeting their targets, but the prognosis is for the treaty to enter into force either this year or next.

The setback, of course, was President Bush's outright rejection of Kyoto. I do not intend to spend any time here debating the merits of the Protocol. It's true, the Protocol is at best a modest first step on a long journey. But from my perspective, the basic architecture of the treaty is sound. In fact, it's an architecture largely designed in the United States. It uses emissions trading, a concept born and bred here in America, to ensure that emissions are cut as cost-effectively as possible. I happen to believe that the emissions target for the U.S. negotiated by the previous Administration was unrealistic. It couldn't be met. But there were ways that could have been fixed short of a unilateral withdrawal.

And what has President Bush offered as his alternative? The President has offered a promise - a promise that the United States will do really no better than it's doing right now. When you do the math, the President's goal of an 18 percent reduction in greenhouse gas intensity by 2012 amounts to a 12 percent increase in actual emissions. It essentially continues the same trends we've seen over the last two decades. In other words, the target is nothing more than business as usual. On the positive side, the President has recommended that companies that make emission reductions should not be penalized in the event there is a future regulatory regime that requires reductions. A first step, perhaps, but a very modest one.

Fortunately, that's not the end of the story. There are people in this town who think climate change is a serious issue that warrants serious action. (If there were not, I think I would be a very lonely person.) In fact, some of those who are supporting serious action happen to be members of Congress. It may come as a surprise to you, but there is growing bipartisan interest in Congress in doing something about climate change. In fact, nearly twice as many climate change bills were introduced in the past year as in the previous four years combined. There is, of course, a serious debate over whether or not carbon should be covered in new multi-pollutant legislation for power plants. But there are literally dozens of other bills that would do everything from raising fuel economy standards to boosting research and development to encouraging farmers to adopt practices that suck carbon out of the atmosphere, or use some of their land for wind farms. Several bills would establish a national system for tracking and reporting greenhouse gas emissions - an important first step, which, if coupled with provisions that legally recognize the private sector's accomplishments in reducing emissions, would at least begin to put us on a constructive path for dealing with this issue. And finally, Senators Lieberman and McCain plan to introduce legislation later this year to establish a comprehensive nationwide emissions trading system. That's a bold idea - one that frankly I can't see being enacted for some time, probably years. But for the first time, serious debate about how the United States should meet its responsibilities on climate change is now underway.

What we really need, of course, is action, not debate. And I'm pleased to be able to tell you that real action is indeed taking place. To find it, though, you have to look beyond the Beltway. You have to look in two places - first, in the boardrooms and factories of major corporations that are taking it upon themselves to tackle their greenhouse gas emissions; and second, you have to look to the states and local communities that instead of waiting for leadership from Washington are taking up this challenge on their own. None of these efforts can in the end substitute for a credible, comprehensive national effort. Ultimately that is the direction we need to go. But addressing climate change requires a multiplicity of strategies at all levels. And the states and corporations that are taking the lead right now are the laboratories and proving grounds that will help us identify the smartest, most cost-effective strategies that can best serve the nation as a whole. That's not all. In the process, they are discovering that addressing climate change delivers a host of other benefits as well.

Let me begin by telling you about some of the efforts underway in the private sector. The Pew Center's Business Environmental Leadership Council now includes 37 major companies that accept the need for action on this issue and are taking concrete steps to protect the climate. These are primarily Fortune 500 companies such as Weyerhaeuser, Intel, Boeing, Dupont, Shell and Alcoa. Together they employ more than 2 million people and generate annual revenues of nearly $900 billion.

The Pew Center recently released a report that takes a close look at six companies that are members of the Council and that have adopted voluntary greenhouse gas targets. It also looks more broadly at a total of 31 companies with emission reduction targets. The report assesses the reasons why these companies took on targets, and what the results have been. The companies cited a number of reasons for taking on a target. They believe that the science of climate change is compelling, and that over the long term, their climate-friendly investments will pay off. They also believe that by taking the initiative, they can help the government create climate change policies that work well for business. It is one thing to advocate policies such as reasonable targets and timetables and flexibility for businesses to use various means to implement clearly defined goals. It is another thing to actually demonstrate via corporate action that these measures work.

But each of the companies 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 company 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 all the companies are finding that their efforts are helping to reduce production costs and enhance product sales today.

I think one of the most important lessons to be gleaned from this analysis is the variety of approaches employed by these companies. For example, a number of companies have greenhouse gas emission targets that relate directly to their industrial processes: Alcoa plans to reduce its direct process emissions by 25% below 1990 levels by 2010; and Dupont is on track to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by a remarkable 65% by 2010.

Others have determined that their greatest contribution comes from the use of their products: Ford Motor Company will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from its European fleet by 25% by 2005; and IBM will have 90-100% of its computers Energy Star-compliant each year.

Some have chosen to use relative measures for their targets: Toyota North America will reduce its energy use per unit of production by 15% below 2000 levels by 2005; United Technologies will reduce its energy consumption per unit of sales by 25% below 1997 levels by 2007; and Baxter International will reduce its energy use and associated greenhouse gas emissions per unit of production by 30% below 1996 levels by 2005.

Still others have chosen to increase their purchases of renewable energy, thereby creating greater demand for clean energy. For example, Dupont will get 10% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010; and Interface is aiming for 10% by 2005.

BP and Shell have set up internal emissions trading systems among their business units, and have much practical advice to offer based on their experiences. And many companies, including American Electric Power, PG&E and others have invested significantly in carbon sequestration projects to offset their emissions. So as you can see, companies are experimenting, innovating and coming up with an array of strategies best suited to their individual circumstances.

Let me turn now to the equally impressive efforts taking shape at the state level. Over the past year, the Pew Center has worked with the National Association of State Energy Officials to gather information on state programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Earlier this month, we officially unveiled the results: a searchable database on our website describing 21 programs that have delivered real emissions reductions. We'll be adding more programs in the weeks and months ahead. What's different about this database-and the reason I recommend it to your attention-is that it provides detailed information about how these programs started, what kinds of barriers states encountered, and how they dealt with them. It also quantifies the emissions reductions resulting from each of the programs. We posted the database two weeks ago and it's been accessed more than 1,000 times already.

Let's look at some of the examples it provides. We all know about Nixon going to China. But what about George W. Bush as a champion of renewable power? It's true. Legislation signed by then-Governor Bush to restructure the Texas electricity industry requires that all electricity providers generate about 3 percent of their power using renewable sources. The Texas Renewable Portfolio Standard was expected to bring more megawatts of renewable power on line in 2001 than in the prior 100 years. The result should be a reduction of approximately 3.3 million tons of CO2 per year, as well as reductions in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

Oregon, meanwhile, was the first state in the nation to enact mandatory controls on carbon dioxide. The state requires that all new power plants meet a tough new emissions standard, and allows utilities to comply by paying a fee to the nonprofit Climate Trust, which in turn invests in projects that reduce or sequester CO2 emissions.

Other states are reducing emissions - while also reducing the burden on taxpayers and consumers - by investing directly in energy efficiency. New Hampshire, for instance, is saving $4 million a year through energy-saving retrofits on state-owned buildings. And Colorado has provided free energy efficiency upgrades to more than 70,000 low-income households, trimming their energy bills an average of 20 to 25 percent.

In the transportation sector, Washington State is leveraging nearly $8 in private funding for every dollar from the state for a program that gives commuters alternatives to the single-occupancy auto. The payoff is enormous: The program is generating roadway capacity at just a third the cost of building and operating new roadways.

Farmers are also pitching in. A program in Georgia that gives growers access to special "no-till" equipment has not only cut emissions and saved energy, but also conserved more than 2 million tons of soil. And finally, on the local level, high school students in Pattonville, Missouri, teamed up with state officials to fuel their school's boilers with methane captured from a neighboring landfill.

So what do all these examples from companies and from the states show us? First, that despite the lack of leadership here in Washington, there are significant efforts underway across America to address climate change, and the momentum is growing. These efforts are delivering real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions-and, better yet, they are doing it cost-effectively.

A second important lesson is that these efforts pay multiple dividends. In the case of the companies, they deliver operational efficiencies, reduced energy costs, and increased market share - all things that contribute to a healthier bottom line. In the case of the states, they deliver cleaner air, smarter growth, new energy sources, and real savings for taxpayers. The fact of the matter is that many of these initiatives were launched for reasons having nothing to do with climate change. The emissions reductions they are producing are simply side benefits - but they are real, and they are making a difference.

A third important lesson is the sheer diversity of approaches being taken. Climate change is an enormous challenge. It has to be tackled on many fronts. If ever there were an issue that defied one-size-fits-all solutions, this is it. The efforts being initiated right now in the boardroom and in your state capitols demonstrate that we have the drive and the ingenuity to come up with strategies of all different shapes and sizes. We must be careful not to squash that drive and ingenuity. Yes, we ultimately need a comprehensive national program to meet this challenge. But it must be one that provides the necessary incentives - and the flexibility - to encourage and allow a broad array of strategies.

In closing, I'd like to commend all of you from states that are already stepping up to the challenge of climate change and seizing the very real opportunities it presents. I'd like to encourage the rest of you to go back home to your bosses and tell them why it's in the interest of their constituents to do the same. Many times in the past, when we couldn't count on Washington to take the lead, the states have stepped into the breach. Climate change is another opportunity for you and your states to demonstrate that real leadership and real innovation are not top-down but bottom-up. If you lead, Washington will follow. And only then will the United States be able to become a real gold medal contender in the global effort to meet this global challenge. Thank you very much. I will be very happy to answer any questions. 

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