Finally. Change. Along with the new President comes a bright and contemporary perspective on how to tackle climate change. So what can we expect from the fresh-faced Obama and his team of scientifically renowned advisors? Hopefully decisive action, and a lot of it. This week in ClimatePULSE we take a look at the recently published (January 15th) US Climate Action Partnership’s (USCAP) “Blueprint for Legislative Action.” A self-described “detailed framework for legislation to address climate change”. So, is the US Climate Action Partnership Blueprint the answer to our prayers for an economically sustainable approach to solving our climate concerns?
Well, it’s certainly not a flawless climate bill, but it does propose some viable solutions. For example, the Blueprint’s ideas on setting performance standards for new coal plants are rather thorough and well thought out. However, in contrast to this, the report could be deemed deficient with its outlook on the allocation of allowances under a federal cap-and-trade system.
To give you a brief overview, the US Climate Action Partnership Blueprint touches upon the following issues:
- International Principles (specifically US leadership on a global front);
- Cap-and-Trade System Design (i.e. allowance allocation and scope of regulation); and
- Complementary Measures (i.e. proposed initiatives for coal technology and the transportation sector)
An interesting commentary piece that appeared in Energy Daily by climate change expert Hoff Stauffer explained some of the issues that lie ahead. One of the most important issues being that the Obama administration will undoubtedly have to focus on the economy in the near-term. Given that this focus will overshadow climate change for at least the next year, it could very well be difficult to “engage Congress on the many intricacies of carbon pricing”. Intricacies that would be needed to seamlessly integrate a cap-and-trade system.
And although the Blueprint’s ultimate goal (an 80% reduction of GHG emissions by 2050) is widely considered to be acceptable, Stauffer points out that the trajectory of measures that will achieve this goal may not be adequate. A viewpoint shared with the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), who recently declared that Obama’s plan might not be aggressive enough. Additionally, Stauffer points out that it would be very difficult to allocate the proposed for $100 billion per year under the current economic uncertainty.
Taking into account the shortfalls of the report, something that the US Climate Action Partnership Blueprint does do extremely well is highlight the importance of the U.S to drive international action. This can be achieved by implementing a mandatory cap on emissions, with targets and timetables consistent with an effective global effort. It may be difficult, or near impossible, to successfully integrate a carbon trading scheme within the next year per se. Nevertheless, by initially focusing on some of the “Complementary Measures” outlined in the blueprint, and phasing a smooth transition to a carbon economy, we may yet be successful in combating climate change on a legislative front. And considering the wide-garnered exposure of the US Climate Action Partnership Blueprint report, it could very well bring more legislation to the forefront. For this effort, we should applaud them.