Climate Change Policy Memo
Discussion Section: 9 TA: Jose Emilio Lopez Word Count: 800 Addressed to the honorable Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman. Objective To ensure the passage of the Climate Stewardship Act, S. 139, in the US Senate before the November 2004 presidential election. Strategy The recent passage of the energy bill has opened an opportunity for the passage of the Climate Change Stewardship Act. Furthermore, the results of the voting of the amendment presented by Senator Lieberman in October, 2003, show that there is already considerable support.
We need to keep building momentum around this issue, and propose some of the following actions. Knowing which states have voted against the Act, it will be important to map out the motivations behind these votes and address them accordingly. For coal intensive states, the loss of income and unemployment that the adoption of cleaner technologies might bring is a big concern. Creating funds to aid them in the transition is not as important as shedding light in the opportunities that the modernization of the coal industry can yield.
Coal and other fossil fuels will not be displaced in the short term as renewables are still beyond the required reliability, but investing in cleaner coal is feasible and can have a high return, helping boost a stagnant industry, creating knew jobs, and attracting investment for R&D of renewables, smart grids, and carbon capture and storage technologies. Further evidence about the real costs and benefits that new technologies present should be available from MIT and similar sources.
Additionally, some states that voted against the amendment could be considered as highly vulnerable to climate change related phenomena such as flooding, hurricanes, and severe droughts. Reliable data related to the increasing incidence of such events in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and other mid western states, will help us convince their representatives on the need to act not only to take advantage of carbon storing crop opportunities, but also to protect their vulnerable agriculture industry and the population. It is essential to build a stronger case about the market opportunities related to climate change.
It was the United States task force who proposed the “flexible mechanisms” to be incorporated in the Kyoto Protocol, and all the Annex I countries but the US have been receiving the benefits of such tools. The US has failed to take advantage of global carbon markets and related commercial opportunities worldwide, and is also missing the opportunity to achieve emission reduction targets at a lower cost. The global markets in which US companies like to drive is setting high competitive standards and truly global companies will need to adapt to the standards whether nationally adopted or not, so why lag behind them.
At this point, the government might find in the private sector a partner to share the cost and risks related to the investment in cleaner technologies. To convince Senators about this argument, it will be important to use advocates such as the Ford Motor Company and IBM. These flag companies are anticipating future regulations and turning the situation into a competitive advantage. Other big market players in the electricity, transportation, industry and commercial sectors might find similar advantages in their own business models.
This can help minimize the perception that climate change regulation is a means to control the market, and show that it can actually help create new markets, increase opportunities for low carbon business and promote the creation of jobs. In terms of international relationships, the passage of the Act can be presented as means to create the right environment for investments that could eventually reduce the dependence of the US on imported fossil fuels, which is as a matter of national security. Given the current climate around the war in Iraq, the Act can be seen as a low risk and low cost alternative to a costly war.
Additionally, there is great concern that any local emission reduction action is meaningless if developing countries don’t establish emission reduction targets. It can be argued that the US needs to establish high internal emission reduction targets, even if it doesn’t ratify the Kyoto Protocol or other international agreements, to recover moral leadership and global negotiation power around this issue. The media is already supportive of the cause so we need to keep working with them to maintain the climate change in the minds of the population in general to keep putting pressure on the candidates.
As with highly vulnerable states, more attention should be brought to the minds of the average citizen of the vulnerability of US territories and not only faraway territories in third world countries. It is important to monitor the results of negotiations in the House of Representatives to feed into this strategy and amend the arguments we will present to the different key players accordingly. Scientific evidence regarding the potentially harmful events of greenhouse gases (GHG) cannot be ignored.
Yet, some might argue that the emissions are due to causes other than human and might be reluctant to change consumption patterns. While data regarding the harmful effects of GHG upon climate, ecosystems and human life, other areas need to be supported by evidence, such as job creation, growth derived from innovation, and other benefits related to decreasing dependency in foreign fuel supply. Climate change will have adverse impacts in several communities. The most vulnerable communities in the United States will be those closear to the Gulf of Mexico.
Traditionally poor and marginal states, will face the harshest conditions as their economic activities depend largely on the yield of crops. Hurricanes and changes in the rain patterns can have severe impact in the already vulnerable economies of these states. When looking at the map of states that voted against this we should devide them into those which are vulnerable to climate effects and voted against to convince them on increasing economic pressures derived from inaction in their own states and neighboring states (peer pressure). Then, with those that depend primarily n fossil fuel exploitation (coal mines, oil fields) we should work on the benefits of increase research and development of low carbon technologies within the fossil fuel industry, investment in research and development of cleaner fuels and more efficient processes can be accompanied by technology transfer tax breaks. Emphasis should be made on the fact that this newer industry will create an increasing amount of green jobs the young population could benefit from. It means shifting maintenance investment in the oil and gas industry to the development of a whole new industry that will yield high paying specialized jobs.
The research and development community is a key ally in trying to convince state governments in secure resources funds for R&D of low carbon technologies. Try to capture talent within states. A new green economy brings opportunity for all and a great chance for stagnating and polluting industries to recapture investment in research and development. Development of smart grids, renewable energy projects, carbon capture and storage, doesn’t compete with the current energy industry but will allow for a long term shift into a more sustainable future while creating high paying and wealth creating jobs.
Reducing the dependence on imported oil might also allow the US government to reinvest savings from cut in oil trade in the states with highest oil production in the cleaning of their industries, aiming to increase efficiency and capture GHG gases. While there are still doubts on whether climate change is due to human activity or not, the fact is that there are countries that have used the opportunities climate change presents to invest in overseas markets and claim great benefits from voluntary carbon markets.
This would allow to improve the US reputation around the World and regain moral leadership. Adaptation Mitigation Evidence needs to be collected One of the main obstacles in past negotiations was the unfairness of the developing countries not having binding reduction targets, in part because any reductions of emissions in the US would benefit only third world countries in the most vulnerable regions. But some US governments have failed to recognize the vulnerability of some US states close to the coast, river basin and other deserted areas (i. e.
Florida, Mississipi, Texas, Lousiana, South Carolina, Georgia). Inaction against climate change will affect these traditionally relegated states. Evidence about the vulnerability of these regions will be key in trying to convince the congressmen representing them to vote in favor of the bill. Even if a great share of emissions are not necessarily connected to human activities (although there is worldwide consensus about the fact that it does) the fact is that temperatures are rising, and there is a need to stabilize CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.
This in itself is an opportunity for innovation, and given worldwide attention to this issue the cost of action will be shared by many countries. If the US fails to act now, the cost of action in years to come might be considerably higher because the country will not be able to share the risk of the investment with other developed economies. It means maintaining leadership in the energy industry, while opening new channel for investment and efficiency, and the creation of a new set of consumption patterns, beneficial for stagnant and even contracting businesses (coal industry).