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Carlos Rymer February 26, 2007 U.S. Carbon Policy 2001-2008: A Voluntary Approach In 2001, the United States decided not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, on the basis that it would affect its economy (White House, 2001). Avoiding mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions from all sources, the new administration decided to address climate change through a voluntary approach that emphasizes partnerships to voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas intensity, known as the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions per unit of Gross Domestic Product. The national goal was to reduce greenhouse gas intensity by 18% below current levels through 2012. This policy includes several programs for voluntary reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, including Climate VISION, Climate Leaders, SmartWay Transport Partnership, and ENERGY STAR (U.S DOS, 2006). In addition to voluntary reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, the approach includes investments in research and development of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, higher fuel economy for light trucks, tax incentives for renewable energy and vehicle fuel efficient technologies, and a voluntary greenhouse gas registry, among other programs. In terms of science and emerging technologies, the policy directs funds to improve climate science and understanding and develop new technologies like carbon capture and sequestration, clean coal, hydrogen, and nuclear fusion and fission. Finally, the approach promotes international collaboration by removing barriers to clean energy technology transfer around the world (U.S. DOS, 2006). There are several examples of how this policy is working to slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. The Climate VISION program has ensured the commitment of 14 U.S. industries, accounting for 40% of U.S. total emissions, to greenhouse gas intensity reductions (Climate VISION, 2006). The Climate Leaders program has 1
garnered 109 partners to date, with commitments from 59 partners for greenhouse gas intensity reductions goals. To date, 5 of these partners have achieved their goals (EPA, 2007). These commitments by companies and sectors have led to the development of new tactics to achieve greenhouse gas intensity reductions. Recently, a new market has emerged to help meet voluntary greenhouse gas emission reductions. This new market provides carbon offsets or credits by funding the carbon-reducing projects, such as renewable energy and energy efficiency installations or by practices that sequester carbon dioxide (such as tree-planting or no-till agriculture). These carbon offsets can then be purchased by individuals and companies to meet their own greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. The essential concept of this mechanism is that it encourages the addition of projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Only new, additional projects can be considered for credits under this market mechanism (Taiyab, 2006). This new carbon market is being used by businesses, non-governmental organizations, government agencies, international conferences, and individuals to voluntarily reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. For example, an increasing number of businesses and agencies, including HSBC Bank and the World Bank, have made commitments to reduce their energy use and purchase carbon offsets for the remaining greenhouse gas emissions (Taiyab, 2006). This growing market has allowed companies to more easily achieve their greenhouse gas intensity goals on a voluntary basis, as the current U.S. policy advocates. In terms of international collaboration, the U.S. voluntary approach has led to the establishment of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. This partnership promotes the development and deployment of clean energy technologies. Consisting of six countries, this partnership focuses on expanding investment for clean energy technologies and addresses 8 public-private sectors. Although partners have
different greenhouse gas reduction goals, they all have the common goal of enabling deployment of clean, efficient, and cost-effective technologies (APPCDC, 2006). The U.S. voluntary approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions has created a strong debate amongst those who believe stronger, mandatory actions must be taken to reflect the recommendation of consensus-based science and those who believe that a voluntary approach is the best option to achieve climate stability and economic growth (PCGCC, 2001). Nonetheless, it has provided incentives to reduce the growth rate of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Works Cited
Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. 2006. Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate Executive Summary of Task Force Action Plans. http://www.asiapacificpartnership.org/APP%20Action%20Plans/ExecutiveSummary%20_31%20Oct%200 6_%20_2_.pdf. Last Accessed: February 25, 2007. Climate VISION. 2006. Program Mission. U.S. Department of Energy. http://www.climatevision.gov/mission.html. Last Accessed: February 25, 2007. Department of State. 2006. Energy Needs, Clean Development, and Climate Change. U.S. Partnerships in Action. Environmental Protection Agency. 2007. Climate Leaders Fact Sheet. Climate Leaders Program. http://www.epa.gov/climateleaders/docs/partnership_fact_sheet.pdf. Last Accessed: February 25, 2007. Pew Center on Global Climate Change. 2001. The U.S. Domestic Response to Climate Change: Key Elements of a Prospective Program. http://www.pewclimate.org/policy_center/policy_reports_and_analysis/brief_us_domestic_response/inde x.cfm. Last Accessed: February 25, 2007. Taiyab, Nadaa. 2006. Exploring the market for voluntary carbon offsets. International Institute for Environment and Development, London. White House. 2001. Text of a Letter from the President to Senators Hagel, Helm, Craig, and Roberts. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/03/20010314.html. Last Accessed: February 25, 2007.