began as a simple consulting project has propelled Claussen
front and center into one of the worlds most pressing
environmental concerns, as well as one of its most hotly-debated
challenges. The year was 1998, and Claussen had recently resigned
her position as Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and
International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. She was
asked by the Pew Charitable Trusts, a philanthropy with whom
she had no previous relationship, to investigate the concept
of a center that would bring a new scientific and cooperative
approach to the debate on global warming.
Pew asked me to work as a consultant to help them determine
what needed to be done in climate change, Claussen recalled.
So I helped them work out a general program. When I
was finished, they turned around and asked me if I wanted
to just do itwhich was perfect.
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Claussen was off and running in no time. Her progress
was aided by her knowledge of the issues and the relationships she
had formed while at the state department, as well as previous positions
as a Special Assistant to the president, Senior Director for Global
Environmental Affairs at the National Security Council and a number
of positions at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The objective of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change is to educate
the public and key policy-makers about the causes and potential
consequences of climate change and to encourage the domestic and
international community to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
To accomplish this, Claussen explains that the centers activities
to disseminate information regarding environmental impacts,
economics and policy that is honest and believable;
to communicate with and educate the public regarding global
climate change issues; and
to advance solutions on an international basis by encouraging
dialogue between the private and public sectors.
Claussens first order of business was the establishment of
the centers Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC),
a group of companies that have publicly acknowledged the threat
of global climate change and have committed to taking action to
address its consequences. The initial group of 13 companies has
now grown to 36, with the three most recent additions announced
Her insistence on engaging and recognizing the influence of the
private sector has earned Claussen a reputation of being somewhat
of a maverick in the NGO community, but she says she is convinced
that solutions that do not make economic sense will eventually follow
the declining path of the oceans, ecosystems, species and natural
resources the Pew Center is trying to protect. In fact, the joint
statement of the BELC states, We believe that the response
must be cost-effective, global and equitable, and also allow for
economic growth based on free market principles.
Yet, while she readily acknowledges the importance of the private
sector, she just as strongly advocates the need for collaboration
and dialogue with both government and the NGO community to effectively
formulate practical, reality-based solutions. She explained her
assessment of the current state of affairs this way at a recent
speech given to the Society of Environmental Professionals (SEP):
Our government is weaker, NGOs are stronger and industry is
more attuned to the environmental consequences of its actions. Looking
at these trends, and coupling them with the ease of modern communications
and the growth of the Internet, you start to see the outlines of
a new approach to environmental policy making.
Some have argued for greater self-policing by the private
sectorbased on the belief that it is in industrys best
interests to deal aggressively and responsibly with these issues,
she continued. But I am talking about something different.
I am talking about a governance model that requires a heightened
level of interaction and cooperation among government, NGOs, industry
and othersan approach that draws on everybodys strengths,
interests and expertise to forge solutions that everybody can support.
In the past few months, Claussen acknowledged that activity is heating
up at the Pew Center. The debate over the Kyoto Protocol and the
failure of negotiations regarding the treaty in The Hague last November,
as well as the stance on global warming taken by the Bush administration,
has led to increasing interest in the issue of global warming from
all sectors. Where it will lead in the near futureincluding
the talks in Bonn, Germany, in late July regarding the Kyoto agreementremains
somewhat uncertain, she admits. Yet Claussens resolve is undeterred,
and she will continue to champion the recipe she believes
will eventually guarantee much-needed progress.
What are the ingredients that will make these collaborations
successful? Let me list a few, she concluded at the SEP conference.
First, we need a vision of where we are going and where we
must go. Second, all the major stakeholders have to believe that
the problem is real and needs to be addressed. Third, those who
do good voluntarily shouldnt be penalized if doing good becomes
mandatory down the line. Fourth, all the players have to be willing
to take risks. Fifth, business has to put what it knows on the table,
since the private sector generally has the most useful information.
And last, but not least, NGOs have to buck the heat and say that
compromise is acceptable.
In between phone calls, press briefings, speeches, testifying to
congressional committees, meetings with staff members and visits
with foreign ministers, Claussen took an time to talk to green@work
about the ways in which the Pew Center is moving ahead on the issues.
TELL US ABOUT THE PEW CENTER AND WHAT IT HOPES TO ACHIEVE.
CLAUSSEN: We established the Pew Center in May 1998. The
purpose at the time, and it hasnt really changed, was to be
a rational voice trying to solve a real problemand we view
climate change as a real problem. Its important to us to find
a solution. The timesand I think they havent changed
very much despite our best effortshad most people in fairly
polarized positions: either they thought there wasnt enough
science, they thought it was too expensive to do something about
it or they thought it was a problem we could do something about
tomorrow. We dont have much time for people who are still
questioning the basic science, because the science is there. We
think there is a rational way to go about trying to solve the problem.
Thats our basic motivation.
DO YOU STILL ENCOUNTER MANY COMPANIES AND
GROUPS THAT QUESTION THE SCIENCE?
CLAUSSEN: Yes, thats why one of the most important
things that I negotiated with the first members of the Business
Environmental Leadership Council companies was a statement on the
science. The one that we worked out says that there is enough science
to take action. And we have stronger science now than we had then.
These companies didnt object, and none of the subsequent companies
who joined have had any objection at all. If the private sector
can be there, I think its rather silly that there are still
some in the public sector that are questioning what is pretty obvious.
YOU SAY YOU WANT TO BE A RATIONAL VOICE. HOW DO YOU DO THAT?
CLAUSSEN: There are three parts to what we do. The first
part has to do with putting information out there that is honest
and believable; we saw that as a need in the very beginning. Back
then there was a fair amount of analysis and a lot of studies, but
they were all biased in one way or another, based on where the person
who was doing the research was coming from. We felt the need to
compile basic information on the science, on the economics, on international
policy issues, on domestic policy issues and, more recently, on
ways to go about solving the problem. And so we have a very ambitious
set of programsin three years we have produced 27 reports.
We also have a book that will be coming out this summer. We dont
write them in-house; we use outside authorspeople who we think
are experts in the field who could put out something straightforward.
We spend a lot of time working with them to make it understandable,
so there is a heavy involvement by staff here at the Pew Center,
but essentially its the work of an outside expert, usually
in a university, who we think is really credible. The minimum distribution
per report is about 4,000, and some are up to about 10,000 copies.
We also communicate a lotwhether its advertising or
giving tons of speeches. We also have a very active Web site and
we give press briefings all the time.
WHO IS YOUR AUDIENCE?
CLAUSSEN: Its public and private,
international and domestic. We take our reports to all the meetings
we attend, and no matter how many we take, they disappear. Weve
had people from the most obscure countries saying, We read
your report and were really interested in what you have to
say. Its something that we do thats very important.
WHAT ARE OTHER GOALS OF THE CENTER?
CLAUSSEN: Another thing we did was to try to find a group
in the private sector that believed the science and were going to
do something about their piece of the problem. In other words, companies
that reduce their own emissions and be willing to be a constructive
voice for public policy both internationally and domestically. As
I said before, we started with 13, and were now 36 and were
likely to continue to grow. These are big companies, many of which
have targets for reducing their emissions that are actually quite
astonishing in terms of how stringent they are.
HOW DID YOU RECRUIT THOSE COMPANIES?
CLAUSSEN: I started off by getting in touch with people that
I regulated in my past life and with whom I had some relationship.
Today, its mostly by invitation, although there are an increasing
number of companies who come to us to start the dialogue. Were
currently in conversations with about 10 additional companies.
WHAT DO MEMBERS COMMIT TO?
CLAUSEEN: They have to agree to a set of principles and then
carry them out. So, in a very public way, they have to accept the
science. They have to agree to inventory their emissions, look for
targets of opportunity, set targets and then reduce their emissions.
Weve now got 16 companies that have already set targets; everybody
else is in some stage of working on it. They have to agree to be
a constructive participant internationally. They cant just
talk the talk. They have to walk the walk.
WHO AT THE BELC COMPANIES PARTICIPATES?
CLAUSSEN: Its really a mix. We hold meetings four times
a year with sort of an executive committee that includes maybe 18
to 20 companies. These participants include some number of vice
presidents and some who might be just below that, but who have,
lets say, sole responsibility of a company for climate change
and might report directly to the CEO. This week we are holding our
first meeting for everyone to discuss policy and politics, and 34
are comingweve got almost all the VPs coming as well
as some of the others.
We do talk to the CEOs and some of the CEOs are very active. Weve
got 21 CEOs on the record concerning this issue. Their comments
are posted on our Web site. I have conversations with CEOs some
of the time, but others are less active. But we know that we can
go them if we need to.
WHAT ATTRACTS COMPANIES TO THE PEW CENTER?
CLAUSSEN: I think we have a moderate, but constructive, sort
of agenda that is increasingly appealing to the private sector as
opposed to, lets say, this administrations view of the
private sector, which is sort of a 1950s or 60s
view. I believe the administration doesnt think the private
sector wants to do this, and if they can save everybody from doing
this, that would be a positive. I dont think thats where
the private sector is. I think theres been a failure to understand
whats happened over the last 10 to 15 years.
Theres also the group of CEOs who, once theyve hit 50
or 55 or whatever that stage is when theyve made all the money
they need to makethey start thinking more philosophically
about the sort of footprint that they will leave. Some of the CEOs
are our strongest supporters.
WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR THIS WEEKS
CLAUSSEN: This is a difficult time for everyone on the issue
of climate change. Does Kyoto have a life or not? Whats going
to happenor not happenon the Hill and in what kind of
a time frame? What exactly do we want either internationally or
domestically? So, this meeting is a sort of policy and politics
session where we hope to forge some consensus on where we are. And
so weve got Senator Hagel coming for dinner; weve got
people from the White House who manage the climate change process
coming in; weve got the new Undersecretary of State comingall
to give their views. And then we have time set aside to talk through
where we ought to be going and how we ought to get there.
DOES YOUR GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE PROVIDE YOU WITH A UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE
FOR HEADING UP AN NGO?
CLAUSSEN: I think it does give me a
somewhat different perspective than lots of people and, in the end,
I think thats what makes this a unique place. When I was in
the government in the early stages, I felt that it was the job of
the government to get things done. Gradually, Ive changed
my view about how to get things done. That isnt to say that
government doesnt have a strong role to play, because I think
it does. But the fact is that government cant do things by
itself and thats really where NGOs play a critical role. I
think being an NGO with some business affiliation makes us an even
richer group to deal with. That was one of the reasons why, when
I started the center, the BELC was front-and-center. I didnt
thinkand I still dont thinkthat you can get anything
done without some support from business.
YOU HAVE REFERRED TO THE TERM ENVIRONMENTAL
GOVERNANCE. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
CLAUSSEN: Its how to get something
done on an environmental level. Our politics are such that it requires
government, NGOs and business working together. Is one more important
than another, or could it be done with just two? Maybe, but I cant
think of a single case where you havent needed the thirdor
at least a portion of the thirdto get something done.
DO YOU THINK NGOS ARE MORE POWERFUL TODAY?
CLAUSSEN: There are many more of them
now, and I think theyve changed over time, also. Theyre
now like little mini-think-tank advocacy organizations. Could you
get a bill passed on the environment without the support of some
environmental NGOs? I dont think so. Could you do it without
some support of business? I dont think so either. And if the
government was totally opposed to it, you couldnt get it done
either. So I think in the end you need some combination of all threeand
I shouldnt leave out the broader public, because if theres
no real public interest expressed on these matters, Im not
sure you can get anything done either.
DO YOU WORK WITH OTHER NGOS ON A REGULAR BASIS?
CLAUSSEN: Work with is
probably too strong a term. Do we talk to the NGOs on this issue
all the time? Yes. Do we agree all the time? No. Do we have some
of the same sort of ultimate objectives? Yes, but I think we often
have very different ways to get there. Many NGOs are far more aggressive
than we are. I often describe us as practical. We try
to be pragmatic, and we believe in incremental progress. You have
to build on something. It doesnt happen overnight. Youve
got to keep moving in the right direction.
YOU ADVOCATE MAKING INCREMENTAL PROGRESS.
DO YOU THINK THIS IS SOMETHING BEING CONSIDERED BY THE PARTIES INVOLVED
IN THE KYOTO NEGOTIATIONS, ESPECIALLY AT THE MEETING IN BONN?
CLAUSSEN: I think everybody now is
trying to lower expectations for Bonn, which is really what they
should have done for The Hague. The Japanese have signaled that
they dont have to reach any decisions in Bonn, which means
to me that the Europeans wont try to make any decisions either
because, if they want Kyoto to enter into force, they need the Japanese.
I cant imagine that any decisions will get made there.
DO YOU THINK THE KYOTO PROTOCOL, IN ITS
CURRENT FRAMEWORK, IS GOING TO HAPPEN?
CLAUSSEN: Its very hard to predict. It will only happen
as an international treaty if the Japanese decide that they want
it to happen because you need 55 countries representing 55 percent
of developed country emissions for it to go into effect. So you
need more than Europeyou basically need the Japanese. The
signals from the Japanese have been that theyre not willing
to go without the U.S., and I dont see this administration
moving forward with it. But its possible that the Japanese
may decide in October or November that, in fact, even though this
administration isnt moving forward, maybe they should. So
its not impossible that Kyoto is the framework, but if not,
then we had better figure out what the best substitute is. I think
it would have at least some of the elements of Kyoto. I think it
has to have mandatory commitments of some kind or another. I believe
the things that work are performance-based standards with lots of
flexibility in how you meet them as long as its legitimate
and you can be held accountable. Some of those things you would
want in any international agreement, but you may, in fact, have
to go back and create something thats a little different.
WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE TO SEE A CHANGE?
CLAUSSEN: During the Reagan administration, I worked on the
Montreal Protocol. The administrations overall view at the
time was that the U.S. should not do something unless there was
an international agreement in place. And so when the government
was sued by NRDC to take some action under a provision of the Clean
Air Act, the response of the Reagan administration was, We
first need to negotiate an international treaty and then well
play our part. And thats pretty much how it worked out:
the Montreal Protocol was negotiated, the Senate ratified it, there
was implementing legislation and the U.S. moved ahead and met its
In this case, it may be that its going to work in reverse:
its going to take domestic legislation first for people in
the administration to say, My goodness! If Congress has passed
some laws requiring us to do this, maybe we need everybody else.
Maybe thats the way you back into an international agreement.
Im not sure that the current administration, at least, will
try to do it in the same way as Montreal. And I think theres
a lot of interest on the Hill in taking some action, and theres
a very good chance, I think, that we get domestic legislation in
the next 12 monthsmaybe not everything, but at least some
sort. So it may just go the other way.
DOES THE PUBLIC PLAY A ROLE?
CLAUSSEN: In all the polling, the public says it is in favor
of taking action on this, and they even say that theyre in
favor of spending a little more to do so. Its not clear that
theyve made the connection between what they do and this problem.
Im not sure anyone has educated people on this very well.
I cant tell you how many senators Ive talked to from
states in the middle of the country, in particular, who say, Im
interested in this subject, but when I go out to my district or
my state, no one ever raises it. So if Im going to do something,
its all on my own and I have to be careful where I am on this.
I think theres general public support, but not a whole lot
of public pressure. But that aside, you now have a whole set of
people, in the senate in particularbipartisanwho say,
We have to do something about this. Thats why
I think we actually will see some legislation.
WHATS HAPPENING AT THE STATE LEVEL?
CLAUSSEN: There are many state energy
offices that are very interested in moving this issue. There are
some state environmental agencies, but for the most part the energy
offices are further along. And that applies some amount of pressure.
But what we dont have yet, for example, is a good bipartisan
group of governors that are saying, Weve got to do something
about this. Theyre not quite there yet. We have some
governors who are doing great things, but we dont have enough
of a group. But were starting to see some of that and, as
I said, I think weve got huge bipartisan interest in the Senate,
and the beginnings of a group of moderates emerging in the House.
DOES YOUR WORK REACH INTO THOSE POLITICAL ARENAS?
CLAUSSEN: In the last six months, I
think we have visited about 130 congressional offices to talk about
this. Its been totally bipartisan. Its even been some
people who I wouldnt have thought would have much interest
in this, but who actually do have significant interest. I think
were going to see a whole lot of bills being put on the table,
and youre going to start to see some coalescing around that.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO TAKE POLITICS OUT OF THE GLOBAL CLIMATE ISSUE?
CLAUSSEN: You can make a fair argument that things are sort
of moving in that direction and, over time, they may get there.
I think its very slow if you dont have the right signals
to the marketplace about where you have to go, and those are, in
a sense, political signals. I dont think theyve been
given very clearly and, certainly, they havent been heard
by a lot of people, particularly in this country. Some of that is
what needs to happen. The government is not going to tell you exactly
how to make the transition because thats not something governments
know how to do. The reality is that it is up to the private sector,
but they need the right signals. They need to know that the investments
they make today are going to have a fair chance of working out in
the long-term, and those are signals that have to be set by governments.
So theres really an important role here for governments.
WILL BUSINESSES MAKE SIGNIFICANT COMMITMENTS
WITHOUT THOSE SIGNALS?
CLAUSSEN: Some of them are starting
to. Theres one company that always says, Im doing
all this stuff, and I keep looking over my shoulder and hoping that
theres someone behind me from the government. Not only are
they not ahead of me, but I dont even see them in back of
me. Thats an uncomfortable place for businesses to be.
WHAT SPECIFIC KIND OF INCENTIVES COULD
GOVERNMENT PUT IN PLACE?
CLAUSSEN: I think you need a combination
of carrots and sticks. Youve got to have enough carrots to
get the technology moving. You have to have some sticks so that
people know that they have to do it. We need a combination where
you dont have to be onerous in the beginning, but youve
got to set things in motion. One of the problems is that we think
we need something thats mandatorythat runs across the
board. But mandatory doesnt mean stringent. It doesnt
mean you have to try to do everything tomorrow. It just means that
everybody has to start moving and doing something.
I think we need some kind of a limit on emissions. It doesnt
have to be seven percent below 1990 levels when were already
12 percent above them, which is sort of where we are, but you can
at least start moving in some reasonable direction because we should
be on a different path, not on a growing emissions path.
DOES THE CENTER ORIGINATE ANY OF THE IDEAS FOR LEGISLATION?
CLAUSSEN: In a broad sense, yes. Probably the closest that
weve gotten so far was a paper I did for the American Enterprise
Institute. It talked about what we need to do to get on with the
dialogue about global climate change. It has a lot of information
on legislation. It talks about what steps you could take to get
something done. Were also doing a set of policy briefs, which
are short, five-page papers on items of interest to the Hill. One
is going to be a domestic policy piece; another will be on a foreign
bill because there are some possibilities for action on that.
DO YOU HAVE ANY INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
THAT ARE COMING INTO THE FOLD?
CLAUSSEN: Its interesting that
you asked this. We have a certain number of companies in our business
group that are headquartered outside of the U.S. But weve
actually had a whole lot of people from two counties say, Cant
we have a Pew Center here? Canada is one, and Australia is
the other. In two weeks Im going to Australia at the invitation
of the environment minister and the business community there because
they want some advice on whether they can set up a Pew Centereither
a branch of us or their own version of the center. One of the things
thats important, I think, is that we dont get our funding
from our member companies. We simply agree that we want to work
together. Thats a different dynamic and, in fact, thats
one of the issues in Australia. They dont have charitable
foundations or a tax structure like ours, and they arent sure
how this kind of thing can be funded.
WHAT ACCOMPLISHMENTSARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
CLAUSSEN: First, putting together the
BELC companies because I think theyre a terrific and diverse
groupalmost all sectors represented, a lot of big players.
Also being a voice that people want to listen to. When we started
this, we entered a crowded field with plenty of voices out there.
We decided we wanted to be one of the voices that people would turn
to whether they were in the administration, whether they were people
on the Hill or whether they were people in other countries. I think
we have established ourselves as a place to go to for straight answers,
reliable information and good guidance.
of Claussens first initiatives upon founding the Pew Center
on Global Climate Change was to establish the Business Environment
Leadership Council (BELC), a group of private sector companies
worldwide that are responding to the challenges posed by climate
change. In addition to agreeing to a joint statement of principles,
the corporate members of the BELC serve in an advisory role,
offering suggestions and input regarding the centers activities.
These corporations include various Fortune 500 companies and
represent a diverse group
of industries, including energy, chemicals, metal, consumer
appliances and high technology. They do not contribute financially
to the Pew Center, which is supported solely by contributions
from charitable organizations.
Members of the BELC include the following:
- Air Products and Chemicals
- American Electric Power
- Baxter International
- California Portland Cement Co.
- CH2M HILL
- Cinergy Corp.
- Cummins Inc.
- DTE Energy
- Deutsche Telekom
- Interface, Inc.
- John Hancock Financial Services
- Lockheed Martin
- Ontario Power Generation
- G&E Corp.
- Rio Tinto
- Rohm and Haas
- Royal/Dutch Shell
- TransAlta Corp.
- United Technologies
- Wisconsin Energy Corp.
of the companies participating as members of the Pew Centers
Business Environmental Leadership Council have agreed to the
following joint statement of principles:
1. We accept the views of most scientists that enough is known
about the science and environmental impacts of climate change
for us to take actions to address its consequences.
2. Businesses can and should take concrete steps now in the
U.S. and abroad to assess opportunities for emission reductions,
establish and meet emission reduction objectives and invest
in new, more efficient products, practices and technologies.
3. The Kyoto agreement represents a first step in the international
process, but more must be done both to implement the market-based
mechanisms that were adopted in principle in Kyoto and to more
fully involve the rest of the world in the solution.
4. We can make significant progress in addressing climate change
and sustaining economic growth in the United States by adopting
reasonable policies, programs and transition strategies.
AT HOME AND ABROAD
text was excerpted from a paper Claussen submitted to the American
Enterprise Institute. In it, Claussen addresses what she believes
are the real hurdles on the domestic front for truly addressing
climate change: serious and sustained effort across virtually
every sector of the U.S. economy. Ultimately, what the
United States can deliver internationally hinges on what it
can and is prepared to do at home, she writes. For
the United Statesand hence, the worldto effectively
combat climate change, it is critical that our domestic and
diplomatic strategies proceed in tandem.
Unfortunately, she noted, they have not.
Claussen offered the following ideas on what would constitute
an effective domestic program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
To effectively address climate change, we need to lower
carbon intensity, become more energy efficient, promote carbon
sequestration and find ways to limit emissions of non-CO2 gases.
This will require fundamentally new technologies, as well as
dramatic improvements in existing ones. These changes can be
introduced over decades as we turn over our existing capital
stocks and establish new infrastructure.
Three decades of experience fighting pollution in the
United States have taught us a great deal about what works best.
In general, the most cost-effective approaches allow emitters
flexibility to decide how best to meet a given, binding emissions
limit; provide early direction so targets can be anticipated
and factored into major capital and investment decisions; and
employ market mechanisms, such as emissions trading, to achieve
reductions where they cost least. To ease the transition from
established ways of doing business, targets should be realistic
and achievable. What is important is that they are strong enough
to spur real action and to encourage investment in development
of the technology and infrastructure needed to achieve the long-term
A good first step is to get our house in order by immediately
requiring accurate measurement, tracking and reporting of greenhouse
gas emissions. Public disclosure of the reported data, similar
to what is required for certain pollutants under the federal
Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) program, would encourage companies
to hunt for ways to reduce their greenhouse emissions.
There are other ways we can and should spur companies
to act ahead of any mandatory requirements. One is for the government
to enter into voluntary enforceable agreements with companies
or sectors willing to commit to significant reductionseither
in process emissions or those from the use of products they
make (e.g., automobiles or washing machines). In exchange for
its commitment, a company or sector should be guaranteed that
it would not be bound by subsequent mandates for greenhouse
gas controls over the same time period. A similar approach could
encourage companies, particularly in the electric utility sector,
to cut carbon emissions as they undertake air pollution reductions
required by existing lawa more cost-effective way
to achieve multiple environmental objectives.
While such efforts can help get the United States on track,
the long-term emission reductions needed can be achieved only
with a far more comprehensiveand bindingstrategy.
Alternative approaches should be closely studied, and the results
publicly debated. But much of the analysis thus far suggests
that a cap-and-trade systemwhich sets an overall
cap on emissions and establishes a market in carbon creditscan
provide the private sector the flexibility and incentive to
achieve emission reductions at the least possible cost. As yet,
no economic model can accurately account for factors (such as
the rate of technological change) that are key to assessing
the long-term costs and benefits of a serious climate strategy.
However, the best analyses to date suggest that the costs are
reasonable, particularly when weighed against the serious and
significant costs of not acting.
Ideally, a domestic climate strategy, particularly one
employing emissions trading, would be coordinated with those
of other countries under the aegis of a binding global framework.
And this brings us back to the question of a constructive, credible
U.S. position in the international negotiations set to resume
in July in Bonn.
In broad terms, an international climate agreement must
meet three fundamental criteria if it is to be effective: it
must be environmentally sound; it must be cost-effective; and
it must be fair. To be environmentally sound, an agreement must
ensure that emissions actually are reduced over time to levels
that achieve safe, stable atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse
gases. This, again, will require economically achievable binding
targets. And any agreement should include a strong compliance
mechanism to ensure that the targets are met.
To be cost-effective, an agreement must allow nations
to meet their targets flexibly and at the least possible cost.
International emissions trading and other market-based mechanisms
can help direct capital toward least-cost reductions. Other
flexible approachessuch as allowing credit for sequestration
of carbon in trees and soils and measuring all greenhouse gases,
not just carbon dioxidealso can help achieve reductions
where they are most cost-effective. While the Kyoto Protocol
includes all these provisions, there is still no agreement on
the rules for implementing them. Bad rulesfor instance,
an arbitrary cap on the portion of a nations target that
could be met through emissions tradingcould drive up cost,
with no environmental benefit.
Fairness could prove the trickiest of the three criteria.
An international agreement will not work unless, in time, it
entails binding commitments by all major emitting countries.
The Framework Convention, signed by Bush the elder and ratified
by the U.S. Senate, rightly commits developed countries to taking
the lead. And as a practical matter, developing countries will
not (and as a matter of principle, they should not be asked
to) make binding commitments until the developed countries demonstrate
real progress in reducing their own emissions. Ultimately, the
parties must decide whenand in what mannerdeveloping
countries will be required to act. But for the moment, the best
that can be hoped for is some formal acknowledgement by all
parties that those issues will be squarely faced by a certain
We stand at a critical juncture, and whether nations can
agree on a common path forward depends heavily on decisions
now being weighed at the White House. The United States bears
a special responsibility here, because we account for roughly
a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions and also because
our economy is the largest and most vibrant in the world. If
the United States wishes to be a leader in this global effortrather
than sit on the sidelines as other nations push ahead with the
Kyoto Protocolit must come forward with a credible proposal
that provides a basis for further negotiation. To be credible,
though, the United States must demonstrate that it is prepared
to back up commitments abroad with real action at home. This
requires a comprehensive climate policy that moves us forward,
in a coordinated fashion, on both the domestic and the international
fronts. We must close the gap between what we promise and what
we can deliver.
- The Basics of Climate Change:
Straight Facts, Innovative Solutions
This guide, produced by the Pew Center, provides a comprehensive
overview of key climate change issues and focuses on six
key areas. The guide, including regular updates, is available
on-line at www.pewclimate.org
- Science and Impacts
This section examines the growing scientific consensus that
emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from
activitiesfrom industrial processes to fossil fuel
combustion to changes in land usehave clearly contributed
to global warming.
Many participants in the climate change debate have assessed
the economic costs of taking various actions to address
often with widely diverging results. This section includes
an analysis of several commonly used models to determine
how they work, what inputs and assumptions influence their
output and what important elements are missing in an effort
to provide new ideas regarding best practices
in the economic modeling of climate change policies
- Business Solutions
This section provides a sampling of the wide array of approaches
that members in the Pew Centers Business Environmental
Leadership Council (BELC) are using to mitigate global climate
change including greenhouse gases, energy solutions, waste
management, transportation, carbon sequestration and offsets.
It also examines how these companies are preparing for an
international climate change agreement.
- State Activities
Many states have successfully reduced greenhouse gas emissions
without threatening their economy and are providing solutions
to climate change that offer a wide array of benefits. Different
states are taking different approaches, ranging from comprehensive
cross-cutting programs to those focused more narrowly on
energy, air pollution, agriculture, transportation, natural
resources, education and other areas. This section provides
some examples of state innovations.
- Congressional Activities
The U.S. Congress plays a key role in determining how the
United States responds to the challenge of global climate
change. Federal legislation can guide efforts to reduce
U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases cost effectively. International
climate change agreements negotiated by the United States
must be ratified by the U.S. Senate. Federal appropriations
that can support or hinder efforts to curb U.S. emissions
are enacted by Congress. Finally, Congress conducts hearings
that focus attention on global climate change and shape
the national debate over how best to address it. This section
offers a brief review of recent
congressional action on climate change as reflected in proposed
legislation, appropriations measures and international negotiations.
Climate change is, by its very nature, a global challenge
that can be fully met only through the coordinated efforts
of all nations. The earths atmosphere is a global
commons, and the greenhouse gas emissions that
accumulate in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change,
have the same impact regardless of where they originate.
This section explores what is needed to build an effective