United States climate policy: what’s next? epa regulations as an alternative pathway to comprehensive federal action?

 academic article/report  Comments Off on United States climate policy: what’s next? epa regulations as an alternative pathway to comprehensive federal action?
Dec 012011

Camille Serre (Sciences Po), Emmanuel Guérin (IDDRI), Alexander Ochs (Worldwatch) 

Working Paper published by IDDRI, Worldwatch Institute & SciencePo, December 2011, http://www.iddri.org/Publications/Collections/Idees-pour-le-debat/WP%201511_CS%20EG%20AO_US%20EPA%20regulations.pdf

The United States finds itself in a schizophrenic situation: its domestic climate policy has clearly been in a stalemate since the Congress failed to adopt comprehensive climate and energy legislation in 2010. On the  other hand, U.S. delegates confirmed the target of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 17% by 2020 compared to 2005 levels at the  Cancún UN climate summit in December 2010. How then will the U.S. fulfill its international obligations without being able to reach a consensus at home? While climate policies at state and regional levels show some encouraging signs, the extent to which the diffusion of climate initiatives across states could gain momentum is still uncertain.

Shifting back from a market-based approach to a command-and-control approach, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulations seem to be the only viable improvement at the federal level. The EPA set exante GHG emissions standards for a given pollutant by industry sector, based on available and cost-efficient technologies. And it also provides not directly GHG-related regulations which could indirectly help the U.S. curb its GHG emissions trajectory.

Yet, in a highly politicized context, EPA regulations are only a second best option, which cannot make up for comprehensive Congress-adopted climate policy in the long-run: it is doubtful that they can alone manage to trigger a relevant infrastructure change. Technological and emissions standards are one piece of the required policy mix, and should be backed up by complementary policies. But in the current tense, partisan and unpredictable context, no clear investment signals can be sent to shift to a low-carbon economy.

[Find the whole paper HERE]

First edition of CONNECTED published!

 newsletter  Comments Off on First edition of CONNECTED published!
Feb 102011


Dear Readers,

In his 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama set the national goal to generate 80 percent of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035; the German government recently outlined its long-term energy concept which envisions full energy import independence and a 60 percent renewable energies share by 2050; the City of San Francisco launched an initiative aiming at a 100 percent renewables supply within just a decade; and under the motto “growth with foresight,“ Hamburg, this year Europe’s green capital, shows how urban development can be both economically beneficial and environmentally sustain-able. These are only a few examples illustrating that true leadership willing to tackle the twin challenges of climate change and energy security can be found on both sides of the Atlantic.

Content_CONNECTED1_2Welcome to the first edition of CONNECTED – a newsletter discussing climate and energy from a transatlantic perspective. With CONNECTED, partners adelphi and Worldwatch, headquartered in Berlin and Washington DC, will support the Transatlantic Climate Bridge, an initiative that since its inception in 2008 has promoted numerous activities by public authorities, the private sector, civil society, and academia in order to strengthen climate protection and energy security. CONNECTED aims to showcase and review policy and research initiatives that are aimed at low-emissions development. Opinion pieces, interviews, as well as reports on studies, dialogues and conferences will provide a regular update on the progress made toward building climate-compatible economies in Europe, the United States and beyond.

[I am co-editor of CONNECTED, together with Dennis Taenzler. Please find the full first issue of CONNECTED here]

“bridges” Lecture Series 2010: Debate on Global Climate-Change Policy with Roger Pielke, Jr., David Goldston, and Alexander Ochs

 online report, presentation  Comments Off on “bridges” Lecture Series 2010: Debate on Global Climate-Change Policy with Roger Pielke, Jr., David Goldston, and Alexander Ochs
Dec 212010

bridges vol. 28, December 2010 / Noteworthy Information

The challenge of addressing climate change inspires fierce, divisive debates, pitting science against politics, environmentalism against commerce, and the most powerful nations in the world against their less-developed neighbors. Roger Pielke, Jr. , professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado , bridges columnist, and a renowned expert on science and public policy, attempts to take on this challenge. In his new book, The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell You About Global Warming , he seeks to propose a novel, alternative way of looking for solutions for the climatic changes the earth is experiencing.


The Office of Science and Technology at the Embassy of Austria chose the occasion of the publication of this book to invite Roger Pielke, Jr., and two more experts on the issue – David Goldston and Alexander Ochs – for a debate with the audience on global climate-change policy. David Goldston is the director of Government Affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council and previously served as chief of staff for the chairman of the US House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Science and Technology. Alexander Ochs works for Worldwatch Institute, directing its Climate and Energy Program. 

[Read the rest of the event report on the bridges website]

Nur Europa kann Can’tcun verhindern

 newspaper article  Comments Off on Nur Europa kann Can’tcun verhindern
Nov 252010
Und jährlich grüßt das Murmeltier. Der nächste Klimagipfel steht an. Jedes Jahr Ende November trifft sich die Welt, um über das Schicksal ihres Planeten zu entscheiden. Die Chairs der unterschiedlichen Arbeitsgruppen legen ihre Vertragsentwürfe vor, im Plenum versichern sich die Staaten ihres guten Willens, die Umweltorganisationen stellen ihre Forderungen, und am Ende der zwei Wochen fliegen die Umweltminister für den finalen Showdown ein und entscheiden: wenig Konkretes.

Doch ganz so einfach ist es nicht. Es geht ja doch vorwärts, wichtige Einigungen sind erzielt worden, nur eben insgesamt viel zu langsam. Um dem Klimawandel tatsächlich Einhalt zu gebieten, da ist sich die Wissenschaft weitgehend einig, darf die globale Erwärmung zwei Grad Celsius in diesem Jahrhundert nicht übersteigen. Für die Industriestaaten heißt das: Reduzierung um bis zu 90 Prozent. Noch immer ist ein Inder für weniger als ein Sechstel der Emissionen eines Durchschnittseuropäers verantwortlich. Doch der Ausstoß steigt in fast allen Ländern weiter an.

[Weiter zu meinem Gastbeitrag in der Wiener Zeitung]

From Flop’enhagen to Can’tcun? US climate policy before the mid-term elections and the UN summit

 magazine article  Comments Off on From Flop’enhagen to Can’tcun? US climate policy before the mid-term elections and the UN summit
Oct 202010
mp3 download

co2_climateIt all started so nicely. The hope for change that Barack Obama had raised among American voters was felt by citizens worldwide, including those yearning for a change in US environmental policy. After all, Obama had made global warming and energy policy important cornerstones of his campaign. Once in the White House, the newly elected President explained that “few challenges facing America – and the world – are more urgent than combating climate change” and that his “presidency will mark a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change.” Repeatedly he stressed that “the nation that wins this competition [for new energy technologies] will be the nation that leads the global economy.”

What’s left, as we approach mid-term elections in Obama’s first administration, is a very mixed bag.  There have been important successes, including over $60 billion that were earmarked for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009; the first tightening of Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency standards in three decades; and the federal Environmental Protection Agency ‘s “Endangerment Finding” that recognizes, as a follow-up of the Supreme Court ruling Massachusetts et al. vs. EPA, that the  agency  has the right to regulate greenhouse gases as air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. To the great disappointment of the environmentalists, however, comprehensive climate and energy legislation, including a market-based system with mandatory economy-wide emission targets as well as strong incentives for the employment of energy efficiency measures and renewable energy technologies, has not been passed.

The situation that has unfolded over the last 1 ½  years is almost absurd. A White House and all involved secretaries and agencies support strong climate policy; a majority of the public wants effective climate action; a thorough climate and energy bill finally passed the House; and then there is also majority support for climate legislation in the Senate – albeit this majority is not filibuster-proof. The Senate’s leadership was unable to get 60+ votes. And here the story ends for now. A minority of 40+ Senators puts a hold on domestic legislation and shuts a historic window of opportunity.

[This article appered in Bridges vol. 27, October 2010. Read the rest of the article here: http://www.ostina.org/content/view/5229/1390/]

Bye-bye, Klimapolitik der USA

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Aug 052010

Kerry und Reid geben ihre Klimapolitik vorest auf

Erkennbar enttäuscht traten Harry Reid, Mehrheitsführer der Demokraten im US-Senat, und Parteikollege John Kerry, Senator aus Massachusetts und ehemaliger Präsidentschaftskandidat, vor die Kameras. Monatelang hatten sie für eine umfangreiches klima- und energiepolitisches Gesetzespaket gekämpft. Nun gaben sie kleinlaut bei. Man habe die notwendigen Stimmen nicht, um ein Emissionsziel für Treibhausgase festzulegen. 2001 aus dem Kyoto-Protokoll ausgestiegen, seit 20 Jahren der gewichtigste Bremser bei internationalen Klimaverhandlungen, zeichnet sich die nächste Schlappe für amerikanische Klimaschützer ab.

Doch nicht nur für die Umwelt ist die Nachricht eine Katastrophe. Dutzende Studien belegen die positiven Effekte, die die geplante Gesetzgebung auf die US-Wirtschaft, den Arbeitsmarkt, die Gesundheitskosten und die Sicherheitspolitik gehabt hätte. Ganz zu schweigen vom internationalen Renommee, das jetzt den nächsten Kratzer erhält. Die USA zeigen sich immer weniger in der Lage, auf die großen globalen Herausforderungen unserer Zeit tragfähige Antworten zu geben. Schuld daran ist nicht, dass „der Amerikaner“ eben nichts vom Umweltschutz hält. Das Problem ist differenzierter: [weiter zum vollstaendigen Artikel]

Successful Transatlantic Media Dialogue Ahead of Copenhagen Climate Summit

 online report  Comments Off on Successful Transatlantic Media Dialogue Ahead of Copenhagen Climate Summit
Nov 172009

17__MediaDialogue__pic2,property=InhaltsbildFrom November 9 to 11, around 25 German and U.S. journalists and climate policy experts met at the Aspen Wye Conference Center on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland to discuss the climate policy in Europe and the U.S. in view of the upcoming Copenhagen climate summit. The event was part of the Transatlantic Climate Bridge, and it not only aimed at providing journalists with the latest facts and figures on the summit but gave the participants the opportunity to exchange their views on the public debate in their respective countries, the status quo of the legislative process in Germany and the U.S., and the impact of climate change and respective policies on the economy and the international security, among others.

Read more on Germany.info

Towards a Global Green Recovery – Supporting Green Technology Markets

 academic article/report  Comments Off on Towards a Global Green Recovery – Supporting Green Technology Markets
Sep 212009

Two major global challenges – the financial crisis and climate change – make it urgent to rally the world behind the idea of a “green new deal” or a “global green recovery.” The financial crisis puts renewable energy projects and business at particular risk. The recession has caused a drop in energy and carbon prices that reduces the market competitiveness of clean technologies. In addition, the tightening credit markets mean that cleantech initiatives, which frequently face high capital costs and higher risk premiums, are struggling to find the necessary funding.

The risk of stagnation is especially disruptive to the cleantech industry as it comes on the heels of a rapid growth period prior to the financial crisis. In Germany, the cleantech sector grew 27% between 2005 and 2007, employed almost 1.8 million people, and now accounts for more than 5% of industrial production. From 2002 to 2007, global new investment in sustainable energy grew nearly 16-fold, from an annual US$7.1 billion to US$112.6 billion. The financial crisis created a severe investment shock in the cleantech sector, with new-investment levels in the first quarter of 2009 just under half what they were one year earlier.

This is absolutely the wrong time for a lull in cleantech investment. The International Energy Agency estimates that about 540 billion US dollars must be invested annually in renewable energy and energy efficiency if climate change is to be maintained at or below a 2°C increase in global average temperature. A significant expansion in investment will be required to reach these levels, with about 80% of the investment needed in just three key sectors: electrical power, transportation and buildings.

Several proven policies for expanding cleantech investment already exist, including feed-in tariffs, risk-mitigation policies, green-procurement policies, and government R&D spending, to name just a few. The key challenge for policy makers in trying to support the establishment of clean-technology markets is how to accelerate the implementation of these measures by obtaining the necessary funding and spending public monies wisely in a way that leverages the private sectors’ capability to shoulder the bulk of the needed investment.

To help G20 nations overcome these challenges, the German Federal Foreign Office asked Atlantic Initiative – a think tank on international politics and globalization based in Berlin and Washington, DC – to develop specific and actionable policy recommendations on how to provide effective international support to green technology markets and push the issue in the G20 framework. It was suggested that Germany, the UK and the US should be the main targets of these recommendations as they are well positioned to take a joint leadership role in setting the right incentives for a global green recovery and future growth path building on the idea of the Transatlantic Climate Bridge and taking into account London’s role as the G20 host. I was a co-author of the report. Please find it here.

America’s Opposite Hand: Germany’s Parties Agree on the Necessity of Environmental Protection and a Green New Deal

 essay  Comments Off on America’s Opposite Hand: Germany’s Parties Agree on the Necessity of Environmental Protection and a Green New Deal
Jul 102009

“The political system pushes the parties toward the middle,” “party homogeneity is rather weak” … in Germany’s antiquated libraries, students might pick up these messages from text books about the U.S. political system. We all know that today’s reality is a different one. Over the last twenty-five years or so, the U.S. electorate has drifted further and further apart. The election of Ronald Reagan marks the beginning of the U.S. drift to the right in the 1980s. The two Bush presidents and even Bill Clinton—“it’s the economy, stupid!”—continued Reagan’s doctrine of the supremacy of a preferably untamed capitalism. The chimera of “the invisible hand of the market” has become an imperative of all political action, and arguably hit the “soft issue” of environmental protection even more than others. The U.S., once an environmental leader—the country with the first national environment plan, the birthplace of the idea of national parks, the place of departure for the global spread of the green movement in early 1970s—became the epitome of subordinating environmental protection under economic priorities.

To be sure, the U.S. in the mid-1980s became a leader in brokering a global treaty for the protection of the ozone layer—after Dupont had claimed the patents for the substitutes of ozone-depleting substances. When TIME magazine chose “Endangered Earth” as Person of the Year 1988, Bush Senior began referring to himself as the environmental president—albeit with limited credibility, the 1990 reform of the Clean Air Act notwithstanding. Clinton chose the greenest senator of all times, Earth in the Balance author Al Gore, as his vice president, but his sublime green agenda for the most part collapsed already in the first few years.

Later on, he signed the Kyoto Protocol but never submitted it to the Senate for ratification because its defeat on the Hill was certain. Then Congress shifted toward a more pro-active stand on climate and green energy in the beginning of this century—mostly because even a Republican majority considered Bush Junior too much of a market radical.

Contract with America: Let ‘em Pollute! Please read my essay for Transatlantic Perspectives here.

The USA on its way to Copenhagen – Perspectives for international climate policy

 online report, presentation  Comments Off on The USA on its way to Copenhagen – Perspectives for international climate policy
Jun 222009

More than 80 participants followed the invitation of the NABU and the Heinrich Böll Foundation on 15 June 2009 in Berlin to discuss with American and German experts key contributions on both sides of the Atlantic to tackle the global climate crisis. Another key point of interest was an assessment of the current state of negotiations of a new global climate pact on which the international community wants to agree at the UN climate conference in the end of this year in Copenhagen.

In the discussion, I emphasized the central Importance of new U.S. energy and climate legislation, the so-called Waxman-Markey Bill, which has already passed important hurdles in the House of Representatives and will be discussed in the Senate later this year – hopefully to be be adopted. Since 1990, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have risen by about 16 percent. For the US to reduce its emissions by 20 percent compared to 2005 in 2020, as W-M envisions, will be a very remarkable challenge and an effort compatible to the cuurent evrsion of the EU climate and energy package. Critics often suggest that the absolute reductions in WM amount to only 4% compared to 1990. I pointed out, however, that these 4% only include the emission reductions in the  sectors covered by a future emissions trading scheme. Some estimates believe that the entire reduction effort in the US (including non-ETS-covered sectors and offsets) could amount to about -17% in 2020 compared to 1990. Accordingly, the U.S. would reduce its emissions by more than one third compared to total emissions expected in a business as-usual-scenario. Europe aims at reducing emissions by 20% compared to 1990 and has offered a -30% target if other parties commit to a similar level of ambition.

I also pointed to the fact that the American climate debate much more than the one in Europe is fixated on China, because of competitiveness concerns for the U.S. economy. In many cases, these concerns are distorting important facts and are therefore exaggerated. Only recently it has been noted that China already has very ambitious policies inplace to increase energy efficiency and the expansion of renewable energies despite no binding reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol. I also discussed sectoral approaches as a way to provide additional incentives to abate emissions in energy-intensive industries. Panel guests: Prof. Dr. Miranda Schreurs, Research Center for Comparative Environmental Policy, Free University Berlin; Alexander Ochs, director of international climate policy, Center for Clean Air Policy, Washington DC; Dr. Karsten Sach, Deputy Director General for International Cooperation, Federal Ministry of Environment; Duncan Marsh, director of international climate policy, The Nature Conservancy; Carsten Wachholz, secretary for energy policy and climate protection, NABU.

You can find a German summary of the event here.

Hope & Realism in EU & US Dialogue on Climate Change

 online report  Comments Off on Hope & Realism in EU & US Dialogue on Climate Change
Jan 132009

from Germany.info, Jan 9, 2009

When Frank Loy, former Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs and climate advisor to Barack Obama during the presidential campaign, was asked to address the question of how the United States can contribute to international climate policy negotiations, he chose to quote Al Gore. “Nature doesn’t do bail outs….we have to do the bail out,” he said, explaining the reality of what’s needed to fight climate change. Loy was speaking at a dinner discussion held at the German Embassy in Washington DC on Thursday, January 8. The event was part of a two day “EU and US Dialogue on Climate Change” organized by the Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP). It gave delegates the chance to share new ideas on policy approaches and aimed to increase the exchange between policymakers in the EU and US. Frank Loy’s audience was an international group of climate experts. They know how challenging it will be to achieve an international climate agreement. They also know that, despite the global excitement and expectations of President-elect Obama’s presidency, there are limits to what one leader can accomplish. (…)

Alexander Ochs, Director of International Policy at the Center for Clean Air Policy, says that what is achieved in the next 10 months may prove to be crucial for the climate in decades to come. “With an ambitious incoming US administration and the EU’s urgent need for a strong partner in its leadership efforts, one can’t overestimate the importance of transatlantic communication and cooperation. So stakeholder meetings like this US-EU dialogue create crucial stepping stones towards this goal.” Full text

Feature of me in Atlantic Faces, atlantic-community.org

 online interview  Comments Off on Feature of me in Atlantic Faces, atlantic-community.org
Oct 202008

In the interview section I addressed the following questions:

1. What are your priorities in your work at the Center for Clean Air Policy?
2. Do you expect significantly more transatlantic agreement on climate policy after the election of a new US president and Congress? What kind of common initiatives would you like to see?
3. What is the single greatest challenge facing the transatlantic alliance today?

Read the full feature here

A Century of Climate Protection: How Global Warming Will Change Politics and Economics

 presentation  Comments Off on A Century of Climate Protection: How Global Warming Will Change Politics and Economics
Mar 202008

I delivered this presentation on 12 March 2008 at the German Embassy, Washington DC, on invitation of Egon Kochanke, Minister and Head of the Economic Department. The talkcovered a wide array of issues. I started with outlining the twin challenges of climate change and energy security. To compare the costs of non-action versus those of action, I then outlined and compared two scenarios, a three degree Celsius warmer world and one that has seen a third industrial revolution to prevent scenario one. I decline these scenarios along key dimensions of the challenge: the ecological problem and consequences for humanity; ethical and security dimensions; the political problem; as well as the economic dimension and the technological challenge.

I.a., my discussion included a climate policy snap shot, a focus on transatlantic disunity, a focus on power shifts in international (climate) relations, the question whether there is a new transatlantic climate looming, and an outlook of the challenges for future climate and energy policy in the search of a post-Kyoto framework.  Please find the presentation here.