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]

Policy Briefing: REN21’s Global Status Report

 presentation  Comments Off on Policy Briefing: REN21’s Global Status Report
Nov 112011

The Worldwatch Institute cordially invites you to attend a discussion on the state of renewable energy worldwide.

Policy Briefing: REN21’s Global Status Report

Hosted by:
U.S. Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ)

U.S. Representative Edward Markey (D-MA)

Mohamed T. El-Ashry
REN21 Committee Chairman

Alexander Ochs
Worldwatch’s Director of Climate and Energy

Event Date: November 15, 2011 – 1:00pm
Location: Capitol Visitor Center: Congressional Meeting Room— North #268
[Please find a video of the whole event HERE; Highlights from Rep. Markey’s comments can be found HERE and from Rep. Holt’s speech HERE; my ppt presentation is 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.