(Today the Presidential Climate Action Project is releasing a new report called Plan B: Near-Term Presidential Actions for Energy and Environmental Leadership. Below, PCAP Executive Director Bill Becker explains.)
Congress’s failure to act on global climate change was one of the reasons the diplomatic atmosphere was so chilly last year in Copenhagen.
Congress has chilled the atmosphere again, four months before the international community meets in Cancun to resume its marathon crawl to a global climate treaty. From Bonn, where nations were attending five days of pre-Cancun negotiations this week, the the Senate’s failure to act on a climate bill has “deepened the distrust among poor countries about the intentions of the United States and other industrial countries” to cut their emissions.
The response from members of the Obama team has been: a) the president is not backing off his commitment to legislation or a 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; and b) there is more than one way to skin this cat. Hints of executive action are in the wind.
Also in the wind is a renewed discussion about the role states can play in cutting our carbon emissions. For example, that if states are “go-getters” with the policies they already have in place, they can make a significant contribution to the President’s 17 percent goal.
Now comes an even fresher report – this one from – that details several ways President Obama also can be a “go getter”, using powers past Congress’s have already delegated to the Executive Branch.
PCAP offers five ideas for presidential action, with details on how to implement them before Cancun:
1. In full partnership with state, tribal and local government leaders, create a national roadmap to the clean energy economy. Great Britain has a detailed roadmap with specific milestones for achieving a low-carbon economy by 2020. The United States does not.
Rather than preempting the power of states to deal with climate change, as some climate bills in the Senate would do, the national roadmap should show how the federal government can help states be even better go-getters. Cities, too.
According to , if all 50 states adopted a set of 23 energy and climate policies (policies the Center identified in working with more than 1,500 stakeholders), they could cut emissions 27% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels, about nine times deeper than the cuts the President has proposed. At the same time, those 23 policies would boost GDP by $134 billion, save consumers $5 billion and create 2.5 million new jobs. That’s the ideal case, of course, but it illustrates the potential.
, from IHS Emerging Energy Research, calculates renewable energy generation in the U.S. will grow 250 percent in the next 15 years if the states that already have renewable energy portfolio standards fully implement them.
2. Declare a war on waste. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy calculates that the U.S. economy wastes 87 percent of the energy it consumes. During his campaign, Obama cited a United Nation’s report that placed the United States 22nd in energy efficiency among the major economies. The Obama/Biden energy platform promised “an Obama Administration will strive to make America the most energy efficient country in the world”.