Clear Skies and business certainty - The US administration’s new proposals to curb emissions of air pollutants and carbon dioxide endorse the principle of emissions trading but leave industry waiting for regulatory certainty.
President Bush’s Global Climate Change and Clear Skies initiatives*, announced in February, end a lengthy cabinetlevel review of US emissions policy, but mark a new stage in the national policy debate over climate change and air quality regulations. Since the president’s early refutation of the Kyoto Protocol and his statement of opposition to the inclusion of carbon dioxide (CO2) in power plant regulations, businesses and market players have been awaiting direction on US policy. Despite Bush’s announcements, however, businesses trying to manage their emissions continue to plan in an uncertain regulatory landscape – subject to a patchwork of regulations and the lingering possibility of future regulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs).
Beyond the targets, few details were provided in the Bush plans. As a result, they serve largely as a marker for the US Congress. Given the difficulty in moving environmental legislation, business should expect to continue to wait for regulatory certainty.
Charting a new path
The Bush global climate change plan offers a modest voluntary GHG ‘intensity’ target. Emissions intensity is defined as the volume of GHG emissions per million dollars of gross domestic product. Under the plan, the US will reduce its emissions intensity from its current 183 tonnes of emissions per million dollars GDP to 151 tonnes in 2012 – close to an 18% reduction over 10 years.While setting a goal is laudable, this target largely mirrors emissions trends over the past decade. Further, the Bush target continues to move the US away from its commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change –