1273.4part 2.US Climate Policy - Michael Davidson
[00:00:00:00] I wouldn't give just an amazing overview of the [INAUDIBLE] processes. So what I'm going to do is take you a little bit into the perspective of the US government, the role it's played in the international climate tier and also some domestic policy.
[00:00:18:15] So I have two main goals. One is to give you the historical perspective on the US, especially as it's transitioned over multiple different administrations, and understand how these domestic changes in policy and in administrations have affected international policy developments, and vice versa. So, a brief outline on my talk. I'm going to go through each of the administrations since the beginning of the international climate process that everyone set out. So starts with Bush number one, Clinton, talking about Kytoto, [INAUDIBLE] and Kyoto's successor under Bush two. And then that leads us into Copenhagen, a much stronger emphasis on US-China relations. And the climate action plan under President Obama, what Paris and US and international targets, what they are and what that means for future policy. It's light on Trump. And then some prospects for 2020, 2025 [INAUDIBLE]. So we'll jump right in.
[00:01:24:05] So George H W Bush actually, in terms of environmental issues, did a number of important achievements. One of them which surprisingly stays is the 1990 Clean Air Act amendment. This added a bunch of new environmental components to this legislation which recently passed in 1970, most notably the acid rain program. And the US did sign on to the UN Climate Convention, UNFCCC, as well as a number of other environmental treaties in Rio in 1992. And had sort of a famous statement, "The United States fully intends to be the world's pre-eminent leader in protecting the global environment." This is 1992, public administration, beginning of this climate discussion.
[00:02:09:24] Immediately after the UNFCCC was created, there was discussions around the Kyoto Protocol, and the recognition that UNFCCC, the framework alone, was not sufficient to incentivize countries to reduce their emissions. So the Kyoto Protocol was one of the things in which Clinton departed from Bush. And that was in particular agreeing to binding commitments on developed countries, which was somewhat of a way to amend UNFCCC language to begin with. Clinton also campaigned on the doing a BTU tax, which is an energy tax that was intended to be a significant portion of the Climate Change Act, sort of his climate change plan. But from the outset, there were signs that there was some disagreement within the US administration on a number of these policies. The BTU tax was defeated early on. And I'll note another one later.
[00:03:06:26] In his first year, President Clinton put out the Climate Change Action Plan. This pledged the US to a certain target returning to 1990 levels by 2000, and also helped shepherd through the conclusion of it Kyoto Protocol negotiation, which as we already noted, included commitments just from developed countries and not from developing countries. [INAUDIBLE] Annex 1. [INAUDIBLE] argument.
[00:03:34:10] But immediately preceding the conclusion of those Kyoto Protocol negotiations, you had unanimous Senate resolution known as the Byrd-Hagel resolution which basically gave the sense of the Senate that the Senate would not ratify this treaty, even before it was agreed to in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations. There was already significant amount of dissension within the US government between different branches but also within the administration itself.
[00:04:06:00] So that takes us to Bush two. The first thing that George W Bush said was to formally reject the Kyoto Protocol which the previous president did not do, and then proceeded to a number other things domestically. So one is that George W Bush did have a Climate Change plan, and this had a specific target energy intensity target in it. There was a very big energy omnibus legislation, Energy Policy Act 2005, which included a range of energy policies. In particular, it did start subsidies for renewable energy, but it also had a number of other components to it.
[00:04:49:25] And halfway through the second term, you had kind of this landmark court case, the Massachusetts v EPA. This was a suit brought by a number of states, including Massachusetts, against the EPA saying that carbon dioxide should be regulated under the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court agreed and said the EPA needed to abide by this previous decision. And this got the process rolling for where we are today in terms of the EPA regulating greenhouse gases. Yeah?
[00:05:21:13] I'm sorry. What exactly do you mean by energy intensity? Is it like [INAUDIBLE] energy use in [INAUDIBLE]?
[00:05:27:21] Oh, I'm sorry. Energy intensity is the energy per unit GDP. Yeah. So it basically says your economy should become more energy efficient [INAUDIBLE].
[00:05:36:27] Was that 2012 goal ever achieved?
[00:05:40:12] They were on track to achieve. It kind of dropped off the radar though when Bush left, so I'm not sure, actually. Most likely, yes. But I'm not sure on that. And then, following this Mass-EPA court case, President Bush also came out with another pledge to stop GHG emissions growth by 2025. And that was in 2008.
[00:06:06:27] So while that was happening domestically, there were a number of discussions happening on the international scene about negotiating a successor to Kyoto. Because not soon after it came into force in 2005, it was recognized it was insufficient because it didn't deal with a growing fraction of emissions from developing countries. US was not a party to it. There were a number of other issues.
[00:06:28:29] So that started the roll to discuss this sort of successor to it at Bali. And in the Bali conference, famously, US became sort of a major focus of international criticism for its efforts, or perceived lack of efforts, in the national talks. And you had the sort of famous speech by the delegate from Papua New Guinea, basically calling out the US to either lead or get out of the way. And then several-- and the end of this very intense two-week negotiation, countries agreed to this Bali road map which set in place this two-year framework, which ended in Copenhagen, to negotiate a new treaty. It did not have specific language on requirements for commitments. So we see the US kind of playing this very complex role in international negotiations, as it interplays with domestic issues.
[00:07:19:24] So that brings us to President Obama. And really, I would say a hallmark of Obama's international climate policy has been his engagement with China. And this started with a very early meeting, the president reaching out to China in 2009, prior to Copenhagen, where they both announced their voluntary commitments in advancing the Copenhagen climate conference. And there was sort of cooperation between these two countries prior to this on a number of issues, but placing front and center of the US-China relation was really a new development on the part of Obama.
[00:07:57:23] And he continued to have these meetings and high level dialogues where basically every year after that the US and Chinese representatives would meet and they'd announce new commitments. And in addition, they jointly announced their commitments for the Paris, which would become the first pledge in the Paris agreement during 2014.
[00:08:20:00] So if you think about what was the key components of US's climate change policies supporting the pledge made at Paris, we have the US Climate Action Plan which was formally released in 2013. If I start there, I should probably mention that the US did try to pass legislation that would created a federal cap and trade system, and that was that huge 2010 by a pretty narrow margin.
[00:08:49:04] So instead, what you have is this Climate Action Plan, relies heavily on a sector by sector approaches and a lot of regulatory measures which did not require new legislation from Congress. So I listed a number of them out here. And I'll talk about the Clean Power Plan a little bit later. But as you can see, there's a range of different sectors covered. And collectively, they added them up and said, well, combine these and some of the other actions, we can get to our Paris target.
[00:09:22:09] All right, so that brings us to Paris 2015. So the US presence at Paris was very notable. John Kerry was there. Secretary of State John Kerry was there the entire two weeks, which was unprecedented for previous talks. You had a number of important actors. Besides the US, we had China, EU, and France. France being the host. And really Paris culminated this negotiated round around some of the key US objectives, which was full participation of all countries. And to have developing countries, included in sort of the pledge and review process.
[00:10:06:29] So I'll make a short interlude here, because I think this is kind of interesting interplay between domestic and international policy, is this sort of last minute text change that happened on the last night of Paris, while we were all waiting in the plenary for them to adopt it. You had the US delegation noting a very small wording change in the Paris Agreement that changed one of the shoulds to a shall. And a lot of people laugh about this. But this, I think, is really instructive of the way that international policy is built up from a number of different domestic institutions.
[00:10:42:13] In particular, this shall or should really rested on a key legal interpretation made by the Obama administration, which was that in order to avoid a requirement of Senate ratification of a new treaty made at Paris, all of the legally binding components of the Paris treaty must be contained within everything that was already under the UNFCCC treaty which was ratified by the Senate back in 1992.
[00:11:05:12] So all of the legally binding language in the Paris agreement basically relates to recording and other things that were already required by UNFCCC. And everything else outside of that has to be replaced by a should, sort of a suggested or recommended component. And that's sort of the voluntary pledge system. And the thinking was that if that should was changed to a shall, then the US might have been subject to to having this treaty or this essentially executive decision to sign this overturned in the courts as requiring new Senate ratification.
[00:11:42:04] So the following year, which bring us to the last [INAUDIBLE], just in last December, was Marrakech. And Marrakech started in the first week of US elections. So that changed a number-- that changed a number of things that people were thinking about during the conference. And most the countries adopted sort of a way and see approach to their strategy going forward. And you had this kind of really emotional scene where the head of the US delegation, which had been with the Obama administration the entire eight years, said farewell to a standing ovation of gathered NGOs. So you can kind of get a sense of how close knit the administration and environmental community was during that administration in contrast to previous ones.
[00:12:26:21] So that brings us to today. So I think the big question that a lot of people have is will the US be able to meet it's international climate commitments. No one knows that answer. So what follows is pure speculation. And not only is it speculation, they're my views and solely my views and my interpretation, so not attributed to any other of the organizations that I'm affiliated with, obviously.
[00:12:50:05] So just to clarify, when Kyoto was formally rejected, the US still remained part of the UNFCCC. But now there's this question of whether the US will not just reject the Paris Agreement, but also even participation in the UNFCCC after all.
[00:13:10:11] Yes. There are some legal technicalities around that. So to withdraw from the Paris Agreement completely technically requires three years. Whereas to withdrawal from UNFCCC could be done essentially immediately. So the shortest route to withdraw from the Paris Treaty would be to withdraw from UNFCCC completely. But that is certainly not a foregone conclusion. There's dissent among that. Notably, Rex Tillerson in his confirmation hearing, said the US should have a seat at the table, to shape these negotiations.
[00:13:51:09] So what's going to happen specifically with US participation is unclear right now. Like I said, speculation. All right. So there are a number of targets that the US has made in the international realm. First one is the 2020 target which was made in Copenhagen to reduce emission levels by 17%, relative to 2005 levels.
[00:14:16:27] This, again, this is my speculation, but many pieces are already in place for meeting this target. You have many regulatory measures which have been enforced for some time-- the vehicle emission standards, the appliance efficiency standards that I mentioned before.
[00:14:31:22] Are these regulatory measures part of law? Have they passed Congress? Or are they just part--
[00:14:36:08] I actually have a slide that is coming up that will help explain this issue very well. Yeah. Additionally, the gas outlook in the next few years looks very strong in the sense that you have expectations of low price gas coming in. And if you look back historically on how the US emissions have changed over the last 10 years or so, much of that is commonly attributed to prices of gas and displacement of coal by a natural gas. So if gas prices stay low, then emissions will not rise, is the common wisdom. And you have in particular a bunch of new natural gas [INAUDIBLE] already been permitted, according to EIA estimates-- US Energy Information Administration.
[00:15:24:03] In addition, the subsidies that are targeted toward renewable energies were already extended in the previous administration through 2020. There are some details on this. So you can look online for exactly how its continued. Some of them are actually down in different forms. But they did make sort of unprecedented extension of this for several years. Previously it was done on a year by year basis.
[00:15:51:29] So one particular analysis, by no way definitive, but one particular analysis on these sort of issues on how the US can meet its 2020 commitments is-- so this is by the World Resource Institute. And they create a number of different scenarios. And particularly, they show that this sort of what they call the go-getter scenario will meet US commitments in 2020 and 2025. And particularly, the go-getter-- this was made prior to the election but this go-getter scenario does-- the 2025 scenario-- requires some additional US federal action. And it also assumes that you have significant robust state action as well. So you can check out their paper if you want to know exactly what all their details on their scenarios are, World Resources Institute.
[00:16:49:00] So quick side note on regulation versus legislation, because I think this is a really important additional bit of information on US domestic policy. So regulation is really authority given by Congress, passed by legislation. It's delegated to a specific federal agency to make a set of rules to achieve a policy objective. So, you think about this-- think about what this means.
[00:17:20:10] Congress sets out broadly what the policy goals are and mandates certain agencies to follow through on them. And the agencies themselves have some amount of discretion in terms of how they create those rules. And in particular, the way that those rules are created will have to satisfy both the rule making procedures in that act itself, but also in a bunch of other pieces of legislation that Congress has passed. So as a result of all of these requirements on passing rules, this process can take a year or longer.
[00:17:53:02] And it was by this authority granted to the EPA by Congress in the Clean Air Act that they created a Clean Power Plan which was formally announced to us in '15, became a formal rule in 2016. And that for the first time creates carbon emission standards on new power plants, including coal-fired power plants-- sorry, new and existing coal-fired power plants.
[00:18:22:00] An important on the regulation is that rule un-making has to follow the same process as rule making. So that means that formal rule making could potentially take a year or longer to achieve, with the exception of the Congressional Review Act, which I'm going to talk about in the next slide.
[00:18:41:01] Legislation is where Congress kind of decides most of these issues, if it's not mandating agencies to particularly come up with all the rules. So the Waxman-Markey bill, the cap and trade bill that I mentioned before, that was a piece of legislation which created a number of the guidelines for the cap and trade bill, between setting the caps and a number of extra details. Those deals were not going to be left to the EPA. So sort of a key difference here between when the EPA acts under regulatory authority versus there's new legislation passed by Congress. And just a plug-- if you want to learn more, there's a great course in the fall where I learned a lot of these things taught by Nick Ashford. All right.
[00:19:22:21] So, moving on-- 2025. So the 2025 target, which was the Paris target, is reducing greenhouse gas emissions 26%, 28% relative to 2005 levels. This, the outcome, seems to be less clear without new action. There are more recent regulatory measures which could be altered or removed. This Congressional Review Act, which I mentioned is essentially the sole method by which Congress can get around that rule un-making procedure that I talked about before, which is it's essentially a rarely used legislation-- used once I think-- that can overturn agency rules made in the last several quarters, last two quarters, of the previous administration. So this could affect rules on methane emissions, oil, and gas.
[00:20:18:04] Secondarily, you have the Clean Power Plan which I mentioned before. It's currently being litigated by a number of lawsuits. If the court remands this to the agency to revise it in any sense, the EPA could just choose to not do the same plan. Or they could choose to revise at that point. So that's a pretty easy situation in which the Clean Power Plan in its current would no longer exist.
[00:20:47:13] There is a question out there for a new renaissance for coal if a number of different policy developments take place. I think this renaissance is very unlikely, but there is a possibility. And then finally, the US under the Paris Agreement should make its 2030 target by 2020. So that would be something that would be a responsibility of the current administration to do. So it's not at all clear what that target will look like.
[00:21:15:00] So finally, climate policy and Republican measures-- everyone just breathe. There are some win-win times as we have seen in a number of previous administration. Energy security is a common theme across much of the legislation in previous administrations. Renewable energy is very popular in many states. And natural gas development, which as I was saying in the short term has the closest impact on US overall greenhouse gas emissions. It does have bipartisan support in some areas.
[00:21:49:29] There's a number of court decisions pending. There a lot of other avenues through which organizations, states, or other ones can use the courts to force policy. And there's a lot of stuff happening in states and cities which took up a lot of increased focus under the Bush administration.
[00:22:08:25] So just as an example, here in Massachusetts, there are two carbon pricing bills which are currently under discussion-- the name's up there-- in order to lead Massachusetts carbon emissions [INAUDIBLE] on the Global Warming Solutions Act. So with that, thank you for your time.