Astrid Harnisch

Developments in U.S. Climate Policy since the Inauguration of George W. Bush

A Database of Executive and Legislative Initiatives on the Federal Level and of Selected Initiatives from State Level

Intact, August 2002

Astrid Harnisch, SWP/INTACT

Developments in U.S. Climate Policy since the Inauguration of George W. Bush

A Database of Executive and Legislative Initiatives on the Federal Level and of Selected Initiatives from State Level

August 2002

Introduction: US Climate Change Activities under the Bush-Administration

Shortly after the elections, President Bush officially declared that the Kyoto-Protocol would not be a solution for the United States. The first international and legally binding agreement on climate change implies a reduction of CO2until the period of 2008-2012. Although the ratification of the protocol in the US-Congress has been insecure, the opposition of the Bush-Administration to a contract which has been signed by its predecessor, became a scandal in international affairs. Compromises at the international level are not likely to be reached and Bush decided to suggest his own strategy. After the ratification of the Kyoto-Protocol of Japan and the EU-member states, James L. Connaughton (Head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality) states: "The Kyoto Protocol would have cost our economy up to 0 billion and caused the loss of up to 4.9 million jobs, risking the welfare of the American people and American workers." [FoxNews July 11th, 2002: Bush Advisor: Kyoto a No-Go, at http://www.foxnews.com/printer_friendly_story/0,3566,57457,00.html (15/07/2002)]. In comparison to the Clinton-Administration, George W. Bush argues that consequences of global climate change remain uncertain. In addition he criticizes the lack of commitment of developing countries, particularly China as promising world economic power. He made clear that the emissions of developing countries would exceed those of industrialized societies in the next decades.

On February 14th, 2002 George W. Bush finally announced the national climate change strategy for the US. Its main objectives include a legally non-binding reduction of the intensity of greenhouse gases (i.e. of the emissions per unit of GDP) until 2012 by 18%. Scientists assume that technical progress alone would lead to almost the same reduction. In absolute terms, the US-emissions would rise by about 10% within the next 10 years resulting in levels which are about 30% higher than the Kyoto-Protocol tolerates for the United States [Germanwatch (ed.) Newsletter KlimaKompakt No. 17 (March 2002) and Pew Center Analysis, at http://www.pewclimate.org/policy/response_bushpolicyo.cfm (15/07/2002)]. Environmental think tanks and institutes were not the only ones to sharply criticize the strategy. Their argument is that non-binding commitments of industries and businesses will not result in an effective reduction of greenhouse gases. In addition, they discredit the claim that economic growth leads to significant progress as outlined in the Kyoto-Protocol [Greenpeace environmental expert Karsten Smid on the national climate initiatives of George W. Bush, at http://www.greenpeace.de/GP_DOK_3P/PRESSEMI/P020214B.HTM (14/06/2002).]. Progress in the fields of energy, security and science and technology are dominating the discussion in the United States and the national initiatives proposed by the president. This is also the case because of the national dependency on oil imports.

To solve sectoral overlapping and global problems like climate change, models which combine approaches on the transnational, national and sub-national with the global level are needed. Concepts such as inter-temporal redistribution have to be taken into account. It is also important to carefully evaluate 'good practices' with respect to implementation processes of climate change programs and institutionalized cooperation, such as city partnerships. President Bush stated that "the earth's well-being is [...] an issue important to America - and it's an issue that should be important to every nation and in every part of the world. [...] My administration is committed to a leadership role on the issue of climate change. We recognize our responsibility, and we will meet it - at home, in our hemisphere, and in the world." [White House Press Release June 11th, 2001: President Bush Discusses Global Climate Change, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/06/20010611-2.html (15/06/2002)]. Until today consensus on effective problem solution and mechanisms hardly exists in both the transatlantic relationship or within the administration and legislative bodies within the United States. This has also been criticized recently by eleven states [See also Annex on selected state initiatives]. The conflict remains that the Bush-Administration is committed to keeping short-term growth rates which partially opposes effective environmental policies.

The following documentation focuses on legislative and executive climate change activities at the national level within the US. It aims at providing on overview on initiatives of the White House, the Environmental Protection Agency (part 1) and selected legislative initiatives in the US Congress (part 2). After a short introduction, it follows a chronological overview including the Internet links to relevant documents in the period from January 2000 until August 2002.

In the US, however, some states play particularly important roles in environmental politics, and also during the implementation processes of the Kyoto-mechanisms. Recent publications deal with local initiatives in the US and title among others "Power Shift - Looking for Leadership on Climate Change" and refer to the state level. States such as California, New Jersey and the New England states are some of the leading powers in this area. The city Aspen in Colorado can also be seen as paragon, because it implemented the worldwide highest tax on carbon dioxide emissions [Clifford, Hal (2002): Rocky Mountain High Tax, in: GristMagazine July 31st, 2002, at http://www.gristmagazine.com/maindish/clifford073102.asp (01/08/2002)]. In sum, more than 20 legislative initiatives related to climate change passed the state parliaments, but have not yet been evaluated from the international community. The American states have important competencies related to climate change, for example in the area of electricity, transport, garbage management and land use. The most active states are also cooperating with non-state actors, such as private companies and NGOs and illustrate effective cooperation and mechanisms for problem solving [Rabe, Barry G. (2002): Statehouse and Greenhouse - The States are Taking the Lead on Climate Change, in: Brookings Review, Spring 2002, vol. 20 (2), pp. 11-13]. In addition to the two main parts, the documentation therefore includes an annex, which provides selected links to recent developments at the state level.

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