A WARMING CLIMATE
Friday, January 28, 2005; Page A26
For the past four years members of the Bush administration have cast doubt
on the scientific community's consensus on climate change. But even if they
don't like the science, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, one of their
closest allies in Iraq and elsewhere, has given the administration another,
more realpolitik, reason to rejoin the climate change debate: "If America
wants the rest of the world to be part of the agenda it has set, it must be
part of their agenda, too," the prime minister said this week.
Mr. Blair's speech came at an interesting moment, both for the
administration's energy and climate change policies and for the
administration's diplomatic agenda. In the next few weeks, the House will
almost certainly vote once again on last year's energy bill, a mishmash of
subsidies and tax breaks that finally proved too expensive even for a
Republican Senate to stomach. After a House vote, there may be an attempt to
trim the cost of the bill and add measures to make it acceptable to more
senators -- including the growing number of Republicans who have, sometimes
behind the scenes, indicated an interest in climate change legislation.
Indeed, any new discussion of energy policy could allow Sens. John McCain
(R-Ariz.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) to seek another vote on their
climate change bill, which would establish a domestic "cap and trade" system
for controlling the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global
If domestic politics could prompt the president to look again at the
subject, international politics certainly should. Administration officials
assert that mending fences with Europe is a primary goal for this year; if
so, the relaunching of a climate change policy -- almost any climate change
policy -- would be widely interpreted as a sign of goodwill, as Mr. Blair
made clear. Beyond the problematic Kyoto Protocol, there are ways for the
United States to join the global discussion, not least by setting limits for
domestic carbon emissions.
Although environmentalists and the business lobby sometimes make it sound as
if no climate change compromise is feasible, several informal coalitions in
Washington suggest the opposite. The Pew Center on Global Climate Change got
a number of large energy companies and consumers -- including Shell, Alcoa,
DuPont and American Electric Power -- to help design the McCain-Lieberman
legislation. A number of security hawks have recently joined forces with
environmentalists to promote fuel efficiency as a means of reducing U.S.
dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Most substantively, the National
Commission on Energy Policy, a group that deliberately brought industry,
environmental and government experts together to hash out a compromise,
recently published its conclusions after two years of debate. Among other
things, it proposed more flexible means of promoting automobile fuel
efficiency and suggested determining in advance exactly how high the "price"
for carbon emissions should be allowed to go, thereby giving industry some
way to predict the ultimate cost of a cap-and-trade system.
They also point out that legislation limiting carbon emissions would
immediately create incentives for industry to invent new fuel-efficient
technologies, to build new nuclear power plants (nuclear power produces no
carbon) and to find cleaner ways to burn coal. Technologies to reduce carbon
emissions as well as fossil fuel consumption around the world are within
reach, in other words -- if only the United States government wants them.
GLOBAL HEAT ON BUSH INCREASES
By Katrin Bennhold
International Herald Tribune
Friday, January 28, 2005
DAVOS, SWITZERLAND - The pressure on President George W. Bush to work toward
a global accord on climate change may intensify in his second term, as a
buildup of grass-roots lobbying from U.S. companies and states and from his
closest ally in Europe, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, make the issue
Blair, whose country holds the chair of the Group of 8 industrialized
nations this year, has made climate change one of his main concerns, and has
pressed Bush to join a global effort.
The United States has refused to sign on to the Kyoto protocol on global
warming, which is to take effect next month.
At a time when the American president has signaled his will to improve
trans-Atlantic relations, climate change may well force itself onto his
agenda, according to policymakers and political analysts at the World
Economic Forum in Davos.
"I think Kyoto is a turning point and I think there is a growing recognition
in the administration that this is a major issue between friends," said John
McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona, who has long lobbied for
mandatory cuts of greenhouse gases in the United States. "In the next few
years this should rise on the agenda, especially with Tony Blair pushing the
Speaking on one of several well-attended panels on climate change in Davos
on Thursday, McCain said he could sense movement in the administration.
Two years ago, along with Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Democrat, McCain
submitted a bill proposing a European-style nationwide emission-trading
system in the United States. It was defeated but has been resubmitted and is
"I don't think we will pass it this year, but I think we will soon," McCain
The Kyoto accord obliges industrialized signatory nations to cut emissions
of carbon dioxide by 5.2 percent of their 1990 levels by 2012.
In preparation for the treaty's implementation, the European Union has
introduced carbon emission caps for 12,000 energy-intensive plants across
the region. Companies that stay within their allocated emission ceilings can
sell spare permits on a central trading exchange -- the European Climate
Exchange -- to those that exceed their limits. Japan and Canada are planning
similar exchanges for emission permits.
Bush has refused to ratify the treaty, which was signed by 126 nations,
arguing that it would hurt American businesses.
But the voices criticizing the federal government have grown steadily
A number of multinationals, notably those with operations that are subject
to the new constraints, are now lobbying the administration to join a global
Some U.S. states have independently introduced carbon constraints.
California for example has limited greenhouse emissions from cars, while in
New England a number of states restrict the right of electricity plants to
pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
It is the latest example of international diplomacy that excludes America,
causing some present in Davos to suggest that Europe appears to be unseating
America as the traditional driver of international agreements.
"Europe has the moral leadership today," said Eileen Claussen, president of
the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
"But Europe needs both the United States and China to join a global effort
to curb carbon emissions," she said.
"You need the largest integrated economic area -- the EU -- the world's
largest emitter -- the U.S. -- and the largest emitter-to-be -- China -- on
board," she said.
In a keynote speech in Davos on Wednesday, Blair pledged to make climate
change a priority for his country's presidency of the G8 this year and
stressed that there was no alternative to a global effort.
"Business and the global economy need to know that this isn't an issue that
will go away," Blair told a packed auditorium Wednesday.
The British prime minister reportedly asked the World Economic Forum to send
him a bill for the carbon emissions his presence in Davos has 'cost.'
An invoice for £8, or $15, is reportedly on its way to London.