Memo: Passage of the Climate Change Stewardship Act

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Discussion Section: 9
TA: Jose Emilio Lopez
Word Count: 800

Addressed to the honorable Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman.

To ensure the passage of the Climate Stewardship Act, S. 139, in the US Senate before the November 2004 presidential election.

The recent passage of the energy bill has opened an opportunity for the passage of the Climate Change Stewardship Act. Furthermore, the results of the voting of the amendment presented by Senator Lieberman in October, 2003, show that there is already considerable support. We need to keep building momentum around this issue, and propose some of the following actions.

Knowing which states have voted against the Act, it will be important to map out the motivations behind these votes and address them accordingly. For coal intensive states, the loss of income and unemployment that the adoption of cleaner technologies might bring is a big concern. Creating funds to aid them in the transition is not as important as shedding light in the opportunities that the modernization of the coal industry can yield. Coal and other fossil fuels will not be displaced in the short term as renewables are still beyond the required reliability, but investing in cleaner coal is feasible and can have a high return, helping boost a stagnant industry, creating knew jobs, and attracting investment for R&D of renewables, smart grids, and carbon capture and storage technologies. Further evidence about the real costs and benefits that new technologies present should be available from MIT and similar sources.

Additionally, some states that voted against the amendment could be considered as highly vulnerable to climate change related phenomena such as flooding, hurricanes, and severe droughts. Reliable data related to the increasing incidence of such events in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and other mid western states, will help us convince their representatives on the need to act not only to take advantage of carbon storing crop opportunities, but also to protect their vulnerable agriculture industry and the population.

It is essential to build a stronger case about the market opportunities related to climate change. It was the United States task force who proposed the “flexible mechanisms” to be incorporated in the Kyoto Protocol, and all the Annex I countries but the US have been receiving the benefits of such tools. The US has failed to take advantage of global carbon markets and related commercial opportunities worldwide, and is also missing the opportunity to achieve emission reduction targets at a lower cost.

The global markets in which US companies like to drive is setting high competitive standards and truly global companies will need to adapt to the standards whether nationally adopted or not, so why lag behind them. At this point, the government might find in the private sector a partner to share the cost and risks related to the investment in cleaner technologies. To convince Senators about this argument, it will be important to use advocates such as the Ford Motor Company and IBM. These flag companies are anticipating future regulations and turning the situation into a competitive advantage. Other big market players in the electricity, transportation, industry and commercial sectors might find similar advantages in their own business models. This can help minimize the perception that climate change regulation is a means to control the market, and show that it can actually help create new markets, increase opportunities for low carbon business and promote the creation of jobs.

In terms of international relationships, the passage of the Act can be presented as means to create the right environment for investments that could eventually reduce the dependence of the US on imported fossil fuels, which is as a matter of national security. Given the current climate around the war in Iraq, the Act can be seen as a low risk and low cost alternative to a...
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