- International Negotiations and U.S. Climate Legislation
International Negotiations and U.S. Climate Legislation
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The nations of the world expect U.S. leadership this year in international climate negotiations, which will culminate in the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark in December. These negotiations in Copenhagen will be our best opportunity to forge a strong and fair international agreement to solve the climate crisis, and what happens in the United States prior to these negotiations will influence whether such a solution can be achieved.
The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, which passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee on May 21, begins to take steps to address key issues in the international negotiations, such as emissions reductions targets and support for international adaptation, clean technology and the protection of tropical forests. But in all these areas, the ACES Act fails to meet the necessary level of ambition from the United States to reach a strong and equitable global climate agreement.
Emissions reductions targets are not enough. Small island nations and other developing countries have called on the United States and other industrialized nations to reduce emissions by 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, which begins to be in line with the demands of science (getting emissions reduced to a point where climate stabilization is achievable) and equity (not placing an unfair burden on developing countries to reduce emissions when they have pressing development concerns). But the ACES Act calls for emissions reductions in the United States of only 1 to 4 percent under 1990 levels by 2020 (the range indicates emissions reductions from covered entities under the cap only with an additional 3 percent reduction from complementary measures but not international forest provisions) and 68 to 71 percent under 1990 levels by 2050.
International financing is insufficient. A key component of the UN international climate negotiations framework states that developing country actions will depend on finance and technology transfer from developed countries. This principle is important because developing countries are the least responsible for climate change, they are less capable than the United States and other industrialized countries to address the causes and impacts of climate change, and they have other serious development concerns, like droughts, famine, lack of access to water and energy. They need support in order to deal with climate impacts and to shift to clean economies.
The costs of adapting to climate change in the developing world are estimated at $86 billion a year by 2015; estimates for financing a clean energy transition and tropical forest protection in the developing world are between $65 and $120 billion a year. Starting at $500 million a year for adaptation, $500 million for clean technology, and $2.5 billion for tropical forest protection, the ACES Act does not come close to what the U.S. contribution would need to be for these efforts.
Although the bill begins to integrate international climate needs, it does not put the United States in a position to show the global leadership required on climate change for a successful international agreement.