New U.S. Climate Policy
From John L. Daly's Australian site at
"Still Waiting for Greenhouse"
New U.S. Climate Policy (15 Feb 2002)
President George W. Bush has made an irrevocable decision to discard the Kyoto Protocol as far as US participation is concerned by announcing a separate policy on climate. [ His full speech here - http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/02/20020214-5.html ]. He has set two priorities for the US - to clean the air, and to address the issue of global climate change in the context of scientific uncertainties.
He has flagged new 'Clean Skies' laws designed to dramatically reduce the three most significant forms of pollution from power plants, namely sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury. According to Bush, "We will cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 73 percent from current levels. We will cut nitrogen oxide emissions by 67 percent. And, for the first time ever, we will cap emissions of mercury, cutting them by 69 percent. These cuts will be completed over two measured phases, with one set of emission limits for 2010 and for the other for 2018."
His approach aims to 'protect the environment', 'prolong the lives of thousands of Americans with asthma and other respiratory illnesses, as well as with those with heart disease', and to 'reduce the risk to children exposed to mercury during a mother's pregnancy'. The new laws will operate via a market-based cap-and-trade system for which he expects to have broad support in Congress.
But on climate, he was more circumspect - "Now, global climate change presents a different set of challenges and requires a different strategy. The science is more complex, the answers are less certain, and the technology is less developed. So we need a flexible approach that can adjust to new information and new technology."
He stated goal is to reduce America's greenhouse gas emissions "relative to the size of the US economy", by cutting greenhouse gas intensity (or how much is emitted per unit of economic activity) by 18 percent over the next 10 years.
This latter approach is somewhat vague in comparison with his Clean Skies proposal. But then Bush states his bottom line. "Our nation must have economic growth -- growth to create opportunity; growth to create a higher quality of life for our citizens. Growth is also what pays for investments in clean technologies, increased conservation, and energy efficiency." This is in direct contrast to the Kyoto approach which was manifestly anti-growth. "We will promote renewable energy production and clean coal technology, as well as nuclear power, which produces no greenhouse gas emissions. And we will work to safely improve fuel economy for our cars and our trucks." In effect, he is demanding that any climate policy must work within normal economic activity, not cripple it as the Europeans would do with the Kyoto Protocol. Looking to the future, he added - "If, however, by 2012, our progress is not sufficient and sound science justifies further action, the United States will respond with additional measures that may include broad-based market programs as well as additional incentives and voluntary measures designed to accelerate technology development and deployment." Note his caution about 'sound science', implying that a lot of the 'science' around today is anything but sound, a caution this website fully endorses.
As for the Kyoto Protocol, Bush was scathing and uncompromising - "My approach recognizes that economic growth is the solution, not the problem. Because a nation that grows its economy is a nation that can afford investments and new technologies. The approach taken under the Kyoto Protocol would have required the United States to make deep and immediate cuts in our economy to meet an arbitrary target. It would have cost our economy up to $400 billion and we would have lost 4.9 million jobs. As President of the United States, charged with safeguarding the welfare of the American people and American workers, I will not commit our nation to an unsound international treaty that will throw millions of our citizens out of work."
However, Bush also promised that the United States would "not interfere with the plans of any nation that chooses to ratify the Kyoto protocol", a clear reference to the European Union which will now have to fund, on their own, all the grandiose wealth transfers and economic growth cuts which the Protocol envisioned.
Summarising what could become the 'Bush Doctrine' on climate, he said - "To clean the air, and to address climate change, we need to recognize that economic growth and environmental protection go hand in hand. Affluent societies are the ones that demand, and can therefore afford, the most environmental protection. Prosperity is what allows us to commit more and more resources to environmental protection. And in the coming decades, the world needs to develop and deploy billions of dollars of technologies that generate energy in cleaner ways. And we need strong economic growth to make that possible."
Soon after Bush's speech, Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard, made a public statement that Australia would not ratify the Kyoto Protocol without US and developing country's participation. Since President Bush has read the final funeral oration on the protocol as far as the US is concerned, it is now a dead letter here in Australia too.