SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

National and International Climate Policies


National Climate Policies

At Georgetown University in June 2013 , President Obama unveiled a major suite of policies which provide a high-level view of his plans for addressing climate change in his second term in office. Although addressing climate change is often considered a controversial issue, several polls over the last year have shown that there is significant support for climate action, with the latest polls showing support for EPA action by 87% of Americans. Though the South often lags behind other regions in accepting changes to its energy mix, there is real demand for progress in this area where clean energy solutions and carbon emission limitations are most needed.

President Obama has promoted action on his climate action plan as well as Executive Orders due to a complete lack of leadership from the U.S. Congress. Congress attempted to move a climate bill forward in the spring of 2009 when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy & Security Act, but there was no corresponding movement in the Senate in 2010. Leaders in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives in the 112th Congress (2011-2012) declared carbon policy dead on arrival and it seems highly unlikely that the 113th Congress (2013-2014) will even consider addressing climate pollution (and the related human health and environmental impacts) as well as spiraling energy costs through comprehensive energy and climate legislation in 2013 or beyond.

arra_logo.pngAlthough not, strictly speaking, climate policy, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (commonly called ‘The Stimulus bill’) includes billions of dollars for renewable energy projects and energy efficiency upgrades that simultaneously creates clean energy jobs while incentivizing lower-carbon energy sources.

In what may be the most decisive step towards setting national limits on climate pollution, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Determination of Endangerment Finding for Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act in December 2009. This health-based finding was a critical first step in the process of developing a national standard for carbon emissions rather than adopting standards on a state or regional basis.

In January 2011, EPA began implementing Phase 1 of the ‘Tailoring Rule‘ for large sources of greenhouse gas (climate) pollution. Read more about that process here. Another process that is ongoing is to establish New Source Pollution Standards for new, large sources of carbon pollution. Read more about that ongoing process here.

International Climate Policies

At the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992, world leaders from 189 nations drafted the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the first international agreement to limit emissions of greenhouse gases. When ratified by a majority of the governments in 1994, the convention established a framework for reducing global warming pollution. Each year since, the international community has gathered for the Conference of the Parties to continue the negotiating process. co2chart.jpgIn 1997, gathering nations developed the Convention’s treaty, known as the Kyoto Protocol, which has been ratified by every industrial nation but the United States. Pressure continues to build for the United States to vigorously reengage in international negotiations where the midterm goal for climate safety is stabilizing temperature change increase caused by humans to no more than 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

That work began in earnest in 2009 when 192 countries came together in Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Negotiation’s 15th Gathering of the Conference of the Parties. After two weeks of intense – and at times contentious – climate negotiations, delegates from more than 185 nations ‘noted the existence’ of the Copenhagen Accord. While the Accord includes a global agreement to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius, it fails to include concrete measures to reach that target, leading scientists to say the world may be on a path to 3.5 degrees of warming by 2100. However, it is notable that Copenhagen marked the first time that the U.S., China and India offered national reduction targets in international climate negotiations. While the targets are not ambitious enough, they are evidence of movement from where we were in previous years. By January 2010, 107 nations had engaged with the Accord, representing 81.5% of global climate emissions.

The most recent Gathering of the Conference of the Parties was held in Doha, Qatar in November 2012, but little progress was made in sealing a “comprehensive, ambitious and effective international climate change deal.”