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Robert Stavins' Posts

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Can the Durban climate negotiations succeed?

Photo: DG EMPL Cross-posted from An Economic View of the Environment. Two weeks of international climate negotiations begin today in Durban, South Africa. These are the Seventeenth Conference of the Parties (COP 17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) [PDF]. The key challenge at this point is to maintain the process of building a sound foundation for meaningful, long-term global action, not necessarily some notion of immediate, highly visible triumph. In other words, the answer to the question of whether the Durban climate negotiations can succeed depends -- not surprisingly -- on how one defines "success." …

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A golden opportunity to please conservatives and liberals alike

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a golden opportunity to opt for a smart, low-cost approach to fulfilling its mandate under a Supreme Court decision to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions linked with global climate change. Such an approach would provide maximum compliance flexibility to private industry while meeting mandated emission-reduction targets, would achieve these goals at the lowest possible cost, would work through the market rather than against it, would be consistent with the Obama administration's pragmatic approach to environmental regulation, and ought to receive broad political support, including from conservatives, who presumably want …

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Canada’s step away from the Kyoto Protocol can be a constructive step forward

Canada confirmed Friday that it will not take on a target under an extension of the Kyoto Protocol following the completion of the first commitment period, 2008-2012. Given that Canada is likely to miss by a wide margin its current target under the first commitment period, this decision may not be surprising, but it is nevertheless important. More striking, it may actually turn out to be a positive and constructive step forward in the drive to address global climate change through meaningful international cooperation. Why do I say that? The current situation The Kyoto Protocol, which essentially expires at the …

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Why the environmental justice lawsuit against California’s climate law is misguided

Environmental justice is a noble cause, but the lawsuit against AB 32 is misguided.On May 20, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith ruled that the California Air Resources Board had not adequately explained its choice of a market-based mechanism -- a cap-and-trade system -- to achieve approximately 20 percent of targeted emissions reductions by 2020 under Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. The ruling [PDF] was in response to a lawsuit brought by a set of "environmental justice" groups, who fear that the cap-and-trade system will hurt low-income communities. These groups hope -- at a …

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Internationally linking carbon trading systems is the wave of the future

The latest rage in Washington policy discussions these days (that's relevant to climate change) is renewed interest in renewable electricity standards, this time in the form of so-called "clean energy standards." I've written about this policy approach recently and will do so again in the near future, but for today I want to turn to an important issue -- for the long term -- on the related topic of the international dimensions of climate change policy. The current state of affairs Despite the death in the U.S. Senate last year of serious consideration of an economy-wide cap-and-trade system for carbon …

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Time is money

Reflecting on a century of economic progress and environmental problems

As the first decade of the 21st century comes to a close, the problem of the commons is more important to our lives -- and more central to economics -- than a century ago when the first issue of the American Economic Review appeared, with an examination by Professor Katharine Coman of Wellesley College of "Some Unsettled Problems of Irrigation" (1911). Since that time, 100 years of remarkable economic progress have accompanied 100 years of increasingly challenging problems. As the U.S. and other economies have grown, the carrying-capacity of the planet -- in regard to natural resources and environmental quality …

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Justice is served

California’s cap-and-trade plan is better for environmental justice than the alternatives

California Gov. Jerry Brown plans to move forward with the implementation of Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32), the Global Warming Solutions Act, under which California seeks to take dramatic steps to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions. Questions have been raised about the wisdom of a single state trying to address a global commons problem, but with national climate policy developments having slowed dramatically in Washington, California is now the focal point of meaningful U.S. climate policy action. California's plan A key element of the mechanisms to be used for achieving California's ambitious emissions reductions will be cap-and-trade, a promising approach with …

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Justice is served

California's cap-and-trade plan is better for environmental justice than the alternatives

California Gov. Jerry Brown plans to move forward with the implementation of Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32), the Global Warming Solutions Act, under which California seeks to take dramatic steps to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions. Questions have been raised about the wisdom of a single state trying to address a global commons problem, but with national climate policy developments having slowed dramatically in Washington, California is now the focal point of meaningful U.S. climate policy action. California's plan A key element of the mechanisms to be used for achieving California's ambitious emissions reductions will be cap-and-trade, a promising approach with …

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Renewable irony

Renewable energy standards: less effective, more costly, but politically preferred to cap-and-trade?

One day after the election, the White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that a national renewable electricity standard could be an area of bipartisan energy cooperation, after President Obama had said cap-and-trade was not the only way "to skin the cat." It is ironic that while cap-and-trade -- a sensible approach to reducing carbon dioxide emissions linked with climate change -- is dead and buried in the Senate, considerable support has emerged for an approach that would be both less effective and more costly. A national renewable electricity standard would mandate that a given share of an electric company's …

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Copen mechanism

Why Cancun trumped Copenhagen: warmer relations on rising temperatures

After the modest results of the climate change talks in Copenhagen a little more than a year ago, expectations were low for the follow-up negotiations in Cancun last month. Gloom-and-doom predictions dominated. But a funny thing happened on the way to that much-anticipated failure: During two intense weeks of discussions in the Mexican resort that wrapped up at 3 a.m. on Dec. 12, the world's governments quietly achieved consensus on a set of substantive steps forward. And equally important, the participants showed encouraging signs of learning to navigate through the unproductive squabbling between developed and developing countries that derailed the …