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Robert Stavins' Posts

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cop-ing mechanism

What happened (and why): an assessment of the Cancun Agreements

The key challenge of Cancun was accomplished.Photo: U.N. Climate TalksThe international climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, have concluded, and despite the gloom-and-doom predictions that dominated the weeks and months leading up to Cancun, the Sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP 16) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) [PDF] must be judged a success. It represents a set of modest steps forward. Nothing more should be expected from this process. As I said in my Nov. 19 essay -- Defining Success for Climate Negotiations in Cancun -- the key challenge was to continue the process of constructing …

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not the quality of your tan

Defining success for climate negotiations in Cancun

Preparatory negotiations for the Cancun talks were held in Tianjin, China.Photo: UN Climate TalksInternational climate negotiations will continue in Cancun, Mexico, during the first two weeks of December, 2010. These will be the Sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP 16) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The key challenge is to continue the process of constructing a sound foundation for meaningful, long-term global action, not necessarily some notion of immediate, highly-visible triumph. Some of the gloom-and-doom predictions we've been hearing about these upcoming negotiations are therefore misguided, because they are based upon unreasonable -- and fundamentally …

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like a two-legged chair

Carbon-pricing and technology R&D initiatives: Both are necessary, but neither is sufficient

For many years, there has been a great deal of discussion about carbon-pricing -- whether carbon taxes or cap-and-trade -- as an essential part of a meaningful national climate policy. It has long been recognized that although carbon-pricing will be necessary, it will not be sufficient. Economists and other policy analysts have noted that policies intended to foster climate-friendly technology research and development (R&D) will also be necessary, but likewise will not be sufficient on their own. Some recent studies and press accounts, which I reference below, have identified these two approaches to addressing CO2 emissions as substitutes, rather than …

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Both are necessary, but neither is sufficient:

Carbon pricing and technology R&D initiatives in a meaningful national climate policy

For many years, there has been a great deal of discussion about carbon pricing -- whether carbon taxes or cap-and-trade -- as an essential part of a meaningful national climate policy. It has long been recognized that although carbon pricing will be necessary, it will not be sufficient. Economists and other policy analysts have noted that policies intended to foster climate-friendly technology research and development (R&D) will also be necessary, but likewise will not be sufficient on their own. Some recent studies and press accounts, which I reference below, have identified these two approaches to addressing CO2 emissions as substitutes, …

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In defense of markets

Cap-and-trade has been demonized by conservatives as part of an effective strategy to stop climate legislation from moving forward in the U.S. Congress. As I wrote in my previous blog post (“Beware of Scorched-Earth Strategies in Climate Debates,” July 27, 2010), this unfortunate tarnishing of market-based instruments for environmental protection will come back to haunt conservatives and liberals alike when it becomes politically difficult to use the power of the marketplace to reduce business costs in the pursuit of a wide variety of environmental objectives. Cap-and-trade has been vilified as a national energy tax, an elaborate Ponzi scheme, and a …

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option packed

The real options for U.S. climate policy

The time has not yet come to throw in the towel regarding the possible enactment in 2010 of meaningful economy-wide climate change policy (such as that found in the Waxman-Markey legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in June, 2009, or the more recent Kerry-Lieberman proposal in the Senate). Meaningful action of some kind is still possible, or at least conceivable. But with debates regarding national climate change policy becoming more acrimonious in Washington as midterm elections approach, it is important to ask, what are the real options for climate policy in the United States -- not only in …

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Here We Go Again

A closer look at the Kerry-Lieberman cap-and-trade proposal

As with the Waxman-Markey bill (H.R. 2454), passed by the House of Representatives last June, there is now some confusing commentary in the press and blogosphere about the allocation of allowances in the new Senate proposal -- the American Power Act of 2010 -- sponsored by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.). As before, the mistake is being made of confusing the share of allowances that are freely allocated versus auctioned with (the appropriate analysis of) the actual incidence of the allowance value, that is, who ultimately benefits from the allocation and auction revenue. In this essay, I …

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Eyes on the Prize

Federal climate policy should preempt state and regional initiatives

In just a few days, Sens. John Kerry, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman will release their much-anticipated proposal for comprehensive climate and energy legislation -- the best remaining shot at forging a bipartisan consensus on this issue in 2010. Their proposal has many strengths, but there's an issue brewing that could undermine its effectiveness and drive up its costs. I wrote about this in a Boston Globe op-ed on Earth Day, April 22. Government officials from California, New England, New York, and other northeastern states are vociferously lobbying in Washington to retain their existing state and regional systems for reducing …

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to kill a mocking word

Who killed cap-and-trade?

In a recent article in the New York Times, John Broder asks "Why did cap-and-trade die?" and responds that "it was done in by the weak economy, the Wall Street meltdown, determined industry opposition and its own complexity." Mr. Broder's analysis is concise and insightful, and I recommend it to readers. But I think there's one factor that is more important than all those mentioned above in causing cap-and-trade to have changed from politically correct to politically anathema in just nine months. Before turning to that, however, I would like to question the premise of my own essay. Is cap-and-trade …

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What’s the proper role of individuals and institutions in addressing climate change?

This may seem like a trivial question with an obvious answer. But what really is the proper role for individuals and institutions in addressing climate change? An immediate and natural response may be that everyone should do their part. Let’s see what that really means. Decisions affecting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, for example, are made primarily by companies and consumers. This includes decisions by companies about how to produce electricity, as well as thousands of other goods and services; and decisions by consumers regarding what to buy, how to transport themselves, and how to keep their homes warm, cool, and …

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