How ambitious should the next president be in tackling global warming? A document issued today by a team at the University of Colorado indicates that No. 44 can be, and should be, far more aggressive than any of the candidates has promised so far.
The Presidential Climate Action Project — a two-year effort headquartered at the university — has released a presidential action agenda that contains more than 300 specific changes in federal policies, programs and statutes, and proposes that the chief executive act on all of them within the first 100 days of inauguration, under executive authority or by championing them in the administration’s first legislative and budget packages to Congress.
The plan is being billed as not only the most comprehensive, but in many ways the boldest, climate action agenda yet put before the American public and the presidential candidates.
It calls for the U.S. to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 30 percent below 2010 levels by 2020 and 90 percent by 2050, in part through an “upstream” cap-and-auction program that regulates the approximately 1,500 “first providers” of fossil energy — wellheads, mine mouths, etc. That regime is simpler to administer than mid-stream and downstream regulation, and would cover 100 percent of the economy.
Other key proposals include:
- An immediate moratorium on the construction of any power plant that is not carbon-free or that cannot capture and sequester its emissions.
- Suspension of licensing for new nuclear power plants until the problems of nonproliferation, protection from domestic attack, and permanent waste storage have been adequately addressed.
- Immediate regulation of greenhouse-gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Regulation would become moot if and when carbon pricing is successful in meeting national climate goals.
- An end to fossil and nuclear energy subsidies with funds redirected to tripling the R&D budget for energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.
- A first-ever public inventory of all federal subsidies that encourage greenhouse-gas emissions and recommendations from a presidential commission within one year on which subsidies should be repealed. A new performance standard for future federal energy subsidies, setting requirements for net-energy, net-carbon, net-economic and net-environmental benefits.
- A 10-fold increase in the federal Weatherization Assistance Program for low-income families, from $140 million to $1.4 billion annually.
- A 25-fold increase in the State Energy Program, to $1 billion annually, distributed to states and localities that implement progressive energy and climate policies, including utility rate decoupling and climate adaptation programs.
- Changes in the farm bill and USDA programs to help make rural America the nation’s primary energy provider and a major source of carbon sequestration services.
- Modifications in the federal Climate Change Science Program to restore funding for the earth sciences and to pay more attention to regional and local impacts of climate change so that states and communities can better prepare.
- A program to eliminate U.S. oil imports by 2040 without increasing domestic production, and international collaboration to help other net-importing nations do the same.
- An international “grand deal” to end subsidies for high-carbon energy in the developing world, in favor of energy efficiency and renewable energy development.
- A detailed program to make the federal government carbon-neutral by 2040.
- A national intelligence estimate of the security implications of increasing U.S. dependence on imported fuels, including uranium and LNG.
- $1 billion in “platinum carrot” awards to the private sector for transformational technologies that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and increase national energy security.
- Creation of a new National Innovation and Economic Development Agency made up of the U.S. Department of Energy’s technology development and deployment programs and the programs of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
- Updates in the country’s major environmental protection laws to reflect current knowledge about climate change and its impacts.
- A number of initiatives and incentives to make all new buildings carbon neutral by 2030 — the goal of Architecture 2030.
The plan’s proposals span 13 different areas of government policy, including climate, energy, transportation, buildings, public health, natural resources stewardship, ocean ecology, national security, and agriculture. One chapter offers ideas on how the next president can mobilize the executive branch quickly for action, including how to expedite the process of appointing to climate specialists to key government positions.
The project, which will continue through inauguration in January 2009, is directed by former U.S. Department of Energy official William Becker at the University of Colorado School Of Public Affairs. Its 17-member advisory committee is co-chaired by former U.S. Senator and two-time presidential candidate Gary Hart, and noted green industrialist Ray Anderson, founder and chairman of Interface, Inc.
Becker describes the current plan as preliminary. The project team will continue conducting research and monitoring developments in science and policy, and will issue a final presidential action plan two months before the election.
Among upcoming products will be a legal analysis of the president’s executive authorities related to climate action and a “full-cost calculator” being developed by the University of Vermont to help policy makers estimate the full, life-cycle cost of different energy and technology options.
The project was conceived by Prof. David Orr of Oberlin College, who now serves on the plan’s advisory committee. Other members include Theodore Roosevelt IV, the chairman of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change; Hunter Lovins, president of Natural Capitalism Solutions Inc.; Scott Bernstein, head of the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago; Brian Castelli, executive vice president of the Alliance to Save Energy in Washington, D.C.; Dr. D. James Baker, former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency; Adm. Richard Truly (U.S. Navy, retired), former Shuttle astronaut, former administrator of NASA and former director of DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory; Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Association; Boyd Gibbons, past president of the Johnson Foundation; Michael Northrop of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund; April Bucksbaum of the Baum Foundation; and Terry Tamminen, the architect of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s climate program in California.
Becker said that members of the committee took the unusual step of instructing him to be bold and not requiring consensus on ideas included in the plan. “Not all of our advisors agree on all of these ideas,” Becker said. “We recognized it would be unlikely, if not impossible, to get consensus on more than 300 action items. But all of us agreed that the next president must be bold and must move quickly to assert federal leadership on global warming.”
Becker said the project is nonpartisan and has offered to brief all of the presidential candidates.