President Bush’s speech on climate change, 16 April 2008, as prepared for delivery
Just over the transom, from the White House:
This afternoon the President will deliver a statement in which he sets a new intermediate national goal for stopping the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. The President’s announcement comes as this week’s Major Economies Meeting in Paris begins to lay the groundwork for the world leaders’ climate meeting to be held in conjunction with the upcoming G-8 Summit.
The President’s remarks will also inform the Senate-scheduled debate on climate change legislation. In addition, the President will emphasize the importance of decisions on climate change regulation being openly debated and made by the elected representatives of the people rather than unelected regulators and judges.
Following are excerpts from the President’s statement, as prepared for delivery:
On the principles for effectively confronting climate change:
Over the past seven years, my Administration has taken a rational, balanced approach to these serious challenges. We believe we need to protect our environment. We believe we need to strengthen our energy security. We believe we need to grow our economy. And we believe the only way to achieve these goals is through continued advances in technology.
I have put our Nation on a path to slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of our greenhouse gas emissions. In 2002, I announced our first step: to reduce America’s greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent through 2012. I am pleased to say that we remain on track to meet this goal even as our economy has grown 17 percent.
When I took office seven years ago, we faced a problem. A number of nations around the world were preparing to implement the flawed approach of the Kyoto Protocol. In 1997, the United States Senate had passed a resolution opposing this approach by a vote of 95 to zero. The Kyoto Protocol would have required the U.S. to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The impact of this agreement would have been to limit our economic growth and shift American jobs to other countries while allowing major developing nations to increase their emissions. Countries like China and India are experiencing rapid economic growth which is good for their people and good for the world. But this also means that they are emitting increasingly large quantities of greenhouse gases which has consequences for the entire global climate. So the United States has launched, and the G8 has embraced, a new process that brings together the countries responsible for most of the world’s emissions.
On the new goal:
In support of this process, and based on technology advances and strong new policies, it is now time for the U.S. to look beyond 2012 and take the next step. We have shown that we can slow emissions growth. Today, I am announcing a new national goal: to stop the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.
To reach this goal, we will pursue an economy-wide strategy that builds on the solid foundation we have in place. As part of this strategy, we worked with Congress to pass energy legislation that specifies a new fuel economy standard of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, and requires fuel producers to supply at least 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022. This should provide an incentive for shifting to a new generation of fuels like cellulosic ethanol that will reduce concerns about food prices and the environment. We also mandated new objectives for the coming decade to increase the efficiency of lighting and appliances.
Taken together, these landmark actions will prevent billions of metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere.
To reach our 2025 goal, we will need to more rapidly slow the growth of power sector greenhouse gas emissions so that they peak within 10 to 15 years, and decline thereafter. By doing so, we will reduce emission levels in the power sector well below where they were projected to be when we first announced our climate strategy in 2002. There are a number of ways to achieve these reductions, but all responsible approaches depend on accelerating the development and deployment of new technologies.
On the problem of outdated regulations being applied to climate change:
As we approach this challenge, we face a growing problem here at home. Some courts are taking laws written more than 30 years ago to primarily address local and regional environmental effects, and applying them to global climate change. The Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act were never meant to regulate global climate change. For example, under a Supreme Court decision last year, the Clean Air Act could be applied to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.
If these laws are stretched beyond their original intent, they could override the programs Congress just adopted, and force the government to regulate more than just power plant emissions. They could also force the government to regulate smaller users and producers of energy from schools and stores to hospitals and apartment buildings. This would make the federal government act like a local planning and zoning board, and it would have crippling effects on our entire economy.
Decisions with such far-reaching impact should not be left to unelected regulators and judges. Such decisions should be debated openly and made by the elected representatives of the people they affect. The American people deserve an honest assessment of the costs, benefits and feasibility of any proposed solution.
On the wrong way and the right way for Congress to approach climate change legislation:
This year, Congress will soon be considering additional legislation that will affect global climate change. I believe that Congressional debate should be guided by certain core principles and a clear appreciation that there is a wrong way and a right way to approach reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Bad legislation would impose tremendous costs on our economy and American families without accomplishing the important climate change goals we share.
The wrong way is to raise taxes, duplicate mandates, or demand sudden and drastic emissions cuts that have no chance of being realized and every chance of hurting our economy. The right way is to set realistic goals for reducing emissions consistent with advances in technology, while increasing our energy security and ensuring our economy can continue to prosper and grow.
The wrong way is to jeopardize our energy and economic security by abandoning nuclear power and our Nation’s huge reserves of coal. The right way is to promote more emission-free nuclear power and encourage the investments necessary to produce electricity from coal without releasing carbon into the air.
The wrong way is to unilaterally impose regulatory costs that put American businesses at a disadvantage with their competitors abroad which would simply drive American jobs overseas and increase emissions there. The right way is to ensure that all major economies are bound to take action and to work cooperatively with our partners for a fair and effective international climate agreement.
On technology as the key to addressing climate change:
We must all recognize that in the long run, new technologies are the key to addressing climate change. But in the short run, they can be more expensive to operate. That is why I believe part of any solution means reforming today’s complicated mix of incentives to make the commercialization and use of new, lower emission technologies more competitive.
First, the incentive should be carbon-weighted to make lower emission power sources less expensive relative to higher emissions sources, and it should take into account our Nation’s energy security needs.
Second, the incentive should be technology-neutral because the government should not be picking winners and losers in this emerging market.
Third, the incentive should be long-lasting. It should provide a positive and reliable market signal not only for the investment in a technology, but also for the investments in domestic manufacturing capacity and infrastructure that will help lower costs and scale up availability.
On putting America on an ambitious new track for greenhouse gas reductions:
If we fully implement our strong new laws, adhere to the principles I’ve outlined, and adopt appropriate incentives, we will put America on an ambitious new track for greenhouse gas reductions. The growth in emissions will slow over the next decade, stop by 2025, and begin to reverse thereafter, so long as technology continues to advance.
The strategy I have laid out today shows faith in the ingenuity and enterprise of the American people – and that is one resource that will never run out. I am confident that with sensible and balanced policies from Washington, American innovators and entrepreneurs will pioneer a new generation of technology that improves our environment, strengthens our economy, and continues to amaze the world.