Kyoto and Beyond - Climate Change and Transatlantic Storms
International Climate Protection Policy was the subject at the Dinner Dialogue in honor of Lee Lane, Executive Director of the Climate Policy Center in Washington DC. The roots and the role of growing US conservatism as the driving force of American climate policy were controversially discussed, as well as the most efficient and promising approaches to tackle climate change issues. The Dinner Dialogue took place on 6 October 2004 in Berlin.
The event opened with a statement by Lee Lane, explaining why climate issues are not and will not become a priority in US policy. First of all, climate issues are of low and even further declining interest to American society. Lee Lane identified the deeply rooted and rising conservatism in the US as a key factor to explain this phenomenon. Furthermore, in Lane's view it is difficult to draw attention to climate issues in times of a growing fiscal crisis, which he observes in the US.
Secondly, Lane focused on the question how to tackle the climate change issue efficiently. He pointed out, that emission controls are neither the correct nor a sufficient approach and hence will never be established as a driving force in American climate policy. Therefore, the government´s focus should - according to Lee Lane - be on research and development (R&D). In this respect, he identified a high potential to optimize the existing efforts in the US. Regarding the international community, he asked for common approaches in the field of R&D to be integrated into international climate policy: The international community should set incentives to mutually reinforce R&D.
Regarding the Kyoto Protocol, he pointed out that most countries who have ratified have either no relevant reduction commitments, or do not show serious efforts to fulfill their obligations. UK and Germany are exceptions in this respect. But according to Lane this shows that climate policies without quantitative emission targets could get more countries involved into international climate protection regimes.
Lee Lane occupies, inter alia, the position of the Executive Director of the Climate Policy Center since 2000. He has 20 years of senior executive experience both for trade associations and in the corporate sector. He has identified market niches for many economic research and policy development programs, and built teams and organizations to fill those niches. He conducted economic research in transportation, retirement policy, energy, environment, agriculture, international trade, and economic regulation.
Jennifer Morgan, Director of WWF´s Climate Change Program, responded to Lane´s statement as the evening´s first discussant. She pointed out, that many US citizens are opposed to the current climate policy, but have not gathered together yet. However in Morgan's view, "it is bubbling under the surface". So one big challenge in her eyes is to bring these people together to challenge the current climate change policy.
Regarding the Kyoto Protocol, Jennifer Morgan pointed out that many countries with tough reduction targets signed the treaty - e.g. Japan - and take the challenge serious. She thus dissented with Lee Lane. She also underlined, that climate change policy is more than a cost-benefit-analysis; it is a moral and ethical matter and is perceived as such by many people and countries.
Jennifer Morgan leads WWF's climate change program, present in over 30 countries around the world. In that role, she heads the WWF delegation to the Kyoto Protocol climate negotiations, formulates and advocates climate change policies on the international and national level and directs WWF's business and communications efforts.
In the ensuing dialogue discussants addressed the following issues:
- strength and roots of the conservative movement,
- how to set up right policies and frameworks regarding R&D,
- the necessity of incorporating the aspect of scarcity of time when tackling the problem of global warming,
- the general acceptance of regulatory frameworks in American society,
- the differences of risk perception in different countries and the consequences of these differences for the climate policy,
- the possible role of the UK bridging the gap between Europe and the US,
- how external issues like the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by Russia, the European Emissions Trading Scheme or Tornados hitting Florida influence the US position on climate protection,
- connection between energy security and climate change policies,
- the importance of cultural difference in shaping international climate protection regimes