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US Energy and Climate Policy: Legislative Mandates after EU Carbon Trading and Montreal

US Energy and Climate Policy: Legislative Mandates after EU Carbon Trading and Montreal

14 December 2005

US energy and climate policy was the topic of the Transatlantic Climate Dinner in honor of Lee Lane, Executive Director of the Climate Policy Center in Washington, D.C. The event participants discussed the possibility of and need for an effective US climate policy, in light of the developments at the sub-national, federal and international levels. This Transatlantic Climate Dinner took place on 14 December 2005 in Berlin.

The event opened with a statement by Lee Lane. As Executive Director of the Climate Policy Center (CPC), Lee Lane leads the development and implementation of the organisation’s strategic options and directs its overall management. Mr. Lane is a well known speaker at many events. Many of his theories and insights can be found in his numerous publications on climate and energy.

The Dinner Dialogue focused on questions of US climate policies and connected aspects of the US energy policy. On the one hand the long-term climate engagement of the US, which is reflected in its massive spending on Research and Development (R&D) and the Energy Policy Act of 2005, was mentioned. On the other hand it became apparent that US energy policy is driven primarily by concerns about energy security and energy prices, rather than by climate considerations.

The discussion was influenced by the results of the international climate conference in Montreal in December 2005, which passed several resolutions regarding long-term climate policy under the Kyoto-Protocol and the Framework Convention on Climate Change. Once more it became clear that the US will not introduce a federal Cap-and-Trade-system for greenhouse gases (GHG) if it will be a burden on industry.

In the animated discussion the following issues were addressed:

  • Relevance of R&D for successful climate protection: the US government and important research institutes consider R&D for new technologies to be decisive for efficient and successful climate protection. The European perception of R&D, on the other hand, tended to be that it is important but not decisive. Europeans emphasised the importance of emission caps, as the success of a climate protection policy can be measured only with regard to the mitigation of GHG emissions. Measures in the field of energy efficiency and climate friendly energy production are possible and necessary. Trusting that new technologies will be developed “just in time” is, in the European view, hard to accept considering the precautionary principle and the risks from climate change.
  • Differing understanding of “new technologies”: One important aspect identified during the discussion was the differing understanding of “new technologies” on both sides of the Atlantic. In fact, when speaking about new technologies, Europeans tend to mean the improvement and the deployment of existing technologies, such as renewable energies. Conversely, Americans tend to refer to completely new not yet existing climate friendly technology.
  • The impact of Hurricane Katrina on public opinion in the US: the US media focused rather on social issues than on climate change. However, the media seems to be showing a growing interest in climate change issues. The final impact of Hurricane Katrina on public opinion is still unknown.
  • Co-operation: there was agreement on the fact that co-operation in the area of basic research could be particularly beneficial.
  • Montreal and Gleneagles: the outcomes and implications of Montreal and Gleneagles were discussed. Opinions differed regarding the possibility of creating a political dynamic to integrate developing countries and especially India and China.

After the official discussion drew to an end, the participants, including for example Michaele Schreyer, former Commissioner of the European Commission, enjoyed a glass of American wine and engaged in talks in smaller groups in the beautiful “Kaisersaal” at Potsdamer Platz.

This Transatlantic Climate Dinner was organised by Ecologic and the US Embassy, and is jointly funded by Ecologic, the US Embassy and the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

Further links:

Lee Lane
14 December 2005
Berlin, Germany