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Life at a Tipping Point – Legislative climate policies at the state level

Life at a Tipping Point – Legislative climate policies at the state level

16 March 2006

marzilliThe US energy and climate policy – particularly political dynamics at the sub-national level – was the topic of the Transatlantic Climate Dinner in honour of Jim Marzilli.  Since 1990, Marzilli has been campaigning for environmental- and energy-sector reforms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Against the backdrop of increasingly dynamic climate and energy policy debates, the participants discussed the potential for reforms as well as possible hurdles at the city and state levels.  The Transatlantic Climate Dinner took place on March 16, 2006 in Berlin.

The event opened with a presentation by Jim Marzilli, a State Representative in Massachusetts since 1990.  There, he is one of the leading advocates for working families, tax reform, the environment and a sustainable energy policy.  In 2001 he was named “Legislator of the Year” by the Environmental League of Massachusetts. Jim Marzilli has authored many related legislation projects.  He is a member of the International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) and its Programme on Cities for Climate Protection.

To begin, Jim Marzilli elaborated on the climate policy of cities, especially with respect to the Cities for Climate Protection Programme. Building on that, he explained the efforts of the states and regions.  He focused in particular on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and the positions of individual states within the framework of these regional activities.  With his descriptions, Jim Marzilli also shed light on the American standpoints on emission trading systems and related allocation methods.

During the subsequent animated discussion, the following issues among others were addressed:

  • Awareness raising and public debates: To date questions on climate policy have played a negligible role in local public debates, which concentrate rather on economic and security policy issues. Some participants bemoaned the absence of a public debate on climate policy in Germany also.
    Local public debates in the US often  turn to ethical challenges. This interest in values could be an important basis for climate policy debates in the US.
    The necessity of international exchanges and pertinent co-operation at the local levels was also underscored.  This holds true for Europe and developing countries; the latter – China and India, for instance – will play a decisive role in the success of any future climate protection regime. It became visible, however, that finances and time for such exchange and co-operation activities are in short supply.
  • Economic aspects: There is also discussion in the US of the danger of business – electricity production, for instance – moving from states that are ambitious in their climate policies to less strict states (“leakage-problem”). There do exist, however, possibilities of significantly reducing the emission of greenhouse gases without economic losses, through measures such as improved energy efficiency or the technological optimisation of vehicles.
    It was also pointed out that, in Germany, climate policy measures have notable implications on the development of sustainable technologies. The export of these technologies could prove to be an important economic factor. Additionally, the discussion turned to the “cost of inaction.”
    In the US, too, the economic and environmental significance of technological development is highly valued. Nuclear fusion and clean coal and hydrogen technologies receive particular emphasis. The expectations regarding these approaches, however, were assessed by some as excessively optimistic. It was further brought up that these technologies are not suitable as local solutions. There, measures such as demand management should be implemented.
    For emission trading, auctioning was seen as the most promising allocation method, though politically difficult to implement. The proceeds of such an auction could be invested into energy efficient measures, for example. Under RGGI, a quota of 25% was settled upon for auctioning. Some voices are even calling for an increase of this proportion to 50% or 100%.
  • Political dynamics: In view of the multifaceted climate policy activities at sub-national levels and of the ambitious climate policy initiatives of various governors and senators, it became apparent that in Germany and Europe significant hopes have been placed on these activities. This in also true with respect to their potential influence at the federal level.
  • Security aspects: The group also discussed energy security issues. Concerns were expressed regarding an isolationist trend in energy policy and the popularity of nuclear energy and costly energy resources both in Europe and in the US.

After the official discussion drew to an end, the participants enjoyed a glass of American wine and engaged in talks in smaller groups in the “Kaisersaal” at Potsdamer Platz.
This Transatlantic Climate Dinner was organised by Ecologic and is jointly funded by Ecologic and the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

Further links:

Jim Marzilli
16 March 2006
Berlin, Germany