Union of Concerned Scientists’ recommendations on climate policy

The Union of Concerned Scientists has outlined a comprehensive approach to climate change.  From their website:

Strong legislation should:

  • Set a Target for U.S. Emissions Reductions Based on the Best Available Science
    At a minimum, a bill should reduce emissions 17 percent by 2020 to jump start the reduction of global warming pollution and set us on the path to the longer term emissions cuts that scientists tell us are needed.
  • Respond Rapidly to New Science
    With climate science changing so rapidly, the reduction targets that experts recommend today may soon become outdated.   Any policy should ensure that the administration and Congress act quickly in response to the latest science to accelerate or deepen emissions reductions if necessary.
  • Include a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES)
    Requiring utilities to generate at least 25 percent of their electricity from clean, renewable sources will reduce the cost of achieving needed emissions reductions.
  • Limit Offsets – Offsets let polluters avoid making emissions cuts themselves by paying for pollution-reducing projects elsewhere. By allowing polluters to postpone any emissions cuts in their own facilities, unlimited offsets would delay much-needed technological advances and jeopardize the program’s long-term goals. As a result, offsets should be strictly limited and subject to rigorous standards to ensure that they provide real, permanent emissions reductions beyond what would happen in a business-as-usual scenario.
  • Protect Tropical Forests
    Tropical forest trees, like all green plants, take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen during photosynthesis, storing some carbon in the process. When trees that are cut down, rot or burn, they release the stored carbon into the air as carbon dioxide—the main heat-trapping gas causing global warming.
    A climate policy should direct at least 5 percent of the revenue from the sale of emissions allowances toward programs to protect tropical forests.
  • Enact a federal transportation bill that incorporates strong performance-based global warming pollution targets in the transportation planning process and invests in better public transportation, smarter growth, and land use planning;
  • preserve state rights under the federal Clean Air Act to enact emissions standards on autos stronger than federal standards;
  • enact an energy efficiency resource standard requiring retail electricity and natural gas providers to meet efficiency targets;
  • establish performance standards and targeted incentives to speed deployment of more efficient appliances and buildings;
  • provide significant funding for research and development of new energy efficiency and renewable electricity technologies; and
  • expand the nation’s electric grid to transmit additional renewable energy generation from remote rural sources to urban demand centers.

The U.S. Should Play a Leadership Role in the International Arena
A U.S. climate program should complement similar programs in other countries and any international effort.  Moreover, we can ensure deeper commitments globally by honoring the promises made by the U.S. at the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark in December 2009.  Specifically, the U.S. committed to provide funds to protect tropical forests, help with international adaptation, and support developing countries in deploying clean technology. We can also ensure deeper global reductions in emissions by committing to additional foreign assistance, outside the revenue generated by a climate policy, to protect tropical forests.


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