Researchers Predict Future Of Federal Climate Change Policy
By Lori Wright, Media Relations
February 7, 2007
The future of federal climate change policy is likely to include
a host of strategies such as a national cap on carbon dioxide
emissions, mandatory standards on renewable energy, mandatory
efficiency standards on vehicles and products, and a national
carbon dioxide cap-and-trade scheme, according to new research
conducted by UNH.
Stacy VanDeveer, associate professor of political science,
evaluates current U.S. climate change policy and assesses future
national strategies in “Political Science and Prediction:
What’s Next for U.S. Climate Change Policy?” published
today in the journal “Review of Policy Research.” The
article is co-authored by Henrik Selin of Boston University.
According to the researchers, the U.S. government has engaged
in few efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and national
emissions continue to increase. Their assessment of future
federal climate policy is based on statewide, regional and
private climate change efforts that have proven political influence.
“These policies are already being implemented in the
public and private sectors, and have identifiable constituencies
of well-networked actors. As such, they are likely to be part
of future federal policy. Conversely, policy ideas with fewer
and/or less powerful political advocates are less likely to
be included in federal policy,” the researchers said.
The researchers predict the following policies will be part
of future federal policy:
- A national cap on carbon dioxide emissions. Like those of
many U.S. cities and states, this cap is likely to include
an initial date for stabilizing emissions followed by a series
of time-based targets for modest emissions reductions over
- A national carbon dioxide cap-and-trade scheme partially modeled
on existing regional and federal trading schemes for sulfur
dioxide and nitrogen oxide and drawing on work conducted under
the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Like RGGI, a
national carbon dioxide trading scheme is likely to focus initially
only on the utilities sector and leave open the possibility
of adding additional sectors.
- National, mandatory renewable energy portfolio standards. Like
those renewable energy portfolio standards in many states,
the national standard is likely to begin with quite modest
goals and increase over time so as to gradually drive energy
sector investments and technological developments.
- Mandatory national product standards for increased energy efficiency.
Such standards are likely to expand on existing federal and
state energy saving programs and target large energy users
including major heating and cooling systems, office equipment,
and common household appliances.
- Increased vehicle fleet gasoline efficiency standards (CAFE
standards). While most states have avoided policy action aimed
at transportation issues because of local resistance, the federal
government is likely to retain its decade’s old use of
vehicle fleet standards and enact modest increases in these
over time. Changes in CAFE standards are likely to incorporate
aspects of vehicle emissions standards developed in California.
- Increased use of federal monetary incentives. Such incentives
are likely to include corporate tax credits for research and
development and additional subsidies to consumers for the purchase
of more energy efficient products including vehicles.
“Because the United States has often been reluctant
to engage in international environmental policy-making and
accept international environmental regulations before corresponding
domestic action has been taken (particularly in the context
of a highly contentious domestic issue such as climate change),
developments in federal climate policy can be expected to induce
changes in U.S. foreign policy,” according to the researchers.
“This means that significant changes in U.S. foreign
policies related climate change are likely only after the enactment
of more expansive federal climate change policy. As such, observers
and policy makers from both inside and outside the United States
would be wise to closely study ongoing and dynamic public,
private, and civil society sector climate change developments
outside Washington D.C., and their influence on national debates
and future federal policy making,” the researchers said.
VanDeveer is a 2006–2007 Visiting Fellow at the Watson
Institute for International Studies at Brown University. Before
taking a faculty position at UNH, he spent two years as a post-doctoral
research fellow in the Belfer Center for Science and International
Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School
of Government. In addition to authoring and co-authoring numerous
articles, book chapters, working papers and reports, he co-edited “EU
Enlargement and the Environment: Institutional Change and Environmental
Policy in Central and Eastern Europe” (2005), and “Saving
the Seas: Values, Scientists and International Governance” (1997).
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