Those of us who work and toil in the environmental world owe it to our corporate leaders, our community and our political system to weigh in on the discussion on climate change – from the perspective of what it would take to ensure that the policies enacted on Capitol Hill and set in stone by EPA and the other federal & state agencies, can have successful implementation by corporate America.
I think we all have an obligation to “stand up and be counted” in the upcoming policy discussions over Climate Change. I’d welcome your comments if I’m on-target or off-base.
Here’s my advice to the President and his Cabinet about the process:
- Get started quickly and keep up the momentum. The action needed is too comprehensive and important to get mired down in political infighting. Without action, the public will lose interest because the economy is in the tank.
- Get information from more than one source. Adopt a formal stakeholder process – don’t just depend on the input from one perspective – reach out and meet with industry leaders who have already demonstrated a commitment to action, responsible NGO groups, states and global leaders.
- Keep the pressure on by announcing your intention to keep the option of using either or both regulatory actions under existing law and new legislation. But clearly evaluate the Risks/Rewards from proceeding under each. Remember that regulation under existing law may work for some sectors and new legislation will work for others.
- Don’t get bogged down in bureaucratic warfare; “inside the beltway” gridlock is not an option. You need collaboration, not competition between departments, agencies and staff.
- Your program doesn’t’ have to be perfect; this issue will require long-term strategies and there will be chances to amend & augment your policy in the future.
Now my thoughts as to the policy itself:
- Be a parent: Avoid being judgmental & name calling. Don’t demonize the process with heroes & villains.
- Focus on incentives. Don’t let the law get punitive and don’t establish a litigation bonanza with retroactive liability (i.e., superfund).
- Be flexible. One size may not fill all – Cap & Trade may be best for some sectors (utilities & some industry), but not for transportation (automobiles, aerospace, agriculture), and there may be room for a carbon tax for some sectors.
- Consistency matters. From an economic and efficiency perspective, we must focus on developing a preemptive federal approach that provides certainty and uniformity among all states.
- Cost does matter. This is not a trivial matter and given the current economic outlook, this has to be factored into the pace and scope of action.
- The US can’t do it alone. The response to climate change must take place on a global platform. China, India, and other developing countries cannot stand back and not participate in the solution.
- Good deeds should not be punished. Many companies are aggressively pursuing GHG reduction goals in the US and abroad and companies should get credit for past reductions before CO2 was regulated.
Finally, we need to develop a realistic approach and strategies to how we plan to meet our energy needs – both domestically and internationally – over the next 50 years. We cannot afford to push this off to the next Administration or the next generation of leaders.
We must take advantage of the momentum and act now.