Debate Over Early Credits Heats Up

by William Yeatman on January 13, 1999

Support is steadily building for proposed legislation that, if passed, could seriously erode industry opposition to limits on greenhouse gas emissions. According to the New York Times (January 3, 1999), “big companies are maneuvering to push through legislation giving them valuable credits for early actions to control the waste gases that the binding treaty would strictly limit.”

It also states that “the legislation would mark a significant shift in the debate in the Senate over climate change, potentially moderating the opposition to the treaty among big industry groups and linking their financial interests to the goals of treaty supporters.”

The legislation, sponsored by senators John Chafee (R-RI), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Connie Mack, (R-FL), would give “ton-for-ton credits to any of the more than 150 companies that can document reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions under various voluntary federal programs.”

Its interesting that this legislation would only apply to a few businesses. As mentioned in the last issue of Cooler Heads, since there is no provision in the Kyoto Protocol for early credits, those awarded will have to be subtracted from the U.S. target, leading to a higher target for those companies not covered under the proposed legislation.

In a speech to the National Association of Manufacturers, Senator Chafee said “the good guys who take action now will be rewarded by having these actions count.” He also said “this credit program may also make early greenhouse gas reductions financially valuable to the companies who make them.”

While some environmental groups, like the Environmental Defense Fund, favor the legislation, others have criticized it. The National Environmental Trust says that the bill “does not provide sufficient guarantees that emission reductions credited under it will actually result from reduced emissions, as opposed to phantom paper reductions.” Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists has pointed out that “there is a lot of money involved, and there is going to be a lot of ferocious jockeying to control who gets the money. It is going to be pretty intense.”

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