December 12, 2005

No reason to wait: U.S. states take action

One of the most notable outcomes of the conference was a decision to pursue a dialogue on long-term action on climate change, in which the U.S. will participate. Its coming on-side (more or less) was contingent on terms that the dialogue will be non-binding and will not serve to open negotiations leading to future commitments.

Other levels of government in the U.S., however, are not content to follow Washington's foot-dragging example. A session presented by the Northeast States for Co-ordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) highlighted a number of state and regional initiatives.

California is a leading-edge jurisdiction in terms of its emission standards and encouragement of renewable energy, and Alan Lloyd, the state's Environment Secretary, outlined California's standards for vehicle GHG emissions and building and appliance energy efficiency. He said the state has set a goal of reducing GHG emissions to 2000 levels by 2010 and its per-capita energy use is presently well below the national average.

Gina McCarthy, from Connecticut's Department of Environmental Protection, also noted that climate change action is being initiated at the community, state and regional levels, and that this will prove to the U.S. federal government that it must act as well. In particular, she cited the work of the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers (NEG/ECP), including the Regional GHG Initiative. McCarthy said climate change is foremost an energy issue, requiring a shift in investment to energy conservation and energy efficiency.

Heather Kaplan of NESCAUM elaborated on the NEG/ECP's Climate Action Plan, with its goal of reducing emissions in the region's eight states and provinces to 1990 levels by 2010. She described how the plan lays out action items on electricity, transportation and inventories and registries and acknowledged that much work remains to be done to reach the targets.

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