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A transition piece waiting for a wind turbine to be built on it, at the Walney offshore wind farm at sunset. Cumbria, UK.

Advancing National Climate Solutions with the Climate Leadership Council

  • Date: 27 November 2018
  • Author: Lou Leonard, Senior Vice President for Climate and Energy at WWF

Last month, the world’s preeminent climate scientists issued a somber warning to the world: we have a dozen years to halve global emissions to get on a path to prevent catastrophic climate change from devastating our communities later in this century. We need only look to recent fires in California or storms in North Carolina for a taste of the dangerous future in store if we fail to take up this charge. 

What once were thought to be “tomorrow’s problems” are now today’s crises -- that’s as clear as ever in the recent United Nations report and in our daily news feeds. The global community needs to keep warming to no more than 1.5 degrees to ensure our collective safety and prosperity. To get there, we need zero net emissions by 2050 – full global decarbonization – which requires cutting current emission levels in half by 2030.

But doing so is a tall order. The transformation of our food, transportation and electric systems required to fully decarbonize our society is unprecedented. It means we’ll need to harness every tool at our disposal: technological innovation, national policy, sub-national climate action and an economy-wide price on carbon.

Perhaps what’s most critical – and in shortest supply – is radical cooperation. We need all facets of the US economy to be part of the solution, exploring common ground and collaborating where possible toward a common goal.

Listening and collaboration are values that have guided WWF’s climate work from the beginning. We have a long history of working with some of our nations’ largest energy users – including major companies and metropolitan areas – to set and scale science-based climate targets. Engaging the private sector and regional governments is essential to transforming entire markets to lower-impact business models.

Effective solutions to the climate crisis will catalyze positive transformation across the many sectors of our economy. A price on carbon and complementary national regulation are critical to getting us there in the US. While discussions around carbon pricing have percolated among economists and think tanks over the last decade, only recently has the dialogue expanded to include leading businesses in the chief sectors of the US economy and voices from across the, too-often divided, political spectrum. The Climate Leadership Council (CLC) has led just such an effort, which is why WWF is pleased to be joining this important conversation.

We need private sector stakeholders and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to come together and meaningfully support a carbon pricing policy that meets and exceeds the targets set by the United States under the Paris Agreement. While carbon pricing is not a silver bullet, it’s a solution that merits robust discussion, creative design and honest debate. For some sectors, an appropriate carbon price has the potential to be a gamechanger. In others, like the transportation sector, carbon pricing alone likely will not be enough to bring down emissions at the pace needed to meet our national targets.

In joining CLC, WWF is not endorsing all elements of the Council’s four-part plan. We fully support the US Environmental Protection Agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate climate pollution. Specific regulations the agency has issued to address climate pollution from power plants, vehicles, and oil & gas facilities are critical to achieving the immediate emissions reductions we need now.

It’s not surprising that such a diverse group of players come to the table with some differing views. That’s okay and in fact expected when exploring grand ideas with the potential to take on the biggest crisis facing our planet. What matters most is that by tackling this together, we can help spur the kind of bold solutions the problem demands. This effort may succeed, or it may fail. But we won’t know if we choose not to sit at the table together. 

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