WASHINGTON – The head of the climate change program at World Wildlife Fund, the world’s largest environmental organization, today issued the following statement:
“President Bush, in his final State of the Union address tonight, still has an opportunity to propose initiatives that are appropriate to the scale of the challenge of climate change,” says Richard Moss, Vice President and Managing Director for Climate Change, World Wildlife Fund.”
“After this administration’s poor showing at the Bali climate talks, this State of the Union is one of the President’s last chances to change the way history will view his administration. It is urgent to start concrete measures to reduce emissions in the highest emitting sectors. The continuation of the international negotiations following Bali should not be used to delay emissions reductions that can be achieved today or the development of institutional or technical capacity to implement an agreement once it is reached. The US must reassert its leadership in the international community.”
“Here are some issues the President could address to signal his seriousness in dealing with this global threat:
• Announcement of stabilization targets / agreed emissions-reductions objectives:This is the foundation on which a future climate change regime must be grounded. It is essential to limit the global average increase in temperature to 2°C above preindustrial levels. The President should announce that he will work with the US Congress this year to pass and sign legislation that places a price on carbon emissions in the United States through either a carbon tax or a cap and trade bill such as the Lieberman-Warner bill currently pending in the U.S. Senate.
• Research and Development (R&D): Incremental increases in technology R&D are inadequate and are not commensurate with the problem. The President should announce a large increase in R&D funding. Increased R&D expenditures must be coupled to higher prices for fossil fuels to assure rapid deployment of new technologies.
• Major Economies Meeting: The meeting will be held in Honolulu, Hawaii, on January 30-31, and is one of a series of meetings announced by the President last May. The President should announce concrete and substantial proposals for the Honolulu meeting rather than using the meeting to further delay action.
• Energy efficiency:Energy efficiency must become the world’s top energy priority. It not only directly reduces emissions, but also slows growth in energy demand and thus can forestall some installation of traditional fossil fuel power generation. The President should announce that he will lead an effort working with countries in the G-8+5 process to double historical rates of energy efficiency improvement, including an initiative to work with China, India, and other major developing countries that provides technical assistance and other support to enable them to achieve their own energy efficiency objectives. In addition, the President should announce an effort to modernize the electricity grid and to tighten standards for efficiency in the US under the Energy Star program.
• Renewable energy:There are many options for deployment of bio-energy, solar, wind power, geothermal, and other renewable options. The energy bill passed last year includes provisions to increase the use of ethanol. The President should broaden support to a full array of renewable energy technologies, making sure not to inadvertently contribute to other environmental problems.
• Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation: One-fifth of global emissions come from deforestation in tropical countries that occurs to provide wood and other products to developed countries such as the United States. The President should join other world governments, such as that of Norway, and institutions, such as the World Bank, in announcing support for efforts to value forest preservation and thus halt this source of climate change, which also threatens efforts to preserve biodiversity and our world’s natural heritage for future generations.
• Preparedness: The world is already committed to disruptive levels of climate change and must prepare for the consequences. The President should explicitly acknowledge the projected impacts and announce concrete steps to reduce vulnerability. These steps should include a large-scale national assessment of the potential consequences of climate change; and should provide information and financing to cope with climate change in the United States and globally.”
“The President claims that his administration understands the seriousness of climate change threat and is taking it seriously,” Moss says. “Yet as recently as February 2007, the Vice President questioned whether climate change was the result of human activities. Tonight’s State of the Union Address will be one of his last opportunities to demonstrate that understanding.”