Climate Change Conference Highlights Successful Government Models

By Salas, Beverly | Nation's Cities Weekly, May 15, 2000 | Go to article overview
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Climate Change Conference Highlights Successful Government Models


Salas, Beverly, Nation's Cities Weekly


Participants Slam U.S. Efforts as Inadequate

Is our climate changing? Is our weather getting weirder? Do human-induced carbon dioxide ([CO.sub.2]) emissions and other greenhouse gases--created when we burn fossil fuels--contribute to global warming?

These questions were not the subject of debate at a recent international conference sponsored by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change because virtually all present were from one side of the issue. Instead, participants gathered to share answers and "Innovative Policy Solutions to Global Climate Change."

Listening to presenters it seemed that global warming and climate change are a given because no one present represented an opposing viewpoint. A worldwide coalition of senior government and private sector representatives, as well as individuals from the non-profit and academic community, shared the types of policies and programs they have enacted that will reduce CO2 emissions.

Japan is taxing fossil fuels to promote teleworking. Denmark charges a penalty of $5 per ton of [CO.sub.2] over the targeted output. They see these policies as climate initiatives and simple waste management. Through out industry and government, policy is driven by ancillary policy objectives:

* Improved energy efficiency

* Reduced traffic congestion

* Improved air quality

* Liberalized energy markets

The European Union

According to John Gummer, chairman of Great Britain's Sancroft International, "Climate change is a political given in Europe. No serious political party is presenting to their electorate [the idea that] we should not take action."

Karsten Sach, from Germany's Federal Ministry for the Environment, said much the same and added, "We, industrialized nations, must take responsibility and action. Climate change policy and a policy of efficient resource management are the same."

It was made clear, however, that Europeans feel they alone cannot solve the climate change problem. Gummer told the audience, "We need to develop an international strategy." Great Britain's Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, agreed, "We cannot tackle a world-wide problem without involving every country."

One of the ways they are tackling this problem said Peter Helmer Steen, Danish Ministry of Environment, is by "shifting taxes from labor to taxes on energy and resource users."

States Set Example

Some action is taking place here at home. New Jersey and Oregon created State Climate Change Plans. Robert C. Shinn, Jr., commissioner of New Jersey's Environmental Protection Department told the audience, "New Jersey has measured a six inch sea-level rise." Because of the increased storm surges and coastal flooding, New Jersey has had to evacuate and subsequently abandon several barrier islands.

New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman has gone on record supporting greenhouse gas policy action. "The fact is that climate change associated with greenhouse gases has an effect on every aspect of our daily lives. The environmental and economic benefits that stem from controlling greenhouse gases are enormous."

New Jersey has set an ambitious goal to not only curb emissions, but to reduce them. "It's a goal to which we are firmly committed," says Whitman.

Climate Friendly Local Governments

"Local governments must get in the game, because they are the game," said William F.

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