Flawed Environmental Policy; Lieberman-McCain Bill Is Wrong Approach

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Policy-makers in Congress, as well as several state legislatures, are considering legislation to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. For example, the bill introduced by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, and John McCain, Arizona Republican, would require the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2010 (a 14 percent reduction compared to current emission trends). The same bill would require utilities to reduce CO2 emissions by nearly as much as required by the Kyoto Protocol. In 1997, the last time it voted on a similar issue, the Senate voted 95-0 to oppose any constraints on emissions that could harm the economy. One state, California, has also mandated reductions in CO2 from cars and trucks. Legislators need to ask themselves whether these proposals are appropriate in light of recent international climate policy developments in key countries like Russia and Australia.

For example, at the recent World Climate Change Conference (WCCC) in Moscow, a marathon five-day gathering of climate scientists and policy experts from all over the world in which I participated, top Russian policy-makers questioned the benefits to Russia of signing the Kyoto Protocol. Dr. Andrei Illarionov, President Vladimir Putin's economic adviser, made it clear that Russia's priority is to double its Gross Domestic Product by 2010. Achieving that goal will, according to Mr. Illarionov, require a doubling of carbon emissions, due to the strong correlation between energy use and economic growth. Looking out past the first commitment period (post-2010), when the target for Russian carbon emissions could be 60 to 70 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050, Mr. Illarionov stated that Russia would have to buy emission credits and curtail its economic growth. At an Oct. 3 press conference in Moscow, Mr. Illarionov asked rhetorically, "The United States and Australia have calculated that they cannot bear the economic consequences of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. If they are not rich enough to deal with these consequences, my question is whether Russia is much richer than the U.S. and Australia." He concluded, "Considering that the Kyoto Protocol is restricting economic growth . …