Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Offers Reward to Arrest Global Gases in Middle-of-the-Road Approach, President Outlines New Policy Combining Specific CO2 Targets with Tax Incentives for Business

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Offers Reward to Arrest Global Gases in Middle-of-the-Road Approach, President Outlines New Policy Combining Specific CO2 Targets with Tax Incentives for Business

Article excerpt

In his long-awaited plan to fight global warming, President Clinton is walking a delicate path marked by get-tough regulation and financial sweeteners.

It's a risky step - one that is likely to be hammered by activists and business interests at both ends of the US political spectrum while drawing skepticism aboard. But it is one, he hopes, that will attract what is becoming a broader and more assertive moderate center in this country on a profound environmental issue. And since the Republican-led Congress must approve the plan, it may be a political necessity.

The president is offering a carefully crafted combination of specific, binding carbon-reduction targets made more palatable with economic incentives - all smoothed out with a flexibility designed to win the approval of suspicious lawmakers and business leaders worried about the bottom line. Over the years, Mr. Clinton's approach to climate change has gone through two phases. First, he waved the stern regulatory stick: a proposed "carbon tax" on fuels that contribute to global warming. That snapped against a congressional brick wall. Then he offered the conciliatory carrot: a largely-volunteer program to encourage energy efficiency and thereby reduce the "greenhouse gases" (mainly carbon dioxide) that scientists suspect are behind climate change. This has been more successful, bringing definite improvements in some areas of energy production, distribution, and consumption. But it has not put the US on track to meet the stated goal of reducing carbon emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000. On the contrary, the Energy Department reported Monday, such emissions have risen 7.4 percent since 1990 and will likely keep rising as the robust US economy continues to expand - more people driving cars and working in more offices and factories. So now the president is taking a more middle-of-the-road approach. Among the specifics he outlined in a speech Wednesday: * Mandatory cuts in greenhouse gases to 1990 levels through a phased-in program to start now and be completed sometime between 2008 and 2012. These would be followed by further reductions to be completed in about 20 years. * Several billion dollars in tax incentives and subsidies to stimulate renewable and energy-efficiency technologies. This would also include tax breaks for companies that meet carbon-reduction goals ahead of schedule. * Clinton also hopes to generate international interest in a "pollution trading system" involving other industrialized nations. With this, companies racing toward compliance could sell "pollution permits" to those struggling to meet the deadline. Nudge from Europe The US plan to reduce carbon emissions is being offered this week in Bonn, Germany, where some 150 nations are preparing for a December summit in Kyoto, Japan. …

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