In a very depressing piece of analysis, Grist columnist Gar Lipow argues that the Waxman Markey climate change bill emerging in the US will do worse than nothing, when it comes to dealing with greenhouse gas emissions. This is because of how it issues permits (downstream, rather than upstream), its problematic use of offsets, and the fact that most permits (80%) will be given away, rather than auctioned.
Lipow concludes that: “Because of the flaws Iâ€™ve mentioned, it essentially requires no emission reduction in practice for at least a decade. Any short term benefits come from non cap-and-trade provisions, such as the Renewable Energy Standard.”
Muddled climate policies that get captured by industry are a major danger, throughout the developed world. Unless you get the details right, it is easy for carbon pricing policies to give a huge amount of money to the dirtiest polluters, increase consumer prices, and fail to effectively mitigate emissions. While it is urgent to begin mitigation, it is also necessary to note the trade-off between a quick and deeply flawed approach and a slower but less problematic one. To begin with, we need policies like the Vienna Convention on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer: too weak, but not hopelessly flawed. Additional political and scientific work turned that instrument into the relatively effective Montreal Protocol. If we don’t display wisdom and overcome entrenched interests in drafting climate policies, we risk blocking the chances of any such progression in climate legislation.