Climate Policy on the Turn of the Century: The Death of “Plan A”
The unique plan involved top-down global and US emission limits. They never happened.
When the campaign to chop carbon emissions began within the last decade of the 20th Century, there gave the impression to be a transparent path forward. International negotiations would begin with a framework convention, followed by a later global agreement capping carbon emissions. Inside the US, Congress would enact laws cutting carbon emissions. By the tip of the primary decade of the brand new century, each parts of this top-down strategy had collapsed, and latest strategies had begun to coalesce.
The international side of this strategy never quite got off the bottom. The Kyoto Protocol was the hoped-for follow as much as the framework convention. But there was never any probability that the US would join Kyoto. Even before the agreement was signed, the US Senate had passed a resolution by a vote of 97-0 against US agreement to specific emission limits unless developing countries were also covered. The Kyoto Protocol covered only developed countries.
With the election of George W. Bush, it was clear that the US wouldn’t budge on this issue. Perhaps more importantly, the rise of China as a worldwide economic power also made it clear that an agreement like Kyoto, limited to developed countries, would never solve the issue. Yet developing countries like China wouldn’t comply with binding restrictions on emissions.
The Bush Administration also saw the emergence of latest US strategies after Bush abandoned a campaign pledge to manage CO2 emissions. California passed ambitious climate laws without waiting for the federal government. And near the tip of Bush’s term, the Supreme Court ruled that EPA had the ability to manage greenhouse gases under a 1970 air pollution law. Still, there was hope that after Bush, Congress would step up and pass a latest climate law. And indeed, a significant climate bill did pass the House. However it died within the Senate, and any hope of reviving it ended when House Democrats were routed within the 2010 elections.
Thus, by the beginning of the 2010s, it was clear that Congress wouldn’t take the lead in regulating carbon, and that prospects were dim for a worldwide agreement with binding limits on carbon emissions. And to at the present time, those realities haven’t modified.
Slightly than giving up on climate policy within the face of those disappointments, advocates and policymakers set off on another path. Inside the US, state and EPA regulation dominated, while international negotiations took a latest turn within the 2009 Copenhagen agreement. That, nevertheless, is a story for an additional day.