The Pew Center on Global Climate Change, in conjunction with the Pew Center on the States, convened its annual conference February 25-26 that focused on innovative approaches to climate change. This year's conference addressed critical issues between states and the federal government in developing policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The conference featured speeches by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. Pawlenty and Richardson, considered possible Republican and Democratic vice presidential contenders respectively, highlighted their states' clean energy efforts and the different roles state and federal governments can play to advance emission reduction policies. In his remarks, Kerry cited the immediate need for federal leadership on climate change and encouraged grassroots efforts at state and local levels to pressure federal officials to act.
The two-day conference included several panel discussions about key climate change topics confronting state and federal leaders. Significant discussion focused on the design of a cap-and-trade program, which is slated for implementation in three regional programs involving 23 states and is the centerpiece of pending legislation in Congress. The regional efforts – the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the Northeast; the Western Climate Initiative; and the Midwestern Regional Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord – are viewed largely as laboratories for a future national climate plan.
“We need to strike a balance between what states and the federal government do best, and reflect this in a strong national climate policy,” said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. “States are demonstrating their unique ability to serve as proving grounds for sensible climate action. But the federal government must show leadership if we are to achieve the most cost-effective and comprehensive path to reduce emissions.”
Additional topics addressed at the conference included low-carbon transportation solutions, electricity options, and smart growth. Adaptation, an increasingly important concern for state and federal policymakers, also received close attention. Nearly 200 participants attended, including state environment and energy officials, top advisers to regional climate initiatives, Congressional staff, business leaders, and experts from nonprofit organizations, among others.
As part of its Climate Change 101 series, the Pew Center released two new briefs: Cap and Trade 101 and Adaptation 101 at the event. A new paper addressing state options for a low-carbon coal policy, part of the Pew Center's Coal Initiative Series, was also announced. A forthcoming paper by World Resources Institute Senior Fellow Franz Litz, Toward a Constructive Dialogue on Federal and State Roles in U.S. Climate Change Policy, was released for public review.
Conference presentations are now available online at www.pewclimate.org/statefed08.
Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, visit the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions site.