Monday, 9 June 2008

Legislation - US vs Germany

The Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (that's the US carbon emissions bill debated in the Senate that I mentioned last week) has inevitably hit the buffers. As might have been expected, it came down to the perceived impact on gasoline prices, which made the headlines. The bill received 48 votes, but needed 60 to overcome a Republican filibuster (in any case, President Bush said he would veto it). It does open the way for legislation next year, though, when a new President is in place. But meanwhile there is no national legislation and the clock is ticking.

That's not to say their is no progress in the US. A couple of weeks ago an area of California introduced the first carbon tax in America (17 years after Sweden became the first country to do so). The Bay Area Air Quality Management District introduced a levy of 4.4 cents per tonne of CO2 emissions, affecting around 2,500 businesses, but with most only liable for a nominal sum. Perhaps more significantly, companies need to measure their emissions and submit their carbon footprints as part of the process

In contrast, the German parliament passed a package of climate laws last Friday aimed mainly at increasing renewable energy use. The bill covered a variety of areas, including more focus on renewable resources, increasing the number of CHP (Combined Heat and Power) generation plants, re-using the hot water generated from power stations, encouraging better insulation in new buildings, more competition between meter reading companies, etc.

The hope is that the actions will double the proportion of renewables energy use in Germany to 30 per cent by 2020 as part of the country's aim of reducing carbon emissions by 40% by 2020 (compared with 1990). The new laws still have to be approved by the upper house.

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