Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The EPA takes up the US climate change regulation initiative

There’s been a lot of false starts around climate change regulation in the US over the last year, so here’s a quick update.

Back in July 2010 the Democrats abandoned attempts to get a comprehensive climate change bill through the US senate. The original plan was for cap-and-trade legislation to reduce US carbon emissions by 17% by 2020, compared with 2005 levels, with 42% cuts by 2030 and 83% by 2050. However, even a watered-down version, addressing the electricity sector only rather than all large polluters, failed to get the required support from 60 Senators.

The focus has subsequently switched to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use its powers under the US Clean Air Act to control greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, on January 1 2011 an EPA permit system to control greenhouse gas emissions from power plants came into effect (see here for details).

However, even this process has been bitterly fought. According to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the oil, gas, and coal industries spent $543m on lobbying Congress in 2009 and the first two quarters of 2010, and the largest trade association working to defeat clean energy and global warming legislation is the Chamber of Commerce, which spent nearly $190m. (We reported in October 2009 that Apple had left the organisation over the issue and urged others to follow suit).

Legal proceedings against the EPA’s move also continue in a number of US States. While most have, in the meantime, complied, Texas has refused. A decision is expected soon.


What happens with climate change legislation is important for green ICT because the US is such a large (and innovative) ICT market. Back in 2009 it looked like we might have a green ICT ‘Big Bang’ with prospects of international legislation agreed at Copenhagen and US federal legislation in the offing. It didn’t happen (and now never will), but legislation in the US will still have a significant knock-on impact.

I’ll keep you posted.

© The Green IT Review

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