A Blueprint for the Future

The US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) has now released its Blueprint for Legislative Action,  a weighty weighty 24 page document which gives a complete overview of the steps needed in the USA to deliver an 80% reduction in emissions against 2005 levels. This represents a unique consensus between thirty very different organisations, mostly business, but importantly including a number of environmental organisations such as the World Resources Institute and the Pew Center for Climate Change.

The consensus is unique in that the organisations represented cover the whole value chain within the economy. For example, at one end are power generators, who may well have to raise electricity prices as a result of the CO2 costs they face, and at the other end is an aluminium company, operating facilities that are very sensitive to electricity price as they compete in world markets. Similarly, there are oil companies and vehicle manufacturers, mining companies and consumer facing companies, service companies and technology companies.

The backbone of the Blueprint is an economy-wide “cap-and-trade” system, supported where necessary with additional measures to accelerate change. In addition, there is solid recognition of the need for fiscal support for early commercial demonstration of key technologies for the future, such as carbon capture and storage.

Somewhat surprisingly, or maybe not, criticisms are already being made. Too much support for business, too many allowances allocated for free and from one commentator – “U.S. Climate Action Partnership Proposal Deeply Flawed”. But the Blueprint is a solid piece of work, the result of many hundreds of hours of work and analysis. I have kept only a tiny fraction of the USCAP e-mails that arrived in my InBox since Shell joined and I have over 300 of them – many of those with long and detailed attachments expressing positions and challenging others. This was not a hasty piece of work, so criticizing it in even less time than it takes to read and digest the full document seems trite.

As I have mentioned before, the challenge in front of us over the coming decades is huge. We don’t even really know if we can run an industrial society with near zero emissions, yet that is what we are seeking. Like it or not, we are going to have to take this step-by-step and the Blueprint represents a pretty big first one.