Obama Opposes Tariffs on Nations That Don't Limit Greenhouse Gas Emissions

barack obama photo

photo: Joe via flickr

With the American Clean Energy & Security Act approved by the House, President Obama has come out offering scant criticism of a climate change bill that is, bluntly, woefully inadequate when it comes to doing what scientists say is necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change. He did however comment to the Washington Post that he's opposed to one provision in the bill which would impose tariffs on goods produced in nations that do not commit to greenhouse gas reductions:The President said,

At a time when the economy worldwide is still deep in recession and we've seen a significant drop in global trade, I think we have to be very careful about sending any protectionist signals out.

I am very mindful of wanting to make sure that there's a level playing field internationally. I think there may be other ways of doing it that with a tariff approach.

Despite Praise, Hardly an Extraordinary First Step
Keeping in mind all the political wrangling that went into the bill I understand the President wants to choose his words carefully, but I still can't reconcile all the praise of the bill—Obama called it an "extraordinary first step"—with his initial proposal of auctioning off all emission allowances (rather than the mass giveaway incorporated into ACES), the science that says 25-40% reductions in emissions from 1990 levels are required by 2020 to give us a reasonable shot at minimizing global temperature rise (rather than the effective 4% reduction in ACES by that time), and all the President's rhetoric about a major commitment to renewable energy (rather than the measly 15% by 2020 requirement in ACES).

Considering all that, all the comment that could be mustered was something on tariffs?!? Not an unimportant issue, but come on! Nothing even about pointing out the significant strengthening of the bill required to bring US proposals vaguely into the realm of science-based policy?

Green Technology Transfer Key to Level Playing Field
What's more, despite the fact that no less that the chair of the IPCC, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, has said that green technology transfer has to be prioritized to enable the poorer nations of the world to increase their energy consumption in a green manner, and not just repeat the mistakes made by Western/Northern nations, there seems to be growing opposition to facilitating green technology transfer to nations which the United States sees as current or potential future economic competitors. If the President wants to level the playing field for trade, one prime way to do it would be to expand green tech transfer, and talk about that publicly.

Climate Change Not Us Versus Them
Climate change isn't an us versus them issue, still less is it a liberal versus conservative or Democrat v. Republican one. Climate change is an issue for humanity and all the planet's inhabitants. Unfortunately, if the provisions incorporated into ACES are any indication, virtually no politician in the United States seems to see it that way.

American Clean Energy & Security Act
Is the Climate Bill Really a Step Forward or Just Marching in Place?
Who is Talking Crazy About the Climate Bill?
Why Passing the Climate Bill is an Ethical Necessity

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