US committee recommends emissions caps

A committee of US politicians have begun publishing a series of white papers on climate change recommending the introduction of a cap-and-trade system.

The House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce released the first paper earlier this month to begin designing a mandatory programme which committee members hope will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 80% by 2050.

Under the current proposals, increasingly stringent caps on emissions will be used to reach the target, although the committee has yet to publish the proposed cap levels and timetables for imposing them.

In a memo to members of the committee, chairman John Dingell said: “Our goal is reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 60% and 80% by 2050.

“This is an ambitious target and one we believe is best achieved with a cap-and-trade system as the cornerstone of national policy.”

He added: “While the use of white papers is not a policy-making tool frequently employed by the committee, this topic, in its scope and complexity, is unlike any we have confronted and time is of the essence.

“We believe that white papers will hasten our efforts by focusing attention on specific design elements.

The proposed programme will cover emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases.

The first white paper discussed the benefits of the system and recommended sectors of the economy that should be included, such as electricity generation and transportation.

However, it concluded that the agricultural sector’s direct emissions should not be included, and highlighted difficulties in imposing caps on residential and commercial use.

Subsequent papers to be released by the committee are expected to discuss topics such as carbon sequestration, offsets and credits, and the role of developing countries.

The committee will then draft legislation to be put before the House of Representatives.

Kate Martin

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