US states tackling climate change, despite Bush’s antithesis

Despite George W Bush’s lack of action on climate change, US states such as Texas and Nebraska have been making great strides in reducing emissions of man-made greenhouse gases, says a new report. The Federal Government should take note, says the study’s author.

Negative stories of the US President’s lack of interest in reducing human-induced climate change through international treaties or mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in industry are overshadowing successful efforts in states across the country. These are being introduced by both Republican (see related story) and Democrat (see related story) politicians, says a new study by Barry G Rabe Prof of Environmental Policy at the University of Michigan, and published by the Pew Center for Climate Change.

The report covers nine states: Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin. In many cases, policies have been crafted to allow long-term economic well-being, says Rabe.

Efforts are not all aimed at mitigating climate change directly, but reductions greenhouse gases have been a fortunate side effect. For example, in Texas there has been a desire for energy independence, economic development and air pollution control, which have driven the state to promote renewable energy. The result has been that in 2001 more wind generation was installed in Texas than had ever been installed in the entire country in a single year (see related story and related story). However, this still only represents a projected 2.2% share of the state’s electricity portfolio by 2009.

Another example is that of Massachusetts, where climate change has been seen as an air pollution issue. In April last year, the state’s Republican governor established a multi-pollutant cap that included carbon dioxide for six major facilities.

The agricultural state of Nebraska takes sequestration seriously, even having a carbon sequestration advisory committee establishing how best to develop its sequestration programme.

President of the Pew Center Eileen Claussen is cautious about the report’s findings, noting that state initiatives should not be viewed as a substitute for a comprehensive national policy that includes compulsory measures. However, the schemes prove that not only is tackling climate change possible, it can be consistent with economic development. “Policy makers would do well to be mindful of their successes as they work toward federal and international programmes, and actively involve states in their design and implementation,” said Claussen.

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