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Hague prelude: emissions permits in America?
An international community concerned about climate change and prepared to convene for a conference in the Netherlands appears to be waiting for the United States, the world's leader in carbon emissions, to come up with a plan to curb the crud.
Ministers and diplomats from 160 governments will gather in The Hague Nov. 13-24 to decide how to implement international goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are outlined in the 1992 United Nations Climate Change Convention and the subsequent 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
In the meantime, Americans for Equitable Climate Solutions believes it has a plan that addresses those goals. The group calls its program the Sky Trust Initiative.
The Sky Trust proposal would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by selling carbon emission permits. Income from permit sales would be distributed equitably among U.S. citizens.
"No matter what comes out of The Hague or how we move forward, in one sense, what may be the most important issue is what happens in the United States. So long as we remain ambivalent, and without a strong domestic policy, the rest of the world is not going to do anything either," said Rafe Pomerance, director of Sky Trust.
Most governments, including the United States, have yet to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. As a result, emissions targets for developed countries which amount to a 5 percent reduction compared with 1990 levels by 2008 are not yet in effect.
The goal of the Hague meeting, dubbed the Sixth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention, or COP 6, is to decide how the protocol will work and ensure that its implementation is environmentally credible and economically prudent.
"This plan was designed by economists to reduce carbon emissions in the United States," said Pomerance, who will attend the Hague conference. "Our policy says you don't have to have the Kyoto Protocol to move forward.
"We can do this under the treaty already ratified (at the 1992 convention). We don't require the Kyoto Protocol to move forward with aa proposal, but we do need a consensus by both houses of Congress to move forward, and it seems dependent on the business community."
Under the Sky Trust Initiative, some 2,500 businesses and industries that deal in fossil fuels would be required to buy emission permits for the total amount of carbon in the fuel. The U.S. government would auction emission permits to those companies.
The permits could be traded in secondary markets for two years, after which they would expire. Additional one-year permits would be made available at $25 per metric ton.
Initially, 75 percent of the receipts from government sales of the permits would be returned in annual payments to every American citizen of legal age. At the outset, the per capita payment would amount to about $100 a year, or $400 for a family of four.
Economic models indicate that the $25-per-ton price for emission permits could reduce carbon emissions by as much as 16.4 percent below current levels, which eventually would put the United States in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol, according to the initiative.
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