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Environment Magazine September/October 2008


July-August 2007

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Necessary but Insufficient: State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Climate Change Policies

In Europe this past February, then–British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that the United Kingdom would support a 20 percent mandatory target for renewable power as a share of European generation capacity. His announcement complements the policies of 17 other European Union countries that have also set some type of national, mandatory target for promoting renewable energy. And in terms of climate policy in Europe, the European Union Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) calls for mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and allows countries to trade carbon credits. In the past five years, Brazil, China, Indonesia, Israel, Nicaragua, Norway, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, and Turkey have adopted mandatory renewable energy or climate change targets. These countries have frequently linked action on renewable energy and climate change together because they realize that the combustion of fossil fuels greatly contributes to climate change, and they do not like fouling their own nests.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the federal government has set no national target for renewable energy, established no national cap on greenhouse gas emissions, and refused to create a nationwide trading system for carbon credits. As a result of the administration’s unwillingness to take forceful actions commensurate with the nation’s leadership and responsibilities, the country remains unprepared to face the unprecedented energy and environmental challenges that loom in the future.

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