Ecofys: Obama climate policy crucial for CO2 reduction

24 January 2013

After his re-election, Obama told Time Magazine that his daughters inspired him to think long term, particularly about issues of climate change. During the opening speech which kicked off his second term, he promised that climate change will be one of the key priorities. Yet policy experts are pessimistic and say that the chances that significant climate action will actually happen are slim.

Sector approach

The main issue lies in the large polarization of the American Congress - the Republicans have a majority in the House of Representatives (lower house) yet Obama’s Democrats have a majority in the Senate (upper house). As a result, Obama will face difficulty approving and implementing far-fetched climate legislation. According to Niklas Höhne, Director of energy and climate policy at Ecofys, Obama will have to focus on a sector-by-sector approach. “From my point of view, being an observer from Europe, I think it's more likely that a sector-by-sector approach is implemented than a national climate policy” says the Ecofys consultant to NBC News. Obama is for example likely to stand a good change in the automotive industry, where he could stimulate fuel-efficient vehicles, or the energy sector, where he could tighten environmental regulations to increase clean energy production. Yet on a country-level the implementation of a national climate policy or ambitious anti-global warming agenda would fail due to high internal resistance.

Ecofys - CO2

International climate targets

Höhne also warns for the negative effect US policy can have on global climate change ambitions. The lack of consistency in US policy has over the past jeopardized international climate change negotiations. ‘Why should small countries aim for ambitious CO2 reductions if the world’s largest polluter is not contributing evenly is a commonly heard political complaint. "The international climate negotiations really depend on the US. bringing something forward" he says. "If the US doesn't bring something forward that is considered by most players as something new and something ambitious, then the new international climate treaty which will be signed in 2015 will not be ambitious".