The effort to address climate change is global in scale and increasingly urgent, yet it lacks an effective policy framework. President Obama's determination to elevate clean energy to a national policy priority, Congress's consideration of a federal cap-and-trade regime for greenhouse gases, and the upcoming revisions to the Kyoto Protocol all provide an opportunity to move toward adopting a globally balanced carbon budget. A balanced carbon budget could replace the current, somewhat arbitrary greenhouse gas reduction targets with a scientifically derived calibration limiting global carbon emissions to the rate of carbon absorption. Carbon sub-budgets could then be allocated to each nation or region, which could choose its own measures to meet its carbon budget through a carbon-management plan. These measures will likely fall into four broad categories: reduction of carbon emissions through demand reduction and greater efficiency; increased carbon absorption through reforestation and carbon capture; substitution of non-carbon-based fuels; and, because of the lag time in achieving carbon equilibrium through implementing these measures, adaptation to climate change. Such a balanced carbon budget approach has the virtues not only of long-term safety, but also of clarity, comprehensiveness, and choice. Recent experience shows that choice-allowing units of government and industry flexibility in meeting budget targets-is the key to gaining and retaining public support and to harnessing ingenuity and innovation. This overall approach requires an unprecedented level of monitoring, reporting, and adjustment to achieve the desired result. It may also require some departures from current environmental orthodoxies favoring smart growth and opposing nuclear power.
Matthew J. Kiefer,
Toward a Net-Zero Carbon Planet: A Policy Proposal,
U. Colo. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholar.law.colorado.edu/lawreview/vol80/iss4/4