Friday, June 15, 2007

Call for an International Climate Agenda for Congress

Center for American Progress: As Congress begins a summer of important debates on the future of American energy policy, it is vital that it take into consideration the devastating impact high energy costs and climate change associated with our use of fossil fuels are having on the world’s most vulnerable populations. Notwithstanding the difficulty in changing the president’s views on these matters, it would be a strategic failure if Congress does not take this opportunity to push for American leadership on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and offer the most vulnerable communities in the world the support they need to combat the impacts of climate change and transition into a low-carbon global economy.

…The industrialized world, led by the United States, needs to ensure that those most responsible for climate change help those least able to deal with global warming.

…Compared with global development assistance dollars that target energy and environment projects—an estimated $3 billion to $5 billion annually—a carbon-trading system with dedicated international offsets can channel significant funds to the energy sectors in the countries that will be hit hardest by climate change. The United States, which is not a signatory of the Kyoto Accord, should carefully consider how to design its domestic emission regulation to optimize the transfer of capital and technology to the most vulnerable countries. Here are our recommendations:

1. The Government Accountability Office should evaluate what steps, if any, U.S. government agencies (including the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture) can take to assess the impact of climate change on the sustainability of U.S. overseas development assistance and other development investments.

2. Congress should mandate any new foreign assistance under the Foreign Operations law consider whether such aid will result in increased greenhouse gas emissions, and whether steps need to be taken to boost the sustainability of new foreign aid given likely impact of climate change in project-feasibility assessments.

3. Congress and the Bush administration need to redirect existing programs to promote U.S. exports that encourage the development of new and innovative energy sources that will ensure new energy development is low carbon.

Specifically, a clutch of federal agencies and programs in Washington should take these key steps:

Export-Import Bank. Congress should mandate that a percentage of all EX-IM Bank credit be extended to projects that are clean-energy related. Such a target is currently used to guarantee that small business receive at least 20 percent of all Ex-IM Bank credit. Congress could create a facility at EX-IM dedicated solely to clean energy projects in least developed countries. Congress should also authorize EX-IM to pursue partnerships with private banks on clean energy projects, and restore the Office of Renewable Energy at the EX-IM Bank that is charged with identifying credit-worthy clean energy projects.

Department of Treasury. Congress should extend EX-IM loan repayment time for clean energy projects by negotiating the necessary changes to the existing OECD financing arrangement. Congress should require the Department of the Treasury to coordinate the Export Credit Agency policies of countries around the world to facilitate funding for clean energy projects. ECAs account for $75 billion to $90 billion of investment per year.

Department of Commerce. Congress should provide funding for the Department of Commerce to hire new Foreign Commercial Service Officers in least developed countries who are responsible for facilitating local clean-energy projects with U.S. businesses.

U.S. Trade and Development Assistance. Congress should increase funding for TDA projects to promote environmental and energy technology market access for least developed countries.

U.S. Trade Representative. Congress should mandate that special provisions for investments in clean energy and carbon finance be created within the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

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