Tuesday, December 7, 2010

EPA's Steps to Combat Climate Change

Once again, I sorted through the many events that were going on today to find one that I thought would be good to attend. I am always interested in policy regarding the United States, so I wasn't surprised to find myself attending a session run by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) about policy in the federal government since Copenhagen and their plans for the future.
The official title of this side event was "Domestic Climate Change Activities." It was run mostly through a videoconference with Gina McCarthy, the EPA's Assistant Administrator of Air and Radiation. The purpose of this talk was to discuss what was going on at a federal level regarding GHG emissions. There had been policy changes regarding cars and trucks, clean air, and a GHG Reporting Program. In regards to cars, there is a 2012-2016 model year policy that raises fuel efficiency by 5% each year. There is something like that that will be implemented for trucks too, but one of the battles is to keep this in effect after 2016. Emissions will be cut by about 20% and gas will be saved. They also have in the works a new label system to explain to consumers how eco-friendly a car is. They showed us two of the examples of labels that they were thinking of using.

Under a new policy of GHG Reporting, all major emitters of GHG gases must report how much they emit, and this information will be made public. They ran through the new technology that companies would have to use to report their emissions. It is estimated that, this way, 85-90% of emissions will be accounted for. This is directly reported to the EPA who will then verify the information.

They also discussed voluntary initiatives that people have taken on a personal level, such as buying energy star products. There are a number of other programs that offer environmentally friendly products and services that were approved by the EPA. Another project that they spoke about was "clean" cookstoves. They wanted to spread these "clean energy" cookstoves internationally so that everyone could cook without hurting the environment. I'm not quite sure of how they work, but I plan on checking that out.

Lastly, there were a lot of good questions that were asked, in particular, my favorite: "How do the programs and policies set by the EPA help reduce emissions in relation to the U.S.'s pledge in the Copenhagen Accords?" (something like that) I was expecting the EPA representatives to say something like: our auto industry changes account for saving about ___% of the emissions that we said we were going to cut. I also wanted to know who else was responsible for these cuts if the EPA was not the ones behind most of it. They didn't really answer it though, they just reiterated the programs that they did have, so that was dissapointing. However, I'm glad to hear that America has taken some steps towards reducing emissions and hope the EPA can continue to make even stronger policies and even more appealing voluntary programs.

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