So, in case you missed it, there is evidently some kind of climate change conference underway this week. And, its not going well. Still, even if we imagine for a moment that a binding international treaty with hard carbon caps could be salvaged from the wreckage in Copenhagen, there is more news from home in the NYT showing that the US is not up to the climate change challenge at home.
We are developing the technology, but Matthew Wald’s story about a “false start” for smart grids in California and elsewhere provides yet another lens to focus on the policy deficit that is crippling every effort at meaningful energy reform. And, with public will degraded by global recession and climate change skepticism calcifying thanks to Climategate, policymakers cannot afford many more (or, anymore?) false starts.
Maybe a global climate agreement would be the nudge that the US needs to focus on policy-based obstacles to implementation, but as of today the country is unprepared to address several pressing policy questions: transmission expansion, renewable siting and land use, net metering and a gaggle of other utility franchise problems, and all of the complexity inherent in nationalizing carbon-trading and renewable portfolio standards, to name a few.
Simply adopting a renewable portfolio standard or carbon cap is not enough if consumers and energy companies are not given any tools or guidance on effectuating compliance. Even the announcement of an international treaty would amount to little more than optimistic pandering if the agreement does not go beyond expressing shared carbon goals to contemplate what each signatory’s strategy for compliance is.
Even the US climate change success story of the year — Waxman-Markey — does very little to go beyond reduction targets and timelines. How would the cap-and-trade system it establishes even be implemented? Setting the bar is not progress in and of itself. And, one-step-forward-two-steps-back is not a way forward.
[photo credit: lopolis]