April 23, 2009
On April 17, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a provisional ruling that the concentration of six green house gases in the atmosphere constitute a risk for human health and welfare and that the combined emissions of C02, CH4, N2O and FsH
HFCs from new motor vehicle engines contribute to further concentration of green house gases.
This ruling, which has been carefully prepared during the last two years considering all available scientific evidence, has rightly been applauded as a breakthrough for US climate policy.
If confirmed, it is likely to have a profound impact on the way the USA will tackle climate change in the coming years.
First, it establishes that green house gases fall under the US Clean Air Act, which commits the government to prevent air pollution from causing damage to human health and welfare.
Second, it will become more difficult to continue claiming that climate change does not take place or is due to factors outside human activity. This is bound to weaken the opposition against government action.
Third, the new ruling authorises the EPA to regulate green house gas emissions without prior legislation by Congress. If Congress wants to lose control on a crucial policy area it will avoid this to happen.
But whatever this positive assessment powerful business likely to be affected by government action will try to defuse the message and weaken any future legislative or regulatory action, from stricter fuel emission standards to gasoline taxes or a comprehensive carbon cap and trade system. It is therefore prudent not to expect any rapid action.
Brussels, 21.04.09 Eberhard RheinAuthor : Eberhard Rhein