Dean Gus Speth on the Efficacy of the Cap and Trade System
James Gustave "Gus" Speth, is the Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. Dean of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and Sara Shallenberger Brown Professor in the Practice of Environmental Policy
From 1993 to 1999, Dean Speth served as administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and chair of the UN Development Group. Prior to his service at the UN, he was founder and president of the World Resources Insti-tute; professor of law at Georgetown University; chairman of the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality; and senior attorney and cofounder, Natural Resources Defense Council.
Throughout his career, Dean Speth has provided leadership and entrepreneurial initiatives to many task forces and committees whose roles have been to combat environmental degradation, including the President’s Task Force on Global Resources and Environment; the Western Hemisphere Dialogue on Environment and Development; and the National Commission on the Environment. Among his awards are the National Wildlife Federation’s Resources Defense Award, the Natural Resources Council of America’s Barbara Swain Award of Honor, a 1997 Special Recognition Award from the Society for International Development, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Environmental Law Institute, and the Blue Planet Prize. Publications include The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability, Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment; Worlds Apart: Globalization and the Environment; and articles in Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, Environmental Science and Technology, the Columbia Journal World of Business, and other journals and books.
Question: Will a cap and trade system reduce greenhouse gasses?
Gus Speth: Well, I think we need to do two things. We desperately need a cap and trade system. I agree with that very much and, you know, glad that most of the proposals in the Congress now for action on climate are cap and trade proposals. I think the design of that system matters, as much as the general concept does. So I would hope that we would have a system that went very far upstream, so to speak, to right when the carbon entered the economy that it covers essentially all of the carbon and other greenhouse gases as they–- you know, their sources; that we auction the allowances of the right to emit carbon and take that money and use it for good purposes. And if we do it the right way with-- you know, and have tough phase down goals, it can make a huge difference. The risk is that Congress will come along and do its usual, you know, death by a thousand cuts to this proposal-- these proposals, and will end up with something which is not nearly as effective as it ought to be. That's a very real risk, which is another reason why we need a real grassroots political movement in the country. There's a group called One Sky, which is working with young people around the country and using well-established techniques of community organizing to engage people on the climate issue. And I am very proud to have a small association with them and I'm–- I think that's what we need. I'd also say though that this regulatory approach of cap and trade needs to be supplemented by a real expenditure of federal resources to be sure that the program's not regressive, that communities that need help get help, that new industries are created, that green collar jobs are created so that it becomes basically a program to sustain our communities and promote social justice in our country, at the same time that it's an environmental program.
Cap and trade legislation is in Congress: we will see what it looks like when it gets out.
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