OVERVIEW


America's most important assets are its people -- decent, hard-working, creative and concerned. When that talent is focused through our economic and political system to solve a problem, it can accomplish great things. We have put people on the moon, we have won the cold war, and we have provided unparalleled prosperity. We can now begin to do the same for the global environment.
This plan harnesses economic forces to meet the challenges posed by the threat of global warming. It calls for limited, and focused, government action and innovative public/private partnerships. It relies on the ingenuity, creativity, and sense of responsibility of the American people.

President Clinton's Action Plan responds to the threat of global climate change and helps guide the U.S. economy toward environmentally sound economic growth into the twenty-first century. The plan is comprehensive, targeting all greenhouse gases and all sectors of the economy. The plan inaugurates a new era of partnership with American business to help solve environmental problems. The plan is designed for rapid implementation that can quickly deliver cost-effective results. The plan was developed by an interagency team that relied greatly on public input, and is a coordinated federal response, involving many agencies working together. The plan will be actively monitored for effectiveness and will adapt to changing circumstances. Finally, the plan lays the foundation for an international response to this global challenge.


COMPREHENSIVENESS

Emissions of greenhouse gases are pervasive in the U.S. economy. A policy that relies on dramatic reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from one sector of the economy or one region of the country is unlikely to be effective or economic: there is no "magic bullet" that solves the problem. However, opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in cost-effective ways are distributed broadly throughout the economy. Therefore, the Climate Change Action Plan consists of almost 50 actions involving all sectors -- industry, transportation, homes, office buildings, forestry, and agriculture. These actions are targeted in specific sectors to stimulate markets for technologies that reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, and halogenated compounds that contribute to global warming. The plan also reduces emissions of CO2 by protecting forests, which are greenhouse gas "sinks" that store carbon removed from the atmosphere.


ESTABLISHING PARTNERSHIPS FOR PROGRESS

The Climate Change Action Plan will continue to break new ground in the relationship between government and the private sector -- fostering cooperative approaches and a forward looking agenda, rather than relying exclusively on command-and-control mandates that tend to lock technologies into place and stifle innovation. These partnerships reflect the mutual responsibility of both the private sector and the government to improve environmental performance while enhancing economic growth and job creation. In several key areas -- electric utilities, motor manufacturers and users, automobile manufacturers, chemical and aluminum manufacturers -- American firms are entering into partnerships with the Federal government to attain environmental objectives using flexible and cost-effective options.

Today, President Clinton is announcing the Climate Challenge, a partnership between the Department of Energy and major electric utilities who have pledged to their reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Under the partnership, utilities have the opportunity to choose from a wide range of control options and to experiment with innovative ideas to achieve their emission reduction goals. The same partnership approach motivates the joint DOE/EPA Climate Wise program -- firms who respond to the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions will set bottom-line emission targets that they can attain using the most cost-effective means available. In another initiative announced today, the DOE Motor Challenge, motor system manufacturers, industrial motor users, and utilities will begin an aggressive program to install the most energy-efficient motor systems in industrial applications. Chemical companies have formed a working partnership with EPA to reduce by-product emissions of potent greenhouse gases by 50 percent from their manufacturing operations. Aluminum producers are joining with EPA to identify greenhouse gas emission reduction opportunities, and to set targets for real reductions. These new commitments -- and the partnerships established between the private sector and the Federal government -- provide a strong foundation for the other initiatives outlined in the Action Plan, ensuring that the programs will deliver real results.


DESIGN FOR RAPID IMPLEMENTATION

While the Action Plan contains major new initiatives, many of the actions build on the success of earlier public and private programs that have focused attention on energy savings or other emission reduction opportunities. These programs do not rely on exotic new technologies, but can help accelerate the diffusion of existing technologies into the marketplace. Much of the program outlined here can be implemented rapidly and without new legislative authority. Expanding, adapting, or reinforcing innovative and successful programs will ensure that emission reductions can begin quickly enough to meet the President's goal to return greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000.

Programs that already demonstrate success on limited budgets will be expanded, largely by redirecting resources to those programs that deliver real results. Additional funding will allow successful programs to cover larger market segments or to expand into new sectors or technologies. The best programs in one agency will be adapted by other agencies and programs will be reinforced by complementary initiatives.


COST-EFFECTIVENESS

Low cost and even profitable opportunities exist to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. While markets work well in most circumstances, significant transaction costs, information gaps, regulatory barriers and other market imperfections exist that can raise greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing these market imperfections will save money for many U.S. consumers and firms as they reduce greenhouse gases. The Action Plan targets these opportunities through public/private partnerships, allowing the private sector maximum flexibility to devise innovative programs to reduce emissions. And by taking a comprehensive approach encompassing all major greenhouse gases, both sources and sinks, and all sectors of the economy, the Action Plan offers the widest scope for creative and cost-effective actions.


PUBLIC INPUT

The President directed his Administration to tap the ingenuity and creativity of the American people. Part of that effort involved identifying innovative programs in all levels of government and in the private sector to explore their potential for reducing emissions. The White House Conference on Global Climate Change, held on June 10-11 in Washington, DC, provided the opportunity for hundreds of recognized experts in the private sector, the environmental community, academics, and others to offer their suggestions and views directly to the Administration officials responsible for developing the plan and analyzing its implications. Additional workshops were held during the following months, and participants continued to offer new and innovative ideas. This plan is based on the best ideas that Americans have offered.

The Action Plan was developed in an interagency process that involved the White House and key agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Interior, State, Transportation, and Treasury. In addition, a team of analysts from these agencies was assigned the task of quantifying the impact of various proposals on greenhouse gas emissions and the economy.


COORDINATED FEDERAL ACTIVITY

The President directed his Administration to work together for the benefit of the American people and for the environment. Too often, federal programs are a confusing and contradictory patchwork quilt that lack coordination and are poorly linked with state and local level efforts or private initiatives. This plan was developed with an unprecedented degree of cooperation at all levels in the Administration, from Cabinet Secretaries and Administrators to program managers and staff in the agencies. Implementation will require a similar degree of interagency coordination to deliver results. The National Performance Review has highlighted areas where effective coordination can deliver better performance and cost less in every area of government action. The development and implementation of this plan will apply the same lessons to the climate change problem.


ADAPTING TO CHANGING CIRCUMSTANCES

The Action Plan is expected to reach the emission reduction goal under reasonable assumptions concerning economic growth and other trends. However, a substantial degree of uncertainty accompanies any attempt to project future emission levels. The analysis supporting the plan represents a best estimate under the most likely scenario, but we recognize that these estimates could vary by a significant degree under other plausible assumptions.

The economy continually evolves in ways we cannot predict perfectly; businesses and citizens must adapt to changing circumstances. Successful policy must do the same, and this plan will evolve as circumstances warrant. A White House task force will actively monitor trends in greenhouse gas emissions and the implementation of the Action Plan, and if necessary will modify the program to keep the emission reductions on track. The first opportunity to evaluate the Action Plan is likely to come within one year. The Framework Convention on Climate Change will enter into force when 50 countries ratify the agreement, and this could occur in early 1994. Within six months of entry into force, the U.S. will submit a National Action Plan to the Conference of the Parties of the Convention. This Climate Change Action Plan, or an updated version if necessary, will form the cornerstone of the U.S. National Action Plan required by the Climate Convention. After that milestone is reached, the White House task force will reassess and update the Action Plan every two years, or sooner if called upon by the Conference of the Parties.

The Administration will also begin to identify additional opportunities for long term emission reductions. The Action Plan focuses on near-term emission reduction opportunities in order to attain a near-term goal. Perhaps more importantly, the Plan sets in motion an ongoing process of policy development to address the long term global threat.


ENCOURAGING INTERNATIONAL EMISSION REDUCTIONS

While the plan achieves the President's goal with domestic actions alone, the Administration recognizes the significant potential for cost-effective emission reductions in other countries. The Framework Convention on Climate Change allows countries to explore emission reduction projects together under a program of "joint implementation." In order to gain experience in verifying net emission reductions from certain types of investments in other countries, the Administration is announcing the U.S. Initiative on Joint Implementation. Projects developed under the initiative can provide greenhouse gas emission reductions beyond the domestic programs in the President's plan and promote sustainable development. This initiative will also help advance thinking on the many issues that need resolution before an international joint implementation effort can be fully mounted. By leading the international community in developing the appropriate guidelines and criteria necessary to ensure maximum global environmental and economic benefits, the United States will help lead the international response to the climate change threat.