Climate Change Fact Sheet
Climate Change Task Force | PCSD Home
October 27, 1998

Fact Sheet -- Principles for Early Action

Why do we need an early action program?
The PCSD Climate Task Force accepts that the risk of human-induced climate change and the potential for serious impacts is of sufficient concern that timely and effective actions should be taken to reduce those risks. Greenhouse gases have atmospheric lifetimes of decades to centuries, and both the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the rate at which those concentrations increase are important factors in determining the risk of climate change. Incentives for early action can encourage steps to reduce emissions and other measures to protect the climate now.

Are these Principles for Early Action conceptually different from the Climate Change Action Plan and the Climate Change Technology Initiative?
The 1993 Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP) includes over 40 federal programs that are working in partnership with small and large businesses, state and local governments, and other organizations to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed 5-year Climate Change Technology Initiative would expand these programs and target additional opportunities to reduce emissions. These two programs will significantly reduce the rate of growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions compared to forecasted levels. Members of the PCSD Climate Task Force envisioned an incentives program that will further encourage everyone to take seriously the need for action. The Task Force recommends an early action program that includes broadly-based participation; encourages learning, innovation, flexibility, and experimentation; grants formal credit for legitimate and verifiable actions that reduce overall emissions; ensures accountability; is compatible with other climate protection strategies and environmental goals; and includes government leadership.

What is the relationship between "credit for early action" and the Kyoto Protocol?
The Principles state that AFormal credit for domestic actions should be issued with the understanding that these credits are allocated from any future limit on U.S. emissions.@ These principles do not presume a decision as to whether the United States should become a party to the Protocol. But they do allow for the possibility that the U.S. could agree to limit its greenhouse gas emissions in the future.

Why should an early action program offer formal credit?
Although only part of an overall early action strategy, credits for early action are an important insurance policy for those who want to take voluntary steps to protect the climate, but are concerned they could be penalized in the future for having taken proactive steps today. An early action program that grants credits against potential future obligations would facilitate achievement of any binding agreement because it would create a powerful incentive for many emitters to get on a gradual "glide path" for emissions reductions.

If we give credits away now, will that increase future compliance costs?
Taking cost-effective action to reduce overall emissions now is a down payment on any future limit on emissions. By acting now, we will reduce the total amount of emissions we have to reduce later. By creating a more gradual glide path for emissions reductions, this incremental approach could save money compared to a wait-and-see strategy that could require significant emissions reductions sometime in the future.

Why should governments take the lead in a voluntary program?
Members of the Task Force believe that voluntary efforts by businesses and consumers to protect the climate could be facilitated by a systematic legislative approach to stimulate early action. In addition, local, state, and federal governments are large energy consumers and, therefore, are significant emitters of greenhouse gases. Governments can save taxpayers money by taking cost-effective steps to reduce emissions.

Why is broadly-based participation important?
Greenhouse gas emissions come from a variety of stationary, mobile, small, and large sources. By encouraging everyone to take action, more businesses and consumers have the opportunity to reduce emissions cost-effectively and realize the environmental and other economic benefits of voluntary climate protection.


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