Regulation is not Enough to Combat Climate Change

June 25, 2013

WASHINGTON (June 25, 2013) - In anticipation of President Barack Obama's speech outlining new federal climate change policy, Matthew Stepp, senior analyst with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) releases the following statement:

"President Obama's announced plan for federal climate policy is long overdue. However, the President's regulation-first approach to cutting carbon emissions, at best, will only provide modest cuts to U.S. carbon emissions and will not materially impact global climate change. It's an American warming solution to a global warming problem. 

What the President failed to produce was a clarion call to aggressively innovate cheaper and better low-carbon energy technologies all Americans-as well as the world-will want to voluntarily adopt because they are cheaper and/or better. ITIF argues a comprehensive Presidential climate innovation strategy must include: 

Proposing a tripling of funding to at least $15 billion a year for clean energy research, development, and demonstration, including fully-funding the Department of Energy's (DOE) ARPA-E. 

Administration leadership to retool and reform the DOE's National Labs System so that federal energy research more quickly makes it from lab to market.

Proposing a dedicated revenue approach that consistently supports energy innovation programs, such as through a small carbon tax and/or higher fees for oil and gas drilling on federal lands.

Without these types of policies designed to spur significant clean energy innovation the United States and the world have little chance of addressing climate change. Even if the United States were to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero, global emissions would still rise over the next 50 years. What is needed is a strategy that makes it in the economic interest of the developing world to want to adopt clean energy technologies, and the only way for that to happen is through radical clean energy innovation.

ITIF urges the Administration to take the lead in developing an aggressive clean energy innovation strategy that has the greatest potential for addressing global warming. We do applaud the President's efforts given a lack of Congressional initiative, in particular his strong support for facilitating climate resilience and national preparedness. But as another year ticks by in a decades-long policy debate, failing to make innovation a central tenant of federal climate strategy is troubling and overlooks the immensity of the problem."

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The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank whose mission is to formulate and promote public policies to advance technological innovation and productivity internationally, in Washington, and in the states. Recognizing the vital role of technology in ensuring prosperity, ITIF focuses on innovation, productivity, and digital economy issues. Learn more at www.itif.org.