On Tuesday, January 26, lead Energy Collective blogger Marc Gunther moderated an exclusive webinar discussion with Professor Robert Stavins of Harvard University, Aimee Christensen of Christensen Global Stategies, and Dirk Forrister of NatSource LLC.  The panelists shared valuable insights about what to expect next for international and domestic climate policy and responded to a diverse set of questions about the future of clean energy, carbon markets, and international climate negotiations.

Listen to the audio:

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imee Christensen

  • Last weekend, BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India, China) confirmed they will announce their targets by Jan. 31, and they account for 30% of global emissions…the U.S. risks losing out on the opportunity to compete in this market…business leaders are saying in DC “this is about competition – we’re losing out in the competitive industries”
  • The election in Massachusetts energized climate bill talk, with Senator Reid and Steven Chu again announcing their commitment to pushing forward climate legislation over the next few months
  • One upside of the Copenhagen Accord being a political agreement is we can move to unilaterally act on it, we don’t have to wait for Congress, don’t have to wait for the Senate to ratify it

Robert Stavins

  • This is a marathon, not a sprint, and not a single task with a clear end point – a sensible goal going into Copenhagen would have been a sound foundation, not immediate success…the virtually unprecedented agreement in the end is the story historians will tell…and the difference between political and legal agreement is overstated in international realm
  • Significant flow of resources for mitigation and adaptation will come mainly from private sector, especially for mitigation – the only conceivable way is foreign direct investment, politically it can’t happen in another way, and that way will go to express purpose…if it goes through government to government transfers, it is unreasonable to expect funds will go to climate change mitigation instead of other pressing needs...
  • If Senate or EPA don’t move forward, three things will happen: 1) RPS will become centerpiece; 2) Congress will pass more clean energy subsidies; 3) Regional and state programs will link (RGGI, AB 32, etc.)
  • It is too soon for obituaries to be written about UNFCCC, but the primary nominees waiting in the wings where major agreements can be worked out are the Major Economies Forum and G20+ Finance Ministers forum

Dirk Forrister

  • Carbon market community is fairly cynical about the UN's ability to move things quickly, and knew that without legislation in US completed, US would only be able to go so far, which meant others could only go so far
  • Public investment primes the pump for additional private investment
  • Sees voluntary carbon markets evolving, with some companies, such as Google, moving to purchase of compliance credits rather than other voluntary credits, which is an important step, but expects demand with mandatory programs to be much higher than with voluntary programs