Global Warming

Administration's Proposal in Support of the Kyoto Protocol Gao ID: T-RCED-98-219 June 4, 1998

The President announced a three-stage proposal on climate change in October 1997 in anticipation of an international agreement to be negotiated two months later in Kyoto, Japan. He listed voluntary measures to be taken during the next five years (stage 1) to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by stimulating the development and use of energy-efficient products and technologies. The administration proposes to increase spending for climate change by $6.3 billion during this period. The agreement, known as the Kyoto Protocol, was negotiated in December 1997 by the United States and other nations. It must be signed by the President and ratified by the Senate before its provisions apply to the United States. To comply with the Kyoto Protocol, the United States will need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 31 percent by 2010, according to the Department of Energy. This testimony answers the following questions: (1) Does the administration have an overall goal for stage 1 and a plan to achieve that goal? (2) If funded, to what extent will the $6.3 billion stage one climate change proposal help the United States meet the protocol's emissions target? (3) What are the implications for the United States if the Senate ratifies the protocol, given the current status of the administration's efforts to implement the climate change proposal.

GAO noted that: (1) the administration has several broad goals for what it wants to accomplish in stage 1 and a broad plan for accomplishing them; (2) both the broad goals and plan are contained in the President's October 1997 speech; (3) the administration has not established a quantitative goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the end of stage 1--a primary focus of its initiative; (4) while Office of Management and Budget officials acknowledge that the plan is broad, they have no specific timeframe for preparing a more detailed plan that would include overall performance goals and measures to meet the spirit of the Government Performance and Results Act; (5) the extent to which the $6.3-billion stage 1 proposal will help the United States meet the protocol's target for emission reductions is unclear; (6) the largest investment under the proposal, tax credits, with an estimated cost of about $3.6 billion, has no estimate of the expected benefits and thus is not explicitly tied to the protocol's target for emission reductions; (7) the administration has set performance goals for most of the $2.7 billion proposed for research and development and the increased use of energy-efficient products and has estimated potential emissions reductions; (8) the Department of Energy only recently provided its estimates, while commenting on a draft of this testimony, and GAO has not analyzed them; (9) in addition, the Environmental Protection Agency's estimates may be overstated; (10) therefore, it is uncertain how much these activities will help the United States meet the target specified by the protocol; (11) without an overall goal and plan for stage 1 and complete information on expected outcomes and links to the protocol's emission reduction target, it is uncertain whether stage 1 will effectively lay the foundation for the 31-percent emissions reduction required by the protocol; and (12) although the administration's response to the protocol is relatively recent, a firm foundation in stage 1 is important because the protocol's targets for emission reductions are binding on the nations that agree to the protocol, and penalties for noncompliance with the targets are to be discussed by the parties to the protocol in November 1998.

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