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October 27, 1998
President's Council on Sustainable Development
Climate Task Force

Principles for Early Action

In November 1997, PCSD's Climate Task Force released a set of Climate Change Principles that stated, "the risk of climate change . . . is of sufficient concern that timely and effective actions should be taken" and "policies to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases or other measures to protect the climate should include incentives for early action."

The term "early action" refers to a suite of voluntary steps that could be taken before any domestic or international binding requirements are in place. Voluntary efforts by businesses and consumers to protect the climate could be facilitated by a systematic legislative approach to stimulate early action. The following principles should be considered in designing a flexible program that broadly encourages measures to protect the climate. Members of the Task Force envision that the award of formal credit is but one part of the whole early action program. In addition, members believe that an early action strategy must evolve over time in response to advances in scientific knowledge and technology. These principles do not presume a decision as to whether the United States should become a party to the Kyoto Protocol. The potential benefits of early action justify the program on its own merits.

1. Appropriate incentives for early action to protect the climate
An early action strategy should aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Any program should ensure that those that take or have taken voluntary steps to protect the climate are rewarded and not inadvertently penalized for their efforts. Market-based incentives, fiscal policies, federal funding, procurement policies, regulations, and public recognition should be combined into a coherent effort that effectively stimulates early action.

2. Broadly-based participation
Incentives for early action should encourage activities that protect the climate with the broadest possible level of participation by business, communities, government agencies, academia, non-governmental organizations, and individuals. These incentives should facilitate the formation of partnerships and the leveraging of resources among participants.

3. Learning, innovation, flexibility, and experimentation
The program should accommodate economic growth while contributing to the achievement of significant emissions reductions by encouraging flexibility, innovation, and experimentation to facilitate learning about cost-effective ways to protect the climate. Policy should allow a broad menu of options that can also result in environmental and societal benefits for all segments of the population.

4.Formal credit for greenhouse gas emissions reduction efforts
As part of the overall early action strategy, formal credit should be granted to early actors for legitimate and verifiable measures that reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions relative to defined benchmarks. Those undertaking these efforts should receive assurances that earned credits can be applied towards future reduction obligations. The program ultimately needs to be codified to provide certainty to these actors. Formal credit for domestic actions should be issued with the understanding that these credits are allocated from any future limit on U.S. emissions.

5. Accountability for emissions
Dependable measurement techniques and credible reporting methods should be used to account for claimed emissions reductions. Policies to grant formal credit should aim to keep transaction costs and risks low while ensuring the integrity of awarded credits.

6. Compatibility with other climate protection strategies and environmental goals
The design of an early action program should be compatible with other domestic or international strategies to protect the climate and with other environmental goals.

7. Government leadership
Governments should demonstrate leadership in an early action program by achieving significant greenhouse gas emissions reductions from their activities, relative to their defined benchmarks.

Climate Task Force Membership

John Adams
Natural Resources Defense Council

The Honorable Aida Alvarez
U.S. Small Business Administration

Ray C. Anderson
Council Co-Chair
Interface, Inc.

The Honorable D. James Baker
Task Force Co-Chair
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce

Richard Barth
Novartis (Retired)

The Honorable Carol M. Browner
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Richard Clarke (retired)
Pacific Gas and Electric

Scott Bernstein
Center for Neighborhood Technology

David T. Buzzelli
The Dow Chemical Company

The Honorable Andrew Cuomo
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

The Honorable William M. Daley
U.S. Department of Commerce

Dianne Dillon-Ridgley
Women's Environment and Development Organization

E. Linn Draper, Jr.
America Electric Power

Judith Espinosa
Alliance for Transportation Research

The Honorable Randall Franke
Marion County,OR

The Honorable Dan Glickman
U.S. Department of Agriculture

The Honorable Sherry Goodman
U.S. Department of Defense

Jay D. Hair
National Wildlife Federation

Samuel C. Johnson
SC Johnson Wax

Fred Krupp
Environmental Defense Fund

Jonathan Lash
Council Co-Chair
Task Force Co-Chair
World Resources Institute

Kenneth Lay
Enron Corporation

Harry J. Pearce
General Motors Corporation

Steve Percy
Task Force Co-Chair
BP America, Inc.

Michele Perrault
Sierra Club

The Honorable Bill Richardson
U.S. Department of Energy

The Honorable Richard W. Riley
U.S. Department of Education

The Honorable Richard E. Rominger
U.S. Department of Agriculture

The Honorable Susan Savage
City of Tulsa, Office of the Mayor

John C. Sawhill
The Nature Conservancy

The Honorable Rodney Slater
U.S. Department of Transportation

Theodore Strong
Columbia Inter-Tribal Fish Commission