European climate policy is on its way to implement the policy instruments required to achieve the ambitious abatement goals announced earlier in 2007, which are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 (versus 1990), regardless of comparable action by the main trading partners. If trading partners engage in comparable efforts, abatement can be increased to 30 percent. This policy is embedded in the European position that all developed countries should reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 60 to 80 percent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. However, without participation of the United States, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, mitigation of global climate change seems hardly conceivable. Despite the U.S. rejection of the Kyoto Protocol and the reluctance of the Bush administration to engage in Post-Kyoto negotiations, recent developments suggest that the U.S. position towards climate policy might change in the medium run. In fact, substantial and credible proposals are debated and developed in the legislative process. Most of the relevant proposals in the 110th U.S.-Congress suggest an extended cap-and-trade scheme for the United States, basically similar to the European emissions trading scheme. This paper summarizes the main features of those bills (sponsored by Lieberman-Warner, Bingaman-Specter, Lieberman-McCain, Kerry-Snowe, and Sanders-Boxer) and compares them to the recent developments in the European Union. While the U.S. proposals seem less stringent in the medium term, the order of magnitude of envisaged emission abatement in the middle of the century is comparable to the goals of the European Union. In some areas – such as border measures in order to prevent industrial production (and emissions) to move to nonregulated regions – co-operation or at least co-ordination is in the interest of both regions. In other areas – such as the scope of the trading scheme or the policy in the transport sector – Europe may well learn from experiences gained in the United States. As opposed to the evolution of climate policy in the European Union, where ambitious climate policy is often initiated by the Commission, we show that in the U.S. much of the federal legislation is driven by action on the state level. Finally, we provide an overview on the presidential candidates’ position towards climate policy, since all of the relevant candidates (Senators McCain-R, Clinton-D, and Obama-D) have up to now sponsored or co-sponsored at least one relevant climate bill in the Senate. On the whole it seems possible that the United States will take an influential role in the international climate policy process in the future. Thus North America may move forward international policy but will also challenge the European position in many respects rather than simply support any Kyoto-type process.

Keywords

environmental regulation; climate policy; emissions trading