Concerns over climate change have become the primary driver of energy and environmental policy in the U.S. and around the world.
The Obama administration has urged Congress to adopt a national policy to address climate change. In 2009, the House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy Security Act (HR 2454, commonly referred to as the Waxman-Markey bill). The key provisions of the bill include a market-based “cap and trade” program to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and a renewable electricity standard that would require electric utilities to meet specified targets for generation of power from renewable resources (solar, wind, biomass, etc.) Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate, although its future is uncertain. On a parallel course, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been developing its own climate change regulatory program that will restrict greenhouse gas emissions even if Congress fails to act.
The development of a federal climate change program is part of a complex web of domestic and international initiatives. California has already established its own ambitious program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ten northeastern states have instituted a regional cap and trade program. At the same time, the United Nations has attempted to forge a global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions from major industrialized nations (including the U.S. and Europe) and developing countries (including India and China).
Climate change regulation will impact virtually every significant business activity. The current legislation would completely transform the way that electricity and fossil fuels are produced and consumed over the next few decades. While energy producers and energy-intensive industries will be directly affected by the mandate to reduce carbon emissions, the overall economic impact will be widespread. These developments will pose unprecedented risks for some businesses, yet they will also present numerous opportunities. For example, alternatives to fossil fuel consumption will become more economically viable due to increasing demand for new forms of energy production. In addition, the rising cost of electricity will spur the growth of clean technologies that will facilitate energy efficiency and conservation measures.
Kilpatrick Townsend is actively monitoring these developments and we are advising our clients on how to develop appropriate business strategies to confront emerging climate change regulation.
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