Newsmakers : Obama Targets Climate Change



Hardhitting team appointed to curb US carbon emissions

With a new line-up of officials steering Washington’s environmental and energy policies for the next four years and global talks under way to iron out a successor pact to the carbon-capping Kyoto Protocol, chief executives and their financial officers may be wrestling with the impact of a US-mandated program to limit carbon emissions sooner than they thought. While many had expected President Barack Obama’s campaign goal to sign legislation outlining a cap-and-trade program this year to be sidelined by the country’s economic woes, he appears to have other ideas and has already appointed a team to help him carry out an agenda dedicated to curbing the pollutants that contribute to global warming.

Known for her toughness while heading the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under former president Bill Clinton, Carol Browner is now the White House coordinator for energy and climate. The giant environmental regulating authority will now be led by Lisa Jackson, another agency veteran who was New Jersey’s top environmental official. The EPA is now developing a greenhouse-gas-reporting rule for companies slated for release in June.

As a member of Obama’s cabinet, energy secretary Steven Chu will help the new president meet his commitment to double the use of renewable energy in three years. Chu has advocated an aggressive approach to fighting global warming.

“The next 12 to 16 months are an important time. Everything is changing now with the economic conditions,” says Ryan Schuchard, a researcher for Business for Social Responsibility in San Francisco.

Senator Barbara Boxer, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, has said that climate legislation would emerge from her panel before the global talks on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol begin on December 7. Any legislation must be reconciled with a bill emanating from House Energy and Commerce committee chairman Henry Waxman, who reportedly is wrapping carbon-capping provisions into a sprawling energy bill due out in late May.

Paula L. Green