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Clinton unveils new 'greenhouse' policy.

President Clinton this week released his long-awaited Climate Change Action Plan. The package of mostly voluntary initiatives aims to avert the threat of global warning through "American ingenuity," Clinton said, "not more bureaucracy or regulation." The plan involves roughly 50 measures for reducing an atmospheric buildup of "greenhouse" gases, principally carbon dioxide.

By the year 2000, the plan envisions reducing annual U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases by an amount equivalent to 109 million metric tons of carbon dioxide ([CO.sub.2]). The key words here are equivalent to, since not all the measures would reduce [CO.sub.2] emissions. Fast-growing trees planted as part of new reforestation programs, for example, are slated to sop up 10 million tons of [CO.sub.2] annually. Other programs would cut releases of different greenhouse gases.

If the plan achieves its objective, it will return net U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels, thereby satisfying a key near-term objective of the Convention on Climate Change. This proposed treaty, endorsed by the United States during last year's Earth Summit in Brazil (SN: 6/20/92, p.407), will go into effect once 50 nations endorse it -- probably by the end of this year.

At a press briefing, Energy Secretary Hazel R. O'Leary unveiled two major new government-industry partnerships that will contribute to the projected greenhouse-gas savings. As part of a voluntary "Motor Challenge," 27 companies, eight industrial associations, and seven organizations representing state energy offices have pledged to collaborate in developing new ways to reduce the energy consumed by electric motors and the products they drive. These efforts are expected to account for 8 percent of the greenhouse-gas reductions anticipated under the new plan, O'Leary said.

Under "Climate Challenge," corporate members -- electric-power companies responsible for 60 percent of the [CO.sub.2] emitted by U.S. utilities -- have agreed to initiate new, customized [CO.sub.2]-reduction programs. For joining the partnership, O'Leary said, "we will give these companies the flexibility to adopt the most cost-effective reductions available to them."

Clinton's new plan also calls for:

* new energy-efficiency standards for 11 household appliances, including televisions and air conditioners;

* new labeling program to inform buyers about the rolling resistance -- or energy performance -- associated with different vehicle tires;

* expansion of the EPA's small but successful Green Lights program, which assists U.S. firms in switching to more energy-efficient lighting systems;

* tighter regulatory controls on the release of methane -- a potent greenhouse gas -- from landfills; and

* new provisions that encourage financing of energy conservation measures through home mortgages.

Environmental groups generally have supported the thrust of the Clinton plan. Many expressed disappointment, however, that the administration hadn't given the plan more teeth by making most of its programs mandatory. Moreover, notes Alden Meyer with the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C., the plan does not commit the United States "to maintaining 1990 emission levels beyond 2000." As such, he worries, "It could be a one-shot return and then business as usual."

Industry groups, however, have applauded the administration's confidence that they will carry out the plan's mostly voluntary measures. Indeed, "business-government partnerships and initiatives, we think, are the right approach to the climate issue," maintains John Shlaes, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Global Climate Coalition, a mix of trade associations and private companies.
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Title Annotation:President Clinton's Climate Change Action Plan
Author:Raloff, Janet
Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 23, 1993
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