So much will be written, has already been written, about this historic US election that it seems pointless to add to the cacophony, but there really is nothing else that warrants writing about right now. The EU carbon price may be elegantly swan-diving and the reasons are interesting, but if there is one thing that will positively affect the future of the global carbon market it’s tonight’s result.
If the US elects Obama and we witness the dawn a new era in international relations in the US then the chances of working out a new climate deal are substantially improved. But, as with the last one, with regard to the nature of that deal what the US wants it will almost certainly get – such is the importance that everyone – Europe, China, India, Africa – places on getting them back in the game. Not only because they are such a huge source of emissions but also because the US has such a fantastic track record in incubating and commercialising new technologies.
The State that has so far shown most interest in taking on this role for low carbon tech is California. There, regulations abound, driving investment into cleaner, more efficient energy systems. And on Nov 18th Senator Arnold Schwarzenegger will host an international conference dedicated to considering the future of global action on climate change. The agenda for this august gathering is organised around sectoral approaches to the problem. The timing is interesting a month before the official UN meeting. The fact that the convener is a Republican should not matter – here is the most progressive State in the US getting in early, staking its claim for what it considers the deal should look like.
During my time at DEFRA I wrote a paper for the UK Government on the issue of sectoral approaches and am a firm believer that they could offer a sensible way forward if handled correctly. I recently wrote a [blog for the Guardian]( “”) outlining an idea for a global agreement to bend the curve in global emissions by 2020 by introducing a global carbon budget (or cap) for the power sector – the single biggest source of fossil CO2 emissions. As well as California, the US more generally , Japan and potentially South Korea are all interested in sectoral approaches and a recent [Reuters news report]( “”) indicated that China too appears interested, although with inevitable caveats.
So assuming tonight’s events deliver us a President with a new approach to engaging with the rest of the world – then we have twelve months or so to fashion a deal which will hopefully bring us back from the brink of runaway climate change. There’s a lot to do in a short time but fortunately he need look no further than the West Coast in a couple of weeks to get good introduction to one potential way forward.