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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

An Overview of Greenhouse Gas (GHG)Control Policies in Various Countries

Jane A. Leggett
Specialist in Energy and Environmental Policy 
Richard K. Lattanzio
Analyst in Environmental Policy 
Carl Ek
Specialist in International Relations 
Larry Parker
Specialist in Energy and Environmental Policy

As Congress considers legislation to address climate change, and follows negotiations toward a new international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the question of the comparability of actions across countries frequently arises. Concerns are raised about what the appropriate sharing of efforts should be among countries, as well as the potential trade implications if countries undertake different levels of GHG reductions and, therefore, incur varying cost impacts on trade-sensitive sectors. This report summarizes the GHG control policies in effect or under consideration in the European Union (EU) and various other large countries, and offers a brief set of initial observations. It gives particular emphasis to how particular tradesensitive sectors may be treated in the context of each national program. 

All countries examined have in place, or are developing, some enforceable policies that serve to reduce GHG emissions. Most are at some stage of making their programs more stringent. The wealthiest countries have all taken on GHG limitation or reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Some of the emerging economies have voluntarily stated GHG targets, though none have yet accepted legally binding obligations in an international agreement. The forms of targets, and their stringencies, vary widely across countries. 

The scope of specific GHGs and economic sectors covered by national (or sub-national) reduction measures is generally, but not completely, similar. All have policies that affect carbon dioxide emissions; most have some measures that cover the additional five gases covered under the Kyoto Protocol (methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, perfluorocarbons, and hydrofluorocarbons). 

The programs and measures used vary across countries. Even when some measures have similar names (e.g., voluntary programs and voluntary action plans), the measures may differ in important ways that may influence their effectiveness and impacts on trade competiveness. Within sectors of a country, emission rates and control requirements may vary widely. A country may have some facilities with emission rates (or energy intensities) comparable to the best globally, even if the country's sectoral average as a whole has, for example, a significantly higher energy intensity than the global average. 

This report presents an overview of GHG control policies within individual countries. It does not present a rigorous assessment of the comparability of GHG control policies across countries or within specific sectors. The criteria for assessing comparability internationally are not widely agreed, and could encompass a range of considerations, not all quantitatively measurable.

Date of Report: December 30, 2009
Number of Pages: 52
Order Number: R40936
Price: $29.95

Document available electronically as a pdf file or in paper form.
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