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Letter to The President - Climate Change Principles

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Council on Sustainable  Development

The Honorable William J. Clinton
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

Your strong voice has called attention to the risks of human-induced climate change and the need to take timely and effective steps to address it. We are pleased to report further progress in our efforts to advise you on climate policy options that could help encourage these steps. In the statement on climate that we sent to you last November, we recognized -- as you have -- the need for early action to protect the climate and the importance of incentives to catalyze that action. Members of the Climate Task Force of the President's Council on Sustainable Development have reached agreement on a set of principles for the design of a program that we believe would broadly encourage voluntary action.

This consensus statement from a diverse group of Climate Task Force members -- including leaders from business, environmental and civic organizations, as well as local and federal government -- is based on the Task Force's examination of the key policy issues that must be considered in designing an early action program. In the course of our work, we listened to a wide range of experts and sought the views and ideas of citizens. As a result of our studies, we recommend an incentive-based program that encourages broad-based participation, learning, innovation, flexibility, and experimentation; grants formal credit for legitimate and verifiable measures to protect the climate; ensures accountability; is compatible with other climate protections strategies and environmental goals; and includes local, state, and federal government leadership.

An early action program is justified entirely on its own merits because it will improve economic performance and will reduce local environmental pollution as well as greenhouse gas emissions. However, we recognize that discussion of the value of an early action program has also, and we believe erroneously, become tied to the debate over the Kyoto Protocol. These principles do not presume a decision as to whether the United States should become a party to the Protocol. But they do allow for the possibility that the United States could agree to limit its greenhouse gas emissions in the future. An early action program that grants credits against potential future obligations would facilitate achievement of any binding agreement because it would create a powerful incentive for many emitters to get on a gradual "glide path" for emissions reductions.

We hope you will find these principles helpful, and that they will provide a useful foundation for policy discussions on early action strategies in your Administration. We welcome your response and guidance as we continue carrying out your request to recommend climate policy options.


Ray Anderson
Co-Chair, PCSD
Chairman, Interface, Inc.

D. James Baker
Co-chair, Climate Task Force
Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere

Jonathan Lash
Co-Chair, PCSD and Co-Chair, Climate Task Force
President, World Resources Institute

Steve Percy
Co-Chair, Climate Task Force
Chairman and CEO, British Petroleum America, Inc.

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