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Climate Policy Prospects Follow Markets South

Those who champion policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions are accustomed to fighting an uphill battle, particularly on the associated economic costs. But the global financial crisis steepens the grade. As governments and industry seek ways to cut costs, some worry that the first thing on the chopping block may be green efforts. "Both our attention and money now are focused on the immediate financial crisis and it seems likely that governments and corporations will reconsider their commitments for going green as cash flow slows and oil prices drop," contends Washington Post columnist Marcela Sanchez.  David Roberts, a contributor to the environmental, adds that "as long as going green is viewed as an expensive and vaguely altruistic undertaking, it will never be a top priority."

The signs of backsliding are easy to find. European lawmakers wavered on proposed commitments to cut greenhouse gases 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 after the crisis took hold, though - for now will to stick to originally planned targets (AP). In the United States, where political will on climate change has been uneven, traction could be lost on progress toward federal legislation aimed at curbing greenhouse gases. Advocates acknowledge that passing a U.S. bill that places a price on emitting carbon, while not impossible (Yale e360), is not likely to be a top agenda item until the economic picture clears.

Other policy experts debate the impact the financial crisis will have for any proposed U.S. cap-and-trade program, which would essentially create a new commodities market. As this Backgrounder explains, most cap-and-trade systems place caps on industry emissions and then allows firms to buy and sell surplus emissions permits or offset credits from green projects...

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