Climate Change:

Basic Issues in Considering a Credit for Early Action Program

RCED-99-23: Published: Nov 27, 1998. Publicly Released: Dec 22, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Energy's (DOE) proposal to develop a credit for an early action program promoting environmental cleanups, focusing on: (1) some of the basic issues that have to be addressed by any effort to develop a credit for early action program; and (2) how claims for reductions of greenhouse gas emissions that are reported to the Voluntary Reporting Program might fare under a credit for early action program that has less flexible reporting criteria.

GAO noted that: (1) it identified four basic issues that will have to be addressed to develop a credit for early action program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: (a) how emissions reductions should be estimated; (b) how emissions reduction ownership should be determined; (c) whether emissions reduction claims should be reported at the organization, project, or some other level; and (d) how emissions reduction claims should be verified; (2) on the surface, these issues appear straightforward; in fact, they are complicated and will require difficult choices; (3) furthermore, the resolution of these issues will likely influence the design of a credit for early action program; (4) the amount of flexibility such a program would provide on each of these issues would ultimately help to determine the extent of participation and the credit awarded; (5) many of the claims for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that have been submitted to the Voluntary Reporting Program would probably be ineligible for credit under a new program having more restrictive reporting criteria; (6) this is because the voluntary program was designed to encourage wide participation by allowing companies to submit emissions reduction claims under flexible reporting criteria and was not designed to automatically provide credit to participants for emissions reductions; (7) for example, the voluntary program, among other things, allowed companies discretion in determining the basis from which their emissions reductions were estimated and allowed companies to self-certify that their claims were accurate; and (8) according to DOE's Energy Information Administration and other organizations, such as the Edison Electric Institute and the Environmental Defense Fund, a credit for early action program could require more restrictive reporting criteria than the Voluntary Reporting Program to help ensure that emissions reduction claims are real, appropriately reviewed, and verified.

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