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March 18, 2009 / Mridul

US to Have a National Climate Registry; Will India & China Follow?

Environment Protection Agency has announced that the US government would maintain a registry of all carbon emissions produced from some 13,000 high polluting industries. Companies emitting more than 25,000 metric tonnes of carbon emissions yearly will be required to report to this registry.

The plan to have a climate registry has been doing the rounds since 2007 and although a Climate Registry exists covering various American, Canadian and Mexican states, this would be much broader and mandatory in nature. Terming the decision as ‘critical step towards protection of health and environment’, the  that emissions data is essential in order to tackle the problem of climate change. The registry would require the companies to report their methane emissions also, another major greenhouse gas. 

United States is not bound by any international treaty to maintain a national climate registry unlike the Annex 1 countries under the Kyoto Protocol. Under the Kyoto Protocol, the developed nations (which ratified the treaty) were mandated to create and maintain an annual climate registry so as to monitor any increase or decrease in the carbon emissions and to determine, on the basis of tonnes of emissions, the number of emission allowances and carbon credits the countries (or the companies) are entitled to. The United States is a signatory to the treaty but has not ratified the same.

For the developing countries like India and China, maintaining a climate registry was not mandatory but optional however, neither of them has one even though they are among the top three greenhouse gas emitters. The Asian neighbors have also ruled out agreeing to any mandatory emission cuts under the next climate treaty, talks for which are scheduled to be held at Copenhagen in December this year.

The decision by the United States to create a climate registry will not only put more pressure on the advanced developing countries but has also opened a back door channel to persuade them to reduce their carbon emissions. India and China have made it clear that the  Copenhagen talks could fall apart if the developed nations try to tie their future efforts to commitments made by developing countries to reduce emissions.

Getting the advanced developing countries to agree to create a national climate registry would be the first step towards ensuring some kind of global mandatory emissions cuts. A climate registry would not only add to the accountability that these countries have in producing carbon emissions but would make public the amounts of emissions their industrial units generate enabling the international community to press them to switch to cleaner technology and agree to mandatory emission cuts.

Another reason why the EPA has proposed the creation of climate treaty is to streamline the  and the auctioning of emission permits to industries. The cap-and-trade scheme is poised to generate billions of dollars in revenues for the federal government. A similar proposal should be presented to the developing countries at the Copenhagen talks. A cap-and-trade system in developing countries would not only help them control the carbon emissions but also generate revenue which could help in the import of clean technology from the developed nations.

The proposed creation of a national climate registry could thaw the freeze between developed and developing nations over reduction in carbon emissions. This proactive approach under taken by the Obama administration would certainly put pressure on the advanced developing nations to take some concrete actions in order to reduce their carbon emissions. The international community must try to persuade the advanced developing countries to create climate registries even if the talks over mandatory emission cuts fail.

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