News: CJ Exclusives

CCS Joins Clinton Global Initiative

Climate advisory group wants national action

RALEIGH – The Center for Climate Strategies, which is finalizing recommendations for North Carolina to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, announced over the weekend that it would perform similar work on a national scale as part of the Clinton Global Initiative, an ambitious effort sponsored by a foundation named for the former U.S. president.

CCS is an advisory nonprofit that is guiding the North Carolina Climate Action Plan Advisory Group, which consists of political appointees who have backed a series of policy options that will ostensibly help reduce CO2 emissions from sources within the state.

CCS has done all the technical work for CAPAG: providing options for members to endorse; running meetings; controlling voting procedures and CAPAG rules; writing all reports, meeting minutes and presentations; and financing nearly the entire process with funding from liberal environmentalist foundations. Some officials have questioned the objectivity of CCS in its policymaking process for the state government.

“They have engaged in a process that is going to lead to the promotion of an agenda instead of finding the answer to a question,” said state Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger, an Eden Republican.

CCS has worked in several states helping develop climate change policies, using a similar template altered slightly for each client’s needs. Their efforts for the Clinton Global Initiative represent their first foray into developing a similar strategy on a countrywide level.

But CCS’s national project appears to be little more than an expansion of its state efforts, with its half-million dollar cost only slightly higher than the $350,000 to $400,000 range they typically charge for a state’s process. The Global Initiative project is titled, “Federal Climate Policy Portfolio Based on Scale-Up of State.”

“The urgency of action to develop a truly comprehensive solution to climate change that can be adopted without delay demands that CCS consolidate and share its experience and expertise…,” CCS wrote on the Clinton Global Initiative Web site.

The goal is to distribute and promote CCS’s climate policy solutions “based on the experience of leadership states.” The organization says its emission reduction blueprint will “be initiated as a break from current, indifferent policy.” CCS executive director Tom Peterson and its other consultants have consistently cited the lack of federal action on global warming as a primary reason for pursuing CO2 reductions in the states.

“This effort is natural outgrowth of the work of CCS over the last five years,” CCS says, “and represents a new and inevitable scale-up of our own mission as an organization.”

CCS said it would implement its strategy nationally by:

* “Mobiliz(ing) leading governors and state officials to promote the blueprint, so that effective policy approaches, tangible economic benefits and effective governance structures are considered at the national level”

* “Dissemination of the report to Members of Congress, appropriate committees and staff members, and federal agency officials”

* “Develop(ing) materials and conduct(ing) outreach to other non-government organizations and the media…”

Neither CCS nor the Clinton Global Initiative Web sites say who is funding the $500,000 project. Several environmentalist foundations — including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Heinz Endowments, the Energy Foundation and the Turner Foundation — have financed CCS’s state projects in the last few years. CCS’s Peterson in the past has said his organization is “not an advocacy group.”

According to its Web site, the Clinton Global Initiative was created in 2005 “as a non-partisan catalyst for action, bringing together a community of global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.” The program for 2007 focuses on four areas: education, energy and climate change, global health, and poverty alleviation. Members commit to specific actions to address the problems on the Global Initiative agenda.

The Global Initiative’s Energy and Climate Change working group is led by representatives of several liberal-leaning organizations, including the Brookings Institute, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Environmental Defense, and the Energy and Resources Institute.

The North Carolina CAPAG is scheduled to formally release its policy recommendations in two weeks.

Paul Chesser ([email protected]) is associate editor of Carolina Journal.