The bread and butter of EAERE conferences is that each researcher presents his or her own paper. This is fascinating for those concerned but it is afterwards difficult to summarize since it generally consists of small and disparate steps often more of methodological interest.
Some thematic sessions however stand out for having a policy oriented goal in the tradition of the late David Pearce, or for being thematic. One such session on the 30th of June was entitled “The Trump Administration, Climate Change and the World”.
The speakers all had some European/US mixed background: Frank Convery, Irish but working as chief economist of the Environmental Defense Fund in New York, Carolyn Fischer from RFF in Washington DC but currently works in various European research centres (Venice, Amsterdam and Gothenburg), Michael Hanemann of Brittish origin but with a career in the US and Thomas Sterner, Swedish but who has also spent several years working in the USA.
Frank Convery started with a gruesome list of detailed policy measures actually taken by the White House. The media is so obsessed with Trump's tweets that the actual list of policy measures taken is sometimes not properly appreciated but Frank showed that behind the exotic façade there is indeed a very determined effort to promote fossil fuels in various ways and in general to deregulate. Carolyn Fisher had taken it upon herself to present and explain all the countervailing forces – the famous “checks and balances” of the American system which is famously designed specifically to avoid one transitory politician from having too much discretionary power. She discussed the complications, even for a president who has a majority in both houses of getting legislation passed. She then discussed the roles of the bureaucracy, the states, the judiciary system, and to some extent, civil society, business and the media. Michael Hanemann described the situation in California – in many ways the exact antithesis of what is happening at the Federal level with a sleuth of encompassing state legislation consisting of a very comprehensive and well-designed Cap and Trade system supported by a large number of ancillary policies. Thomas finally commented on the specific issue of the US leaving the Paris Agreement. He referred to own and other research showing that the consequences of the withdrawal itself may be limited. It takes about 4 years and since the Paris Agreement does not actually require anything very concrete, withdrawal is mainly a symbolic gest probably intended for domestic consumption. Still the truth can also be put in a more negative light: The Paris Agreement was already too weak to achieve its stated goals of climate stabilization (below 2 degrees and preferably 1.5). Now was the moment when the World actually needed radical action to quickly take several new steps to tighten the goals from Paris, to introduce some systems of verification and also to find a way to introduce a price on carbon. It is not just the withdrawal from Paris, it is also the general lack of leadership on the domestic frontier and in technology and carbon finance... that is so serious.