Monday, November 02, 2009

Panel of experts to address economic aspects of policy on climate change

Panel of experts to address economic aspects of policy on climate change

If things go as UI professor of finance Don Fullerton would have them, this Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. there will be a standing-room-only audience in the 300-seat Deloitte Auditorium of the Business Instructional Facility in Champaign. [Details here.] That audience will be eager to learn about prospects for action on climate change in the U.S. and around the world from a three-member panel of internationally recognized experts on the economic aspects of environmental policy.

Fullerton hopes to see a wide range of people in the audience, including undergraduate and graduate students, faculty from a across campus, and members of the public who are able to take advantage of this opportunity.

Although climate change is the impetus for this panel, scientific issues such as trends in world temperatures and rates of glacial retreat will not be the focus of attention. Rather, starting from the scientific consensus that global warming is a reality, and assuming that climate disruption will entail economic costs, the panel will examine the implications of some of the public policy options available for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These policy options include things like cap-and-trade systems for carbon, carbon taxes and tax credits or direct government support for the development of renewable energy.

Professor Fullerton, who organized and will also serve on the panel, is a former deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury Department. He now studies energy and environmental policy issues at the UI Institute of Government and Public Affairs, and is a leading researcher on the economic impact of environmental regulations. Among his many credentials, he was the lone academic expert invited to speak about climate policy earlier this month at a meeting of European Union finance ministers that was a springboard for December’s climate conference in Copenhagen.

Charles Kolstad, who will also serve on the panel, is an economics professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara. He was a lead author and researcher for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Kolstad is interested in the role information plays in environmental decision-making and regulation, and does much of his applied work in the area of climate change and energy markets. His past energy-related projects have included research into the effect of air pollution regulation on the coal and electricity markets.

The third panelist, Nat Keohane, left academia after six years of teaching economics in the business school at Yale to become Director of Economic Policy and Analysis at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Keohane is noted for his optimism regarding the role markets can play in resolving global warming. “We can afford to cut emissions ambitiously and deeply if we start now,” he says in a video about his role at EDF. “We have the technologies in place to get started and we know the policies we need, also. We need to harness the market to find the lowest cost, most effective ways of reducing emissions.”

The panel, which is free and open to the public, is cosponsored by three UI units: the Center for Business and Public Policy, the Institute of Government and Public Affairs and the Environmental Change Institute.