Friday, October 14, 2011

The Social Cost of Carbon at ABA SEER

The American Bar Association's Section on Energy, Environment, and Resources (ABA SEER) is holding its annual meeting in Indy this week. Yesterday, I was on a really fun panel on the social cost of carbon (SCC), which the federal government set at $21.40 per ton for 2010 (rising from that year to nearly $50 per ton by 2050). The only legal significance of the SCC at this point is that federal, executive-branch agencies must use the cost figure in calculating costs and benefits of proposed regulations. This has a salutary effect of forcing agencies to at least confront the problem of climate change in everyday rule-making activities (except to the extent they farm out preparing of CBAs to outside consultancy organizations). But no one on the panel thought that incorporating the SCC into regulatory decisions would significantly shape those decisions; the consensus, on the panel at least, was that the federal government's SCC is too low to do that, and also lower than it should be.

The federal SCC has virtually no current implications for lawyers outside of federal agency/regulatory practice. For that reason, I was somewhat surprised to see that the (fairly large) room was pretty well packed for the panel. During the question/discussion period, it became clear that a number of those in attendance were there just because they were interested in learning more about the problem of climate change and the challenge of climate policy. Of course, some corporate lawyers might have attended because they foresee a time when the SCC will have relevance for their companies, e.g. in the form of a carbon tax.

Here is the outline of my own presentation from the panel:
Presentation on the SCC.aba SEER.oct 2011

This afternoon, I'm heading back to Indy because the I.U. Maurer Law School is hosting a reception for its alums and current students who are attending the conference. (A bit of irony here, as I moved to Bloomington to avoid the commute from Indy. Indeed, I have to go back to Indy a third day in a row on Saturday to pick up my wife at the airport).  

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