Beth Slaninka

Expect to hear a lot about climate change policy this year. Executive branch decisions, regulations limiting CO2 emissions from existing coal-fired power plants, and international climate negotiations are all expected in 2014.

At the beginning of each year, a number of organizations put together lists of what to watch for in the coming year. Below are the climate change policy stories I will be keeping an eye on in 2014:

  • President Obama’s decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline: The Vermont Law School’s Environmental Law Center and the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law put together their Top 10 Environmental Watch List for 2014. This year’s list of expected 2014 climate change-related actions focuses on topics that range from the role of natural gas to the export of coal from Montana to China. At the top of the list is whether President Obama will block or allow the Keystone XL Pipeline to move forward. As the authors of the list note, the decision has “become a proxy for the larger debate on climate change” because the pipeline would allow Canadian oil sands to be transported to Gulf Coast refineries. As the Vermont Law School notes: “Critics and proponents alike agree that mining tar sands oil produces significantly more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional crude oil.”
  • EPA regulations for existing power plants: Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized CO2 emissions standards for new power plants. In 2014, the agency is expected to propose regulations limiting CO2 emissions from existing power plants. Both sets of regulations are part of Obama’s Climate Action Plan, released last year.
  • The U.S. role in international climate negotiations: Last year I wrote about the release of the lntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment report summary, which is expected to build momentum going into international climate negotiations.  Secretary of State John Kerry would like to play a major role in those negotiations, according to an article in The New York Times. And President Obama’s Climate Action Plan calls for the U.S. to lead international efforts to address global climate change.
  • Climate change and the 2014 mid-term elections: While it’s unlikely that a comprehensive climate change bill will be taken up by Congress this year, climate change is expected to be “major policy battleground” in the 2014 mid-term elections, according to an article in The Hill. It will be interesting to see how lawmakers present their positions on climate change ahead of the election. One example of how this could play out is the Senate Climate Action Task Force, which was launched on January 14 with the goal of defending President Obama’s Climate Action Plan from any attempts to block or weaken measures, according to a Bloomberg BNA article.

Outside of these stories, there will likely be plenty of other climate change related actions and headlines this year. For example, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, which my colleague, Sarah Lichtner has written about is expected to be reintroduced in the Senate in the coming weeks. The bill, sponsored by Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat-New Hampshire, and Senator Rob Portman, Republican-Ohio would improve energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings.

It’s an exciting time for climate change policy. Hopefully, this time next year we will be taking stock of the successes of 2014 in moving forward to address climate change both in the U.S. and across the globe.