INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LAW
The pollution control efforts can be traced back to ancient human history where pure drinking water was an area of serious interest. This further became essential especially after the industrial revolution to protect and promote the environment in which we live and work. Various issues including the cost factors have been considered while enacting the laws. The international laws on environment along with having the laws of the individual countries also have all the various treaties and conventions. Some of the important laws among them are customary international laws on trans boundary resource pollution, UN economic commission on long range trans boundary air pollution, the 1985 Vienna convention for protection of ozone layer among others.
The fundamental source of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is the human activity of fossil fuel burning which is done for the sake of producing energy as well as transport. The people who are accountable for this terrible amount of emissions are most of the industrialized nations with large economies. Alarmingly, the United States of America tops the list of polluters although all nations of the globe are responsible for one extent or the other. The auto industry, the Environment Investigation and Agency and the entire environmental community in general is more than happy and comfortable with the new policy as proposed by the Obama Administration
WTO has played pivotal and key roles in protecting and spearheading the interest of the environment. While protecting the commercial interests of its members, WTO has always embarked and ambassador the cause of environment. The most outstanding among these causes can be a carbon credit system evolved as also the gasoline standards that have been adapted by most countries. These kinds of efforts have paid off in conserving the damage to the ozone layer and have at least temporarily created a respite for the delicate ecological balance on earth.
There are a number of provisions in the WTO agreements that deal with environment protection. There also exists a reference to sustainable development and this reference is one of the general objectives that the WTO is mandated to serve. This is in accordance to the Marrakech Agreement which was the one that actually instituted the WTO. There are numerous provisions in the “Agreement on Agriculture and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). However by far and away the most important provisions as far as environmental issues are concerned are Article XX of the GATT and the Agreements on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade.” The US Gasoline dispute that was called for by Venezuela falls under the r Article XXII: 1 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994. According to this dispute, it was alleged that a “US gasoline regulation discriminated against complainants’ gasoline in violation of GATT Articles I and III and Article 2 of the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT)”. The outcome was that the US announced that it would implement all of the recommendations of the Dispute Settlement Boards (DSB).
Action Plan of the Government of US
Recently, President Barack Obama announced a new set of guidelines for a new national fuel-economy policy and greenhouse gas standards which are aimed at significantly augmenting the mileage requirements for vehicles thereby cutting down on carbon emission. However, the desired results are aimed to be achieved completely by 2016. The CAFÉ standards were essentially introduced for the first time in the year 1975 and since then the major requirement of this law was, automobile producers should manufacture only vehicles that are highly efficient in terms of fuel. The above policy newly announced by the Obama administration for autos will merge with it the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and also the greenhouse gas standards set out by the Environmental Protection Agency. The new fuel efficiency standards proposed by Obama are intended at reducing of dependency on oil as well as reducing the harmful pollution. It is aimed at the transformation of the U.S economy into a clean energy based economy.
Automobile companies have wide-ranging selections to adhere to the numerous targets as proposed by the CAFÉ standards; however each option is associated with a high price. Diesel engines outdid the insurgency of efficiency in the European continent, but strong and new laws pertaining to particulate emissions translate to hundreds or maybe even a few thousands of dollars of extra charge for diesel vehicles, which are obviously unclean and certainly need very high sophisticated technology as the NASA-level catalytic technology in order to even come close to the emission standards of the United States standards. Although hybrid technology helps the economy upsurges add up to roughly 30 per cent (wherein the required percentage is 35%) and the systems cost anywhere between USD 4000 to 10,000, subject to the vehicle’s size.
CAFÉ standards are implemented aggressively at the national level. Annual gains of 5% fuel efficiency are stipulated for each passenger vehicles sold during 2012-2016. The proposed advantages are enhancing fuel efficiency, reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases, and vehicle tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by about 900 million metric tons. The differences that can be highlighted with respect to this policy amid the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration are in 2004, automakers also went against the California state policy by arguing that only the federal government has the authority to set such fuel efficiency standards. Subsequently in 2007 the EPA denied permission to California State to implement its own fuel standards. In January 2009, the Obama administration ordered the EPA to review its decision on the case.
The Bush-era EPA wanted to get away with this issue at the earliest. The Bush administration had recognized the nation’s dependence to oil and the same was revealed in the State of the Union speech made by President Bush. Later, the Bush administration continued to do minimal amount of work on this issue and this led to candidness in the White House to granting on advancement with regard to the CAFE standards. Due to the fact that EPA regulation of mobile sources would efficiently amount to just that, the Bush administration was open to it. According to sources, the final assessment of imperils are supposed to happen very soon as measures to that extent have already been finalized along with finalizing on the regulations concerning stationary-source.
The new policy issued on CAFÉ standards necessitate that all vehicles, cars and trucks, in the United States will have to be better in fuel efficiency. That obviously minor change is expected to surely have a big impact when considering the fact as to the number of existing cars and trucks in the United States and the period all those automobiles will travel around on the road. “The EPA claims that the standards will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 960 million metric tons and cut U.S. auto emissions by 21 per cent over business as usual by 2030.” Moreover, the new standards which are an expansion of the already existing standards would mandate the automobiles, especially cars and light-trucks, manufactured in the United States to meet 34.5 mpg by the year 2016. This eventually is aimed at dipping the oil consumption and emission of greenhouse gases in the United States drastically when the full-fledged and proper implementation happens. Contrary to the numerous energy laws which Obama has enacted during his tenure, the CAFÉ standards are believed to be the most undisputed and widely accepted laws by the industry as well as the general public alike.
CAFÉ standards are undoubtedly good news for both the environment and also for consumers as well. The auto industry, the Environment Protection and Agency and the entire environmental community in general is more than happy and comfortable with the new policy as proposed by the Obama Administration. However, stringent adherence to CAFÉ Standards and boosting the standards along with the long-term goal of reducing carbon emission is a regulatory issue that splits the Congress and the Democrats concerning the role that government needs to play in this regard. For those automobiles that do not meet these standards, a tax by named the Gas Guzzler Tax would be imposed. This action would be taken in order not to support the manufacturing and purchase of vehicles that are not efficient in terms of fuel. This Gas Guzzler Tax would be collected by the department of Internal Revenue and is ought to be paid by the vehicle manufacturer. The amount of tax that the manufacturer would be mandated to pay would be displayed on the fuel economy label of the vehicle; for instance, the window stickers available in new cars etc.
Groups that have taken stance on CAFÉ standards The nongovernmental organization Environmental Investigation Agency strongly expressed its views that dependence on Bio fuels will result in massive scale of deforestation and thereby causing adverse effect on environment. The nongovernmental organization like Auto Alliance came out with support to the new CAFÉ policy of Obama.
According to them the automakers will have the advantage of having a single regulation throughout the U.S, unlike the earlier cases: the states like California were sticking to their own fuel efficiency standards.
Auto Alliance is an organization which is the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers in The United States. After numerous years of struggle to fight fuel economy and carbon emissions, the Auto Alliance now is in complete favour of the CAFÉ standards.
The primary reason for Auto Alliance being in favour of the CAFÉ standards is due to the fact that the new standards will allow all automakers of the United States to strive towards one set of policy. The Auto Alliance states that it will call upon all industries of the US for the reduction of carbon emission. The officials of the Auto Alliance say that they will ensure that they make use of every engineer they have and every investment dollar available to make this vision of sustainable mobility a reality. The Auto Alliance also highlights the need for all Americans to buy only clean, fuel-efficient autos produced in large numbers by the companies of the Auto Alliance in order to meet this climate change commitment.
As far as the other organization – Environmental Investigation Agency is concerned; there is a similar response as Auto Alliance to the CAFÉ standards. The organization is jointly trying to establish a new set of guidelines and regulations that set out nationwide greenhouse gas emission standards. This initiative is expected to drastically augment the fuel economy of all new fleet vehicles that would be sold in the United States.
“The rules could potentially save the average buyer of a 2016 model year car $3,000 over the life of the vehicle and, nationally, will conserve about 1.8 billion barrels of oil and reduce nearly a billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the lives of the vehicles covered.”
The Environmental Protection Agency has reacted positively to the CAFÉ policy by restricting the number of zero-emission vehicles which count for the CAFE standards. Formally, the EPA will permit each automaker to apply up to 200,000 vehicles of zero-emissions towards the long-term goals of the policy through 2016. After this time frame, electric vehicles will not be carrying a zero-emissions tag.
Electronic Vehicles will be then reviewed on an emissions number which is based loosely upon the CO2 formed from producing the electricity required for charging the vehicle.
Despite numerous organizations and agencies being in favour of these newly issues policies on CAFÉ Standards, there are rumours going around about the advantages and disadvantages that are to be faced due to these standards. The biggest problem with such standards that are set out for fuel- efficiency is that they support better use of anything which is being made more resourceful. For instance, if a particular car is more efficient, then it becomes obviously cheaper to drive the vehicle, and hence the owner will almost certainly use the vehicle for longer drives covering more distance. It may also so happen that the owner of the car might even move out of work or consider various other options which may in turn increase the fuel consumption. This is indeed great news for the car owner since he gets increased effectiveness from driving more.
However, it is pertinent to note in this context that the vehicle emissions may not go down much. Even the above scenario leads to increased savings (money wise) over the life of the car, the added cost per unit of emissions reduction obviously increases. Additional social costs, like traffic obstruction and bigger risk of accidents, increase as well. This can be termed as the “rebound effect,” and approximating the size of the same is the subject of important research among numerous economists off late. But all said and done, stringent CAFÉ standards would result in better situation in tackling the environmental hazard.
In conclusion, it can be strongly hoped that these efforts by WTO get recognized by all the member nations and they adapt it in the true spirit and contribute to saving Mother Earth.
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