Bipartisan Bill Would Identify Emissions Intensity of American-Made Goods

Heatwaves pummel the residents of the planet we call Earth. Record high temperatures around the globe cause wildfires, pollution, and misery. The U.S. imports a significant amount of goods from countries with inferior emissions reduction efforts while the planet cooks.

A bill with bipartisan support would direct the Department of Energy to conduct a comprehensive study comparing the emissions intensity of certain goods produced in the U.S. to the emissions of the same goods produced in other countries. U.S. Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced the Providing Reliable, Objective, Verifiable Emissions Intensity and Transparency (PROVE IT) Act.

The bill would bring several benefits. The data collected can help address climate change through trade policy and make it easier for American-made producers and manufacturers who compete against companies that emit far more emissions. After the study’s publication, the DOE would update the data every five years.

“The bipartisan PROVE IT Act will provide reliable data that are needed to quantify the climate benefits of the United States’ investments in cleaner, more efficient manufacturing practices and to hold nations like China accountable for their emissions-heavy production of goods like steel,” said Senator Coons, in a statement.

Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism

There is a significant disadvantage when a country, like China, exports goods to another country, like the U.S., with lower greenhouse gas emissions. China is the world’s top greenhouse gas emitter, releasing twice as many carbon emissions as the U.S., the world’s second-largest emitter.

Solar cells and panels, some of the products covered by the bill, serve as good examples. Most of the photovoltaic (PV) production is in China, mainly in Xinjiang and Jiangsu, where coal production accounts for over 75 percent of the yearly power supply. The coal industry in China receives government tariffs. According to the International Energy Agency, China will produce most of the components for solar panels through 2025.

Enter a carbon border adjustment mechanism. A CBAM is an environmental trade policy, such as an import fee or tariff. CBAMs are designed to level the playing field between countries with differing emissions reduction policies. The tenet of a CBAM is that domestic goods are environmentally cleaner than foreign ones.

Benefits of a CBAM

CBAMs provide several benefits for climate change efforts, according to Columbia University’s Center On Global Energy Policy:

  • Drive nations with high emissions and sectors to reduce emissions or accelerate emissions reduction.
  • Protect jobs and trade in critical industries.
  • Bring environmental benefits, such as emissions reduction.
  • Generate revenues for the implementing nation.
  • Encourage trade within countries with higher environmental standards.

The EU is implementing a CBAM this year, requiring reporting of carbon emissions. The PROVE It Act could be a step towards implementing a CBAM in the U.S. The bill “serves as a significant move toward a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM),” Harry Manin, Deputy Legislative Director of Sierra Club’s Living Economy Program, said in a statement. “A CBAM framework that rewards best practices will slash pollution, boost the U.S. economy, and increase good manufacturing jobs at home,” Manin added.

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheeseman, freelance writer/journalist/copyeditor Twitter: @gmcheeseman

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