The Public Policy

Meet the New Climate Change Kid on the Block

The Climate Registry will thrive in the enviro-activist Obama era.

By 12.19.08

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Barack Obama announced his new energy team at a press conference Monday, sending a subtle slap down to President Bush by saying his administration would "value science" and "make decisions based on the facts."

The four appointments are a precursor to what will be the most enviro-activist administration in American history. Among others, Obama tapped Carol Browner, former EPA chief in the Clinton administration, to head up a new office in the White House designed to coordinate environmental policies. In a move that will please multiple facets of his leftist base, he also picked Nancy Sutley (an open lesbian and current deputy mayor in Los Angeles) to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

The press conference underscored the Obama agenda for curbing so-called catastrophic climate change. That agenda will doubtless extend to supporting nonprofit organizations like the Climate Registry.

If you've never heard of it, don't worry. The California-based nonprofit has kept out of the headlines. But it has the potential to be a major player in the ongoing debate over climate-change policy. It's also a prime example of the snug relationship between environmentalist groups and state governments.

The Climate Registry's mission is simple: convince companies, organizations, state and local governments, and other entities to sign on and report their greenhouse gas emissions. There are several groups devoted to that cause around the country, but the registry, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, is the most far-reaching. Thirty-nine states, the District of Columbia, nine Canadian provinces, six Mexican states, and three Native American tribes have signed on as members.

Members are not required to report their emissions on a state-, province-, or tribe-wide basis. Instead, they serve as the registry's funding factory, appointing a board member, signing a statement of principles and goals, and paying a voluntary annual fee ranging from $20,000 to $50,000, depending on the state or region's population.

They also serve as a catalyst for recruiting entities within the state, province, or tribe as "reporters." For the privilege of tracking their own emissions, reporters are required to pay an annual membership fee ranging from $450 to $10,000. Nearly 300 entities have joined as reporters nationwide.

The registry has created what it calls a Climate Registry Information System that reporters use to input their greenhouse gas emissions data. The public then has access to the verified emissions reports. The "benefit" for companies is getting a leg up on tracking carbon dioxide emissions in preparation for Obama's inevitable cap-and-trade system.

That brings up the cozy relationship between the registry and state governments. The group's IRS Form 990 is not yet available, but a budget projection circulated by the group estimated $1 million in contributions from member states, provinces, or tribes for the 2008 fiscal year, well over half of the registry's estimated budget.

The funds, ostensibly, are "seed money" to get the registry up and running. Once enough reporters sign on and begin paying dues, the payments will no longer be necessary, supporters say. But stop and consider what that means: state governments across the country are serving as grantors to an out-of-state nonprofit without generating any tangible benefit for taxpayers, aside from (supposedly) fighting the giant boogieman of climate change.

State-level environmental regulatory agencies also have a dubious connection with the registry. In North Carolina, for example, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources sent a letter on agency stationery trying to recruit DENR-regulated companies to join the registry and pay membership fees. Adding to the conflict of interest, agency staffers have used taxpayer funds to travel on behalf of the registry, tried to convince other states to join the fold, and even opened up agency offices for registry recruitment sessions.

The registry claims to be policy neutral, but it's partially funded by grants from climate-change alarmist groups such as the Kendall Foundation, the Merck Family Fund, and the Energy Foundation. Its agenda is clear. In addition to advocating the voluntary reporting system, the group supports state-level mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions.

Only ten states have yet to join the registry: Alaska, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Texas, Indiana, West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. With Obama stepping up efforts to create a national cap-and-trade system -- maybe with the registry at the forefront -- any last holdouts will face enormous pressure.

In the past, Americans have valued liberty above safety. That's changing. Today, we fork out trillions in the name of economic stabilization, surrender civil liberties in the name of fighting the war on terror, and sign away our freedoms in the name of reducing temperatures and sea levels. Forgotten is that the chief purpose of government is securing our God-given liberty, not securing us.

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About the Author
David N. Bass is a journalist who writes from the Old North State. Follow him on Twitter.