Alexander Ochs, Center for Clean Air Policy
Alexander Ochs is director of International Policy at the Center for Clean Air Policy. As such, he provides strategic guidance on all aspects of international climate policy at the center. He oversees CCAP's international efforts and also advises on their US strategy.
Alexander is also the founding editor of FACET - Forum for Atlantic Climate and Energy Talks, and a senior fellow at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) at Johns Hopkins University. Between 2001 and 2007, he worked as a senior research associate at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) where he advised key decision-makers from across Europe.
A co-editor of two books and author of numerous scholarly articles and policy papers, he has also contributed widely to public media and currently serves as a regular commentator for Deutsche Welle, Germany's public international broadcaster.
Alexander holds an M.A. in Political Science from Munich University as well as a B.A. from the University of Cologne and has held research or teaching positions at City University of New York, Princeton University, Humboldt University and Free University Berlin.
1. What are your priorities in your work at the Center for Clean Air Policy?
CCAP is known for its analytical and consensus building leadership - "Dialogue, Insight and Solutions." Balancing both environmental and economic interests, we seek to develop, promote, and implement politically viable, market-based solutions to climate, air quality, and energy problems. As Director of International Policy, I provide strategic guidance on all aspects of international climate policy. I oversee CCAP's engagement in the UN negotiations and our three major international programs: I manage the European Dialogue project which partners government, industry, finance and non-government stakeholders to develop a medium-to-long-term EU approach to climate change, energy and finance policy; I contribute to the design of our Future Action Dialogue which brings together experts from 30 developed and developing countries to produce future climate policy options; and I assist with the Global Sectoral Approaches Study, with the broad objective of helping developing countries identify opportunities that will result in economic and other benefits from reducing carbon emissions. Plus, I advise, from an international perspective, on CCAP's three major program initiatives in the United States: our Climate Policy Initiative which develops solutions to further advance the U.S. climate debate; the California Program which advises that state's climate policy; and the Urban Leader Adaptation Initiative which assists local communities to develop climate resilient strategies.
2. Do you expect significantly more transatlantic agreement on climate policy after the election of a new US president and Congress? What kind of common initiatives would you like to see?
For most of the last seven and a half years, states and local authorities have taken the lead on US climate policy. Chances are good that a binding national greenhouse gas emissions cap will become a reality in the next US Congress. Most senators and representatives now understand that America can and must do better in its climate and energy policy. Expectations for the upcoming elections are that this majority will further expand. As for the presidential candidates, Senators McCain and Obama have both announced ambitious climate and energy targets; they both support emissions trading as the key mitigation tool - which it already is in the EU - and a US leadership role in building an effective global climate regime. After January 20, 2009 there will be an enormous window of opportunity for close transatlantic coordination and cooperation in the field of climate change. The ground for this new role has to be prepared now, on both sides of the Atlantic. At CCAP, we will concentrate our transatlantic efforts on four key issues: first, the challenge of linking the different emission trading markets which already exist or are currently developed - this includes the discussion of price caps for emission allowances and the debate over allocation versus auctioning of these allowances; second, the question of how to address competitiveness concerns as a result of mandatory climate legislation; third, how to encourage developing countries action on climate change; and forth, the technological and political hindrances to large-scale carbon capture and sequestration projects.
3. What is the single greatest challenge facing the transatlantic alliance today?
One has to be aware of the old truism that everyone always finds most important what they do themselves. Of course there are questions of war and peace or economic stability that come to mind first if we talk about "greatest challenges." However, even these areas termed "high politics" by old-school political thought will be greatly affected by our rapidly changing climate. Most scientists agree that in order to avert major disruptions of Earth's ecosystems - and the societies depending on them - we will have to halve global emissions by 2050. Currently, worldwide greenhouse gas emissions and energy demand grow faster than ever before. We have to stop and reverse these trends within the next ten years. To reform our economic systems which are entirely built on the cheap supply of fossil fuels and create a radically energy-efficient world mostly powered by renewable energies - this is a challenge of truly revolutionary dimensions. We will need a fair and effective international burden-sharing agreement to trigger such a third industrial revolution and tackle the climate crisis. Many prominent commentators have called climate change this century's greatest challenge - and they do not even work on it full-time like I do!