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Climate Change Legislation


Today is Blog Action Day and the theme is climate change. The Congress has yet to pass climate change legislation. The biggest obstacles to passing legislation that would reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are the Republicans in Congress who are largely opposed to mandatory caps on emissions. It may be possible, however, to pass the legislation.

A New York Times op-ed piece last Sunday proves that both sides of the political aisle can come together about climate change. Written by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the op-ed piece declared, “We refuse to accept the argument that the United States cannot lead the world in addressing global climate change.” Kerry and Graham wrote that they are “convinced that we have found both a framework for climate legislation to pass Congress.”

The op-ed piece listed five proposals concerning climate legislation:

  1. Aggressive reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
  2. Investments in renewable energy and nuclear power
  3. Become free of foreign oil
  4. Consider a border tax on goods produced in countries that do not accept environmental standards
  5. Develop a mechanism to protect businesses and consumers from increases in energy prices by establishing a floor and ceiling for the cost of emission allowances

Late last month a draft of Senate legislation which would put a mandatory cap on U.S. GHG emissions was released by the Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer and Kerry who is the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. The reduction levels called for by the draft in emissions is 20 percent from 1990 levels in 2020. The House measure passed this summer called for a 17 percent reduction. The draft did not include how emissions permits would be allocated.

Environmentalist groups applauded the draft as a good beginning. “This draft is an important starting point for Senators to negotiate effective climate legislation that can win 60 votes,” said Environmental Defense Fund Legislative Director Elizabeth Thompson. We look forward to working with Chairmen Boxer and Kerry and their colleagues to pass a bill that’s environmentally effective and economically smart.”

“This appears to be a very solid start, one we hope will get the attention of the entire Senate and galvanize action this year,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of the Washington-based group Clean Air Watch.

Climate change mitigation will protect national security

Pointing out that climate change mitigation is necessary for national security is a tactic some groups are taking, including Operation Free, a coalition of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans.

“If you talk about climate change in a way that discusses fragile states that are very vulnerable to its impacts, people realize that it’s our troops that will have to respond,” said John Powers, chief operating officer at the progressive Truman National Security Project, a member of Operation Free.

Kerry said of the Senate climate change legislation draft, “Fundamentally, this bill is about keeping Americans safe. Unless we act decisively, climate change could become a threat multiplier, a lit match on the kindling of an already dangerous world.” “Decision makers need information and analysis on the effects climate change can have on security,” CIA Director Leon Panetta said. “The CIA is well-positioned to deliver that intelligence.”

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