Senators Barbara Boxer and John Kerry along with nine other supporters released their comprehensive climate change bill today, which offers more strict limits on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than the U.S. House version that passed three months ago. The 820-page draft climate change bill aims to cut 20 percent of U.S. GHG emissions (recorded at 2005 levels) by 2020. The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) is only expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 17 percent by 2020. At a Capitol Hill event, Barbara Boxer, the chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said: “We know clean energy is the ticket to strong, sustainable economic growth.” According to ABC News, John Kerry focused his comments on security: “This is really about America’s security. It’s about our economic security, our energy security and our national security.”
According to Greenwire, in the Senate draft bill, “cap-and-trade” has been relabeled “pollution reduction and investment.” The draft bill purposely leaves some details vague, and encourages Democrats and Republicans to negotiate and fill in some of the blanks. However, the bill does offer specifics on several critical issues, “ranging from incentives for natural gas and nuclear power to how Congress can promote tree planting and sustainable farming practices as alternative compliance options for industry.” For the House bill, ASLA advocacy worked to incorporate two separate pieces of legislation focused on using trees and green roofs to reduce energy use– The Energy Conservation Through Trees Act, and Green Resources for Energy Efficient Neighborhoods (GREEN) Act. (see earlier post).
A number of environmental organizations are also highlighting a key selling point — climate change legislation could create lots of “green jobs.” According to The Guardian (UK), the University of California at Berkeley released a report stating ACES, as passed in the House, would create up to 1.9 million new jobs by 2020.
According to an E&E analysis, there are currently 45 “yes” or “probably yes” supporters of the bill in the Senate. There are an additional 21 “fence-sitters.” According to Greenwire, “they include Democrats and Republicans who have offered positive statements about the legislative process, including Sens. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). Other lawmakers on that list — Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), for example — have sounded recently like anything but cap-and-trade supporters.”
The Guardian (UK) notes that there is growing global pressure on the U.S. to move quickly on climate change before the upcoming UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Copenhagen in December. “The targets appear chosen for their resonance with European and Asian leaders who have been looking to America to demonstrate commitment to action on global warming ahead of the meeting at Copenhagen in December cast by the United Nations as a last chance for getting the world to act on climate change before it is too late to avoid catastrophic warming.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. proposed legislation would still cut a smaller percentage of total emissions than the UK’s new plan, which aims for a 34 percent reduction by 2020 (see earlier post).