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June 15, 2009

Capitol Hotline (Jun. 15)

Progress Slow in Bonn, Boxer Wants Mark-up in August, Republican Nuclear Energy Bill, Endangerment Finding Extension, Senate RES, US & China Work on Climate Deal, Brazilian Pres. Veto Land Reform Bill, Japan Sets Low 2020 Target

In this issue

  • Hot Topic of the Week
    • Progress Slow at UN Climate Talks in Bonn
  • USCAN Advocacy
    • Call Members Offices and Urge Them to Defend, Strengthen, and Pass the Waxman Markey Bill
    • Upcoming NOAA US GCRP Climate Impacts Report
    • Endangerment Finding Comment Period Ends 6/23
  • Inside the Beltway
    • Boxer Hopes to Mark up Cap-and-Trade Legislation the First Week of August
    • House Republicans Unveil Nuclear-Heavy Energy Bill
    • Republicans Seek Extension on Endangerment Finding Comment Period
    • Proposed Senate Renewable Electricity Standard Leans Heavily on Energy Efficiency
  • Outside the Beltway
    • US and China Working Toward Climate Deal
    • Brazilian President to Veto Land Reform Bill, Open to GHG Targets
    • Japan Sets 2020 Target 2% More Than Kyoto Pledge
  • Other Headlines

Hot Topic of the Week


Progress Slow at UN Climate Talks in Bonn

The latest round of UN climate talks held in Bonn, Germany June 1-12, made progress on technical issues but little headway on the major elements that need to be fleshed out to achieve a new global climate treaty. Key issues still to be resolved are greenhouse gas emission reduction targets by developed countries, financing commitments by developed countries to help developing countries reduce emissions and financial assistance for developing countries to adapt to impacts of the climate change that are already taking place.

A draft agreement, which was introduced just before the talks in Bonn, has now ballooned to 200 pages from 53 leading into the talks. Michael Zammit Cutujar, the head of the UN working group overseeing the negotiating text, said the expanded document has gotten difficult to read and he doesn't expect major breakthroughs on it until Copenhagen. "This is like the evolutionary process in reverse - the Big Bang comes at the end," he said.

Developing countries continued to call for developed countries to commit to 40% reductions below 1990 levels by 2020, a goal that Todd Stern, US special envoy for climate change, has said is "not realistic." According to Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, the most optimistic analysis of targets proposed by developed countries within the Kyoto Protocol averages out at 24 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, below the 25%-40% range recommended by the IPCC. But that figure excludes the United States, Russia and New Zealand, which would have a "huge impact on the total range," said de Boer.

Little progress was made on financing emission reduction efforts in developing countries. China's call for developed nations to commit 0.5 to 1 percent of their GDP to finance developing country reduction efforts did not gain traction. Developed countries instead looked to private sector investment, largely via carbon market mechanisms, to fund such actions.

Despite the lack of progress on the major issues, de Boer said he was still confident that a broad outline of an agreement with be reached in Copenhagen, with details to be worked out following the negotiations.

U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said that President Obama is considering going to Copenhagen this December, which would be the first visit to the annual U.N. conference by a sitting president since George H.W. Bush in 1992 to Rio de Janeiro. Read more at Carbon Positive


USCAN Advocacy


Action Alert: Call Members Offices and Urge Them to Defend, Strengthen, and Pass the Waxman Markey Bill

The American Clean Energy and Security Act could be voted on by the entire House as early as next week. During the USCAN, 1Sky, Green for All, and Energy Action Coalition conference call with Chairmen Waxman and Markey on Wednesday, June 10, Markey said:

"These opportunities come every 15 years or so. We can't assume we'll be in the same position in a few years - we did that in 1977-78, 1993-94. We need people to organize! This is the most important energy vote in a generation if not of all time."

The most critical thing between now and then is generating grass tops calls in to members' offices asking them to defend, strengthen and pass the bill. Anything you can do to facilitate this is helpful! Sample talking points are available from the c campaign and 1Sky, which also has sample LTEs available.

Action Alert: Upcoming NOAA US GCRP Climate Impacts Report

On Tuesday, June 16, the U.S. Global Change Research Program is expected to release a comprehensive scientific assessment of climate change impacts in the United States. It presents the first nationwide snapshot of our vulnerability to climate change since 2001 and represents the best available climate science in the United States. More information on the report and suggested framing for it is available from the C. campaign. More information, including state-by-state fact sheets will be available from UCS. Contact Aaron Huertas for more information:

Action Alert: EPA Endangerment Finding Comment Period Ends 6/23

On April 17, the EPA formally declared that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. This critical finding paves the way for EPA to move forward and take action to regulate the sources of greenhouse gas emissions.   The public comment period ends June 23, 2009. We have heard that the docket does not have that many comments in it and we need to show overwhelming support for regulation of greenhouse gases. So let's  flood the docket with as many comments as possible! Please push an alert out to all your networks - it's a simple ask for activists, and we need to do all we can to support EPA. Comments should be sent to They must include the "DocketID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0171" in the subject line. More information is available from Sierra Club at: Other action alerts that may be helpful are: PSR  NWF LCV


Feel free to contact me if you would like more information or have questions on any of the action items above. I am always interested to hear what you are working on:


Inside the Beltway


Boxer Hopes to Mark up Cap-and-Trade Legislation the First Week of August

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) plans to wait to mark up climate legislation until the week of August 3 in order to have a series of hearings first, she announced last week. Boxer plans to pivot off of House floor action on HR 2454, or the American Clean Energy & Security Act, which may be brought to the floor the week of June 22. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said it wasn't clear if the Ways and Means Committee and Agriculture Committee would hold markups on climate legislation before it comes before the entire House, though Hoyer said the committees "have the opportunity" to do so.

Last Thursday Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) met with the Reps. Waxman and Markey for more than an hour without bridging differences on the bill, though Peterson said "we made good progress." Peterson is pushing for the bill to be more favorable to farmers, such as giving the Agricultural Department the authority to decide whether environmentally friendly actions by farmers would qualify for lucrative benefits under a cap-and-trade allowance system. Currently, the bill gives the EPA this authority.

In the Senate, there was disagreement between Democrats over an offshore drilling amendment that made it into an energy bill being drafted in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The amendment, introduced by Sen. Bryon Dorgan (D-ND) permits drilling within 45 miles (and in one instance, within 25 miles) off the coast of Florida. Five of the committees 13 Democrats voted against the change. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee plans to wrap up the energy bill this week.

Boxer predicts a climate and energy bill in the Senate will have momentum no matter how large the margin is from the House floor vote -- just so long as it passes. Boxer said she would start writing her climate bill based off the House legislation but with "some modifications that some of our colleagues want." Other Senate committees that will have a stake in the climate legislation include the Energy and Natural Resources, Finance, Commerce and Foreign Relations panels.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he wants to hold a floor debate in the fall on the climate and energy package. Read more at E&E (sub. req'd)


House Republicans Unveil Nuclear-Heavy Energy Bill

House Republicans unveiled an energy bill that calls for a hundred new nuclear power plants to be built in the next two decades. The bill also provides incentives for increased oil and gas production on public and private lands and would authorize oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The measure does not include any mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions. "This is an alternative that takes us in the direction of energy independence and a clean environment without the national energy tax being offered by the Democrats," Representative Mike Pence, (R-ID).  Republican aides said they are hoping the bill will lure some Democrats away from the Waxman-Markey bill, rather than simply opposing the legislation. Read more in New York Times


Republicans Seek Extension on Endangerment Finding Comment Period

Ten House Ranking Republican Members are requesting that the EPA extends the commitment period of the proposed Endangerment Finding, which is set for June 23. They noted the potential for the measure to trigger a cascade of regulatory obligations for small and large businesses as justification for the requested extension. "For a rule of this magnitude, 60 days is simple inadequate," wrote the members.  If enacted, the measure would allow the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Read more at American Chronicle


Proposed Senate Renewable Electricity Standard Leans Heavily on Energy Efficiency

Environmentalists fear the renewable electricity standard being considered in the Senate could undercut state renewable energy programs. The renewable electricity standard would require utilities to use renewable energy to supply 15 percent of their electricity sales by 2021, but could substitute almost one-fourth of that through energy efficiency measures. A National Renewable Energy Laboratory study found that the Senate's current RES would actually decrease renewable energy production by 2021 because of efficiency gains. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) said she is trying to negotiate a higher standard with even more energy efficiency allowed to help reach the targets, but she said she doesn't have the votes to support a higher agreement yet. American Wind Energy Association CEO Denise Bode said "without a strong RES, the U.S. will fall behind China and Europe," and 75 percent of new green jobs would be created abroad. Read more at E&E (sub. req'd)


Outside the Beltway


US and China Working Toward Climate Deal

The United States expects China to "very considerably" slow the increase of its greenhouse gas emissions, until it reaches a "peak year," after which reductions must be set in, said Todd Stern, US special envoy on climate change. Following a trip to China last weekend, Stern said the Chinese authorities were on board with the "peak year" concept, though there is no agreement on the year as of yet. Stern also said the US wouldn't demand specific cuts in China's carbon emissions, but expected significant reductions "to where they otherwise would be." At the UN climate talks in Bonn last Friday, Jonathan Pershing, deputy envoy on climate change, said a global climate treaty should include measurable domestic goals for China but without binding outcomes. Read more at CNN


Brazilian President to Veto Land Reform Bill, Open to GHG Targets

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told Reuters last Wednesday that he would veto clauses in an Amazon land reform bill that would grant companies and non-residents land titles. Environmentalists have criticized the bill as a land giveaway that could spur more deforestation and significantly hinter Brazil's prior commitment of reducing deforestation by 70 percent by 2018 in order to fight global warming. Lula also said that Brazil was open to adopting targets for greenhouse gas emissions if developed countries did more to curb climate change. Read more at Reuters


Japan Sets 2020 Target 2% More Than Kyoto Pledge

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso announced that Japan will cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 15% over the next 11 years, a figure derided by environmentalists as "appalling." The target equates to a cut of about 8% from 1990 levels by 2020, just 2% more than what Japan pledged it would achieve by 2012 under the Kyoto Protocol. "I do not believe it is a number that is close to what Japan needs to do and should do," said Yu Qingtai, Chinese climate envoy. NGOs at the United Nations climate change talks in Bonn rallied against the target, including which released a flyer dubbing the Japanese Prime Minister "George W. Aso."

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