Capitol Hotline (Jun. 29)
Climate Bill Passes House, Merkel & Obama Meet, MEF in Mexico, US Resists 2 Degree Target, UN Climate Summit in Sept, Americans Support Limiting Emissions, Japan Revisits Emissions Target, AEP & Southern Back out of FutureGen
In this issue
- Hot Topic of the Week
- Comprehensive Energy & Climate Bill Passes the House
- USCAN Advocacy
- Take a Breath
- Inside the Beltway
- Merkel, Obama Pledge Cooperation on Climate
- Outside the Beltway
- 'Significant Differences' Remain after Major Economies Forum in Mexico
- U.S. Resists 2 Degree Celsius Target for G8 Summit
- UN Climate Summit in NYC in September; Climate Week NYC Announced
- Poll: Strong Majority of Americans Support Limiting Emissions
- Japan Revisits Emissions Target
- AEP and Southern Back Out of FutureGen
- Other Headlines
Hot Topic of the Week
Comprehensive Energy & Climate Bill Passes the House
The House of Representatives passed a sweeping climate and energy bill last Friday, the first time a U.S. chamber of Congress has passed a bill that sets mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The American Clean Energy & Security Act passed the House with a vote of 219-212; 211 Democrats and 8 Republicans supported the bill. In his weekly address a day after the vote, President Obama said the legislation was "historic" and would "open the door to a clean energy economy and a better future for America."
The majority of environmental groups hailed the legislation as an important step forward in addressing climate change and shifting the country to a clean energy economy, while some voiced strong concerns about the deficiencies of the bill. Many urged strengthening the bill as it moves through the legislative process. Read USCAN member reactions.
Sponsors of the bill resolved major sticking points on agricultural issues with Midwestern members to secure their support just a couple of days before it went to the floor. Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) reached agreement with Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) to have the Agriculture Department - rather than the EPA - manage an offset program that pays farmers and other landowners to implement environmentally friendly practices. They also consented to a multi-year moratorium on EPA regulations that calculate "indirect" greenhouse gas emissions from land-use changes relating to biofuels, such as the clearing of rainforests in other countries to grow corps for food so more land in the United States could be used to make fuel feedstocks. The final bill also included a provision that would punish countries with trade sanctions if they did not accept greenhouse gas emissions limits, a stipulation that President Obama said that he was unhappy with on Sunday.
Last week, the Obama administration deployed key Cabinet officials and staff across the country to lobby lawmakers still on the fence. In a public address on Thursday, President Obama urged the House to pass the bill, saying it would create millions of new jobs and "finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy." The European Union also announced its support of the bill. "We want the U.S. to go as far and as fast as they can on climate change," said EU Commission President Jose Manual Barroso. "We want Waxman-Markey to succeed."
Public support of climate and energy legislation remained strong leading up to the House vote, according to a poll in earlier this month. A survey by Democratic firm Mellman Group and the Republican group Public Opinion Strategies found that 78 percent of voters want the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with 72 percent supporting the core principles of energy legislation that reduces emissions and bolsters renewable energy. The pollsters indicated that critics' arguments against the legislation have not resonated with the public. "At present, attacks alleging higher taxes and lost jobs do not diminish support for the plan because voters continue to believe that efforts to reduce global warming will create rather than eliminate new American jobs," their memo stated.
This weekend, President Obama called for the Senate to get to work on their version of the bill, emphasizing the economic incentives and national security benefits the measure would usher in. David Axelrod, Obama's top political advisor, said the Senate did not have the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster yet, but said the vote wouldn't come until the fall, allowing enough time to rally support. Senate action on the climate bill is expected in early July as six committees begin preparing their own sections of legislation to match up with the House bill. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has set a September 18 deadline for the committees to complete their work. Read more at E&E (sub. req'd)
For everyone who worked on the Waxman-Markey bill: take a breath, hold your members accountable, and prepare yourselves for a long Senate fight.
Inside the Beltway
Merkel, Obama Pledge Cooperation on Climate
German Chancellor Merkel met with President Obama discuss climate change in Washington, DC last Friday, in preparation for the G8 Summit in Italy, July 8-10. Speaking at a joint press conference, Obama said that Europe has "moved more rapidly" than the United States on addressing the global warming, but pointed to the House energy bill as a sign that the country is making progress. Obama also said he spoke frankly with Merkel about creating a framework where the United States "can help lead the international effort." Merkel said she felt "gratified" about Obama's commitment to the issue and said they both were convinced of their responsibility to those countries in the world "far more heavily affected by climate change." Read the transcript
Immediately following the White House press conference, Avaaz.org held a mock conference of its own just outside the White House. Complete with giant bobble heads and dancing green hats, the stunt was a picked up by a number of domestic and international press. Watch the YouTube video.
Outside the Beltway
'Significant Differences' Remain after Major Economies Forum in Mexico
There remain "significant differences" between participants of the third preparatory meeting of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, said US climate envoy Todd Stern. At the conclusion of the negotiations held in Mexico last week, Stern said "there's not final agreement on anything yet," but he was still confident that there will be a successful agreement in Copenhagen. Stern said some progress was made on financing for emissions reduction, technology and adaptation, with a number of countries interested in a Mexican proposal to form a "green fund" that all but the poorest countries would contribute in order to assist least developed countries. The $10 billion fund would be financed through government contributions and run by a multilateral agency, such as the World Bank. Some environmentalists are concerned that the Mexican proposal lacks compliance mechanisms to ensure that wealthy countries contribute. Norway has introduced a proposal to finance a similar fund with proceeds from auctions emissions permits, but Stern said that proposal was "more amenable to some countries than others," without offering specifics. Stern also reiterated that the United States would not commit to reducing emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. This was the third in a series of talks that will culminate in a heads of state meeting hosted by President Obama, to be held in Italy on July 9. Read more at AP
U.S. Resists 2 Degree Celsius Target for G8 Summit
The United States continues to resist calls for industrialized nations to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, according to draft G8 summit text. The Italian draft for the G8 Summit, to be held July 8-10 in L'Aquila, Italy, indicates that the US delegation is uncomfortable with the European Union's language of limiting "the average increase in temperature to 2 [degrees] Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels." The US wrote a comment on the section that "any negotiation of numbers or figures" should be undertaken through the UN negotiating process. US delegates say the Obama administration is still studying the 2 degree threshold and that no decision has been made yet. President Obama has endorsed the American Clean Energy & Security Act which has the stated goal of staying below 2 degrees Celsius. Read more in Reuters
Last Friday, 47 CEOs of regional, national and international organizations wrote a letter to President Obama calling on him to work with world leaders at the G8 Summit to set a goal of keeping global warming as far below 2 degrees as possible. They stressed that this pragmatic goal would serve as a guide post that would "keep us vigilant in reviewing and renewing our efforts." The letter was hand-delivered to Special Envoy for Climate Change, Todd Stern and Deputy Envoy Jonathan Pershing.
UN Climate Summit in NYC in September; Climate Week NYC Announced
UN chief Ban Ki-moon has extended invitations to heads of state to attend a global summit at the United Nations headquarters in New York City on September 22. The Secretary General called for world leaders to take part in the event and "give clear instructions to [their] negotiators on climate change" leading up to the UN climate talks in Copenhagen in December. The summit will occur on the eve of the start of the UN General Assembly's high-level discussions. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg also joined Ban Ki-moon to announced plans to launch "Climate Week NYC" on the sidelines of the UN climate summit in New York. Climate Week NYC, to be held September 21-25, will feature five days of cultural events, workshops, seminars and other activities organized by a number of non-governmental organizations, businesses, artists and academia. Ban Ki-moon said the objective of Climate Week NYC is to build the "political momentum needed to seal the deal in Copenhagen on a fair, effective and scientifically ambitious new climate framework." Read more at the UN News Centre or watch the press conference
Poll: Strong Majority of Americans Support Limiting Emissions
Three-quarters of Americans think the federal government should limit greenhouse gas emissions to reduce global warming, with strong support from Democrats, Republicans and independents alike, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Sixty-two percent of those surveyed said they would support regulation even if it raised the price of purchases, and 56 percent would support a cap-and-trade system if it resulted in a $10 increase in monthly utility costs. Forty-four percent would support cap-and-trade if it increased electricity bills by $25. Read more at Washington Post
Japan Revisits Emissions Target
Two weeks after setting an emission reduction target largely criticized as unambitious, Japan announced it is now reevaluating its goal. While Japan's target of reducing emissions by 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 included only domestic emissions, environment minister Tetsuo Saito said the country would achieve greater reductions by giving technical and financial support to help developing countries cut their emissions. The extent of their support for developing countries has not yet been determined. While most of the world references its emission targets relative to 1990 levels, Japan uses a 2005 base year like the United States. Saito said Japan is willing to take the same stance as the United States on emission reduction targets. The Obama administration has committed to reducing emissions by 14 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Read more at Reuters
AEP and Southern Back Out of FutureGen
The American Electric Power Company and Southern Company, the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the United States, said they were withdrawing immediately from the DOE-backed FutureGen project to capture and store greenhouse gas emissions from a coal-fired power plant. An AEP spokesperson said the companies would have needed to spend about $30 million on the project over the next four to six years, money they could spend elsewhere such as on other climate change programs. AEP will focus on a project at Mountaineer, a 1,300 MW coal-fired power plant in West Virginia. AEP plans to sequester the emissions from 20 MW of the coal plant in an aquifer. The companies' withdrawal comes just weeks after Energy Secretary Steven Chu revived a scaled-back version of the FutureGen project that had been initiated and later scuttled by the Bush administration. Read more at Reuters
- Back to Petroleum: BP Shutters Alternative Energy HQ
- Murky, Expensive Future for Coal Ash Disposal
- Gordon Brown Puts $100 Billion Price Tag on Climate Adaptation
- Brazil Approves Controversial Land Tenure Law
- Ozone Hole Trims Polar Water's CO2-Absorbing Power
Online Comm. Manager & Media Specialist
US Climate Action Network (USCAN)