Tag Archives: Climate Change

First Look at the Kerry Lieberman Energy Bill: Pros and Cons

The long awaited Kerry-Lieberman climate and energy bill was finally unveiled today without a Republican co-sponsor after Lindsey Graham withdrew his support. Still, the American Power Act reflects most of the promises that had been made by the trio over the past months; both good and bad.

A strong push by electric, coal, and gas lobbies to protect their industries is heavily reflected in the bill which promotes nuclear power, “clean” coal, and offshore drilling. Also, carbon caps will be established on a rolling sector-by-sector basis which will not affect certain industries for (like manufacturing) for over 5 years, while others (like agriculture) are completely exempt. This leaves open the possibility for these sectors to produce “offsets” – or free carbon credits – which can be sold to regulated sectors in lieu of making real emissions cuts.

Here is a general overview of the high and low points contained in a draft text released by Kerry’s office today:



Carbon Cap:

The bill calls for an economy-wide emissions reduction to 95.25 percent of 2005 levels by 2013, 83 percent by 2020, 58 percent by 2030, and 17 percent by 2050.

Domestic Offsets:

Establishes a nationwide system under which sources not subject to the greenhouse gas emission reduction program may receive credits for making reductions in emissions that can be sold to and used by those subject to reduction requirements.

Coastal Drilling Opt-out:

States have the right to opt-out of drilling up to 75 miles from their shores, and veto projects of nearby states.

Offshore Drilling:

Despite a smattering of new regulations, offshore drilling stays in the nation’s long-term energy plan.

Clean Energy Funding:

Establishes a Clean Energy Technology Fund, though source for funding is not explicitly outlined.

Nuclear Power:

Incentives include a new investment tax credit to promote the construction of new generating facilities, $54 billion in loan guarantees and a manufacturing tax credit to spur the domestic production of nuclear parts.

Clean Transportation:

Supports electric vehicle infrastructure; provides funding to municipal transportation emissions reduction programs.

“Clean” Coal:

Annual $2 billion for research and development of carbon capture and sequestration methods and devices.

Clean Energy Career Development:

Grants and career training in the fields of clean energy, renewable energy, energy efficiency, climate change mitigation, and climate change adaptation.

International Offsets:

Establishes an independent advisory committee to monitor and approve international offset projects which allow US industries to continue polluting.

Customer Refund:

Two thirds of revenues from carbon trading will rebated to consumers, though not directly.

State Pre-emption:

States will not be permitted to operate their own cap-and-trade programs.

The next few weeks will undoubtedly see push-back from both the right and the left on a number of the bill’s more controversial elements. The chance of any legislation passing the Senate before the summer campaign season begins remains murky, but a strong push by the administration and civil society could mean a victory for the comprehensive, albeit less than perfect, bill.

View the full bill text here.


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Obama on Climate: We Need a Carbon Cap

In a meeting with key Senators and administration officials yesterday, President Obama made one point abundantly clear: the U.S. needs to put a cap on our carbon emissions. Politico reports:

In opening remarks, according to Senators in attendance, President Obama took the idea of an energy-only bill – the preferred approach of moderate Democrats – off the table, saying he wanted a “comprehensive” bill that includes a cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

The President is up against a a strong contingent of Senators who have been trying to sideline a carbon cap with alternate proposals such as the one being drafted by Richard Lugar (R-IN), which would promote ever-dubious “clean coal” initiatives and nuclear power. Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Lisa Mirkowski (R-AK) have also expressed their opposition to any proposal that would put a price on carbon emissions.

But the reality is that we must cap our emissions, and to do it soon. What our constituent-minded members of Congress fail to recognize is that we are the ONLY developed country that has yet to make a solid commitment to cut our carbon levels in the next few decades.

International climate negotiations are at a standstill largely because everyone is waiting for the United States to step up to the plate. Comments made by China’s top climate negotiator today, urging our Congress not to “shift the responsibility for taking more active action to other countries,” reflects a prevalent mood in the global community.

UN Climate talks, which are set to re-commence in December in Mexico, will get nowhere if the U.S. has not yet passed a comprehensive bill that includes a carbon cap.

It seems time to listen to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is urging the GOP to support a comprehensive climate and energy plan. He told the press yesterday: “I’m not going to support some half-assed reform.”

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Climate Negotiations Stalled: Who is to Blame?

As the imminent threat of global warming becomes more and more apparent, global leaders are shying away from making concrete commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. A replacement for the Kyoto Protocol was slated to come out of climate talks in Copenhagen this December. Now, however, many world leaders and climate policy experts are expecting a delay of six months to a year before a binding treaty is agreed upon.

A number of commentators are placing blame on the United States for failing to enact emissions-capping legislation on a domestic level. However, the larger problem is the political impasse between developed and developing nations who both point the finger at the other to make larger emissions cuts. The argument goes something like this: developed nations started it. (Remember the industrial revolution?) On the other hand, “rapidly developing” countries like China and India are some of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas levels at present. Both sides refuse to act before a firm commitment is made by the other. According to The Guardian (UK):

During the latest round of negotiations in Barcelona, developing nations walked out over the America’s refusal to commit to cuts in carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, the countries with the most real stake in the climate change debate merely have to sit back and watch. Poor nations are on average hardest hit by the effects of climate change such as shifting weather patterns and rising water levels. The African continent is seeing an increase in droughts and floods which contribute to the already serious issue of food production. To further illustrate this point, here’s a previous post about global climate change risk:

The global risk analysts at Maplecroft have ranked regional climate change risk based on the following criteria: economy; resource security, ecosystems; poverty, development and health; population, settlement and infrastructure; and institutions, governance and social capital.

Top three most vulnerable countries: (1) Somalia, (2) Haiti, (3) Afghanistan.

Top three emitters of CO2 from energy use: (1) Australia, (2) USA, (3) Canada.

By Mary Tharin

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Climate Talks Must Address REDD Fraud

A coalition of government, business and environmental leaders known as the Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests is pushing the Senate to allocate significant funds toward global deforestation mitigation initiatives. In a report released to Politico, the group is calling for the U.S. to invest $5 billion in programs designed to halt the destruction of forests in a number of developing countries.

While the need to conserve forests is clear (deforestation contributes an estimated 20% of global greenhouse emissions), market-based solutions to the problem are proving difficult to craft. The UN-sponsored Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation program (REDD), which is expected to be a key aspect of climate talks in Copenhagen this December, has drawn criticism from environmental and indigenous groups across the globe.

This week The Guardian (UK) released the results of an investigation that found REDD highly susceptible to fraud by criminal gangs, corrupt politicians and unregulated logging companies.

“Academics and environment groups with long experience working with the logging industry and indigenous communities said that both government and private schemes are being set up with no guarantees to protect communities who depend on the forests.”

According to environmental crimes specialist Peter Younger, REDD provides an incentive for land-grabs which may deprive indigenous peoples of their livelihoods. Instances of fraud have already been reported in Papua New Guinea, where government officials handed out approximately $100 million in fake carbon credits to forest communities.

“The potential for REDD rape and pillage is staggering,” said Rob Dodwell, a British conservationist setting up schemes in Kenya and Cameroon. “Logging companies may turn into carbon companies. All they have to do is count, not cut. It’s like giving a mass murderer money.”

Posted by Mary Tharin


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G.o.t.D. – Global Climate Change Risk

The global risk analysts at Maplecroft have ranked regional climate change risk based on the following criteria: economy; resource security, ecosystems; poverty, development and health; population, settlement and infrastructure; and institutions, governance and social capital.

Top three most vulnerable countries: (1) Somalia, (2) Haiti, (3) Afghanistan.

Top three emitters of CO2 from energy use: (1) Australia, (2) USA, (3) Canada.

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