All over Washington, you can hear the giant scraping sound of officials and legislators frantically back-tracking,” begins the U.S. edition of George Monbiot’s book Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning. In 2007 the sound of scraping must have echoed because the U.S. Senate introduced two climate change bills.
The Climate Security Act, also known as the Lieberman-Warner bill, after its two sponsors, Senators Joe Lieberman and John Warner, would establish a cap and trade program. It would require the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) administrator to establish a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions registry, and provides for the exchanging, transferring, submitting, retiring, or borrowing of emission allowances.
Introduced last October, in December the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted to present the Act to the full Senate. Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid announced in April that the Senate will begin to debate it in June.
The Act also establishes the Climate Change Credit Corporation which would auction emission allowances, and the Carbon Market Efficiency Board which would observe and report on the GHG emission market. The proceeds from GHG emission allowances would be used to mitigate the effects of global warming in disadvantaged communities in other countries.
The first climate change bill approved by a congressional committee, the Act passed through the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee with a vote of 11 to eight.
In April Senator Lieberman released a statement after the Environmental Information Administration (EIA) released its analysis of the Act. “Two separate government analyses have now come to the same conclusion,” said Lieberman. “Our bill curbs global warming without harming the US economy.”
According to the EIA analysis, if the Act were implemented, the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) would grow continuously. The EIA also found that the under the Act, wind and solar energy use would expand in the U.S.
Senator Warner said, “I am pleased that the Energy Information Administration has confirmed what Senator Lieberman and I firmly believe: Americans can make significant reductions in our greenhouse gas emissions in a manner that does not harm the economy.”
A number of environmental groups endorsed the Act, including the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), Environmental Defense (ED), and the National Resources Defense Council.
“This is a bipartisan breakthrough on global warming that takes us a giant step closer to a historic vote in the United States Senate. I commend Senator Lieberman and Senator Warner for drafting a strong bill to protect wildlife from global warming,” said Larry Schweiger, President and CEO of NWF.
“Lieberman and Warner have paved the way for a historic committee vote on a bill that promises to make great strides toward climate security and economic growth. Thanks to their thoughtful approach we’re moving beyond talk and quickly toward action,” said Steve Cochran, the National Climate Campaign Director of ED.
“The bill also recognizes the need to direct proceeds from the pollution allowance market to important policy objectives, including promoting clean energy solutions, protecting the poor and other consumers, ensuring a just transition for workers in affected industries, and preventing impacts abroad that lead to conflicts and threats to security,” said Frances Beinecke, President of the NRDC.
The Low Carbon Economy Act
The Low Carbon Economy Act, also known as the Bingaman-Specter bill, named for its sponsors, Senators Jeff Bingaman and Arlen Specter, establishes a mandatory cap and trade program on GHGs.
The Pew Center of Climate Change expressed concerns about the Act, specifically the “low price cap contained in the bill.” The Center believes that “intervening in the market through a low price cap could both render the emission levels established in the bill meaningless and undermine investment in the next generation of climate-friendly technologies.”
The EIA’s analysis found that the Act “would raise energy prices and reduce American economic output but by less than other proposed bills owing to several special provisions.” However, the EIA also found that the use of the Act’s Technology Accelerator Payment (TAP), which provides a limit on the price of emissions allowances trading, would result in GHG emissions 26 percent above the 1990 target level.
“Compared to Lieberman-McCain, Bingaman-Specter requires a smaller percentage reduction of emissions in covered sectors,” the EPA stated.
“I believe our legislation represents a strong and balanced approach,” said Senator Bingaman. “It will dramatically reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions while also spurring new energy technologies, protecting the American economy and engaging developing nations in their efforts to address climate change. It’s a bipartisan approach that strikes the right balance and would return the U.S. to a position of global leadership.”
“This legislation provides a deliberative and measured response to climate change. It brings together many interest groups in the fight against global warming, and I believe this is a bill that can be passed,” said Senator Specter.
Sierra Club’s Dan Becker expressed concerns: “It’s too weak … It would be better to wait until more members of Congress understand that the heat is on them to act, and that may have to wait until the next Congress and the next president.”