As President Obama has breakfast with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and demonstrators start taking to the streets to protest at the G20, we should not forget the events of yesterday.
Congressman Henry Waxman and Ed Markey released a discussion draft of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 – a massive 648-tome that is the Democratic blueprint for tackling climate change.
The draft places huge emphasis on emissions trading and includes a market-based cap-and-trade programme that targets the electric utilities, oil companies, and factories that are responsible for 85 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
The Bill has been described as playing “to the political center, particularly the Midwest and coal state Democrats whose votes will be necessary for the legislation to pass.”
However, Henry Waxman was quick to promote it: “This legislation will create millions of clean energy jobs, put America on the path to energy independence, and cut global warming pollution.” said Chairman Waxman. “Our goal is to strengthen our economy by making America the world leader in new clean energy and energy efficiency technologies.”
Although the bill is seen as “good first step” it has received mixed reviews from the environmental community. “This bill is clearly sending a signal to the international community that the US is ready to engage,” said Keya Chatterjee, deputy director of the WWF’s climate program in the United States.
“This draft, which sets firm limits on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and makes investments in clean energy and jobs, sends an important signal both domestically and abroad,” added Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute.
Union of Concerned Scientists Strategy and Policy Director Alden Meyer, though remained optimistic: “As opposed to the experience in Kyoto in 1997, other countries now are seeing real support in the Congress for binding limits on heat-trapping emissions. This improves the prospects for a new global agreement”.
But Martin Kaiser, from Greenpeace International, welcomed the bill as a “first step’, but said it contained serious shortfalls. The Waxman bill “proposes a seven-to-eight percent emission cut on 1990 levels by 2020, going further than the target previously announced by the US administration. However, it doesn’t go as far as the science demands or the world needs,” he said in a statement.
Emily Figdor from Environment America’s described the draft as “a pragmatic bill” but said she was “disappointed that the bill includes sky-high levels of carbon offsets, which provide less-certain reductions in emissions, and large subsidies, including funds from ratepayers, for still-unproven carbon capture and storage technology.”
And CCS is one of the Achilles heels of the bill. Carol Raulston, a spokeswoman for the National Mining Association, a coal-industry group, said that the availability of “clean-coal” technology would be key to the bill working. “Our key objective will be to ensure that the timeline for reduction allows for commercial deployment” of carbon capture and storage technology, which, she said, “will be needed to achieve those reductions.”
So the fundamental question is that if carbon trading does not really work and CCS is a pie-in-the-sky unproven technology – what hope is there really for this Bill to force through the deep and radical cuts needed on CO2?