As Congress returns to Washington this week, climate change legislation is rising to the top of their agenda. Eric Haxthausen, the Conservancy’s director of U.S. Climate policy offers this assessment of the coming weeks:
We’re entering an eventful and exciting period for U.S. climate change policy. On Friday, the EPA released their long-awaited “endangerment finding” determining that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases pose a threat to public health and welfare and must therefore be regulated as a “pollutants” under the Clean Air Act. The practical effect of this decision by EPA is that the government will now slowly but surely begin to set out regulations to control carbon dioxide from power plants and cars — smokestacks and tailpipes — using the traditional regulatory approaches afforded by the Clean Air Act.
There is a better and more cost-effective approach to get the job done, and The Nature Conservancy will be focusing our efforts over the coming weeks and months to make it happen. Using a market-oriented framework to cap carbon dioxide can achieve the same or better results at a lower cost and without the bureaucracy, delays and uncertainty engendered by the command-and-control approach associated with many provisions under the Clean Air Act.
Chairmen Henry Waxman and Ed Markey of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its Energy and Environment Subcommittee laid out such a market-oriented approach in a draft last month.
A market-based cap provides assurances that we can achieve the emissions reductions needed to protect biodiversity while linking climate and conservation programs through forest carbon projects that preserve nature and sequester carbon. Funding from the sale of allowances used in the cap can also support efforts to protect natural areas and human communities form the inevitable changes that will come with climate change.
All week and beginning this afternoon, the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Energy and Environment Subcommittee will hold three-and-a-half days of legislative hearings. Next week the subcommittee will “mark up” the bill authored by Chairmen Waxman and Markey, providing the members of the committee an opportunity to offer amendments and then vote on the bill. If the bill passes the subcommittee, it will move to the full committee for consideration.
Why is this significant? To start with, it represents the first time that the House of Representatives or any of its committees will have considered climate change legislation. Chairman Waxman has been clear that he intends to report legislation to the House floor by the end of May, assuring that the Congress has sufficient time to consider legislation before the international negotiations in Copenhagen in December.
What is the Conservancy doing? We are working to persuade the Committee and its Members to include strong provisions that will support forest conservation and restoration, efforts to protect natural resources and undertake ecosystem-based approaches to protecting human communities. We will also be working to support the strong emission reductions targets in the Waxman-Markey draft. These targets will be critical to assure that we can have a chance of protecting the climate for future generations.
(Photo: Jonathon Colman, Creative Commons License)