I went to Capitol Hill this morning to watch Senators Barbara Boxer and John Kerry unveil their climate bill. It was an exciting moment. Three months ago, the House of Representatives passed climate change legislation, surprising many people who thought it could not be done so quickly – less than three months from discussion draft to passage.
Once again we have a short deadline: this time the Senate must pass a bill in time for the United States to bring it to the international negotiations in Copenhagen this December as evidence of our country’s commitment to action. Having a bill in hand is just the kind of spark that could help to unstick the international negotiations and generate the kind of surprising outcome that it is becoming increasingly clear will be needed to avoid some pretty daunting outcomes.
We’ll be interested to read the bill in more detail, but fortunately we got a sneak peek at a late draft of it yesterday in The Washington Post. Thus, we can be pretty confident that the bill introduced today by Sens. Boxer and Kerry contains some of the same important provisions that the House included last June when it passed its American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES).
That means the Boxer-Kerry bill includes two key provisions that are important to the Conservancy’s mission:
- protect forests at home and abroad in order to lower the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.
- The protection of the country’s natural resources, so they can survive the impacts of climate change and continue to provide our communities with the food, water, shelter and income they rely upon.
But the Senate bill takes an important step further to tighten emission reduction targets in the coming years – a 20 percent reduction in carbon dioxide levels by 2020, compared to the 17 percent reduction target included in the House bill.
As the world’s biggest emitter of climate change pollution, strong emissions targets are needed to ensure temperatures do not skyrocket in the coming years and forever change our country’s lands, waters, economy and way of life.
If we continue with business as usual, droughts, flooding, increased storm events and other climate impacts threaten to make the landscapes and wildlife that make this country unique unrecognizable by the end of the century. American agriculture and other industries that rely on healthy natural resources also will be severely hurt, threatening millions of jobs across the country.
By committing to strong emissions reductions, our policy leaders can demonstrate America’s leadership in the global effort against climate change. With just two months to go before world leaders meet in Copenhagen to hammer out a new climate change agreement, action by the United States can serve as a catalyst to bring developed and developing countries together toward a deal.
We are at a unique time in history. We can choose to act and lead in combating one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime. Or we can do nothing and leave an uncertain future to our children and grandchildren.
The threats of inaction are too costly. Time is running out. The Senate must act quickly, and we will be working hard, here in Washington and around the country, to press them to do so.
(Image: Senate rally. Source: Dave Connell/TNC)