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)

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  1. It’s certainly past time for Congress to address climate legisation, but an effective cap-and-trade system requires a huge infrastructure to oversee it (or we’ll end up with carbon derivatives and phony offsets and sequestration). A truly effective solution also requires an awareness and commitment to the COMMON GOOD, which is lacking in the political and business world.

    I hope the Nature Conservancy will at least consider the cap-and-dividend program, or a plain old carbon tax of some sort.

    When the American public has become less concerned about global warming than in past years, it will be a hard sell no matter what is proposed. And that’s a shame for the planet and all of its natural wonders.

  2. We should do nothing via government coercion, which is exactly what this Cap and TAX scheme proposes. It will also be prone to corruption. Just look at the loop holes already proposed. How big a campaign donation, which union to pay off will dictate who gets capped and who doesn’t. Worse none of this is necessary. If you have taken a geological history course or read about it then you know the climate always changes. As previous decades, eons etc. have shown — the climate always changes. The Earth has been a snowball several times, the Earth has been much hotter (10 degrees hotter during the time of the Dinosaurs (180 mill yrs) just 67 mill yrs ago) several times. There was a time when the Earth’s atmosphere had no free oxygen and almost entirely CO2. Just 10,000 years ago we were in a mini ice age where here in Ohio we were totally covered in ice.
    The middle ages had a period that was much warmer than we are now.

    For those that remember the first Earth Day we were warned of the impending ice age because the Earth had been cooling since the 1930s (we still haven’t had that kind of heat – 1936 being the hottest year on record not Al Gore’s 1998). About every 30-50 years or so the predictions have switched from we are warming to we are cooling and then back. So all this “Earth Warming” hype is just to set up taxation and regulation to control our lives. It is unneccessary. Within a few decades almost all cars will probably be electric hybrids (not biofuels with the inherent eventual conflict between eating and driving) The best way to solve this supposed “problem of CO2” is the French and Japanese approach of making lots of Nuclear Power Plants. France is about 85-90% nuclear for electric power generation. Most of the Environmentalists that were against nuclear are for Cap and TAX. The people who drove us from CO2 free power development now want to tax us back to a lower standard of living.

    I am for clean air, clean water, and have supported the Nature Conservancy with donations to put our money where our heart is. Forcing and punishing people with Cap and TAX to pay for reducing CO2 when China and India will dwarf the effort with new Coal power plants is stupid. Europe has tried two such schemes and hurt their economies and did not achieve any reductions, their CO2 production is up. It was so onerous, companies up and left Europe entirely. Spain who we are to emulate according to Obama, is at 17.8 percent unemployment.

    Common Good does not trump freedom. Common Good is what Hitler, Stalin, Chavez, and other Fascists, Communists, Socialists, and now Democrats (many of whom are avowed Socialists) claim as their reason to limit free will and establish govt control. Remember NAZI was the abbreviation of the party’s real name “National Socialists”.

    My next car will probably be a Ford Fusion Hybrid with twice the gas mileage. My car after that will probably be an all electric, assuming the battery technology continues to improve as it has for the last 2-3 decades. Problem solved by capitalism not government interference in my life, and my freedom.

    Bill in Ohio
    PS. Thank God Ohio warmed up so I could live here!

  3. As the earth moves into another cooling period, which will last until the next warming period which will last until the next cooling period, (based on what’s happening on the sun) it is important that the Nature Conservancy not link itself closely to the latest climate hysteria. Al Gore has gone from $2 million to $100 million in a few years and and now will make out on his carbon cap investments and be a gazillionaire, but the Nature Conservancy depends on the trust of millions of sane people to continue its good work.

    The Nature Conservancy should focus on saving habitat and the last best places on earth and not link its precious credibility to fads and hysterias.

  4. Wow. Very passionate speeches from both of you two. And it’s clear both of you have seen a lot more history and water pass under the bridge than what I have in my short lifespan. But a couple of small points to yours:
    Yes, there can by “hysteria” about many things. But as conservationists, I believe we have to take the threat of climate change seriously. Is a cap and trade system the best way to go? Probably not. Me, I’m a big believer in the “let’s take personal responsibility for the problem” kind of guy (my sideline is as a preacher… it kind of falls in line with many of the teachings and preachings of Christ, so it comes out).
    The fact is, we need to work together to reduce CO2 emissions, if for no other reason than too much C02 is bad. Don’t believe me? Run your car in a garage for awhile, and then go out and take a deep breath. It ain’t pretty. And whether you’re a republican, democrat, socialist, communist of whatever other “ist” you can find, healthy air is necessary. We all have to breath.
    While there is very little I can do about China and India (not that I don’t try, but I realize my limitations) there’s a lot I can do at home. And that’s what I do. I work for a company that has environmental impact in mind before it does things. I use municipal transit as much as I can Monday-Friday, and while my car isn’t a hybrid, it does get better than 35 mpg in town and make sure it’s tuned up properly to reduce harmful emissions as much as I can.
    I am also trying to pass this on to my children, and they take to it very well. I’m sure capitalism can do some wonderful things, especially when it’s pointed out that sound environmental policies are financially viable, if not preferable. But I’ve also seen capitalism run rampant when no one stopped to think, “Hey, this mercury we’re using for mining is wrecking the watershed,” or “This clear cutting of trees, which is the cheapest and easiest route to get pulpwood, is ruining acres upon acres of habitat.”
    My home area is like this. While we’ve managed to replant the trees and introduce environmentally friendly harvesting techniques, the mercury poisoning from as late as the 40s has rendered some of the most beautiful country in the world dead. This is the effect of loving money, and not the more important things in life, above all else.
    So before I’m accused of being a communist, socialist or fascist (of which I am not), allow me to stress that I am a big believer of the philosophy that we are the appointed stewards of God’s creation… and man, have we ever messed up on that one. My recommendation: Let’s clean the place up before the Big Guy comes back home. If nothing else, I’m going to make sure my “room” is clean.
    Blessings to you both.:)

  5. Carol said it perfectly….”The Nature Conservancy should focus on saving habitat and the last best places on earth and not link its precious credibility to fads and hysterias.”

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