Climate change is the defining human development issue of our generation. All development is ultimately about expanding human potential and enlarging human freedom. It is about people developing the capabilities thatempower them to make choices and to lead lives that they value. Climate change threatens to erode human freedoms and limit choice. It calls into question the Enlightenment principle that human progress will make the future look better than the past. . .
Our starting point is that the battle against climate change can—and must—be won. The world lacks neither the financial resources nor the technological capabilities to act. If we fail to prevent climate change it will be because we were unable to foster the political will to cooperate.
Such an outcome would represent not just a failure of political imagination and leadership, but a moral failure on a scale unparalleled in history. During the 20th Century failures of political leadership led to two world wars. Millions of people paid a high price for what were avoidable catastrophes. Dangerous climate change is the avoidable catastrophe of the 21st Century and beyond. Future generations will pass a harsh judgement on a generation that looked at the evidence on climate change, understood the consequences and then continued on a path that consigned millions of the world’s most vulnerable people to poverty and exposed future generations to the risk of ecological disaster.
The New York Times coverage: U.N. Warns of Climate-Related Setbacks.
An aide to Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), a lead co-author of the bill, said one of the biggest changes involves an “upstream” cap placed on the heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions that come from natural gas processors. With the new bill’s natural gas section, more than 80 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions that come from the U.S. economy will be covered under the legislation.Some of the other changes (see line-by-line comparison):
Previously, the bill dealt with about 75 percent of the U.S. economy.
Another change in the legislation speeds up by five years the end date for the free emission credits given out to power plants, manufacturers and other industrial sources. Free credits will now be phased out at the start of 2031, rather than the start of 2036.
- Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are separately capped (all allowances freely distributed), to “remove the financial incentive for companies to shut down their plants that use HFCs and move them to countries that don’t have similar limits” (s. 1202, 3901, 3906, 10001-11002)
- 25% of energy R&D funds explicitly allocated to renewable energy projects (an increase from a failed Sanders amendment in subcommittee markup) (s. 4401, s. 4406)
- 0.5% of annual emissions allowances to go to a “program for achieving” methane emissions reductions from landfills and coal mines (s. 3907)
- 1% of annual emissions allowances to go to states for mass transit funding, distributed following federal highway aid apportionment rules (s. 3304)
- Per the request of international aid groups, the national-security requirement for the Climate Change and National Security Fund has been dropped (s. 4801-4804)
- SEC requirement of corporate disclosure of climate risks dropped (s. 9002)
- Interagency Climate Task Force headed by EPA Administrator to submit a report “make public and submit to the President a consensus report making recommendations, including specific legislation for the President to recommend to Congress” in 2019 based on the triennial National Academy of Sciences reports
- Details added to Climate Change Worker Training Program (s. 4602-4606)
- Details added to Adaptation Fund (including combatting ocean acidification) (s. 4702)
- Details added to eligibility for carbon sequestration bonus allowances (s. 3602)
More details on the likely energy bill compromise are emerging. It appears that the renewable electricity standard and oil subsidy rollback provisions of the energy bill (H.R. 6/H.R. 3221), are being dropped, perhaps to be considered as a separate bill (per H.R. 2776) either concurrently or in the next year. The associated renewable incentives and research funds paid for by the rollback would have to also be dropped under pay-go rules.The rollback was a key component of Speaker Pelosi’s 100 Hours Agenda:
We will energize America by achieving energy independence, and we will begin by rolling back the multi-billion dollar subsidies for Big Oil.
Reaching agreement on that timetable is likely to require Congressional leaders to drop provisions like a mandate that electric utilities nationwide generate 15 percent of their power from renewable sources, including wind, solar and hydroelectric power. Utilities lobbied intensively against that requirement.
A House-passed measure to repeal $16 billion in tax breaks for the oil industry is also expected to be scrapped, aides said. President Bush threatened to veto the entire package if the oil and gas tax bill were included.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing for a vote next week on compromise legislation aimed at reducing the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels, a major source of greenhouse gases. Democratic leaders have wrestled for months with how to meld the Senate bill, which includes a new fuel-economy mandate for auto makers, and the House bill, which would require power companies to use greater amounts of wind, solar and other renewable fuels. With only a few weeks left in the year, Democrats are now considering a new option: moving two separate bills.
One measure would include the proposed fuel-economy increase as well as a proposal to boost production of ethanol and related biofuels. The companion bill would include the utility mandate, as well as a tax package rolling back oil industry tax breaks.
According to a report in the National Journal’s subscription-only Congress Daily, Congress is nearing a compromise to resolve the differences between the Senate (HR 6) and House (HR 3221) versions of the comprehensive energy package. Major sticking points have been CAFE standards, renewable fuels mandate, a federal renewable energy standard, and renewable energy tax incentives (the renewable production tax credit (PTC)).Speaker Pelosi indicated the sense of progress in a press release Monday:
Congress is now moving forward with historic energy legislation that will reduce our dependence on foreign fuels and promote energy efficiency. We have made significant progress toward completing this package and hope to have a final agreement next week.
The draft compromise, according to Congress Daily and Hill Heat sources, incorporates suggestions from Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.)’s November 13 letter to Speaker Pelosi.CAFE
- By 2020, 35 mpg average standard for cars, light trucks and SUVs (in line with HR 6)
- Separate fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks
- Distinctions between domestic and foreign-made vehicles in standards
- By 2015, required production of 20.5 billion gallons of renewable fuels, with as much as 15 billion gallons coming from corn-based ethanol (HR 6 had 36 billion by 2022)
- By 2015, required production of 5.5 billion gallons of advanced biofuels—fuel not derived from sugar or starch and that can cut lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions in half
- National Academy of Sciences study within 18 months of mandate impact, followed by periodic reviews authorized by the Clean Air Act of technologies and the feasibility of complying with the mandate
- According to Hill Heat sources, the extension of the PTC is likely, though perhaps for as little as one year.
Lieberman-Warner (S. 2191), the Senate global warming emissions cap-and-trade bill undergoing markup next week, generates a emissions trading system with an estimated lifetime (from inception to 2050) net worth on the order of three to four trillion dollars, in the form of emissions credits given away for free and revenues generated from the auction of the remaining credits.
L-W establishes two independent entities to administer the allocation and appropriations of such funds, taking the direct appropriations authority away from Congress for the lifetime of the bill.
Carbon Market Efficiency Board (Title II, Subtitle F; sec. 2601-2605)
The authority to change the percentage of offsets or foreign credits used and the terms of borrowing allowances against future years is vested in the Carbon Market Efficiency Board, a executive-branch entity with seven members who each serve staggered 14-year terms. The Board is appointed directly by the President and is not part of any existing department.
Climate Change Credit Corporation (Title IV, Subtitle B; sec. 4201-4203)
The Climate Change Credit Corporation, a non-profit private federal corporation, will administer the auctions, the revenues thereof to be split into four distinct funds in the Treasury, the Energy Assistance Fund, Climate Change Worker Training Fund, Adaptation Fund, and the Climate Change and National Security Fund.
The Corporation has five members appointed by the president, no more than three from one political party, who serve five year terms. The Corporation has complete authority of the allocation of the Energy Assistance Fund (55% of the revenues, over one trillion dollars) within general allocation ranges for particular technologies (28% for CCS, 20% for vehicles, etc.).
The remaining funds are put under the jurisdiction of existing programs or Cabinet secretaries.
We urge you to take action to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States that are contributing to these impacts on impoverished countries, while also putting in place substantial assistance for those countries to adapt to the widespread and serious consequences of climate change. In particular, a significant proportion of any revenue generated from climate policies, such as auctions of emission permits, should be directed to the adaptation needs of poor people and impoverished countries. To maximize those resources, policies to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions should ensure that the responsibility to pay for emissions reductions and adaptation costs are borne equitably by those who are most responsible for those emissions, such as through robust permit auctions.
The present version of Lieberman-Warner allocates 5% of auction revenues to a Climate Change and National Security Fund “to enhance the national security of the United States” and “assist in avoiding the politically destabilizing impacts of climate change in volatile regions of the world.” The August draft outline allocated 10% of auction revenues to international aid; the initial draft legislation cut those revenues to 5% and allocated 3% of emissions allowances to fighting tropical deforestation; in subcommittee markup a Barrasso amendment was adopted to instead allocate those emissions allowances to states.EE News reports:
Under the Lieberman-Warner legislation, an auction could create tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars per year in new revenue depending on how much industry pays on the market for greenhouse gas credits. If the credits sold for $10 per ton of carbon dioxide, a 10 percent slice for international adaptation would equal $1 billion.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) supports including international assistance for adaptation as part of the climate bill. But a Boxer aide said today that no decision has been made on changes in the distribution of the Lieberman-Warner bill’s auction revenue.
Eight environmental organizations sent a letter calling on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to “continue the process of strengthening S. 2191, and to deliver the bill to the full Senate the first week of December.” The signatories included four members of US-CAP (NRDC, ED, NWF, Nature Conservancy), as well as the Union of Concerned Scientists, National Environmental Trust, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Wilderness Society.
The letter does does not specify how S. 2191 needs to be strengthened, though testimony of group representatives before the committee has generally agreed on the call for an 80% reduction by 2050 in emissions and opposition to any safety-valve/price-cap amendments.
In addition, a NWF representative has stated that the National Wildlife Federation supports 100% auction, and the Union of Concerned Scientists has called for 100% auction, with revenues going to efficiency and to “counteract the negative societal impacts of a carbon price.” NET has called for U.S. climate legislation to “auction a significant percent of allowances” to avoid windfall profits. NRDC has opposed grandfathering of emissions allowances to firms and believes “allowances should be held in trust for the public and distributed in ways that will produce public benefits.”
Groups who have directly responded to Lieberman-Warner with a call for 100% auction or outlined climate legislation principles (such as Sierra Club, Audobon, Physicians for Social Responsibility, U.S. PIRG, Friends of the Earth, Rainforest Action Network, and Greenpeace) were not involved in the letter.
The full text of the letter is below.
Last week the 9th Court of Appeals issued a 90-page decision in Center for Biological Diversity v. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration/California v. NHTSA in favor of the plaintiffs. The suit was brought against NHTSA’s corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for light trucks – i.e., SUVs – issued in April 2006, in part for NHTSA claiming that the value of reduced greenhouse gases would be zero. NRDC, ED, Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and 11 states and the District of the Columbia joined as plaintiffs.
The NHTSA is tasked by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) to set CAFE standards. Its April 2006 ruling raised the light truck standard from 22 to 23.5 miles per gallon by 2010.
The court agreed with the states that NHTSA must take into account greenhouse gases, as required by the National Environment Protection Act (NEPA) following the Massachusetts v EPA Supreme Court decision: “There is no evidence to support NHTSA’s conclusion that the apppropriate course was not to monetize or quantify the value of carbon emissions reduction at all.”In addition to agreeing that the agency conducted an inadequate environmental assessment under NEPA, the court found that NHTSA’s regulations violated EPCA in four key areas, including the “SUV loophole” (“failure to revise the passenger automobile/light truck classifications”):
NHTSA’s failure to monetize the value of carbon emissions in its determination of the MY 2008-2011 light truck CAFE standards, failure to set a backstop, failure to revise the passenger automobile/light truck classifications, and failure to set fuel economy standards for all vehicles in the 8,500 to 10,000 lb. GWR class, was arbitrary and capricious and contrary to the EPCA. We therefore remand to NHTSA to promulgate new standards consistent with this opinion as expeditiously as possible and for the earliest model year practicable.Warming Law’s comprehensive coverage:
Bangladesh dated with a nightmare as cyclone Sidr ripped through the southwestern coast late Thursday, killing over 700 people and demolishing houses, crops, vegetables and trees alike along its trail of devastation over an area of thousands of square kilometers.Dr. Jeff Masters, Wunderground:
Packing winds over 220km an hour, the fierce tropical storm roared across the shoreline after it hit landfall at the Khulna-Barisal coast at 7:30pm Thursday, cutting off all communications and utility services across the country.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my 47 years life,” Khalilur Rahman, a government official in Patuakhali, told The Daily Star over telephone last night. “It was a panic beyond description. People found no way but to keep on screaming as long as the cyclone ran rampage here.”
Storm surge is usually the biggest killer in Bangladesh cyclones, and was responsible for the vast majority of the 140,000 people killed in the 1991 Bangladesh Cyclone. This storm struck eastern Bangladesh as a Category 5 cyclone—the only Category 5 cyclone on record to hit the country. The triangular shape of Bengal Bay funnels high surges into the apex of the triangle where Bangladesh sits, and the shallow bottom of the bay allows extraordinarily high storm surges to pile up. The maximum storm surge from Sidr was probably 20-25 feet, and affected the regions near and to the right of where the eye made landfall. The eye fortunately came ashore in the Sundarbans Forest, the world’s largest forest of mangrove trees. This region is the least populated coastal area in the country. Storm surge levels of 10-20 feet probably affected the provinces of Barguna and Paruakhali, which are more heavily populated. Undoubtedly, the storm surge killed many more people in these provinces, and Sidr’s death toll will go much higher. However, Bangladesh has done a much better job providing shelters and evacuating people during cyclones since the 1991 storm. Over 650,000 people did evacuate from Sidr, and it is unlikely the death toll will put the storm on the list of the world’s deadliest cyclones of all time.
The International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies has launched an emergency appeal for support.
Rainforest Action Network (RAN) is organizing what it calls a National Day of Action Against Coal Finance on Nov. 16 and 17. They have distributed flyers and are planning a rally at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17, at Kiener Plaza. Another rally is being planned at Washington University on Friday, Nov. 16.
They are targeting Peabody as well as Bank of America and Citigroup, Inc. At a recent rally in Charlotte, N.C., four protesters were arrested for trespassing while hanging a giant banner from a crane at a nearby construction project.
Please exercise caution when entering and leaving the office on Friday and Saturday.