Wednesday, April 1, 2009

(Almost) All-Emcompassing US Climate Change and Energy Bill

The US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee’s timely release of ‘American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009’ (a draft) gives encouragement to negotiators in the UNFCCC in Bonn, Germany.

In order for the US to reach serious agreements with the international community on climate change issues, significant steps must be taken domestically (in Congress) for binding limits on GHG emissions. The cap-and-trade program curbs US emissions 20% below 2005 levels by 2020 and creates a nationwide renewable electricity standard of 25% by 2025. This significantly improves the likelihood for a new global agreement in Copenhagen in December. ‘The 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.

Both US and international environmental groups and NGOs support this proposal, which includes energy efficiency, renewable energy production and transmission, emissions allowances, climate change adaptation. Although the energy bill draft is 648 pages long, it has some gaps, including a mechanism for fixing a price on carbon emissions for heavy polluters, as well as the extent to which carbon credits will be given away or auctioned, making industry skeptical.

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation - an effort known as REDD - emerged last year as a key element in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations. Deforestation has been a topic of dispute at the climate negotiations in Bonn, and the draft sets aside money to help developing countries protect their forests. ‘Such financing can deliver significant emissions reductions and foster the kind of international cooperation we need to adopt and implement an effective climate treaty,’ according to Union of Concerned Scientists strategy and policy director Alden Meyer.

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