Climate Policy: the Current State of Play
by Karen Florini, Director of Strategic Alliances, National Climate Campaign, Environmental Defense Fund
On September 30, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) introduced the Clean Energy Jobs & American Power Act, which would create an economy-wide system for capping and reducing America’s emissions of greenhouse gases. The bill is generally patterned on the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) bill (also known as the Waxman-Markey bill), which the House of Representatives passed in June. Senator Boxer plans to hold hearings in her committee in mid-October and to report a bill by the end of October.
Several other Senate committees may mark up some components of the climate bill, including the Foreign Relations Committee, the Finance Committee, the Commerce Committee and the Agriculture Committee. These committees are likely to act in parallel rather than sequentially, and may face a deadline for action from the Senate leadership though no deadline has been announced as yet. Once the committees have acted (and once health-care reform legislation has cleared the Senate floor), Senate leaders will bring a consolidated bill to the full Senate. That package may well include several pieces of energy legislation – including transmission, renewables, and efficiency standards – that have already been reported by the Senate Energy Committee, chaired by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). Though the process sounds daunting, complex processes are part and parcel of passing major legislation of all types.
Continued progress by the Senate on climate legislation is important to build momentum and signal U.S. leadership as the nations of the world gather on December 9 in Copenhagen for the next round of climate-treaty negotiations. Even if the full Senate has not yet passed the final bill, significant committee action will signal other nations that the U.S. is at long last getting serious about climate. That’s why it is crucial for climate-action supporters to urge the Senate to “put the pedal to the metal” and move climate legislation forward – pronto.
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