We are 24 hours away from the most important climate vote of our lives. Everything hangs in the balance.
Either the House passes the American Clean Energy and Security Act and we carry momentum to the Senate. Or, we lose the vote and in all probability any chance of confronting the devastating threats of run-away global warming for the foreseeable future.
In recent weeks, we've asked our Action Network to keep the pressure on for passing this landmark bill. In response, our inbox has been flooded with comments and questions about this bill and the urgency for action.
We've tried to respond to each question individually but thought at this critical moment it would be helpful to explain why we are working so hard to pass this bill and why now is so important.
Why this bill, and why now?
Our vigorous effort to pass the landmark American Clean Energy and Security Act is based on a number of factors, including:
- It is a strong bill that will put America on course to cutting global warming emissions by 83% by mid-century. This, along with cuts in other countries, is in the range of what scientists suggest is necessary to stave off the catastrophic threats of run-away global warming.
- It has broad support from labor, environmental, and community groups, as well as valuable support from the business community and even many electric utilities and energy companies. In order to pass a bill of this magnitude, this broad support is essential.
- It uses a proven policy approach — cap-and-trade — that sets a declining cap on global warming pollution and creates a market that rewards innovation to clean-energy technologies. This same approach has dramatically reduced acid rain pollution at a fraction of the estimated costs.
- Now is the time. Political momentum has built over many years to bring us to this moment in history, and we cannot squander it. Key political leaders from President Obama to Speaker Pelosi to Reps Waxman and Markey are engaged as never before on passing a good bill right now. If we lose the vote in spite of the political firepower devoted to this, it will set back our efforts for many years, which would be disastrous for the climate. Once lost, political momentum doesn't easily regenerate.
Some of our online members and activists wonder whether we should be pushing for an even stronger bill or, short of that, whether we'd be better off allowing the EPA to regulate global warming pollution.
Keep the following in mind:
- EPA has not yet established global warming regulations and it is not yet clear how they would approach the issue.
- It could take years and many court battles before EPA regulations are set.
- Nor is it clear how regulations would be handled over time with changing administrations.
- The bill would replace EPA regulations with a clear policy that locks in emission reductions through mid-century.
This is why President Obama and his team, including EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, are fully behind passing the American Clean Energy and Security Act and favor legislation over regulation.
As to whether we should be supporting a stronger bill, we have to ask, what's the alternative? What other bill stands a prayer's chance of winning 218 votes in the House and 60 votes in the Senate? What other bill has the support of President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Reps. Waxman and Markey? What other bill could you even get out of the relevant committees?
Passing legislation of this magnitude is hard. Look at the efforts to reform health care. An entire generation of Americans has come and gone and that issue is not yet resolved.
If the planet is to avoid the catastrophic threat of run-away global warming, Congress must act now. We just don't have time to waste.
Sam Parry is the director of EDF's Action Network.