House Leaders Make Global Warming Action a Priority

This post is by Carol Andress, Economic Development Specialist at Environmental Defense.

Climate Vote 2007

Part of a series on the work of the Environmental Defense Action Fund to enact an effective climate law. You can help by writing to Congress.

Unlike the Senate, which has voted twice on legislation to cap and reduce America’s global warming pollution, the House has never brought a global warming bill to the floor.

So, when the incoming Speaker of the new Congress, Representative Nancy Pelosi, pledged to make global warming a top legislative priority in January, the House, as a legislative body, was starting from scratch.

Speaker Pelosi moved quickly to establish a special committee to explore policy options and get the ball rolling. She said at the time, “The science of global warming and its impact is overwhelming and unequivocal… Now is time to act. The future of our country, indeed our entire planet, is at stake.”

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, John Dingell (D-MI), a one-time arch foe of global warming action, declared himself converted by the science and began talking of the need for a comprehensive solution to cap and reduce America’s emissions.

Another unlikely ally on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA), who represents a coal mining district in southwestern Virginia and chairs the House Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, began working with Congressman Dingell. Together, they have held more than a dozen committee hearings since January, and have promised to draft national legislation this year.

This summer, the House passed energy legislation that makes a “down payment” on global warming by slowing the growth of global warming pollution and promoting new fuel efficiency and renewable energy programs.

We applaud these efforts. But, it’s vital that Congress squarely tackle global warming by capping and reducing America’s emissions. Only by capping emissions – making it illegal to emit greenhouse gases without a permit – can we guarantee that we reduce emissions to levels that the science indicates we need to avoid potentially catastrophic and irreversible climate change.

From a legislative standpoint, the House has gone from zero to sixty in no time. But, they still have work to do. We’re doing everything we can to help Reps. Pelosi, Dingell and Boucher get an aggressive global warming bill to the floor before the holiday recess.

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  1. Sebb
    Posted October 10, 2007 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    The last time I heard from Environmental Defense you were supporting a bill that had get-out clauses dependent on economic activity. I don’t believe in giving politicians that kind of leeway. We need to reduce greenhouse gasses, and the planet doesn’t particularly care what our current economic activity is. If you allow a get out you double the administrative difficulty and you halve the impact. Keep it simple, keep it clean.

  2. Posted October 10, 2007 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    I hope we can help our congressional representatives to look up, take a big breath, and to let go of any parochial tendancies. Here are perspectives which I think are critical educational components which need endless repetition. The costs of even stringent greenhouse gas reductions is only a slight slowing of economic growth. Greenhouse gasses stay in the atmosphere for decades and we, the industrial west have been heavily polluting the air (a global commons) for decades. There is no earthly reason why we should expect the developing countries to start cleaning up our mess. We must lead the way and then negotiate their participation. By any measure of equity we can afford the cost in ways that developing countries cannot. Ultimately we MUST bring the world together on this and that will in the long run mean a quota per capita. Right now our gluttonous use of energy means that we are emitting many fold more emissionns per person than the heavy emitting developing countires such as China, Malaysia, India, Mexico, and Brazil.

    We need an American spirit that says, hey, let’s just be fair and realize we are the biggest cause, the richest country, and have the best technology to make a change. Let’s do it now, like most of the rest of the developed world has already begun to do. We can negotiate with the developing countries once we show the way!

  3. Posted October 15, 2007 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your comment, Sebb. I think we may actually be in total agreement.

    Environmental Defense supports a hard cap that will reduce America’s pollution 80% below current levels by 2050. This is the level of reduction scientists tell us is required to stabilize our climate and avert the most dire global warming consequences.

    We also believe that we have to start reductions now. The more we delay, the more severe the pollution cuts will be. That’s why we are pushing so hard to pass strong cap-and-trade legislation this year.

    It is not clear what the final language will be in whatever bill ultimately passes both houses of Congress, but we are firm in our call for a hard cap that will be environmentally effective and based on the science — namely, 80% reductions by 2050.