Greenpeace: Waxman-Markey climate change bill not strong enough to stop global warming
Renewed leadership from President Obama and Congress neededMay 16, 2009Print Tell a friend Washington, D.C., United States — UPDATE: Greenpeace, along with a coalition of environmental, legal, consumer, and community advocacy groups announce that they cannot support the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill unless and until it is substantially strengthened. The lives and livelihoods of 7 billion people worldwide will be affected by America’s response to the climate crisis. The response embodied in this bill is not only inadequate it is counterproductive.
Greenpeace is calling for renewed leadership from President Obama and Congress following the release of the drastically weakened Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill today. The American Climate and Energy Security Act (ACES) was already in need of improvement when first released as a discussion draft in March, and has become severely worse as members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee actively worked to weaken the bill on behalf of fossil fuels industries and other corporate polluters.
Following the release of the legislation, Greenpeace USA Executive Director Phil Radford issued the following statement:
“Despite the best efforts of Chairman Waxman, this bill has been seriously undermined by the lobbying of industries more concerned with profits than the plight of our planet. While science clearly tells us that only dramatic action can prevent global warming and its catastrophic impacts, this bill has fallen prey to political infighting and industry pressure. We cannot support this bill in its current state. We call on President Obama and leaders in Congress to get back to work and produce a bill, based on science, which presents a clear road map for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, transforms our economy with clean, renewable energy technology, generates new green jobs and shows real leadership internationally.”
Emissions targets miss the mark
To avoid the worst impacts of global warming, science tells us that the United States and other developed nations must collectively achieve emissions cuts of at least 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80-95% by 2050. But ACES, as it currently stands, only sets a domestic target of approximately 4 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Even with additional measures elsewhere in the legislation, the U.S. effort would still fall far short of the emissions cuts that climate scientists say are necessary.
Rapid emissions reductions in the short-term are critical to avoiding the worst effects of global warming because rising temperatures have already triggered a series of negative feedback loops – such as Arctic melting in the North and raging wildfires in the South – that are accelerating the crisis. With the weak start oulined in this bill, achieving the needed emissions reductions would be impossible.
Polluters to get massive giveaways, federal renewable standards insufficient
Even while it sets out drastically low emissions targets, ACES would give corporate polluters hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies in the form of “allowances” – or free pollution credits – rather than making them pay the true costs of their businesses. Worse, a vast array of carbon offsets will also be offered to polluters, allowing them to effectively sidestep the need to make real reductions in their emissions for perhaps as long as the next decade.
Worst of all, ACES would support the creation of a new generation of dirty coal-fired power plants through $10 billion worth of ratepayer subsidies for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), a technology that has not yet been proven or even tested at large scales. You can read more about why CCS is a dangerous distraction that will not mitigate global warming impacts in our report, “False Hope: Why carbon capture and storage won't save the climate.”
The renewable electricity standard set forth in the bill is woefully insufficient. It calls for just 20% renewables by 2020, and gives states the option to lower that to 12% renewables in their energy but make up the other 8% with efficiency measures. This would actually achieve lower rates of renewable energy usage than states are likely to achieve on their own, however.
A much bolder renewable electricity standard is needed in order to create a clean energy economy in America. Our report, "Energy [R]evolution: A Sustainable USA Energy Outlook," provides a blueprint for how this can be done without using new nuclear or coal-fired plants.
New leadership needed domestically and internationally
New information about the threat global warming poses to the world is reported on a near-daily basis. The World Bank, for example, just released a report that shows increased flooding due to global warming has put 52 million people in coastal areas throughout the developing world in danger and poses a $122 billion risk to the GDPs of these nations.
Despite the clear and present danger posed by global warming, there is precious little leadership on the issue here in America and abroad.
If America does not meet its responsibility to control greenhouse gas emissions, it could be an invitation to developing countries that they, too, can shirk their responsibilities — all but guaranteeing catastrophic climate change. America needs to have a strong climate bill in place heading into the UN climate talks in Copenhagen this December in order to lead the world in implementing true solutions to global warming. As it is currently written, the Waxman-Marky bill is not the legislation we need to lead the global response to global warming.