Democrats pass bogus climate bill

Feature story - 18 May, 2009
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 Waxman-Markey bill is not strong enough despite calls from the public for strong action on climate change.

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 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 climate change, science tells us that the United States and other developed nations must collectively achieve emissions cuts of at least 25-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80-95 percent 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 US 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 climate change 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 outlined 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 US $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 the electricity supply to include just 20 percent renewable energy by 2020, and gives states the option to lower that to 12 percent by making up the difference with efficiency measures. This would deliver lower uptake of renewable energy than states are likely to achieve on their own.

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