Climate Change Legislation Fails to Impose Necessary Reductions

Greenpeace calls for renewed leadership from president and Congress

Media release - May 15, 2009
In response to the climate and energy legislation released today by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, 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.”

To avoid the worst impacts of global warming, the best available science suggests that the United States and other developed nations together must achieve emission cuts of at least 25-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80-95 percent by 2050. But this legislation only sets a domestic target at 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 science.

"With this weak start it is clear that achieving the needed reductions would be impossible. To shirk our responsibility to control greenhouse gas emissions is a perilous gamble and an invitation to developing countries that they, too, can shirk their responsibilities - all but guaranteeing catastrophic climate change," Radford says.

Rapid emissions reductions in the short-term are critical to avoiding catastrophic climate effects. Global warming has 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. What's more, new information about the threat global warming poses to the world is reported on nearly a 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.

At first read the following provisions of the bill are particularly egregious in light of the urgency of the global warming crisis:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by less than 4 percent below 1990 levels, or in the best case by only 7 percent, by 2020;
  • Polluting industries will receive hundreds of billions in subsidies in the form of allowances over the life of the bill;
  • A dizzying array of carbon "offsets" offered to dirty industries could be used to effectively eliminate real reductions of greenhouse gas emissions for over a decade;
  • A new generation of dirty coal-fired power plants will be supported through some $10 billion in ratepayer subsidies for carbon capture and sequestration (or CCS);
  • A renewable electricity standard that would achieve less than states are likely to accomplish on their own.

Radford added, "Ultimately, with people in the U.S. and around the world looking for him to lead, President Obama needs to step in and demand meaningful, science-based policy capable of addressing the climate crisis."

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CONTACTS: Damon Moglen, Greenpeace USA global warming campaign director, 202-352- 4223; Mike Crocker, Greenpeace USA media director, 202-215-8989