Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner’s (R-VA) introduction of the America’s Climate Security Act will jump-start Congress’s efforts to reduce global warming pollution.
This bill will reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas pollutants from power plants, factories, and other sources with the goal of returning U.S. emissions levels back to their 1990 level by 2020. It would also set a course to reduce emissions by 70 percent by 2050, which is within the range of reductions urged by the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The bill achieves reductions via a cost-effective “cap and trade” system. The Clean Air Act successfully employed this method to reduce the sulfur emissions that cause acid rain, and clean-up costs were much lower than industry predicted. The Lieberman-Warner bill also rewards states that implement their own programs to reduce global warming pollution more quickly than the federal program.
When I was the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, people in the regulated community frequently told me that they needed clear requirements and deadlines. Uncertainty, they said, would undermine their ability to make and secure investments in new technologies. America’s Climate Security Act meets the certainty test. It provides clear requirements and deadlines, and does not have a “safety valve” that would create ambiguity or uncertainty and could thereby lead to delays in reductions and undercut compliance.
Unfortunately, the bill does not ensure the development of the carbon capture and sequestration technology vital to the reduction of emissions from new coal fired power plants. Its bonus allowance program for this technology provides no assurance that new plants will employ CCS. An emissions performance standard for all new coal plants should replace the ineffective bonus program. The standard should require them to reduce emissions by 85 percent—equivalent to power plants with CCS. This requirement would also speed CCS commercialization so that we can sell or transfer it to nations that plan to build many new coal power plants, such as China.
While I applaud the bill sponsors for the recent improvements made on the emission allowances program, I would encourage them to further improve the bill by auctioning more of the emission allowances sooner. This would generate revenues to fund technology advancement, reduce higher costs for low- and moderate-income families, provide transition assistance to workers in carbon intense industries, and provide more assistance to the developing nations likely to face droughts, sea level rise, and other effects of global warming.
Sens. Lieberman and Warner demonstrate significant leadership in the battle to slow global warming. I urge the Senate to respond with prompt consideration, enhancement, and passage of America’s Climate Security Act.