US Congress Leading on International Climate Change?

US Congress Leading on International Climate Change?

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Senator Kerry arrived in Bali today, trumpeting the Lieberman-Warner climate bill as an indication that the United States is ready to take a lead on climate change internationally. Although the bill is an indication that the United States is changing course on climate change, in the context of these negotiations, the bill does not go far enough.

The European Union is pushing targets for industrialized countries of 25-40 percent under 1990 levels by 2020. The Lieberman-Warner bill only gets the U.S. to around 13 percent reductions by 2020. With the bill’s giveaways to the coal industry and carbon capture and storage, money that could go toward the energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies we need to achieve these targets cost effectively is wasted. And money generated from the auction of emissions credits in the bill does not go towards technology sharing in developing countries and only gives moderate amounts to adaptation funding for vulnerable communities. These components are absolutely essential for U.S. climate legislation to show leadership in the international context.

Climate negotiators in Bali should recognize that a shift is happening in the U.S. government and should welcome it and look forward to 2009. But the U.S. Congress needs to make sure and get this right. Lieberman-Warner does not go far enough to make the U.S. a leader in the international community, and we need to look ahead to a better, stronger climate bill.

A bill with emissions reductions targets in line with the international community and 100 percent auction of emissions credits would be a start. It is also essential that the auction revenue go to the right places to solve the climate crisis domestically and internationally: investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy, a just transition from fossil fuels to new sources of energy, support for smart land use and transportation, AND sufficient funding for no-strings-attached technology sharing, adaptation, and forest protection in developing countries. We need to get this right domestically to rejoin the rest of the world with climate legislation and show leadership in a way that we can be proud of.