|January 5, 2009|
One Last Look Back At 2008 
-- Jeannette Lee, NationalJournal.com
A few notable “firsts” highlight the major climate accomplishments of 2008 – and show us that there’s still much work to be done in the months ahead.
For the first time, the United States elected a President who is ready to roll up his sleeves and deliver the action that is needed to protect our climate, our economy, and our national security. By supporting mid- and long-term emission reduction targets of 1990 levels by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050, President-Elect Obama is setting the right goals and choosing the right policies.
During the presidential campaign, both Obama and Sen. John McCain made global climate change a top issue and publicly supported a mandatory, economy-wide cap-and-trade system for reducing U.S. GHG emissions. Having both major party candidates support this strong climate position marked another first.
In Congress, a GHG cap-and-trade bill reached the Senate floor after being reported out of committee for the first time. The Boxer-Lieberman-Warner climate bill helped to identify key issues - such as cost containment, use of offsets, and competitiveness - that will require detailed debate in the 111th Congress. In the House, Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA), John Dingell (D-MI), Rick Boucher (D-VA), and Edward Markey (D-MA) were among the key congressional leaders who will continue to advance the climate debate.
At the state level, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) held the nation’s first GHG emissions allowance auction as part of a regional cap-and-trade program that includes 10 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. RGGI and other U.S. state and regional efforts demonstrate that bi-partisan efforts to protect the climate can succeed, a lesson that will hopefully have resonance in the 111th Congress.
These 2008 milestones show how far we’ve come in our efforts to protect the climate. But they also demonstrate that we are not yet where we need to be. In spite of the hard work that lies in front of us - I am filled with optimism as we enter 2009 because I believe we finally have the commitment, the leadership, and the momentum we need to begin tackling what may be the most defining issue of our generation.