Will Climate Change Efforts Take A Back Seat?

October 27, 2009


Will Climate Change Efforts Take A Back Seat?
Democratic leaders say climate change legislation will be one of their top priorities for the next Congress. How will efforts to curb greenhouse gases be affected by the continuing Wall Street jitters and the potential recession?

-- Margaret Kriz, NationalJournal.com


Eileen Claussen's Post:

One of the top three priorities of the new Administration and Congress should be developing a new energy economy built on sound climate and energy policies that will drive cleaner energy technologies and economic growth.

Clearly, the economic crisis is first among the full slate of issues Washington’s newly-elected leaders will address, but I do not believe climate change policy will fall off the agenda. The fact is that unlike Wall Street, there’s no bailout for the climate system.

There are four main reasons why I think climate policy remains a top issue in 2009. First, one priority for the next President will be to rebuild our alliances abroad and establish constructive relationships with other world leaders. One way to assist in this effort would be to craft and pass reasonable national climate policy, and to engage constructively on a global framework for action. Delivering a set of detailed legislative principles to Congress in the first 100 days would be a strong step in this direction.

Second, there is continued activity in the states and in industry. Twenty-three states are participating in regional greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction efforts. And many in corporate America are ready for the certainty that a well-designed national policy will afford them.

Third, the Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA paves the way for more traditional command-and-control regulations, and the CAIR decision suggests that innovative approaches without the benefit of legislation will not survive. This increases the pressure on the Congress to take legislative action to deal with climate change.

Fourth, the top issue for corporate America is restoring our competitive economy, and this won’t be achieved without both a comprehensive energy policy and a sound climate policy. A shift to newer, cleaner energy sources; increased energy efficiency, particularly in buildings and in our transportation system; a rebuilt energy infrastructure with a smart grid; and limits on greenhouse gas emissions are all part of what will keep our economy competitive and play to our strengths as a leader in technology development.

I expect some will try to use the current economic situation to delay action, but we can’t afford to wait. By not acting, we’re faced with more emissions to reduce and greater damages from a changed climate. As a result, the argument that waiting only increases costs has been gaining traction.


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