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NewsNotes, May-June 2010
Vol. 35 No. 3


Take action on climate change

Call or write your senators and urge them to join Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) in moving forward the Clean Limits and Energy for America’s Renewal (CLEAR) Act, S.2877.

Following the climate summit in Copenhagen in December 2009, momentum is growing to put in place structures and systems that help to slow global warming and its destructive outcomes. (See this article about the climate change conference held in Bolivia in April.) Urge your senators to seize this historical opportunity. U.S. residents, our brothers and sisters around the world and Earth itself are negatively impacted by the pollution and waste caused by the over-consumption of fossil fuel-based resources. U.S. citizens need incentives to design new ways of living that respect Earth’s carrying capacity.

The CLEAR Act (S. 2877) is a promising, straightforward, long-term politically feasible route to put in places structures for the United States to reduce carbon footprints while encouraging the development of alternative, sustainable energy systems. Some highlights of the bill include:

  • 100 percent auction of pollution permits: Those most responsible for harmful greenhouse gas emissions will have to pay commensurate to the amount they pollute. Although this measure is designed to encourage the most efficient emissions reductions, it will also increase carbon-based energy prices. To ensure that low to middle-income consumers are held unharmed, the CLEAR Act provides an “energy security dividend,” which will return 75 percent of the pollution revenue collected by the government equally to all U.S. residents on a monthly basis. The remaining 25 percent of carbon revenue would be deposited into a fund to be used in the annual congressional appropriations process.
  • The CLEAR Act does not include the carbon offsets proposed in other Congressional climate legislation to substitute for U.S. industry pollution reductions. Offsets not only delay research and investment in new alternative energy; but according to the Government Accountability Office, they are very difficult to verify consistently as real emissions reductions.
  • The CLEAR Act proposes to maintain the Environmental Protection Agency as the government entity to set minimum standards for the largest greenhouse gas emitters.
  • The CLEAR Act includes provisions to prevent excessive speculation by limiting participation in the carbon market to those companies who must turn in carbon permits for compliance; this leaves Wall Street and other traders out.

A few ways to improve the CLEAR Act:

  • The greatest impact of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions is being felt in the global South. As the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, the United States should act on its responsibility to assist the most impacted countries by providing dedicated international climate funding. The CLEAR Act could add a specific set-aside of the income from the sale of carbon permits to assist these poor nations, both to adapt to the destructive effects of global warming and to put in place sustainable, low-carbon development.
  • Because of its history as the largest historical emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. has a special responsibility to mitigate its emissions substantially. The CLEAR Act sets near-term emission reductions at 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Though this is more rigorous than the House ACES bill which requires17 percent reduction by 2020, U.S. targets should be stronger. Additional mechanisms could be included in the CLEAR Act that would ensure that Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) fund spending is appropriated in accordance to the bill’s overall emissions reduction goals.
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