Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Round-off of the new U.S. Climate Legislation

After months of playing hide and go seek with the Climate and Energy Bill, the U.S. Senate Climate Bill has finally arrived. The world's biggest polluter finally got working to shape up their act with the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act. Albeit, climate skeptics think that the new climate legislation introduced on September 30th barely holds any weight, falling short on various key issues. However, it can be viewed in a positive light, as a step finally taken in the right direction to slow down greenhouse emissions. So lets douse the voice of all naysayers and examine this climate legislation for what it is.

The Nuts and Bolts

The House bill formerly called the “American Clean Energy and Security Act” has now a new avtaar in the shape of the “Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act”.

The bill, more than 800 pages long, is typically vague in many of its particulars. Just as in the House bill, the words “climate change” and “global warming” do not appear in the title, suggesting just how politically difficult passing this climate legislation through the corridors of six committees is going to be.

The new bill calls for 20 % cuts by 2020 and a 80 % reduction by 2050. These percentages are based on reductions from 2005 emissions levels. A definite improvement, over the previous 17 % emissions target for 2020.

A key difference as suggested by the wording itself, is the inclusion of funding for nuclear power and carbon capture, with carrot like incentives for the coal companies to switch over to natural gas. It seeks to "mandate heavy investments in new job-producing, clean-energy technologies". In other words, steering investments towards cleaner technologies while raising cost implications of older, polluting fuels.

It also lays claims to “create clean energy jobs” and “achieve energy independence” while targeting “global warming pollution.” Senator Boxer emphasised the "great economic opportunity”, during a TV interview on C-Span’s 'Newsmakers' show.

If the Senators thought that the enormous green job opportunity would placate the U.S. taxpayers struggling in an already existing recession, they have a re-think here. Already fears are being voiced about jobs and cheaper energy options being outsourced. A serious implication, in view of the flagging economy.

While some like the Republican Senator Alexander fear that this would send jobs overseas (which is a positive thought for India, that I shall cover in a later post), others like Sen. James feel the only way to energy independence is “by doing what every other country in the world does, and that is, develop our own resources.” Then again, some dissenters call for “tariffs on polluting nations—such as China and India—to level the playing field and prevent jobs from heading overseas.".

It is glaringly evident that in a last-ditch effort to show itself in a good light in the wake of the Copenhagen climate meet, the U.S. legislation has gone overboard with its costly, unrealistic targets of a 20 % cut target in a 11 year time-frame, without addressing such meaningful issues as nuclear research or how the additional costs will be mitigated and passed on to manufacturers and consumers. The bill does not address how it intends to constrain carbon emissions either. The bottom line is that without the 'cap and trade' details, the Bill leaves itself open to attack from the Oil and Coal sectors and right wing radicals, thus meaningless till de facto.

The Climate and Energy Bill may have taken off on a strong note in June, but was put in the backburner for the past few months. The Obama administration was obviously reluctant to jeopardise the various opposing interests. It was perhaps India's aggressive yet constantly evolving protean stance that pushed President Obama to get something concrete going for a tangible offering at the Copenhagen table. It is to be seen whether the Bill comes through intact or gets caught up and defiled within the crossfire of a senatorial turf war.

As Daniel Weiss, director for climate strategy at the Centre for American Progress says,

"No one believes that the clean energy bill that will come out of Congress will address the threat of global warming in a single step. But we have to start.”

On a lighter side

Such has been the nail-biting climate conundrum over the past few weeks that it has inspired even the most die-hard cynics. We have homilies being evoked at random, with quotes from John Dunne being likened to the current climate change effect, "a bell that tolls for all of us".

There is the CEO Mr Kevin Tuerff, who has likened global climate negotiations to a poker game and a Grist blogger who has seen U.S.-China playing poker in his dreams.

Another eco blogger suggests

"Instead of wasting time throwing pies in peoples faces make a pie and give it to someone who needs it. And instead of making cutesie or provocative banners, use those sowing skills to teach someone how to make sustainable clothing. See my other posts on this and remember the story of the 100th monkey."

Then we have climate protesters in a fellow- sympathetic moment, with emotive statements like

"It’s an awkward position to be environmentalists working on climate change, but opposing a climate bill"!

Let alone all the crankery and tomfoolery afoot, wagers are also being laid about whether President Obama would actually make an appearance at Copenhagen …. when the time came for U.S. to deliver something concrete to the world to prove its honest intentions.

All in all, this entire climate quagmire leading up to Copenhagen shall probably remain in the minds of eco-activists, policy makers and cognizant folks for a long time to come, whether as the fiasco of the decade or the turning point for world climate graphs, we are here to see.

This shall be followed up with a mid-week update on "The Indian Approach"

Posted at INDIA WATER PORTAL as Sangeeta Deogawanka's Blog

No comments:

Post a Comment