|Peter Bahouth, Executive Director
April 11, 2011
Holding Our Ground…
In Washington, D.C. and Bangkok last week, critical decisions were made about how we tackle the climate challenge. By the end of the week, EPA still had the authority to set standards for carbon pollution and the UN negotiators set a high bar for their work this year.
Last week, the Senate rejected four proposals to block the EPA’s ability to control carbon pollution and the budget deal left EPA’s authority in tact – for now. But the House of Representatives moved Rep. Upton’s “Dirty Air Act” out of committee to continue the effort to permanently block the EPA’s ability to limit carbon pollution. Governors, mayors, small business owners, labor unions, investors, and health professionals from nearly every state in the union supported EPA’s vital role to protect health and the environment while manufacturing organizations and energy producers opposed – citing the old, tired, and false argument that environmental regulation costs jobs. The forces for good won this round, but the battle is far from over.
News of the EPA victory bolstered U.S. assurances to the world that it would keep its commitment to reduce emissions by 17% by 2020. In a pre-session workshop, Jonathan Pershing, U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change, cited EPA rules on cars, trucks and stationary sources, a clean energy standard to double renewable energy, and a land conservation program as the key initiatives the U.S. will use to meet that target.
But the Bangkok meeting was not really about what the U.S. would do. It was much more about the future of the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty the U.S. never ratified. The debate over Kyoto has some clear parallels to our fight to protect the Clean Air Act in the States. The Kyoto Protocol is the only internationally legally binding set of rules for emissions reductions and accountability and the existing commitments expire in 2012. For years, the world has been negotiating a way to bring the U.S. into the international regime. The Cancun Agreements will fill that function for now, but they are far from operational and they are not legally binding.
The work to establish new rules to implement the Cancun agreements took a back seat during the Bangkok meeting. The formal agenda to put in place the rules to monitor and verify emissions, the new financial body, the adaptation framework, the program to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation, and technology cooperation was highly controversial and took days to complete. In the end, a vague agenda was agreed upon. It sets the stage for negotiation of those rules and includes a review of the adequacy of the global goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees; it also returns to the discussion of the ultimate legal form of the Cancun Agreements.
Internationally and domestically, 2011 work on climate seems to be about protecting the progress we’ve made while laying the groundwork to go much further. In Bangkok, we stressed to negotiators that they must build on the gains of the past while setting the stage for a more ambitious future. Climate advocates will need to do the same.
Angela Anderson, Program Director