Peter Bahouth, Executive Director
December 13, 2010
Small Steps Forward…
World attention turned to global warming last week as governments came together around some cooperative efforts in Cancun, Mexico, while back in DC, both Congress and the Courts took important steps to curb climate change and pave the way for a clean energy economy.
Two weeks of negotiations at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change 16th annual meeting produced two interim agreements, one that would extend the Kyoto Protocol and a second agreement that formally recognizes emissions pledges, creates a Green Climate Fund, and launches a process to preserve tropical forests.
In marked contrast to the Copenhagen Summit last year, the meeting produced a near unanimous set of agreements with only Bolivia objecting, boldly reminding the world that these small steps fall far short of the stated goal of keeping global average temperatures below 2 degrees. Climate activists around the globe welcomed the agreements as a modest step forward that revived faith in the ability of the UNFCCC to facilitate global cooperation on climate. Visit USCAN’s Cancun webpage to read reactions from around the world.
At home, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that a renewable energy tax incentive and other energy tax credits would be extended one year in a compromise tax package. The bill extends through 2011 the credit for manufacturers of energy-efficient residential homes, restores tax credits to make existing homes more energy efficient and modifies standards for tax credits for US-based manufacture of energy-efficient clothes washers, dishwashers and refrigerators. Unfortunately, lawmakers failed to extend the clean energy manufacturing credit. While the bill contains much-needed clean energy provisions, it also includes an extension of tax credits for liquid coal and corn ethanol, provisions which threaten to take us backwards by incentivizing the use of dirty and non-sustainable fuels.
As the week closed, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington gave the green light to EPA to move forward with the first carbon pollution standards next January. The court flatly rejected the efforts by America’s biggest carbon polluters and the State of Texas to block all of EPA’s efforts to begin curbing the dangerous pollution that causes global warming under the nation’s clean air laws.
Last week’s decisions in Mexico and the U.S. offer a hopeful sign for action on climate and energy. Diplomats, politicians and regulators found that they have the ability and the authority to take the actions needed to put us on the road to a safe climate and clean energy economy. The news from NASA last week that 2010 was the hottest year on record is a sobering reminder to politicians and people everywhere that we all have to pick up the pace.