Climate Action Heats Up as Summer Wanes
By Keith Schneider
US Climate Action Network
Congress resumes after a long August recess and the concerted influence of the climate community will focus this month on protecting EPA’s authority to act on global warming and pushing the agency to be more aggressive. First order of business: blocking rogue proposals this week that are attached to routine spending bills and designed to strip EPA of its authority to limit carbon pollution. Behind the legislative tactic is the oil and gas industry, which is trying to undermine basic health protections.
The Obama administration’s agency level work on reducing climate emissions has been strong. In April it completed new pollution and fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks, and now is doing the same thing for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. The goal is to truly transform the vehicle fleet, to make hybrids and electric vehicles more the norm instead of the exception, and to reduce oil consumption in the transportation sector.
The Sierra Club, Environment America, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace and 15 other groups wrote a letter to President Obama on September 9 demanding that the EPA and the Department of Transportation be much more ambitious in raising average fuel efficiency in American vehicles from under 40 miles per gallon by 2016 to 60 miles per gallon by 2025.
Aggressive strides in efficiency in autos and cleaner power are essential to keep America competitive. More evidence surfaced this week, though, that indicates the US is losing its edge. Congress’s failure to pass a national renewable energy standard was the direct reason the U.S. fell to second place, behind China, in Ernst & Young’s index of the world’s best places to invest in renewable energy. The global bank, HSBC, is projecting a tripling of the international market for low-carbon energy by 2020, with the fastest growth in China. As USCAN and its members gear up for the UN climate negotiations in China in early October, news like this is a reminder of just how important it is that the world’s two largest polluters compete to see who can reduce emissions the fastest and accelerate the clean energy economy.
350.org and its founder, the journalist and author Bill McKibben, made clear to the White House the investments in renewable energy need to begin at home. They hauled one of President Jimmy Carter’s old White House solar hot water panels off a small college campus in Maine and into national and international prominence, proposing that the President put them back on the White House roof.
Media covered his trip to Washington, where he forced Obama aides to say on Friday that the solar panels were not welcome on their former home. McKibben was on Letterman, Diane Rehms, and the op-page of the Washington Post. He raised the national pulse about the warming climate. The event was a great way to launch the one month countdown to the Global Work Party on 10/10/10 in 2000 places in over 140 countries.
Keith Schneider, a journalist and producer, is senior writer for the U.S. Climate Action Network. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org