How Important is a United Front on the Climate Bill?

As fans of clean transportation and sustainable development join the push
for a strong climate change bill to emerge from Congress, it’s worth
remembering that not all environmental groups support the approach
congressional Democrats have chosen.

091103_Rockefeller_ap_297.jpgSenate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) (Photo: AP)

Friends of the Earth (FoE) joined Greenpeace in opposing
the House climate bill as too weak and deferential to polluting
industries, and FoE president Erich Pica has just issued a statement on
today’s passage of the Senate version that makes clear his view hasn’t changed:

the bill reported out of the Senate Environment and Public Works
Committee today is in some ways better than the bill that passed the
House in June … it remains a woefully disproportionate response to
the tremendous economic, security and public health threats posed by
global warming.

The bill’s backbone is a poorly regulated
carbon trading scheme that entrusts the Wall Street bankers who brought
us the current economic crisis with the responsibility to solve global
warming. The bill showers polluting corporations with billions of
dollars, but doesn’t require them to reduce pollution fast enough to
avoid devastating climate change impacts. And it contains massive
carbon offset loopholes that would allow U.S. polluters to keep
polluting by paying for often-non-existent pollution reductions
overseas. Other loopholes, such as excluding pollution from bioenergy,
also undermine the bill’s intent.

Plenty of folks in the green advocacy world are more open to working within the Senate’s framework — the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, and Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection, to name a few. But the lack of a unified front from environmental advocates, which reared its head
during the House climate debate over the summer, risks amplifying the
lack of a unified front among the very same Democrats who must help
bring the bill over the finish line.

The Senate is a
singularly cautious place that often seems tousled by the slightest
shift in the political winds; witness Senate Commerce Committee
Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who hails from coal country and mused yesterday
that he doesn’t "think people in my state are going to stand up and
start cheering about Copenhagen," where global pollution reduction
talks will open next month.

Simply put, the more schisms
begin to show in the Senate climate debate, the more lawmakers such as
Rockefeller may push to de-emphasize the issue.

  • FOE is discrediting itself and positioning itself on the lunatic fringe on this issue.

    World CO2 emissions must peak by 2015 and decline sharply after that, to avoid the worst effects of global warming. With this law in Congress and successful negotiations in Copenhagen, it is possible for emissions to peak by 2015. The reduction will not be great enough after that, but the world can strengthen its efforts after new science comes in in the 2010s.

    By contrast, if FOE and the Republicans stop this bill, there is no chance of successful negotiations in Copenhagen. World action to control global warming will be set back a decade or more. And that means there will be no chance of stopping catastrophic global warming.

    With friends like FOE, the earth doesn’t need enemies.


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