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Time to Take a Decisive Step: Climate Vote Scheduled for Friday

Frances Beinecke

Posted June 24, 2009 in Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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This Friday the House of Representatives will consider one of the most important pieces of legislation of our time: a bill that would simultaneously jumpstart our economy, create millions of jobs, lay the groundwork for a clean energy future, and confront global warming.

In the nearly two decades I have been advocating for climate solutions, I have never witnessed a more urgent moment or stronger leadership.

The scientific evidence is clear: to prevent severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts of global warming from dominating our future, we must act now--not in a year or two.

The economic analysis is equally clear: according to the EPA, and even some of the scenarios peddled by climate action opponents, the economy, personal income, and job creation grow robustly under a climate bill. Our economy--and the planet--needs this bill.

Fortunately, both the White House and members of Congress have responded to these findings. Representatives Henry Waxman and Ed Markey have drafted the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) and shepherded it to the floor for a vote on Friday. President Obama has pledged his support for the bill; here is his comment on it from Tuesday's press conference:

 

ACES Is a Good Start

Keep in mind: the ACES bill isn't the last word on climate action. But it's a decisive one.

Transitioning our entire energy structure to cleaner, more sustainable sources is an enormous undertaking, one that cannot be completed with one policy, one fiat, or one declaration. But it can start here, with the ACES bill.

Not only will we endeavor to make the bill stronger as it works its way to the White House, but the bill reflects the unfolding nature of climate change. ACES includes something called science look-backs: if, after the bill has passed, new scientific data calls for stronger action, our lawmakers have room to strengthen regulations and clean energy opportunities.  

In the meantime, ACES gets us headed in the right direction. The legislation:

  • Sets a declining cap on emissions, reaching 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050.
  • Launches an energy efficiency plan, which the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy estimates could save approximately $750 per household by 2020.
  • Creates new incentives for clean energy. The Center for American Progress estimates that, combined with the stimulus package, ACES can create 1.7 million clean energy jobs.
  • Reduces our oil dependence by investing in the next generation of vehicles and supporting the development of smarter transportation plans.

I personally hope the bill gets strengthened as it moves through the legislative process, but I am happy that it already includes these critical elements.

We Mustn't Squander This Brief Moment

Still, the window of opportunity for this bill could close quickly. We face two looming deadlines.

First, the international climate negotiations are scheduled in Copenhagen this December. If we don't arrive with a strong commitment to cut global warming pollution at home, the global consensus could be deeply undermined.

Second, pressure for health care reform is mounting here at home. President Obama has said repeatedly hat he wants Congress to send him clean energy and climate legislation, but the media and the public are beginning to get caught up in the health care debate. If Congress acts swiftly to pass ACES, it can devote its attention more fully to health care.

I urge everyone who cares about the health of the planet and the prospect of sustainable prosperity to tell their representatives to support the American Clean Energy and Security Act. Click here to do so.

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About

Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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