Yesterday, the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee approved legislation that would set solid goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in this country by a substantive margin (70% by 2050!). According to the AP, the bill would:
*Require carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gas emissions reduced by 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and 70 percent by 2050.
*Cover electric power, manufacturing and transportation, which accounts for 80 percent of U.S. economy-related greenhouse gas emissions.
*Allow trading of emission allowances, a “cap-and-trade” system. Companies unable to meet their emission cap could buy allowances from other companies that have exceeded their required cuts.
Joining the Democrats and Independents on the committee in support of the bill was Republican Senator John Warner (Va.) who countered arguments by some of his colleagues, saying “If we don’t act, China and India will simply hide behind America’s skirts of inaction and take no steps of their own.” Absent from the bill are any provisions to promote nuclear power as a “clean” energy solution, which will hearten those who question the efficacy of an energy source whose waste problems has not been solved.
Those wanting to see reductions of 80% of 1990 levels by 2050 might be disappointed (the bill works out to about a 62% reduction from 1990 levels), but this is a major step forward for serious climate action. The bill has a long way to go before becoming law and will not be brought before the full Senate until next year, where it promises to be subjected to a highly contentious battle waged by climate change skeptics, business and energy associations (not to mention the specter of a possible veto), but at least it’s getting on the agenda. Now we’ll see if the House steps up with its own version early next year.