Democratic News

Today, with the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, leaders in 35 industrialized nations began a new phase of concrete commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That the long-delayed treaty is now in effect shows that the world is moving quickly toward a marketplace for more efficient and cleaner ways to produce and use energy. With this in mind, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) today outlined three principles he would like to see in a meaningful U.S. policy on climate change. "Modesty and certainty" underscore the approach he plans to pursue with regards to climate policy. Because the issue of global warming has become so polarized, Bingaman hopes that his principles will help bridge the divide and lead to a more bipartisan discussion of the problem. In a speech today on the Senate floor, he praised the efforts of his colleagues who have worked hard on this issue, and he said he plans to use his position as the Senate Energy Committee’s ranking member to focus on the links between climate policy and energy policy. Bingaman on Climate Policy February 16, 2005 Madam President, today marks the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change. Following President Bush’s decision to opt out of ratification of that Treaty, enforcement of the Protocol fell onto Russian shoulders and was finally ratified by the Russian Federation late last year. Today it is a legally binding treaty. Madam President, the basic climate change problem is well understood. We have been told repeatedly in peer-reviewed scientific assessments that increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases will lead to an increase in the average global temperature. The increasing temperature of the earth will lead to a large number of important changes to today's climate system. Through past emissions and projected emissions over coming years and decades we expect that the warming will accelerate unless the world alters its emissions path. Indications of warming are already evident in the global temperature record. Last year was the fourth-warmest year since temperature measurements began in the 19th century. The warmest year on record was 1998, followed by 2002 and 2003. Indications are also evident in the vast changes now underway in the Arctic and the bleaching of coral reefs around the world. Over the years there have been many who have been skeptical of the science that has informed us of the climate change problem. But the mainstream of the scientific community, as evidenced by panels organized through the National Academy of Sciences, has been quite consistent in their views. Our doubling of the pre-industrial level of carbon dioxide has been a major factor in increased global average temperatures. If human-induced global warming continues on its present path, the changes to our way of life could be vast. We know this from looking at climates of the past as well as projections made by scientific models. There would be significant changes in water resources, because precipitation patterns will change. The sea level will increase because the oceans will warm and will expand. The ice sheets of Greenland and parts of Antarctica could disintegrate, further adding to long-term sea level rise. A warming of the earth will place major ecological systems at risk, including many of our forests and coral reefs. We are essentially performing a global experiment with our planet, with increasing risk to the future. A prudent course of action would be to take steps now to lower these risks, while we continue to improve our understanding of the implications of the warming of our planet. “The desirability of taking prudent steps now, on a national and international basis, to stem global warming is further highlighted by other developments. Across the United States, an increasing number of individual States are taking policy steps related to global warming. California and New York are moving forward with innovative programs to do their part in minimizing emissions. Add into the mix States like Pennsylvania, Colorado, Texas, Minnesota and others and you can see that a patchwork quilt of climate policies is being formed across the United States. While States can be a great laboratory of ideas, the developing situation really calls out for Federal leadership to get to a more coordinated and rational approach across the country. The business community is looking for Federal leadership as well. At a recent hearing before the Energy Committee, an industry economist called climate change a ‘wild card’ that could shape energy markets and governance worldwide. He testified that it would be ‘prudent to take preparatory steps’ to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. He is not alone. Many U.S.-based multi-national corporations are looking to the Federal Government for help as they seek to comply with the EU emissions trading scheme. More than 12,000 factories and power plants in Europe are subject to emissions caps, affecting many U.S. multinationals with operations in Europe. "Madam President, I applaud the hard work that has been done by many of my colleagues on the issue of global warming. In past Congresses, we have seen productive work both in terms of specific bills, such as that by Senators McCain and Lieberman or the abrupt climate change bill by Sen. Collins, or as part of large legislation, such as the bipartisan climate change titles in past comprehensive energy bills. It is clear that most Members of the Senate understand the importance of global warming. I hope that we will continue to work together this Congress on a path toward sensible climate legislation. For my part, on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, I hope that we can find a way to continue to integrate global warming concerns in energy legislation "Energy legislation is an appropriate place to deal with global warming. I have said many times that climate change is so closely related to energy policy because the two most prominent greenhouse gases – that is, carbon dioxide and methane – are largely released due to energy production and use. To a large extent, to do energy legislation is to do climate legislation and vice versa. "As we consider climate in this energy context, I would like to lay out three principles that I believe in and that I think are important. I think that these principles are both modest and aimed at providing more certainty to decisions that need to be made by the many actors who are part of our national energy picture. "The first principle is to have a sensible plan to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide. I am very impressed with the recent proposal by the bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy in this regard. They have presented a well thought-out plan to create a mandatory emission trading scheme that protects the economy and provides the essential framework for certainty. "Industry needs the certainty of a program that will help them make investment decisions for the future without causing them to prematurely retire capital stock. For example, I would bring to the Senate’s attention the recent report of the Cinergy Corporation and their detailed analysis of the implications of potential greenhouse gas regulations. They conclude that neither their company, nor their region, nor this country would be endangered in the face of a modest greenhouse gas emissions policy that includes a safety valve to protect against shocks to the economy. This approach has been championed by well known economists such as Glenn Hubbard and Joseph Stiglitz, as well as institutions such as Resources for the Future, the Climate Policy Center and the Washington Post. "Madam President, protecting our economy will not come from ignoring the situation. Lack of attention is as detrimental as legislation that is too aggressive. The Energy Commission’s proposal is the right mix of modesty and certainty. "The second principle is to couple any emission reduction plan with robust technology research and development and a broader energy package that addresses energy supply from nuclear power, renewable energy, natural gas, IGCC and other sources. We need our approach to research and development to be strategic in the sense of creating new options for dealing with greenhouse gases in an economic way. "The third and final principle is to enact policies that affect emission trends in developing countries. EIA has projected that we will soon be overtaken by the developing countries in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, they are not required by the Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions. This has been a key point for opponents of the Protocol who are worried about losing competitive advantage to countries with weak environmental standards. In terms of the long-term resolution to this issue and the continued competitiveness of the American economy, it is essential that the United States and developing countries coordinate action. One way to do that is to link progress in the United States to policies abroad. Here again I point to the Energy Commission Proposal that links progress on American action to the international community. "Madam President, climate change is important to the international community. It is important to Prime Minister Blair and the other members of the G8 who will be meeting later this year. Finally, it is important to Americans. "Madam President, I intend to propose sensible climate legislation at an appropriate point that is consistent with the principles I have just laid out. I hope that we can address elements of it in energy legislation as it moves forward. We need to find a way to move forward and I believe we can accomplish that in this Congress.”

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