The United States is undergoing a radical political shift on the environment with the first approval of a bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions.
The approval by a Senate subcommittee means the bill will be debated by the Environment and Public Works Committee, headed by powerful California Democrat and environmentalist Barbara Boxer. Though other bills have been sent to debate before, this is the first with a real chance of becoming law. Boxer has made it clear to the committee that she wants the measure approved by the end of the year.
“We are finally on our way toward preventing the ravages of unfettered global warming,” said Boxer. The bill differs from earlier climate change efforts because of its details on how the emissions cap and credit trade process would actually work.
“People have said we need a Manhattan Project, we need a moon-shot project to combat global warming. This is it” said Sen. Joe Lieberman. Lieberman (I-CT) and Sen. John Warner (R-VA) sponsored the bill.
The bill has run into some opposition from Republicans who claim capping emissions would have a negative effect on the economy, a view also shared by President Bush. They argue voluntary measures are the only acceptable initiatives.
Unlike previous bills, however, this bill has proponents on both sides of the aisle, including in states with large coal industries, one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gasses. Previous bills were exceptionally harsh to coal industries, but this bill provide financial incentives to develop clean coal technology.
These incentives have annoyed some environmental groups. Erich Pica of Friends of the Earth denounced the provisions for coal companies. “The Lieberman-Warner bill will reward corporate polluters by handing them pollution permits worth almost half a trillion dollars. The levels of pollution-rewarding giveaways in this bill are truly obscene.”
Carl Pope of the Sierra Club also made a statement, saying: “Polluters must pay for the damage they do to our planet – period.” Despite his reservations about the incentives for coal companies, he supported the bill in general, as did a majority of environmental groups. After years of hard labor the US government is finally making serious steps towards tackling climate change.
Elizabeth Thompson of Environmental Defense called the bill “much more than a milestone,” describing the bill as “a real chance of enacting a mandatory cap on emissions in this Congress.”
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