Will Environmental Defense Defend the Environment?

Let us be clear, upfront, the current Lieberman-Warner bill is inadequate and, well, potentially worse than inadequate. If passed, as is, it will (without question) fall short of the measures required to deal with Global Warming, it will give away $100s billions to polluters without requirements to use those funds to clean up their acts in a serious way, and could handicap future efforts to turn the tide on Global Warming’s rising problems.

In the face of these inadequacies, Environmental Defense seems determine to lavish praise on “Senators Liebermann and Warner for their leadership”, according to a 31 Oct letter sent to all members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW). 

It is vitally important that the Senate have a full and open debate on global warming action. We therefore ask all members of the Environment and Public Works Committee and its subcommittee of jurisdiction to work together to deliver a strong, bipartisan bill to the full Senate this year.

Is this what matters?  “Bipartisan”? To have a “full and open debate”? 

Now, to a certain extent, this is perhaps unfair criticism.  Perhaps ED is just trying to keep the door open, so that it can continue to participate in discussions on the Hill.  And, ED does praise “Senators Sanders and Lautenberg and other members of the subcommittee and committee who are working to strengthen the bill as it moves through the process.” 

Okay, great.

But what are the weaknesses in the bill that require improving …

This letter wouldn’t tell you or, well, the Senators it was addressed to.

On 1 November, ED celebrated passage of that bill with its unnamed problems by the subcommittee.

“This is much more than a milestone,” said Elizabeth Thompson, legislative director at Environmental Defense. “With this bill we have a real chance of enacting a mandatory cap on emissions in this Congress. Today the U.S. Congress begins its leadership on climate at home and abroad.”One just needs to read between the lines of the press release to see the problem:

S. 2191 would put the U.S. on a path that is consistent with achieving the roughly 80 percent reductions scientists say we need by the middle of the century. The bill puts a mandatory cap on emissions from the electric power, transportation, and manufacturing sectors of the economy. It also contains energy efficiency provisions that, when combined with the cap, would according to the sponsors, produce overall reductions of roughly 19 percent by 2020, and 63 percent in 2050, compared to 2005 levels.

We require getting to 80% reductions by 2050, yet the bill only gets us (US) to 63%.  Note a problem.  Oh, and by the way, the target is 80% below 1990 levels, not 80% below the 2005 levels.   

Furthermore, read this:

The bill also contains a sensible and important provision for managing costs – without busting the emissions cap like alternative “safety valve” proposals. America’s Climate Security Act would allow companies to bank and borrow emissions allowances for future compliance, without compromising the integrity of the overall emissions limit.

Hmm … let’s buy emission permits when they’re cheap to then use to magnify our emissions when more expensive. Or, let’s promise to pollute less tomorrow for authority to pollute more today? 

In their 31 October letter, ED emphasized “the mounting urgency of action on global warming” and then praises effusely a provision that would enable a process for putting off near term action.

Sadly, it seems that ED has not recognized fully the magnitude of public change when it comes to Global Warming. Every single Democratic Presidential candidate has more serious Global Warming goals in their energy plans than what exists in Lieberman-Warner, and they are likely to be getting stronger. 

And, well, one has to seriously question whether Environmental Defense is really about defending the environment when one reads such strong praise of a dangerous piece of legislation.  And, this praise, by definition, undercuts the ability to get stronger legislation through Congress when we have a President who works in reality-based policy-making.

2 responses to “Will Environmental Defense Defend the Environment?

  1. Well, just one little point…the 80% by 1990 levels vs. 2005 levels isn’t so important. Since the emissions reductions targets at 80% lower, even a 20% difference between the starting years works out to be 4%. However, no point in starting weak and getting weaker.

  2. Pingback: zenmeme » Will Environmental Defense Defend the Environment?

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