Introducing Sanity to Climate Legislation

Today, Congressman Ed Markey has announced that he will introduce the the Investing in Climate Action and Protection (iCAP) Act next week.  Unlike the Boxer-Lieberman-Warner Climate inSecurity Act (BLW CISA), the iCAP follows science calling for a reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in covered sectors by 85 percent by 2050.  It also is serious in making polluters pay, with nearly 100 percent of pollution permits auctioned (94 percent in 2012, 100 percent by 2020). And, it has strong provisions to secure social equity (both domestically and internationally).  In short, iCAP is in lines with the basic principles for global warming legislation.

The iCAP has significant focus on “investing”, on investing in a positive vision for dealing with Global Warming.  “To heal this sick planet” in a way that will strengthen society, strengthen the economy at the same time.

Now, iCAP has a tremendous amount of value.

It also has a tremendous amount of material.  

Having just seen the summary and read (and listened to via CSPAN) the speech, it is not the time to embrace the legislation as is, even within its strengths.  For example, there look to be some uncertain elements.  For example, let us take one point:

Return over half of auction proceeds to low- and middle-income households to help compensate for any increase in energy costs as a result of climate legislation.

The iCAP Act returns over half of auction proceeds to low- and middle-income households through rebates and tax credits. This will compensate all increased energy costs due to climate legislation for all households earning under $70,000 (66 percent of U.S. households), and will provide benefits to all households earning up to $110,000 (over 80 percent of U.S. households).

This raises a number of questions. 

  • Should there be a drive for covering 100 percent of “increased energy costs”?  To me, the key focus should be to help people stabilize their overall energy costs via energy efficiency (for example).  Thus, is that money better spent on fostering a rapid move of rental properties into energy efficiency to lower renters’ energy usage (and, therefore, bills)? 
  • This also reads, to a certain degree, as an income-level “cap and dividend” program. One element of “cap and dividend” is to build political support. While this covers “80 percent of US households”, there seems to be a political benefit of having 100 percent of US citizen households receiving some form of dividend. For example, if giving 50 percent of funds, why not give these out equally to 100 percent of US citizens living on US soil which would mean that every citizen would make a profit if they pollute less than 50 percent of the US average. And, if doing it in this fashion, guardians of citizens less than 18 years of age could receive half the funds and the other half could be invested in renewable energy and other climate-friendly investments to be distributed to these citizens after they turn 18.
  • And, there is a serious question as to whether dedicating “over half of auction proceeds” is necessary for achieving the necessary compensation. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has looked closedly at this issue.

    The United States can reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in a way that does not increase poverty or otherwise harm low-income households and is fiscally responsible.

    From their work, the CBBP has determined that “approximately 14 percent” of total auction revenues will be “needed to fully offset the increased energy-related costs faced by low-income consumers”.

  • Or, to take another example, while stronger than BLW CiSA, iCAP’s reduction targets are in line with the <a href=””>House Principles</a>, which are inadequate against requirements..  The targeted 20 percent reduction from today’s levels by 2020 are less than half the required reductions that science calls for: which would be 25 percent, for developed nations, below 1990 levels by 2020.

    Or another, which is that up to 30 percent of reductions can occur via domestic and international offsets.  “Offsets” do not necessarily lead to real reductions.  The more important path is to ensure that all polluters have to pay for pollution permits, which creates a quite direct fiscal incentive for reducing one’s own GHG pollution.

    <strong>Despite the Buts …</strong>

    Yes, there are likely weaknesses in iCAP but there are strengths. 

    <li><strong>Scientifically Sound</strong>: Markey is striving here and iCAP targets 85 percent reduction from current US GHG emissions by 2050 (which puts it in the range of required 80 percent reductions from 1990 levels, which is viewed as a minimum level to provide a 50 percent chance to avoid catastrophic climate change). (As noted above, the 2020 levels are inadequate.)</li>
    <li><strong>Polluters Pay</strong>:  While not 100 percent true, iCAP gives out a very limited amount of pollution permits and phases out any permit handouts to serial polluters by 2020. Not perfect, but a great improvement over BLW CiSA.</li>
    <li>Social Equity:  As discussed above, iCAP has quite serious provisions to insure that lower and middle class Americans are not harmed via increased energy costs.</li>

    In addition, the iCAP targets using remaining auction revenues (after the Social Equity payments) for clean energy technology, efficiency, incentives to farmers and foresters for carbon storage friendly practices, green jobs, resiliency programs to deal with climate-change impacts, assistance to developing countries (for reducing deforestration and deployment of clean technologies, and climate-change education.

    Again, this is just a first look at a quite substantive action by Ed Markey.

    Expect this to get more attention … from me and others.



    4 responses to “Introducing Sanity to Climate Legislation

    1. Pingback: Apollo Alliance Blog » Blog Archive » Morning Digest

    2. Pingback: Physicians take a Socially Responsible Stand on Lieberman-Warner « Energy Smart

    3. Pingback: » Physicians take a Socially Responsible Stand on Lieberman-Warner

    4. Pingback: Physicians Take a Socially Responsible Stand on Lieberman-Warner » Celsias

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