ESA Policy News: Nov. 20

Here are some snippets from the latest ESA Policy News by ESA’s Policy Analyst, Piper Corp. Read the full policy news here. COPENHAGEN — At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Singapore, top officials acknowledged that the United Nations (UN) climate negotiations in Copenhagen next month will not produce a final international deal to reduce emissions. Denmark Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who will host the December summit, proposed postponing binding emissions targets until the 2010 UN conference in Mexico City, calling instead for “precise language of a comprehensive political agreement covering all aspects of the Bali mandates: commitment of developed countries to reductions and of developing countries to actions; strong provisions on adaptation, finance and technology, including upfront finance for early action.” The “Bali mandates,” agreed upon at the 2007 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, provided a negotiation agenda and timetable for further international work on climate. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the Copenhagen talks a “stepping stone” that would eventually lead to a legally binding international agreement. Clinton stressed the importance of moving forward even though no perfect solution exists. CLIMATE BILL — Following a contentious partisan debate in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), a bipartisan group of lawmakers will attempt to craft a more moderate bill capable of garnering the support necessary for its passage. (For more information on the EPW vote, see the November 6 edition of the ESA Policy News at: www.esa.org/pao/policyNews/pn2009/11062009.php). Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) will spend the next few weeks writing a legislative outline for a compromise bill that combines cap-and-trade with provisions such as nuclear industry incentives and wider offshore drilling. Kerry and Graham recently teamed up to draft an op-ed supporting climate legislation, marking the first sign of bipartisan support for the Senate’s current climate effort. Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman are aiming to release the blueprint before the UN climate talks in Copenhagen, which will begin on December 7. Their target deadline of spring 2010 is also critical for Democrats facing re-election next year. As elections approach, lawmakers tend to shy away from controversial issues – many would prefer to complete a House-Senate climate conference bill before Memorial Day, meaning that the Senate would have to finish its work no later than March. But observers are now asking whether climate will come up at all before the November elections, since lawmakers will be under pressure to address voter concerns, most notably the economy and unemployment. Read the full Policy News on the ESA web...

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The Senate, climate change, and the public opinion

On Wednesday, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) sent a letter, signed by 18 scientific organizations including ESA, to each member of the Senate. The letter states the consensus views of the scientific community: that climate change is real, that it is mostly anthropogenic in source and that, if unchecked, it will create major threats to our society. The letter is an exceptionally concise and to-the-point summary of the dire climate situation. Read the full text here. This letter is also especially important and timely given that a new poll out yesterday by the Pew Research Center shows some changing opinions about global warming in the American populace. The trends are not so good: 57 percent believe there is solid evidence that the Earth is warming, compared to 71 percent a year and a half ago. Only 35 percent think that climate change is a serious problem, down from 44 percent last year. Here’s The Grist’s David Roberts’ take on the issue: The temptation is to respond to a poll like Pew’s with lamentations about the state of science education–to imagine that the public, like scientists, can be swayed by the weight of empirical evidence. But the most important political takeaway is almost the opposite: popular belief in the science of climate change will follow popular support for clean energy, not the other way around. While we like to think that rational people will listen to solid scientific reason, we know that people are the product of marketing, often believing the word of a celebrity or a person they can relate to over the scientific facts. It remains to be seen how societal changes to combat climate change will be somehow made desirable to the mainstream American...

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The economics of Waxman-Markey

An insightful (if decidedly partisan) op-ed by Paul Krugman in Friday’s New York Times focuses on the Waxman-Markey climate change bill that was approved in the House but has stalled – due in no small part due to the debate over health care reform – in the Senate. Krugman points out that there are two kinds of people opposed to climate change legislation: those dwindling numbers who don’t believe climate change is happening at all, and those who believe it is happening but that any legislation will be too costly to the economy. He says that in many cases, climate change legislation would cost the average family about $160 per year, but also that our use of energy right now is so inefficient that implementing more efficient technologies could actually save Americans money. Like opposition to health-care reform, he says, those who oppose Waxman-Markey rest their campaign “mainly on lies.” Read the full article...

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Policy News: Climate bill passes House

Here’s an update on the Waxman-Markey climate bill, from the latest edition of the ESA Policy News by ESA’s Policy Analyst Piper Corp. Read more at the Policy News Page. On June 26, the House voted 219-212 in favor of the Waxman-Markey climate and energy package. The bill’s success came after significant negations between Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Agriculture Committee Chairman Colin Peterson (D-MN). Peterson had previously vowed to vote against the measure, threatening to bring up to 50 farm state lawmakers with him, if his concerns were not addressed. For more information, see the June 5 Policy News. In exchange for his support, Peterson was allowed to add an amendment to the existing package. The amendment made several notable changes to the legislation, including language to: –  Place the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)–rather than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)– in charge of the offset program that provides incentive for farmers and other landowners to conduct environmentally friendly projects. –  Place a moratorium of at least six years on any EPA regulations that would include “indirect” greenhouse gas emissions when calculating biofuels’ carbon footprint. These indirect emissions-emissions that result from changes in land-use driven by the production of biofuels-could only be included if USDA and EPA, following additional research by the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that the emissions could be accurately measured. –  Expand the definition of “renewable biomass” acceptable under the bill’s Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) so that it mirrors the specifications in the 2008 farm bill. The Waxman-Markey bill banned the use of materials from “old growth or mature forest stands”; the Peterson amendment will remove the language protecting mature forest stands, replacing it with “late successional forest stands.” Much of the original language remains intact, however, including restrictions on using biomass-including slash and thinnings-from federal forests and lands. The Senate is set to begin work on their version of the bill this...

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ESA Policy News Update

My sincere apologies for this week’s EcoTone drought… this blogger was away on vacation. To re-whet your appetite, here are highlights from the latest Policy News Update from ESA’s policy analyst, Piper Corp. House Climate Bill: On May 21, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the American Clean Energy and Security Act by a vote of 33 to 25.  The committee approved a number of amendments, including ones establishing a federal “clean energy” bank, which would provide financial assistance for clean energy projects, and a “cash for clunkers” program, which would provide consumers with up to $4,500 toward replacing gas-guzzling cars with more efficient models. The committee also voted down Republican-backed amendments to add nuclear and hydroelectric power to the renewable electricity standard, as well as ones to provide a means for terminating the cap-and-trade program in the event of increased job loss or energy prices. Among the things yet to be decided are acceptable sources of biomass for renewable energy mandates (see the March 5 Policy News), emissions allocations for refineries, and repercussions for violations in gas, power and carbon markets. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he expects a possible floor debate in late June or early July, following another month of fast-paced committee action. Senate Energy Bill: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) appears to have gathered the twelve votes necessary to move forward with a renewable energy standard (RES) measure in the chamber’s massive energy bill. The current RES would require utilities to supply 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021, allowing companies to cover roughly a fourth of the target with efficiency offsets. Committee members are still debating the specifics, however, and could mark up as many as 49 amendments next month. Fisheries: The Obama administration’s 2010 budget request includes $18.6 million for “catch-share” programs, new fisheries management programs that take a cap-and-trade-style approach to regulating catches. Under the traditional system, managers set a limit to the fishery’s total catch, and boats compete to bring in as many fish as possible before the fishery hits its limit. The resulting “race for fish” is, according to several studies, a major contributor to fishery decline and collapse. Catch-share programs are designed to incentivize more sustainable practices by guaranteeing all fishers a fixed number of shares from the total catch, a limit that is set annually by scientists. These shares, which can be bought and sold, increase in value when the fish populations increase, increasing the financial benefit of preserving the long-term health of the fishery. Recent studies have shown that catch-share programs can cut the collapse rate for fisheries in...

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