ESA Policy News: Dec. 22


Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by ESA’s Science Policy Analyst, Piper Corp. Read the full Policy News here


COPENHAGEN SUMMIT ENDS IN NON-BINDING ACCORD–The UN climate summit in Copenhagen concluded on December 19, with the world’s largest emitters vowing to cut emissions and help developing countries adapt to the changing climate, and with the almost 200 countries present agreeing to “take note” of this pledge.

Just before midnight the day prior, President Obama and leaders from Brazil, India, South Africa and China emerged from 13-some hours of last-minute negotiations, unveiling an outline for future action to be pursued by more than two dozen major emitters. The agreement established an overarching goal of limiting increases in global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius or less.

The accord also include some language on REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), calling for the “immediate establishment of a mechanism including REDD-plus” (“REDD-plus” includes additional forest-related reductions, such as reforestation and sustainable forest management). Although leaders left the summit without a formal agreement or hard targets on REDD, many see the negotiations as an important step and expect to finalize an agreement in 2010, possibly independent of the broader climate talks. The Kyoto agreement did not address forest offsets and deforestation.

SENATE CLIMATE DEBATE–On December 10, Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) released a framework for the climate legislation on which they’ve been working.  This effort comes on the heels of a similar bill from Kerry and Environment and Public Works Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA), which failed to win bipartisan support.

 The framework contains few specifics, but rather lays out a foundation on which committees with jurisdiction can build.  Kerry said that both the Agriculture and Finance committees are planning to hold hearings next year, giving leaders time to “pull this language together in January or February.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has scheduled floor time for a climate and energy bill next spring, giving lawmakers time to tackle the controversial matter before the 2010 elections.  But it’s still unclear if, when the Senate does take it up, this effort will have a better shot at reaching 60 votes. New industry incentives and protections, while necessary to win the support of Republicans and conservative Democrats, may drive away some of the more liberal senators.  In addition, lawmakers could have several other options to consider, including bills that would regulate only emissions from power plants (a strategy that many moderate Republicans see as more palatable) and a cap-and-dividend bill recently introduced by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME). 

FOREST SERVICE PROVIDES $40 MILLION TO COMBAT BARK BEETLES–In an effort to address bark beetle infestations in the Rocky Mountain Region, the Forest Service will direct $40 million toward federal, state and local government efforts to reduce dead branches and other material that increase the risk of wildfire, and to maintain roads and trails where falling trees are a problem.  Over 2.5 million acres of forest in the region have been affected by the beetles, significantly increasing the risk of fire and therefore falling trees.  As he announced the funding, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack highlighted the drastic impact that beetle infestations can have on watersheds-dead trees increase erosion and flooding, while reducing the ability of forests to act as reservoirs. 

GORDON, THREE OTHER MODERATE DEMOCRATS TO RETIRE IN 2010–On December 14, House Science Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) announced that he would retire at the end of 2010.  Gordon has served on the Science and Technology Committee since his career as a congressman began in 1985, and he’s chaired the committee since 2006. Representative Brian Baird (D-WA), who chairs the Energy and Environment Subcommittee, is also planning to retire at the end of this term. Besides Gordon and Baird, two other moderate Democrats-Dennis Moore (D-KS) and John Tanner (D-TN) – have recently announced their retirement from the House.