There are a number of important factors that any meaningful action around the issue of climate change must address. We ask that any piece of legislation include the following:
- A mandatory, but flexible, policy that caps emissions as soon as possible from major carbon-releasing sources such as factories, transportation vehicles, and power plants, and incentivizes these bodies to comply, while enforcing repercussions when they do not.
- A policy that engages us with the international community, with the result that all major carbon-emitting countries take similar steps to reduce their emissions.
- A policy that mandates stronger energy efficiency codes and standards for buildings, equipment and appliances and incentivizes energy efficiency.
- A policy that provides funding for the research and development of energy technologies that are low carbon, renewable, and environmentally friendly.
- A policy that serves the public rather than special interests, and generates revenues from polluters to financially assist the poor – both in the United States and abroad – so they can cope with the escalating impacts of global warming and have access to energy efficiency and clean energy opportunities.
There are a number of legislative proposals being considered on the federal, regional, state, and local levels that address these issues. The following is a summary of some of the major proposals that each of these legislative bodies are considering. For a more detailed explanation and sample talking points as well as a key that explains commonly used terms, click on the links provided.
Unfortunately, gridlock in congress has brought most environmental legislation to a halt. However, there are several pieces of legislation that would have a positive impact on climate change:
S.332: Climate Protection Act of 2013: Senators Bernard Sanders (I-VT) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) have co-authored the bill to institute a carbon tax and use some of the revenue to help develop greener energy generation technologies. The bill would also adjust the regulations related to the disclosure of chemicals in hydraulic fracturing fluids.
S.761: Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013: This bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (NH) and Rob Portman (OH) aims to make our energy production facilities and other key industrial complexes more energy efficient. Much like the EnergyStar program helps commercial and public buildings track their energy usage to minimize wasted energy, the bill would create a SupplyStar program to help energy producers make the production and transport of electricity as efficient as possible.
When gridlock in congress put the brakes on passing a national bill to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, some states took it upon themselves to limit carbon emissions. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which covers the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont, has been the most successful example of this type of cooperative effort between states and uses a market-based auction of carbon credits within the states to limit carbon emissions.
States can play a large role in cutting CO2 emissions and investing in renewable energy., Many states have created emissions standards for the businesses in their states. These include:
- Carbon Emissions Targets - Because there has been little meaningful action on the federal level, many states have enacted cap and trade programs to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
- New Vehicle Standards - Many states have instituted plans to reduce vehicle emissions in cars and trucks produced by companies in that state.
- Renewable Portfolio Standards - Because biofuels, geothermal energy, and wind power are available in different quantities depending on their geographic location, many states have begun investing in state specific renewable energy research and development.
Like states, many local governments have had success in tailoring emission cuts and renewable energy to their needs. Because 75% of the world's energy is consumed in urban areas, local action around this issue can make a significant difference. Although local governments are limited in their jurisdiction, research has shown that small changes on the part of these municipalities can make a big difference.
- Expanding public transportation
- Implementing plans to limit urban sprawl
- Expanding household access to renewable energy
Additionally, through the U.S. Mayors Climate Partnership Agreement, 1,060 mayors have collectively ratified the Kyoto Protocols, pledging that their cities will achieve seven percent reductions of U.S. 1990 level emissions in the near future.