Magazine article American Forests

Washington Outlook

Magazine article American Forests

Washington Outlook

Article excerpt

Climate change has emerged as a major policy issue this year, and the U.S. Senate has shown strong leadership in moving forward a sensible domestic framework to address it.

Reports earlier this year from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as well as efforts by former Vice President Al Gore, have focused greater world attention on the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change and the need to take timely action. The IPCC and Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize for these efforts.

Policymakers from around the world recently completed meetings in Bali, Indonesia, aimed at developing a new climate change agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The eyes of the world were on the U.S. and developing countries such as China and India to see whether they would commit to significant greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions.

All developed countries, including the U.S., agreed to curb emissions through comparable programs, and China, India, and other developing nations for the first time supported "measurable, reportable and verifiable" programs to curb their emissions. However, details must be negotiated through international talks over the next two years.

While President Bush responded to emerging reports by acknowledging climate change as an important issue, his administration has not been forthcoming with action proposals and appears to be deferring any serious action to the next administration.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) took steps to create a special Select Committee in the House of Representatives to address the crosscutting implications of climate change. While this committee, chaired by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), has convened a number of hearings, it has yet to propose a comprehensive approach to address climate change issues.

The Senate has made the greatest strides toward significant and broad policy action. Prior to the Congress' summer recess, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-RI) and Sen. John Warner (R-VA) released a bipartisan framework to address climate change through a cap-and-trade approach that aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to more than 60 below 2005 levels by 2050. AMERICAN FORESTS responded to the framework with a letter thanking the senators for their leadership and for including provisions recognizing many of the important roles of forests in helping to address climate change. We also suggested a number of ways the legislation could be strengthened (see Washington Outlook, Fall 2007 and letter on website).

Senators Lieberman and Warner introduced their bill, the Climate Security Act of 2007 (S. 2191), in October, after revising their framework based on comments. With the support of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, the Lieberman-Warner bill passed the committee November 5 by a vote of 11-8 and is expected to go to floor for a vote by the whole Senate early next year.

AMERICAN FORESTS and a number of community partners in the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition sent a joint letter to Sen. Boxer thanking her for the Committee's leadership in seeking to move this important legislation through the Senate and for including significant roles and opportunities in the legislation for forests and rural communities.

We expressed our support for the legislation's sensible approach, which builds on what our country has learned over the past two decades by encouraging voluntary measures and from cap-and-trade approaches that have been tested in more limited contexts and in other countries. …

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