Now’s as good a time as any to begin a bittersweet game of catch-up on affairs of the climate. On Friday, the House passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES), by a vote of 219 – 212.
What is ACES?
At the heart of the legislation is a cap-and-trade system that sets a limit on overall emissions of heat-trapping gases while allowing utilities, manufacturers and other emitters to trade pollution permits, or allowances, among themselves. The cap would grow tighter over the years, pushing up the price of emissions and presumably driving industry to find cleaner ways of making energy. [The New York Times]
But first, these words from Climate Progress:
For climate-politics realists, the vote today is a staggering achievement. Today was the first time the U.S. House of Representatives has ever voted on climate legislation. This country hasn’t enacted a major economy-wide clean air bill since the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990. And that bill had a cap-and-trade system where 97% of the permits were given to polluters. And it focused on direct, obvious, short-term health threats to Americans. And that was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, when the entire Republican establishment wasn’t dead set against any government led effort to reduce pollution.
Yet Waxman-Markey did get 8 Republican votes, which is 8 more than the stimulus bill got! This bill needed Republican votes, which will also be true in the Senate. The closeness of the House vote — with 44 Dems voting No — makes clear that the really hard work is yet to come.
Apparently Democrats from coal-producing states don’t like to support measures that could disrupt (or be spun as disrupting) their constituent’s livelihoods, which means the bill could face a tough fight in the Senate.
The main point I take from Emily Gertz is that although ACES isn’t particularly ambitious compared with EU policy, the U.S. has to pass something like it to have credibility going into U.N. climate change talks in December.
Without concerted action, you can’t do much to mitigate climate change; it’s too deeply connected to global economic development. Here’s Andrew Revkin on his Dot Earth blog:
The bottom line remains, as the International Energy Agency warned in its 2008 World Energy Outlook, that 97 percent of projected growth in emissions of carbon dioxide from energy use through 2030 (without aggressive action) will come in developing countries, with three-fourths of that growth in China, India and the Middle East.
The pace of emissions and long-term warming largely will be determined by how the Obama administration and other leaders of industrialized powers handle that reality.