Muckraker: Grist on PoliticsRep. Ed Markey, chair of the Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming, unveiled new climate legislation on Wednesday morning, which he says will take “the innovative actions needed to ensure a greener, healthier, and more prosperous future.” The plan, which Markey will introduce formally next Tuesday, calls for an 85 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2050, and a number of provisions to encourage technological innovation.

“It’s been a free ride for polluters,” said Markey, in a speech delivered at the Center for American Progress. “For those of us who want a safe climate, the iCAP bill I’m introducing is the market correction we’ve been waiting for.”

The Investing in Climate Action and Protection Act, which he’s dubbed “iCAP” (like iPod … as in, “technology!”), also calls for emissions reductions to 2005 levels by 2012 and 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. To do so, it would implement a cap-and-auction system covering 87 percent of all emitting entities, including power plants, industrial facilities, and refineries. It would also cover another 7 percent of emissions by instituting mandatory performance standards for mines, landfills, and wastewater-treatment facilities, and incentives for farms and feedlots to reduce their emissions as well.

*While these emissions targets are tougher than those in many climate bills circulating on the Hill, they’re not as high as the 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 that various environmental groups have called for, and that the IPCC reports have said is needed to avoid catastrophic impacts.

Markey is calling it a “cap-and-invest” plan, which would auction 94 percent of carbon allowances in the first year, scaling up to 100 percent auction by 2020. The 6 percent of initial unauctioned allowances would be distributed to industries that must deal with international trade competition, like iron, steel, and cement.

More than 50 percent of the auction revenue — which staffers estimate could be up to $200 billion a year over the life of the bill — would be distributed to low- and middle-income Americans through rebates and tax credits, to help cover any increase in energy costs. He says the plan would cover any increase in costs for households making under $70,000 a year, and a portion for those making up to $110,000 a year.

The rest of the revenue would be invested in research and development of clean energy technology, programs to improve energy efficiency, green job training, worker transition, deforestation reduction programs, and adaptation.

The bill also includes plans to bring the U.S., China, India, and other developing countries “under one large, climate-saving tent” by creating an international clean technology fund, a climate change adaptation fund, and a forest protection fund. Markey stressed the investment in new technologies as a key advantage of this bill, and pointed to the success of the 1996 Telecommunications Act as evidence of the vast potential for technological innovation driven by government investment.

The bill would also put in place mandatory performance standards for coal-fired power plants, and require that all new plants built after January 2009 include carbon capture and sequestration technology.

Several environmental groups have already come forward to endorse the bill. League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski was on hand for the announcement and called it “a very aggressive, comprehensive, ambitious bill that would get the job done.” “It’s the kind of bill that Congress needs to pass and the president needs to sign,” said Karpinski.

Friends of the Earth send out a laudatory press release, but also said they’d like to see the bill’s emissions targets improved.

What happens next with the bill is unclear; the Select Committee doesn’t have the power to mark up and advance legislation. Markey is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which does have mark-up power, but committee chair John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee chair Rick Boucher (D-Va.) are working on their own legislation.

But if Congress does move this legislation, said Markey, “historians will look back on the beginning of this new millennium and say that it was an era of technological development that in the course of a generation changed the course of the planet.”

*Update: It appears that by covering a wider range of emitting entities and setting the target of 85 percent below 2005 levels, the bill is actually in line with the IPCC’s goals. My misunderstanding.