The Lieberman-Warner climate bill will likely be introduced tomorrow and — given its status as the consensus bill and the most likely to pass — the green world is on the edge of its seat.
The draft (PDF) that was released in August fell short in a few key respects: the short-term targets were too soft, it didn’t cover enough of the economy, and too many of the pollution permits were given away rather than auctioned. Since then Lieberman has signaled his willingness to hear out the objections of green groups. Several, notably Environmental Defense, Sierra Club, and NRDC, have been in intense talks with Lieberman’s people. Also, a group of Senators wrote Lieberman and Warner earlier this month outlining ways they believe the bill could be improved. In particular (from Hill Heat):
- Calling for a 80% reduction by 2050 with specific and aggressive interim targets, as opposed to the 70% target in the draft
- Reiterating opposition to "safety valve" legislation like that in Bingaman-Specter
- Criticizing the degree to which free allocations of emissions credits are given to the fossil fuel sector
- Calling for more emphasis on energy efficiency and renewable energy
Everyone’s hoping the bill will represent a marked improvement over what came out in August.
Meanwhile, green groups are split on strategy. This morning, Friends of the Earth put out a scathing press release, linking to this short analysis (PDF) and calling the bill a massive corporate giveaway that would primarily benefit the coal industry. FOE’s main objection has to do with permit allocation — L-W auctions only 24% of the initial pollution permits. That means 76% are given away, primarily to high-emission industries, i.e. coal.
Environmental Defense countered with their own release praising Lieberman and Warner and lauding the bill for … well, for having a cap, as far as I can tell.
This is, in a sense, the same old strategy question that comes up all the time. Do you, like FOE, act as an outside agitator, draw lines in the sand, and try to pressure the political process? Or do you, like ED, worm your way inside the process, schmooze the big players, and strive to insure that the final bill is as good as it possibly can be under the circumstances?
If you say "we need both," gold star for you.
These are interesting times in the climate policy world.