Thursday, February 7, 2008

US Climate Action Partnership - Strange Bedfellows?

Hot Politics was very educational. I too was surprised to learn how our elected officials have floundered on this issue for over 20 years now. I could rant and rave for this week’s blog, but a quick review of recent posts shows that ranting has been thoroughly exhausted.

Towards the end of the documentary, it was mentioned that a number of large, prominent US corporations held a hearing in Washington requesting the federal government to implement mandatory limits on carbon emissions. The companies expressed a need for unified federal mandates rather than a patchwork of state-level mandates.

The United States Climate Action Partnership, USCAP, as they call themselves, has grown since that February 2007 hearing. The list of members reads like a list of Fortune 500 businesses and environmental NGOs. The partnership clearly spells out their desired approach for reducing carbon emissions in a report, titled ‘A Call for Action.

This coordinated effort by such prominent organizations illustrates their desire to influence carbon-limiting legislation. Whether these companies are truly concerned about climate change, or if they are thinking solely about stakeholder value, I feel that this partnership places substantial pressure on our elected officials; particularly those officials who receive hefty campaign contributions and answer to constituents employed by these companies.

Since I am not well versed on carbon emission reduction targets called for by the experts, I have trouble assessing the following recommendation from the USCAP report:

To begin the process of reducing U.S. emissions, we recommend Congress establish a mandatory emission reduction pathway with specific targets that are:

--between 100–105% of today’s levels within five years of rapid enactment

--between 90–100% of today’s levels within ten years of rapid enactment

--between 70–90% of today’s levels within fifteen years of rapid enactment

The short- and mid-term targets selected by Congress should be aimed at making it clear to the millions of actors in our economy and to other nations that we are committed to a pathway that will slow, stop and reverse the growth of U.S. emissions. Furthermore, Congress should specify an emission target zone aimed at reducing emissions by 60% to 80% from current levels by 2050.

Let us hope that the USCAP definition of ‘short-term’ or ‘rapid enactment’ does not coincide with George W. Bush’s definition of a ‘reasonable period of time’. If you recall from Hot Politics, Bush called for mandatory caps on various emissions-most notably CO2-in a ‘reasonable period of time’ while he was on the campaign trail. George must be living on a geologic time scale.

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