Today, 152 members of the House of Representatives — over one-third of all members and nearly two-thirds of all Democrats — signed and submitted a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stating their guiding principles for “comprehensive global warming legislation” to “save the planet from calamitous global warming.” The letter, led by representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Jay Inslee (D-WA), was delivered to Pelosi this morning.
The legislators describe four key goals:
- Reduce emissions to avoid dangerous global warming;
- Transition America to a clean energy economy;
- Recognize and minimize any economic impacts from global warming legislation; and
- Aid communities and ecosystems vulnerable to harm from global warming.
These are the necessary principles that should guide any path out of the climate crisis. What makes this letter significant is the strong, specific details endorsed by the 152 signatories. These include the following measures to respect the severity of the danger of rising greenhouse gas emissions:
— “The United States must do its part to keep global temperatures from rising more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial levels.”
— “Total U.S. emissions must be capped by a date certain, decline every year, be reduced to 15% to 20% below current levels in 2020, and fall to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.”
— “A mechanism for periodic scientific review is necessary, and EPA, and other agencies as appropriate, must adjust the regulatory response if the latest science indicates that more reductions are needed.”
— “Cost-containment measures must not break the cap on global warming pollution.”
— “The United States must reengage in the international negotiations to establish binding emissions reductions goals under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change . . . for the United States and other developed nations to achieve combined emissions reductions of at least 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, as called for by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”
The letter makes clear that a national cap-and-trade system to limit carbon emissions is necessary, but not sufficient. The signatories call for “complementary policies” like “smart growth measures, green building policies, and electricity sector efficiency policies.” They also agree that a national system should not preempt state efforts: “Federal global warming requirements must be a floor, not a ceiling, on states’ ability to protect their citizens’ health and state resources.”
The signatories also explain that polluter payments must go into building a green recovery, by calling for strong limits to free allowances, if any are made. Instead, the funds derived from auction pollution permits should go to:
— Clean energy and efficiency measures
— Low and moderate-income households
— Workforce development
— State and local adaptation and response to “more severe wildfires, intensified droughts, increased water scarcity, sea level rise, floods, hurricanes, melting permafrost, and agricultural and public health impacts”
— Assistance for developing countries
— Survival of wildlife and natural ecosystems
The Center for American Progress supports auctioning 100 percent of the greenhouse gas emission permits from day one under a cap-and-trade program, and this summer released a comprehensive report, Investing in a Green Economy, describing a plan for investing those revenues along the principles of today’s letter.
As Center for American Progress president John Podesta wrote in November, 2007, introducing the Center’s plan for progressive growth built on a green economy:
Restoring economic mobility for Americans, sustaining economic growth in a global economy, and combating global warming are great challenges, but America is up to the task.
The signatories represent a diverse cross-section of House Members, including members of the Blue Dogs Coalition (11), the Congressional Black Caucus (27), the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (8) and the New Democrat Coalition (30). Download the letter here.