300-Plus Groups Write to Senate Calling for Stronger Climate Bill

Aug 26, 2009

More than 300 environmental, religious and social justice groups, upset with the small goals and big giveaways in the House climate bill, are speaking out in a letter to senators, and they aren't pulling their punches any more.

Their recommendations would undo many of the deals worked by House members who agreed to support the bill only if their local industries benefited.

"The everyday people of America have been left out of the climate debate," said Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

"We are building a grassroots movement that reflects the diversity of America, to mobilize everyday people who are experiencing the affects of climate change. We aim to defeat entrenched fossil fuel polluting special interests in Washington and pass a truly strong climate bill."

The groups are calling for a cap on greenhouse emissions that is consistent with climate science. They want the Senate to eliminate the massive subsidies traded for votes in the House to pass the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) bill.

They also want to protect the Clean Air Act, which would be hobbled by ACES, and add deadlines for the oldest coal-fired power plants that might otherwise get a free pass. And they want the U.S. to live up to its international obligations.

The letter is addressed to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who will be writing the Senate's version of the climate bill in the coming weeks. President Obama and the rest of the Senate were copied in.

The 300-plus signers include some big names, such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, 350.org, Appalachian Voices, Clean Air Watch, Focus the Nation, Forest Ethics, International Rivers, Public Citizen, and the Rainforest Action Network. But many of the signers are smaller, community-based groups and tribes that believe their voices haven't been heard.

"There's an impressive breadth of groups on this letter, and it demonstrates that the
status quo isn't acceptable," said Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen. "Congress must pass a bill that actually gives us a fighting chance of avoiding runaway global warming. There's no other option."

Here's what the groups wrote:

Dear Senator Boxer,

Thank you for your continued leadership on the climate crisis. The environmental, economic, and public health threats of global warming – both in the United States and around the world – require a strong climate bill. We are profoundly concerned that as currently written, H.R. 2454 (American Clean Energy and Security Act or "ACES") falls far short. We are writing on behalf of the millions of members our organizations represent to urge you to draft a companion bill that provides the transformational change and greenhouse emissions reductions required to avert catastrophic climate impacts.

The Senate bill must set an economy wide cap on greenhouse emissions that is consistent with the best available science and that can be ratcheted down as necessary.

Findings from the U.S. Global Change Research Center, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and many other institutions and scientists indicate that the atmospheric greenhouse gas stabilization target of 450 parts per million CO2eq is far too high to avoid the risk of catastrophic climate change. Leading scientists currently warn that CO2 must be reduced to no more than 350 parts per million. Yet the cap set by H.R. 2454 is insufficient even to achieve 450 parts per million CO2eq. The Senate bill must contain reduction targets consistent with the best available science, representing the U.S. fair global share of reductions within the world's remaining carbon budget, and must include immediate action on short-lived global warming pollutants including black carbon and methane to slow warming in the near term.

The Clean Air Act already provides many of the necessary tools to reduce greenhouse pollutants. Therefore, the Clean Air Act rollbacks in H.R. 2454, which would actually reduce existing pollution control requirements, facilitate the construction of additional coal fired power plants, and grandfather in unnecessary pollution from existing plants, must be removed.

The critical safety net of the Clean Air Act must be retained, not discarded in favor of a new, untested system, placing all of our eggs in one precarious basket. Existing Clean Air Act authority should be strengthened by adding deadlines for the oldest and dirtiest coal fired power plants to meet pollution reduction requirements or shut down.

The Senate bill should eliminate the many loopholes in HR2454 and ensure the integrity of the pollution reduction system.

A top priority must be to eliminate or greatly limit and restrict offsets, which allow actual pollution from capped sources to increase, creating localized toxic hotspots in people of color and vulnerable communities, delay a shift to low carbon technologies in the United States, and increase the risks in carbon markets. In addition, the House provision prohibiting a full life-cycle analysis of bio-fuels must be reversed.

The Senate bill should protect low- and middle- income families.

Regardless of the chosen mechanism, the setting of carbon prices must be transparent, stable, and predictable, while minimizing the ability of private entities to manipulate the carbon price. We do not believe the market mechanisms contained in the current cap and trade proposal achieve this. The Senate bill should ensure there are adequate protections from climate change for low-income families, vulnerable communities domestically and globally, Native American and Indigenous peoples including protections and dividends for low-income consumers and adequate international finance for adaptation.

The Senate bill should provide for abundant clean energy.

The Senate bill should provide mandates and incentives for abundant clean energy sources such as low-impact solar, wind, and non-dam hydro, which do not add toxic burdens to communities and workers, and do not require incineration technologies.

The Senate bill should eliminate polluter giveaways, including massive subsidies to coal and oil.

Scarce government funding should not go to dangerous fossil fuel or nuclear industries or allow damaging practices such as mountaintop removal mining. Instead, public money should go to investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy and the creation of green jobs.

The Senate bill should live up to the United States' international obligations.

For a fair global deal with meaningful global emissions reductions, the United States must both deeply reduce emissions domestically and provide adequate international climate finance for clean technology, adaptation, and support a stop to deforestation. Fulfilling these commitments will be essential to securing an effective international agreement.

We recognize the massive political effort that is necessary to pass climate legislation, but a bill with inadequate targets, loophole-ridden mechanisms, rollbacks of our flagship environmental laws, and inadequate financing for developing countries to address climate change will move us in the wrong direction. We urge you to pass a strong climate bill consistent with the principles outlined above.

Thank you.

For a list of the 300-plus groups that signed the letter see the pdf attached below.

 

See also:

Letter to Pelosi: 20 Environmental Groups Call for Stronger Climate Bill

Scientists Call on Obama, Congress to Take Stronger Climate Action

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