As a key Senate committee prepares to take up legislation to reverse global warming, Senators Bernie Sanders and Frank Lautenberg set down a set of principles that will guide their consideration of legislation. Sanders and Lautenberg both serve on a subcommittee that will consider legislation expected to be formally introduced on Thursday by Senator Joseph Lieberman, the subcommittee chairman, and Senator John Warner, the panel's ranking Republican. "We need to work together to address the most significant environmental threat to our planet, but this is no time for timidity. Dealing with scientific reality is more important than cutting deals," Sanders said. "The latest evidence is that the scientists have underestimated the problem of global warming. The consequences of climate change are occurring sooner than expected. We must act boldly if we are to prevent planetary catastrophe." Lautenberg said, "Global warming is the most serious environmental problem we face. It is time to boldly and aggressively tackle global warming, and to do so quickly. To protect our families and our planet, we need to drastically reduce emissions and these principles provide the framework to do just that."
Here are the Sanders-Lautenberg principles:
- The Solution Must Recognize the Gravity of the Problem The scientific evidence is clear that humanity is responsible for global warming. As such, any action we take to prevent it must be bold, aggressive, and comprehensive enough to prevent the devastating effects of catastrophic climate change. Targets must be set to ensure that the global concentration of greenhouse gases rises to no more than 450 parts per million carbon dioxide equivalent. This requires a strong 2020 target to get the country shifted to a low-carbon economy and to make the long-term reductions that are needed in the fight against global warming. Additionally, we must ensure that the latest science is continually considered and informs our ongoing action.
- Quickly Transition to Polluter Pays We must quickly transition to a polluter-pays scheme, and an auction is the most economically efficient and fair way to do so. Auctioning allowances will provide the incentive for companies to develop and deploy cutting-edge, low-carbon technologies. Additionally, the increased revenues from a full auction will undoubtedly help to provide relief to all those affected by global warming, help support our transition to a low-carbon economy, and to fund a significant increase in the country's use of renewable and energy efficiency technologies, including solar and wind.
- Encourage State Leadership The federal government should set the floor, not the ceiling, for action on and innovation in addressing global warming - consistent with the Clean Air Act and other major environmental laws. Over the past few years, states have stepped in to fill the unfortunate void left by a lack of federal leadership on global warming. As we now work to catch up, states must be able to continue to provide leadership and be able to pursue innovative strategies to protect their citizens from the risks of global warming.
- Additional Policies to Include in a Cap and Trade Bill While a cap and trade bill sets the basis for the mandatory emission reductions that are needed throughout the country, additional policies are needed to ensure the rapid and often cheaper deployment of clean energy technologies. Examples of such policies include green building standards, which will reduce long-term energy costs for the occupants of the property, a requirement that any new coal plant deploy carbon capture and storage technology, and policies that offer a roadmap for reduced carbon transportation fuels.
- Flexibility Mechanisms Must Not Result in Illusory Emission Reductions While theoretically offsets yield the same global warming benefit for less cost, in reality it is difficult, and some believe impossible, to ensure their long-term environmental integrity. As a result, the use of offsets should be strictly limited. In addition, they must be real, verifiable, additional, permanent and enforceable and should not undermine the signals to industry for technology development and deployment.