Federal Climate Change Legislation

Information on the movement to pass federal climate change legislation

Several bills have been introduced in Congress to address the worsening climate crisis faced by humanity.  The Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act, sponsored by Bernie Sanders in the Senate and Barbara Boxer in the House is considered the gold standard when it comes to climate change legislation.  It aims at a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. This bill includes the kind of measures reputable scientists say is necessary to avoid dangerous global warming. It is also supported by all of the major US environmental organizations.  Following is a summary of the bill's most important provisions:

Requires that the U.S. reduce its emissions between 2010 and 2020 to 1990 levels. By 2030, the U.S. must reduce its emissions by 1/3 of 80% percent below 1990 levels, by 2040 by 2/3 of 80% percent below 1990 levels and by 2050, to a level that is 80 percent below 1990 levels.

Requires that power plants, automobiles and carbon intensive businesses reduce their global warming pollution.

In the event that global atmospheric concentrations exceed 450 parts per million or that average global temperatures increase above 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial average, EPA can require additional reductions.

Provides for standards and grants for sequestration of greenhouse gases.

The National Academy of Sciences will report to EPA and the Congress to determine whether goals of the Act have been met.

Requires the US to derive 20% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Establishes energy efficiency standards similar those found in California and ten other states.

Invests in innovative technologies.

While the Sanders-Boxer has the most co-sponsors and support, the bill that is most likely to become the law of the land is entitled the Climate Security Act introduced by Lieberman in the Senate and Warner in the House.  The Lieberman-Warner act calls for a 62-66% reduction in emissions by 2050 and so falls short dramatically of what scientists call for in protecting the planet for the coming generations.   

Creates an emissions tracking and monitoring system.

Creates a cap and trade system administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Allocates a growing percentage of allowances, reaching 100 percent by 2030, to activities that
provide public benefit and reduce the cost of the program.

Allows up to 15 percent of a facility’s compliance obligation to be fulfilled through the purchase of “offsets” which are reductions from sources outside the cap.

Allows up to 15 percent of a facility’s compliance obligation to be fulfilled through the purchase
of international credits from other recognized trading systems of comparable integrity to the U.S. system.

Contains provisions for banking and borrowing of emissions to help manage volatility in carbon
prices. It creates a carbon market efficiency board which monitors emissions trading. The board can increase the amount of offsets and borrowing allowed at the individual firm level and can also release borrowed allowances into the carbon market equaling up to 5 percent of the national total.

All borrowed allowances must be paid back by making deeper reductions in later years.

S.2191 as Reported On
December 5, 2007 by the
U.S. Senate Environment
and Public Works Committee