The Climate Bill is Officially Dead. Now for Plan B.


Bummed about the Senate dragging its feet on climate? There’s a new report out from the Presidential Climate Action Partnership that outlines five big things the Obama administration can do on climate before the next big United Nations climate meeting in Cancun this November.

“Climate Action Without Congress: How Obama Can Take Charge,” offers some cause for optimism, should the Obama administration, you know, actually do these things. Here are their reccomendations, which we should probably do anyway even if the Senate gets its act together.

1. “Work with states and local governments to create a national roadmap to the clean energy economy.”

One of the biggest points of contention throughout the debate over climate policy in the past year has been whether or not to take away the authority of states to set their own, more aggressive climate and energy policies. Aggressive states—like California—have paved the way for national policy. More than 30 states have or are in the process of finalizing their own climate action plans. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have a renewable electricity standard in place. There are already two regional cap-and-trade systems in place in the US, the Western Climate Initiative and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, covering 16 states between them.

“Rather than curtailing state authority, pre-empting state authority, as some in Congress have proposed, we need to encourage it,” said Bill Becker, executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project.

2. “Declare a war on energy waste.”

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy finds that the US economy wastes 87 percent of the energy it uses. By instating the most basic, cost-effective energy efficiency measures, like retrofitting building stock or improving transmission lines, the US could cut energy consumption by 23 percent, save $680 billion by 2020 and avoid 1.1 gigatons of greenhouse gases. The PCAP recommendations call for setting a goal of making the US the most energy-efficient nation in the world by 2035. It also calls on the Department of Energy to set sector-specific energy efficiency targets.

3. “Begin reinventing national transportation policy.

Congress is expected to take up the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill. Right now, federal law provides bigger incentives to states and local governments for road construction than it does for mass transit. The new bill increase incentives for public transit, transit-oriented development, and other strategies to reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled. The report also recommends putting in place a national low-carbon fuel standard, with the goal of reducing the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of transportation fuels 5 percent in the next ?ve years and 10 percent in 10 years.

4. “Eliminate fossil energy subsidies under the Administration’s control.”

The Obama administration called for the elimination of more than $2.7 billion in tax subsidies for the coal, oil, and gas industries in the 2011 budget. That’s just a portion of the more than $7 billion we spent each year to subsidize fossil fuels. Eliminating these, as the Obama administration has called on other major world economies to do, would send an important signal about where the country’s energy strategy is heading.

5. “Establish ecosystem restoration as a climate action strategy.”

Any plan for addressing climate change should include the protection of ecosystems and the services they provide us in terms of mitigating and adapting to climate change. One good example: wetlands, which help reduce ?ooding by retaining precipitation. The report calls on the president’s Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force to include ecosystem preservation and restoration in its plan, due out in October 2010, and for federal agencies to provide more guidance for updating infrastructure.

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

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