Democrats in the American House of Represenatives released a 648-page climate change and energy bill today. The bill is centred around a cap-and-trade system that is intended to reduce American greenhouse gas emissions to 20% below 2005 levels by 2020, and to 83% below 2005 levels by 2050. Other provisions include “a nationwide renewable electricity standard that reaches 25 percent by 2025, new energy efficiency programs and limits on the carbon content of motor fuels, and requires greenhouse gas standards for new heavy duty vehicles and engines.” Overall, the targets are a bit tougher than the ones in the Obama platform were, though this is much more of an opening offer than a final draft. One huge issue which the bill does not yet specify is whether emissions credits will be auctioned or simply given away. Obama’s platform included a very clear call for 100% auctioning, which would be ideal from an environmental perspective.
It will be a long road from introduction through negotiation in both houses towards eventual ratification, and this bill may not make it. Even getting the bill out of the committee Waxman chairs may be a challenge. That being said, it is urgently necessary for a price on carbon to be established and for reductions to begin. Hopefully, legislators will be far-thinking enough to speed that process along, while also establishing a regulatory framework that can be built upon during the coming years and decades.