VIEWS: Climate Bill Round 2 - The Right Political Will

Dispatch from SSC Intern Alok Sinha

Yes, the Climate Change legislation passed the US House of Representatives. While it is certainly the right step in the right direction, one wonders if this bill does too little too late. You certainly get that impression from the unanimously bad reviews that this bill is getting from so many different parties. Parties as diverse as the American Petroleum institute and Green Peace have expressed their grave dissatisfaction with the bill.

While conflicting interests and their various lobbying groups have certainly muddled the waters, the reputation of the political patrons of the bill is another dimension that is adding to the confusion. Amidst this confusion I do think that there are two important questions to be asked, one from the viewpoint of those opposing it and the other from the viewpoint of those supporting it.

Firstly it is about asking the question if the bill does enough or does it allow leeway for those seeking to subvert the purpose of the bill to do so. The overarching goal which would require a 17% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020 from 2005 levels and about an 80 % reduction by mid century does seem the right thing to do. But it is the small amendments and concessions that the bill went through while being debated in the House that seems to have raised the hackles of the parties opposing it. There is a widespread belief that by giving away those concessions the bill will fail to tackle the dire affects of climate change. Also the Senate is another fight that the bill must go through. If the compromises made in the House, has made so many groups unhappy one can only imagine what will be response to the bill after it has gone through another round of alterations in the senate.

The second issue around is that those who are supporting the bill have understood the implications of it correctly. As the House of Representatives rushed through passing the bill it was incomplete and congressmen had not yet had a chance to analyze it. Meeting the standards set forth in the bill might not be technologically possible, without reducing our standards of living, but the Congress is hoping that technology will magically appear as needed. The mechanism for the “cap and trade” program which provides allowances for emission will certainly drive up costs for the companies. In this economic environment increased costs are something that the companies can ill-afford. One must ask the question that by setting up the provisions in this way, have the patrons of the bill setup the overarching purpose of the bill for failure? It certainly does appear that in doing the rush job the implications and requirements for the bill have not been considered completely.

While these questions are important, a black and white answer right now seems elusive. What certainly is clear that this is a step in the right direction and to truly achieve the purpose, the debate on this bill, and any other required bills, must continue. It is only by having the right political will and bringing in additional provisions as required, will the goal be achieved.