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Center for Biological Diversity Statement on
House of Representatives’ Passage of Clean Energy and Security Act

On June 26, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 219 to 212 to pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act. Though hailed by many as a global warming breakthrough, the bill falls far short of what scientists say is needed to avert runaway global warming. A bill of this magnitude is very unlikely to be substantially amended within a decade if it becomes law, thus it should not be treated as an imperfect but necessary “first step” toward controlling global warming. We have a decade or less to put the world on a course to avoid climate catastrophe. It is essential that we get it right the first time. It may be our only chance. Thus the Center for Biological Diversity calls on the Senate to substantially improve the bill before bringing it to an historic vote.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act does not provide the greenhouse gas reductions scientifically required to avoid runaway global warming and simultaneously jettisons many of our most effective existing tools for reducing emissions today. The Center for Biological Diversity is dedicated to ensuring the bill is substantially improved as it goes through the Senate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions more significantly and swiftly, remove sections that repeal essential protections of the Clean Air Act, and ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants.

The current version of the bill sets inadequate targets that would provide at best a 50-percent chance of preventing catastrophic warming, with goals that would fall far short of reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to 350 ppm or below — which the best science indicates is necessary to avoid reaching climate-change tipping points with disastrous consequences for the planet. The bill repeals the ability of the Clean Air Act, our most valuable existing anti-global warming weapon, to regulate critical polluters, instead allowing numerous coal-fired power plants to be built without any additional emissions-reduction requirements for more than a decade into the future. Offsets granted under the bill to the coal industry and other polluters could in fact result in increased greenhouse gas emissions, allowing for the extinction of the polar bear and thousands of other species.

The Senate will now begin debate on its own version of the climate bill, which if passed will need to be reconciled with the House version before it becomes law. The Center will be actively involved in ensuring the bill is substantially strengthened so that it 1) achieves emissions reductions that will reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations to below 350 ppm; 2) includes measures to slow the Arctic melting to avoid irrevocably crossing a climatic tipping point; 3) prohibits the construction of new, and phases out existing, coal-fired power plants; 4) maintains the parallel ability of the Clean Air Act and other laws to reduce greenhouse pollution under scientifically determined standards; and 5) saves the polar bear and other warming-threatened wildlife from extinction.

The Center last week released an analysis detailing the shortcomings of the bill, as well as a report entitled No Reason to Wait: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Through the Clean Air Act demonstrating how the scientifically grounded Clean Air Act can and should play an essential role in controlling greenhouse gas pollution and averting the catastrophic impacts of global warming.

Bowhead whale photo by Rick LeDuc, NOAA