GMF Fellows give insight into landmark House climate bill
On July 1, the Climate & Energy Program hosted a roundtable discussion on the recent House climate bill passed on June 26, 2009. The discussion featured Camilla Bausch, a GMF-funded fellow with the American Political Science Association and head of climate and energy at the Ecologic Institute and has been working for the House Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming since January of this year. Nigel Purvis, president of Climate Advisors and a senior GMF fellow, who also served as a senior U.S. climate negotiator under the Clinton and Bush administrations, provided response. Bausch began by discussing the dynamics of the House climate and energy debate. The Waxman-Markey bill is an important signal to the rest of the world that the United States is making progress toward enacting legislation to limit emissions and repositioning itself as a leader in the international climate debate.
In the lead up to the June 26 House floor debate, Reps. Harry Waxman (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) made substantial changes to the bill to accommodate lawmakers from the rustbelt region concerned about the loss of jobs and competitiveness. In particular, the final bill includes an automatic border tariff on imports in 2022 from major emitters that have not enacted similar emission reduction programs. President Obama and other top White House officials strongly encouraged Members to support the bill. House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) attempted to filibuster by reading aloud a large portion of the 300 page Manager's Amendment. At 7 p.m., the vote came to a close with 219 (including eight republicans) voting in favor of the bill and 212 (including 44 Democrats) voting against it Nigel Purvis discussed how the passage of bill may affect the outcome of the international negotiations COP15 in Copenhagen, Denmark. He stressed that Obama has learned from the mistakes made by Clinton during the 1997 Kyoto negotiations by engaging Congress in the climate debate from the start, whereas Clinton signed up to an agreement in Kyoto without first securing the support of the Senate. The dynamics of the international negotiations are complex given developing countries not only expect developed countries to make significant reductions in emissions but also provide financial assistance to enable them to transfer to a low carbon economy. Many international actors think the Waxman-Markey bill lacks ambition in targets, but according to several researchers the aggregate impact of the Bill's provisions, not just the cap-and-trade portion, would cause the United States to reduce its emissions by about 28-33 percent below 2005 levels. The amount set aside in the bill for financing for developing countries would likely not be acceptable to developing countries in the international negotiations, and Purvis hoped that this provision could be strengthened in the more internationally minded Senate. He also stressed that an agreement in Copenhagen is likely to be just the beginning of a longer international process. Participants were interested in learning about how the bill dealt with economic competitiveness concerns, particularly the free allocation of emission allowances to trade-exposed industries and the use of border tax adjustments, which might not be compatible with WTO rules. Participants were also interested in how the climate debate will unfold in the Senate, which has been relatively inactive on climate policy since Obama took office, but now may vote on climate legislation by October, under pressure from Obama to deliver one of his major first-term agenda items. A Summary of International Provisions in H.R. 2998, has been prepared by Nigel Purvis and Andrew Stevenson.