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Senators Discuss Global Climate Issues

climate2U.S. action – or inaction – on the climate has far-reaching economic impacts, members of Congress discussed March 3.

“U.S. Climate Action: A Global Economic Perspective” was convened by Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), John McCain (R-AZ), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). Click here to see a Web site about the symposium.

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair kicked off the session, arguing that the leading world economic powers are starting to comprehend the risks of climate change. He urged all nations to invest in low-carbon economies. Blair said the United States can be a trendsetter by making progress on a domestic climate policy in the coming months, according to a press release.

“The current economic woes provide us not with an excuse for inaction but a reason for acting,” Blair said. “Let us stimulate economic growth by investing in alternative energy and energy efficiency; and let us invest now in these times of lower carbon price to prepare for the times when that price rises again. Let us put economic growth and combating climate change in alliance not opposition.”

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle said, “Global warming demands aggressive action at the international, national, state, local and individual levels.”

Doyle added, “The environmental and economic consequences of climate change and our dependence on fossil fuels affect everyone, and working together we will be able to generate new technologies, new businesses, new jobs for our citizens, and a cleaner and safer world for generations to come.”

Bingaman called the symposium a constructive start. “A responsibly-designed national climate policy will create economic opportunities and jobs and spur investment in low-carbon technologies that will make U.S. businesses more competitive.” he said. “The costs of climate policy can be mitigated with the right policy measures, and we need to move ahead with both energy policies and a national cap and trade program to sustain these investments.”

In addition to lawmakers, climate experts and business leaders spoke at the symposium.

Lord Stern, I.G. Patel Professor of Economics and Government at London School of Economics and chair of Grantham Institute for climate change and Environment at LSE, said, “Low carbon growth is the only growth story, because high carbon growth would eventually choke itself off. The world would react strongly to an America lead as we go forward to build an international deal at the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen at the end of this year.”

Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, was critical of some energy aspects of President Obama’s economic plan. “The 100 percent auction contained in the President’s budget will unnecessarily punish the 25 states that get the majority of their electricity from coal,” Rogers said. “That represents nothing more than a tax and a wealth transfer, and it has nothing to do with meeting our environmental challenges. Congress needs to enact climate change legislation, but they also must get it right.”

Fred Bergsten, Director of the Peterson Institute, said the world is at a critical juncture.  “The new global regime on climate change is likely to produce the largest changes in the international economic architecture since the creation of the Bretton Woods system after the Second World War,” Bergson said. “The new rules and institutional arrangements will have dramatic implications for the multilateral trading system as well as for environmental management itself.”

A Webcast of the symposium will be available here March 4.

The event was organized by three Beltway think tanks, the Center for Global Development, the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and the World Resources Institute, together with the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science.

Despite this symposium, U.S. lawmakers are not practicing what they preach. The U.S. House of Representatives has dropped its plan to make its offices carbon neutral.

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