At a reception for representatives of 17 countries attending President Barack Obama’s “Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate” in Washington, D.C., this week, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., compared pending climate legislation to the successful acid rain cap-and-trade system established in the 1990s and said climate regulations could buoy and not hamper the economy.
“This is the opportunity to transform our economies to move to the future and all of us to have a win-win situation that’s unlike any other,” said Sen. Kerry.
He credited President George H.W. Bush and the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 for what became an emissions trading system for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, which cause acid rain.
“All the same arguments were heard,” said Sen. Kerry. “(Businesses said) ‘Don’t do this to us. You’re going to bankrupt our companies. You’re going to make us non-competitive. We can’t afford to do this. It’s going to cost $8 billion. It’ll take eight years.'”
Sen. Kerry said environmental groups tempered the business argument by predicting the regulations would take four years to implement and cost $4 billion. Ultimately, he said, it took two years and cost $2 billion.
With the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s markup of the American Clean Energy and Security Act postponed this week to allow more time for inter-party negotiations, Sen. Kerry predicted the legislation will be passed by the House, and said stakeholders are bracing to get it through the Senate.
This week’s forum was called for by President Obama to allow for candid discussion among the 17 major economies countries before the United Nations climate talks involving 192 countries are held in Copenhagen in December. The 17 countries are responsible for the majority of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. In Copenhagen, terms for the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, will be adopted.
U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern led the two-day forum, saying, “The United States of course recognizes its responsibility as the largest historic emitter of greenhouse gases and one of the two largest now, and we know we have a special responsibility to lead.”
At the reception, Sen. Kerry recalled the tough negotiations on the Senate floor when the U.S. declined to sign onto the Kyoto Protocol: “The politics were impossible because no less-developed countries were doing anything. They weren’t required to do anything. Now, our good friends in China, who we want to work with and who we are already cooperating with, are doing unbelievable things. China is going to lead all of us in the next few years, I predict to you, but we need to come together because China is now our number-one emitter surpassing us.”
Earlier in the day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the forum:
“We are well aware that some see the economic crisis as an excuse to delay action. We see it in an exactly opposite way, as an opportunity to move toward a low carbon future. … We believe that the $80 billion in President Obama’s recovery plan, which includes funding and loans for clean energy development, targets to double our country’s supply of renewable energy over the next three years. And we also are working very hard on programs to make homes and buildings more energy efficient. We think this is something that all countries can do in this immediate economic crisis to make this a green recovery.”
When President Obama called for the forum in late March, he said, “We can allow climate change to wreak unnatural havoc or we can create jobs preventing its worse effects. We can hand over the jobs of the 21st century to our competitors, or we can create those jobs right here in America.”
Countries participating in the Major Economies Forum include: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Valerie Davis, CEO, EnviroMedia Social Marketing reported for Environmental Leader from the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate.