Pelosi: Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Emissions Cuts Needed

By J.R. Pegg

WASHINGTON, DC, February 8, 2007 (ENS) - The United States cannot effectively tackle global warming without enacting mandatory restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today.

"Scientific evidence suggests that to prevent the most severe effects of global warming, we will need to cut global greenhouse gas emissions roughly in half from today's levels by 2050," Pelosi said. "We cannot achieve the transformation we need, both in the United States and throughout the international community without mandatory action to reduce greenhouse gas pollution."

Pelosi, who has vowed to ready climate change legislation by July 4, told members of the House Science and Technology Committee not to fear the economic costs of mandatory greenhouse gas reductions.

Pelosi

Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (Photo courtesy Office of the Speaker)
Restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions will drive new technologies into the marketplace, the California Democrat said, while "simultaneously creating the next generation of good-paying new jobs."

But Republicans on the committee said they were unconvinced, echoing the Bush administration's position that mandatory cuts will hurt the U.S. economy.

"I'm skeptical that mandatory regulation of greenhouse gases is the best solution to the problem of climate change," said Representative Ralph Hall, a Texas Republican and ranking member of the committee. "We can't figure out how to write a cap and trade bill that doesn't result in an immediate spike in natural gas."

Increased energy costs will drive businesses and jobs overseas, Hall said, where there "are no pollution controls, inevitably worsening global emissions."

Pelosi spoke to the committee at the start of a hearing on the latest assessment of climate change science issued last week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, and endorsed by 113 governments, including the United States.

power plant

Like all coal-fired generating facilities, Florida's Seminole Power Plant emits greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. (Photo courtesy Seminole Electric Cooperative)
The report, "The Physical Science Basis of Climate Change," confirms that global warming is occurring, that human activities are "very likely" responsible, and that warming will continue for centuries even if greenhouse gas emissions are stabilized at current levels.

It is rare for a House speaker to appear in such a forum and the move clearly irritated some Republicans, who insisted on asking questions of Pelosi, who is not a member of the Committee.

Representative James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican and former chair of the committee, took issue with Pelosi's comment that the Republican leadership in the House had "stifled all discussion and debate of global warming" for 12 years.

Sensenbrenner

James Sensenbrenner has represented Wisconsin in the House of Representatives since 1978. (Photo courtesy Office of the Congressman)
Sensenbrenner said he had chaired several hearings related to the Kyoto Protocol, which he added would have "wrecked the nation's economy."

"There are two sides to the equation," Sensenbrenner said. "One is the scientific side and the other is the economic consequences of any action."

Ignoring the economic consequences of climate change legislation puts American jobs in peril, he told the House speaker.

"I would ask you to look at the impact on America jobs because we do not want to have anything we do result in the outsourcing of American jobs to countries like China, India and Mexico, who have not capped or even slowed down their growth of greenhouse gas emissions," Sensenbrenner said.

Pelosi said she is aware there will be impacts on existing industries and is keen to work with all stakeholders, including the Bush administration, on the best path forward.

"This isn't about running roughshod," Pelosi said. "This is about working together."

"America must innovate," she added. "I see this as an economic opportunity, a place where green can be gold for our country."

Pelosi also called for close cooperation with other large emitters of greenhouse gases namely China and India - to develop cleaner energy sources as well as a broader international effort to address land use policies and curb deforestation.

power plant

China's coal-fired Xuzhou Huajing power plant in the eastern province of Jiangsu emits greenhouse gases, as do all coal-fired generating stations. (Photo courtesy China Resources Power Holdings Co.)
The IPCC's report has "opened a window into our future," clearly demonstrating the seriousness of the climate change issue, Pelosi said.

"Looking through that window, we see a future in which global warming will reshape our planet and our society," Pelosi said. "We also see a future in which harsh consequences could be blunted by our prompt action - that is the good news."

Part of the response to climate change could be increased use of nuclear power, Pelosi said in response to a question from Representative W. Todd Aiken, a Missouri Republican.

The House speaker said she now has "a more open mind" about increasing nuclear power as part of a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"We need to compare it to the alternatives I think it has to be on the table," Pelosi said, adding that waste disposal "is the big challenge."

Leaders of some of America's largest corporations agree with Pelosi's move towards mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

On January 22, the CEOs of Alcoa, BP America, Caterpillar, Duke Energy, DuPont, FPL Group, General Electric, Lehman Brothers, PG&E, and PNM Resources called on Congress and President George W. Bush "to enact a policy framework for mandatory reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from major emitting sectors, including large stationary sources and transportation, and energy use in commercial and residential buildings."

"The cornerstone of this approach would be a cap-and-trade program," the CEOs stated. "A mandatory system is needed that sets clear, predictable, market-based requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," they said.

They were joined by the heads of four nongovernmental organizations Environmental Defense, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, and the World Resources Institute.