What Government Can Do Now

Stephen Smith | February 22, 2013 | Climate Change, Energy Policy

What do the five largest U.S. coal companies, five largest U.S. utilities, five largest U.S. auto manufacturers, leading environmental organizations and labor unions representing over 14 million Americans all have in common? Each received a letter from the newly created bicameral Congressional Task Force on Climate Change soliciting ideas for how the federal government can reduce carbon pollution and strengthen our resiliency to climate change.  Task Force co-chairs Congressman Waxman & Senator Whitehouse intend to share the ideas submitted with the Obama Administration, Sen. Barbara Boxer’s Climate Change Clearinghouse and other leaders in Congress to promote action on climate change.

In announcing the Task Force and its “call for ideas,” Co-Chair Rep. Waxman said:

“We are calling on hundreds of diverse organizations – from the Sierra Club to the Southern Company – to give us their best ideas for addressing climate change.  We can’t delay action any longer.  We want to jump start action by seeking recommendations on what every part of government can do now.”

Because we believe the irrefutable evidence that climate change is happening, and is being hastened by human actions, SACE was honored to make the short list of only 300 businesses and organizations solicited. Along with those other groups, we submitted our thoughts earlier this week (our letter can be viewed here). Our suggestions include both regionally-focused ideas as well as broad-based ones, and they specifically highlight where there is still a need for action versus where progress is already being made.In particular, our recommendations urge Congress, the Administration and federal agencies to:

  • Encourage regional coordination on climate mitigation and adaptation measures, which will be essential to our vulnerable Southeastern coastline in years to come;
  • Exercise existing authority for climate-friendly policies among federal agencies and entities, particularly as the Southeast is home to TVA (the nation’s largest public power provider), two major federal-state economic development partnerships as well as dozens of active military bases;
  • Finalize New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for existing and later for new coal facilities;
  • Target reductions of Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs) from older diesel vehicles and natural gas systems;
  • Eliminate current incentives for high risk energy sources such as coal, nuclear and oil;
  • Streamline the regulatory process for approving and deploying promising, new renewable energy projects; and
  • Reinstate the moratorium on Atlantic oil and gas exploration and drilling.

I am heartened that some leaders in Congress (such as Sens. Bernie Sanders & Barbara Boxer), President Obama and federal agencies (such as the Government Accountability Office) are increasingly acknowledging the importance of addressing climate change to ensure our children inherit a livable world. Intentions are important, but actions are what we need now. I sincerely hope that our leaders are ready to take the necessary actions – both large and small – to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the impacts of climate change and speed the transition to clean, sustainable sources of energy.

Stephen Smith
Dr. Stephen A. Smith has over 35 years of experience affecting positive change for the environment. Since 1993, Dr. Smith has led the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) as…
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