President Obama has indicated that passing climate change legislation is one of the top priorities of his presidency. By 2050, he wants to reduce the carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere by 80 percent. Similarly, leaders of the 111th Congress have indicated they want to introduce and pass a climate bill that drastically limits carbon pollution. More and more business leaders are expressing their support for legislative action on climate. So what will a climate bill look like? The devil, as they say, will be in the details.
Once legislators have agreed on a carbon “cap,” one of the most important details of a climate bill will be whether — and when — polluters will be required to pay. Almost everyone agrees that controlling carbon pollution will ultimately require a system where polluters purchase enough emissions “permits” to cover the carbon dioxide they send into the atmosphere. Some of the biggest polluters, like coal-fired power plants, argue that they should not immediately be required to pay for the permits to cover the pollution they generate. They say they should be given enough permits to cover their emissions until they can develop the new technologies needed to reduce their pollution.
The President, on the other hand, wants all pollution permits to be auctioned as soon as Congress sets a cap on carbon emissions. The Wilderness Society agrees with President Obama’s approach. Auctioning all permits from the outset will create new funding that can immediately benefit the public. Funds from the auction would be used to help the poorest, most vulnerable communities deal with rising energy prices, fund the development of new, cleaner technologies, and protect natural resources and ecosystems affected by global warming pollution.
TWS President Bill Meadows has articulated our position in his latest blog posting for the National Journal. You can read his post here — along with those of other invited energy and environment experts.