Earlier this week, Reps. Ed Markey, Henry Waxman, Jay Inslee released
their Principles for Global Warming Legislation, which are intended to be a framework framework for Congress to produce legislation establishing an economy-wide, mandatory program of emissions cuts. The principles:

1) Reduce emissions to avoid dangerous global warming;
2) Transition America to a clean energy economy;
3) Recognize and minimize any economic impacts from global warming legislation; and
4) Aid communities and ecosystems vulnerable to harm from global warming.

On first read, these seem like pretty general and easily agreed upon principles. They even seem in line with the basics of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, which is the climate bill most likely to pass this year. But then they go further, also calling for:

[S]trong science-based targets for near-term and long-term emissions reductions; auctioning emissions allowances rather than giving them to polluting industries; investing auction revenues in clean energy technologies; returning auction proceeds to consumers, workers, and communities to offset any economic impacts; and dedicating a portion of auction proceeds to help states, communities, vulnerable developing countries, and ecosystems address harm from the degree of global warming that is now unavoidable.

This is important, because many of these things are elements not included in Lieberman-Warner. Notably, L-W would hand out $2 trillion in pollution credits, rather than auctioning them off, and without that auction, wouldn’t raise the proceeds necessary for investment in adaptation strategies. The emissions cuts proposed in L-W also fall short of current scientific recommendations in both the short- and long-term.

I wrote about division among environmentalists on this bill several months ago, but these principles seem to raise questions as to whether Markey, Inslee, and Waxman would support a bill that falls short in those areas. There’s an important debate going on about the political strategy that should be deployed here – pass something half-decent now and hope for something better later, or simply wait until next year when something tougher stands a chance of passing on the first try. I’m guessing, though, that if these Markey, Inslee, and Waxman -- some of the biggest environmental champions in Congress -- don’t stand behind L-W, it doesn’t stand a chance of making it this year.

--Kate Sheppard