With climate talks underway in Bangkok, Indigenous activists reviewing the text and engaged in the talks calling for no market-based REDD deal, Greenpeace activists blockading the tar sands in Alberta, and the EU investigating fraud in carbon trading schemes, today is a big day for the movement for climate justice.
Too bad it’s such a disappointing day for climate in the US. Today Senators Boxer and Kerry released their first draft of the Senate climate bill, a companion to the House ACES bill passed this past June. It calls for the US to reduce emissions by 20% of 2005 levels by 2020. By comparison, island nations and the world’s least developed countries are calling for 45% emissions reduction from 1990 levels by 2020.
And it gets worse. The Boxer-Kerry draft bill subsidizes carbon capture and storage, a massive, scientifically uncertain boondoggle for coal fired electricity generators. The draft also repeats the most perverse problem in the House ACES bill by authorizing 2 billion tons of CO2 reductions to be achieved through offsets, instead of real emissions reductions.
Part of those offsets will come from a new, dangerous forest carbon market. The sellers of forest offsets will be tenure holders who are not required to operate with the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples. In fact, the forest offsets may not even guarantee the protection of the forest from future logging. The bill would create from scratch a new, risky
commodities market for carbon that could quickly become the largest market in the world, yet offers few specifics on how that market would be regulated.
To be fair, there are some safeguards for forests as well, requiring an increase in carbon stocks for forest offsets. And the ‘Supplemental Emissions Reduction Fund’ is also in the billp; this was the bright spot in the House ACES bill. If executed effectively, the fund could create a marketplace firewall between forest carbon and fossil carbon emissions reductions, and help forest countries to overcome their deep governance problems. The Boxer-Kerry draft bill also offers important incentives to plug in vehicles, renewable energy, and energy efficiency – tackling head on some the US’s lowest hanging fruit in addressing climate change.
But unfortunately, that won’t be enough to stop climate change. While the world is waiting for the US to step up to the plate, the US is still at home wrestling with its coal and oil demons.