Waxman-Markey Bill 2009 Viewed as Progress in Climate Change, However, the U.S. Still Lags Behind the EU’s Aggressive Emissions Targets Set for 2020     Print Email
Thursday, 02 July 2009

The Waxman-Markey Bill—known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) and the first ever climate bill passed by either house of Congress—was passed by the US House of Representatives on 26 June, as reported by Europolitics.

It has been welcomed in Europe as a major step toward transatlantic convergence towards fighting climate change, but before it becomes law the bill will have to be approved by the Senate.

The House bill sets targets to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 3 percent by 2012, 17 percent by 2020, 42 percent by 2030, and 83 percent by 2050—relative to 2005 levels according to an article from Pew. It also establishes an extensive “cap and trade” system for carbon-producing industries, allocating a specific amount of emissions per industry (ie. a “cap”). A producer who exceeds its allowance must buy permits to offset its emissions (ie. the “trade”). This system is already in use in the EU.

While EU governments see the bill as a positive advance, the US lags far behind the EU in its overall progress on the issue. Europe has set target emission reductions of 20 to 30 percent by 2020. These cuts are relative to 1990 levels (as specified in the Kyoto Protocol), so these initial cuts are much more ambitious than the US goals proposed in ACES.

Climate Change advocates hope that the US will agree to legislate in favor of greenhouse gas cuts similar to those in ACES in time for the upcoming UN Copenhagen summit in December. Global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 25 to 40 percent by 2020 if global warming is to be kept within two degrees Celsius, according to the UN Panel on Climate Change.

However, there is no certainty of a similar bill passing in the Senate after the narrow margin it obtained in the House. Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid hopes to push the bill through by November—in time for Copenhagen. The Obama administration does not want a repeat of the Kyoto conference where, in the end, Washington did not sign on to the Protocol approved by the EU nations.