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Waxman-Markey from Bonn, Germany

June 8, 2009

I spent a lot of the day trying to write an op-ed about my experience in Bonn. The writing needs to be shortened, but I wanted to post an extended, members-only version for those who visit the blog. Here is a picture to let you know that we’re still having fun.

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Waxman-Markey from Bonn, Germany

The last week has been a change of pace from my usual summer job of stocking groceries in North Baltimore, Ohio. I have been attending the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Bonn, Germany. Delegations from 192 countries are here to negotiate an international treaty on climate change. They are planning to sign the completed treaty in December in Copenhagen. While there have been many surprises during my first trip out of the country, the biggest one has been that people here take climate change seriously. This seriousness is missing in the U.S. Waxman-Markey debate. Furthermore, this lack of seriousness will cripple attempts at an international treaty.

I first feel the need to dispel the Al Gore myth. Many in America have successfully labeled him as the only person voicing concerns over climate change. However, there are 3,000 government delegates, scientists, and non-governmental organization members here, many of whom have dedicated their lives to halting catastrophic climate change. They are here because they have either experienced the damages of climate change in their own countries or they are informed by organizations like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Just last week the Global Humanitarian Forum estimated that by 2030, when I may have kids in elementary school, climate change will cause 500,00 deaths per year through increasingly severe heat waves, floods, and forest fires. Let me be clear: this is not about Al Gore.

The U.S. needs a cap and trade system to begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to sign a strong, international agreement in Copenhagen. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels’ May 15th article in the Wall Street Journal pointed out that the renewable energy industry has grown in Indiana without a federal cap and trade system. But without putting a price on carbon, there will be no incentive to reduce emissions on a large scale. The government should intervene to prevent climate change because emitting greenhouse gases does not directly or immediately affect the emitter, but it can contribute to devastating floods or droughts ten years later. Markets alone won’t solve this problem. In the same way that the government protects the public by using fines to put a “price” on toxic waste dumped into rivers, the government must put a price on carbon emissions.

Some argue that even if climate change is as serious as the reports, countries like China will continue emitting even if we act. But recent talks between Beijing and Washington on climate change demonstrate President Obama is not unaware of China and its emissions. A stalemate will save no one. The United States must be willing to take a first step for China to be included in an international treaty. That step is passage of the Waxman-Markey legislation.

Here in Bonn, students from around the world are wearing “How old will you be in 2050?” t-shirts. Their message to older generations that are attempting to negotiate a climate treaty is that our children and grandchildren should not have to suffer for our leaders’ failure to act today. Please support Waxman-Markey in its present form. While it is far from perfect, it will set us on the right path to an international treaty in Copenhagen and to preventing the worst.

Anthony Baratta is a student at DePauw University. He and fellow student Taylor Cantril are blogging their experience from Bonn at http://www.thecopenhagenquestions.wordpress.com

-Anthony

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. dilmusic permalink
    June 8, 2009 8:10 pm

    wow…..2030???? 500.000 deaths?!?!?! AAAH!

    “Some argue that even if climate change is as serious as the reports, countries like China will continue emitting even if we act. But recent talks between Beijing and Washington on climate change demonstrate President Obama is not unaware of China and its emissions. A stalemate will save no one. The United States must be willing to take a first step for China to be included in an international treaty. That step is passage of the Waxman-Markey legislation.”

    very true statement. Do you two think that our actions can encourage others to do the same? I saw that wonderful demonstration earlier of you two at that march which I thought was absolutely fantastic. I have so many questions….I might just email you guys those questions….or try and meet up with you before I go to Austria!

    • dilmusic permalink
      June 8, 2009 8:10 pm

      also this is dil…..dil smith…..

  2. Doug Mitchell permalink
    June 10, 2009 11:17 am

    A sincere question:
    Does this new legislation provide strict controls over the use of the “cap-trade” funds that are collected?
    I admit concern about “our tax dollars at work,” NOT being used for the purpose they’ve been paid, to remedy the problems.
    Absent such provisions, cap-trade simply becomes a new very big tax.

    • tcantril permalink*
      June 10, 2009 6:24 pm

      As far as I know, the only funds that flow from the public to the government under the proposed cap-and-trade system would come from the auctioning of polluting permits. In the most recent form of the bill, 15% of the permits will be auctioned. The other 85% will be passed out to polluters at no cost. The price increase for carbon-intensive products–which is similar to a tax insofar as it is a price increase due to a law–comes from all the fact that CO2 emitters will be competing on the permit market and there should be a greater demand than supply of permits. That said, I need to research how the funds that do flow to the government will be allocated.

      I agree that funds should be intelligently allocated. The purpose of the legislation is not, however, to raise government funds. The purpose is to better align the economic signals with ecological signals so that incentives drive low-carbon innovation that will avert a climate catastrophe. At the same time, I think its worth more research into the fiscal impact of the Waxman-Markey bill and especially, as you have suggested, into ways that the mechanisms it starts could be used for other purposes down the road.

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