U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   09/20/2006
 
Statement of Senator Joseph I. Lieberman
Examining Approaches Embodied in the Asia Pacific Partnership

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing.

Since 2002, the Bush administration has acknowledged that global warming threatens our nation’s well being, and that the U.S. accordingly should slow, stop, and reverse the current growth in its greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, the administration’s policies will not slow or stop, much less reverse those emissions in time to avoid the shame of leaving our grandchildren a world of flooded coastlines, increased drought, more destructive storms, rampant disease, and more armed conflict.

The only specific target President Bush has endorsed is reducing the “greenhouse-gas intensity” of the U.S. economy by 18 percent in the decade between 2002 and 2012. What that adds up to is actually a 14 percent increase in the nation’s annual greenhouse-gas emissions over that same period. That is the identical rate of increase that we have seen over the past 15 years. So even if President Bush’s policies live up to his commitment, they will not slow the growth in U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions at all.

As it happens, the administration’s existing policies are insufficient to meet even President Bush’s inadequate commitment. The centerpiece of those policies, the Asia-Pacific Partnership that is the subject of today’s hearing, is nothing more than a series of meetings in which representatives from the U.S., Australia, China, Japan, Korea, and India will discuss ways in which they might work together to promote cleaner, more efficient technologies to address pollution reduction, energy-security, and climate-change concerns. There is nothing binding about the Asia-Pacific Partnership, and its charter does not even set any targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

The most tangible step the administration has taken toward meeting its inadequate commitment is to launch “FutureGen,” a public-private partnership that is spending ten years to build a facility that will make electricity and hydrogen from coal without emitting any greenhouse gasses. As laudable as this single project is, it will not change the fact that, in the absence of the real climate policies that the administration still opposes, the U.S. private sector will spend the next ten years building more than a dozen new coal-fired power plants that will release all of their global warming pollution into the atmosphere.

The administration’s half-measures reflect a mentality that now lags behind the views of many of the large American businesses that emit greenhouse gasses. More and more of those companies acknowledge that the U.S. can and must institute a mandatory, economy-wide emissions cap to curb this nation’s negative influence on the world’s climate.

The country’s business leaders are coming around to the position that John McCain and I staked out in 2003, when we introduced the first bill to institute a mandatory, economy-wide greenhouse-gas emissions cap and allow companies to trade emissions allowances beneath that cap. By literally mandating that U.S. global warming pollution actually be cut, our bill attaches a price to emitting global warming pollution. By instituting a market-based system with plenty of built-in flexibility, and by investing heavily in technology deployment, the bill gives industry the tools it needs to limit its emissions in affordable ways that end up creating jobs and increasing the competitiveness of American businesses in the global marketplace.

As you all know, John and I forced the Senate to vote on our Climate Stewardship Act in 2003 and again in 2005. The bill that we will reintroduce early next year, hopefully again with the co-sponsorship of my fellow committee member Senator Obama and of Senate Snowe, will adhere to the core principles I have already mentioned.

It will also include improvements designed to further reduce compliance costs; further protect American workers; further fund the early deployment of safe, zero-emissions energy technologies; accelerate the spread of products and techniques that reduce energy usage without compromises; and reward the early action that some of the nation’s most climate-responsible businesses are taking already.

This past July, my fellow committee members, Jim Jeffords and Barbara Boxer, introduced a bill to mandate aggressive reductions in the U.S. economy’s greenhouse-gas emissions. Senator Feinstein has announced her intention to do the same in the next Congress. In May, my friend Tom Carper reintroduced his bill to cap the U.S. power sector’s greenhouse-gas emissions.

While John and I will push for enactment of our bipartisan, economy-wide, cap-and-trade bill in the next Congress, we welcome our colleagues’ bills as highly-productive contributions to the Senate’s work on this crucial issue, and I for one look forward to working with them.

The Bush Administration, however, has some serious catching up to do.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.