October 18, 2007
(As prepared for delivery)
Mr. President, with the introduction of the Lieberman-Warner bill, today will be remembered as a turning point in the fight against global warming.
First, it represents a bi-partisan breakthrough on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. I have made restoring bipartisanship one of my priorities as Chairman of the Committee.
And second, if enacted it would be the strongest global warming program in the world in terms of its reach.
For me, this is a stellar moment and I thank Senators Lieberman and Warner and their talented and patient staff, as well as my own fantastic staff, for bringing us to this point.
When I took the gavel of the Environment Committee nine months ago, I said that global warming was the challenge of our generation...a challenge that I believed our committee could meet with knowledge and bipartisanship.
In pursuit of that knowledge we have held 18 global warming hearings and two scientific briefings this year in the Environment Committee. At our very first hearing in January we invited Senators to share their perspectives - more than a third of the Senate took part in that historic event. Since then, we have heard from more than 120 witnesses ranging from utility executives, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists to religious leaders and Nobel Prize winners -- Al Gore and the world's leading global warming scientists from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We also heard from leaders in the business community who have formed the US Climate Action Partnership, and from mayors, governors and leaders of both parties from various states, cities and counties across America.
And then a wonderful thing happened. Senator John Warner, who is the ranking member on Senator Lieberman's global warming subcommittee, decided that it was time to play a lead role in crafting a landmark environmental law which will take its place beside the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and other great bi-partisan environmental legislation.
Senator Warner, this decision of yours is giving heart and hope to literally billions of people who share planet earth and closer to home to your beautiful state of Virginia, whose leaders were so effective in pointing out the impacts of global warming on the Chesapeake Bay.
Ladies and gentlemen, we would never leave a child alone in a hot locked car, and I believe the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will not leave this issue of global warming burning for another generation to address. It is our responsibility.
Today, with the introduction of this bill, we are taking the first, immensely important legislative step to meet the challenge of global warming with hope not fear and with approaches that are carefully thought out and some already successfully tried out...like a cap and trade system that has been so successful in addressing acid rain, and energy efficiency which has been so effective in lowering per capita energy use, costs and greenhouse gas emissions in states like California.
For the past 50 years, the United States has been the world leader in environmental protection. Laws such as the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act, have achieved so much for our nation and our people, cleaning up our rivers and lakes, improving the quality of our air, and protecting our drinking water supplies.
Each of these laws became a reality because Congress started on the path that over time would lead to the enactment of strong legislation. The same is true for what we face today in global warming. We must start on the path to pass strong legislation.
I have been working closely with Senators Warner and Lieberman as they have assembled their bill. I have been very impressed with the effort they have invested in seeking out the views of other Senators and other groups, and in the work they have put into examining the other global warming bills that have been proposed.
In my own conversations with them, I have laid out some important principles that I believe must be reflected in legislation to address the challenge of global warming.
1) The first, most important thing is that any bill has to include real, mandatory cuts in global warming pollution. Any bill we pass must set the nation on the path to achieving the emissions reductions that will avoid dangerous climate change. Under the Lieberman-Warner bill, we anticipate reaching 1990 emissions levels in the U.S. by 2020. That will send a strong, early signal to the marketplace - a very important part of getting where we need to go.
2) The second necessary element is the flexibility to respond to new information. I like to call it "look backs." The bill must include provisions for continuing to review the science and the results of our policies at regular intervals. We also must know if we need to do more, and we must always reflect the most current science.
3) Third, we must establish a cap-and-trade program for global warming pollution like the one that has worked so well in curbing acid rain. A cap and trade system will put a market price on carbon, driving greater efficiency and new technologies while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
4) Fourth, we must protect the pioneering state efforts that are already underway. The states have been leading the way on this issue. My home state of California has been the trail blazer on this issue, and other states are also making tremendous progress. Of course, California's AB 32 -- passed by the state's Democratic legislature and signed by a Republican governor -- is the gold standard. A total of 29 states have completed comprehensive Climate Action Plans and many have set mandatory reduction targets.
5) Fifth, it is a moral imperative to do what we can to ease the impacts of global warming -- not only on the American consumer, but on world populations suffering from droughts, floods and famine. I look forward to working with communities of faith and others as we work to address theses issues.
6) Finally, a bill must take into account the actions of countries that are not making progress toward a clean, sustainable energy future and must help level the playing field. Countries that want to export their goods to the U.S. must take steps consistent with our global warming policy or be held accountable for their emissions.
These elements are all included in the Lieberman Warner bill. I will keep working to perfect them as we move through the legislative process.
I want to thank all of my colleagues who have introduced bills to deal with the global warming challenge. Each bill makes important contributions to the debate, and Senators Warner and Lieberman have drawn on them as they crafted their own legislation.
The Lieberman-Warner bill establishes a framework on which we can build. It embodies key concepts -- like cap-and-trade and lookbacks -- and draws on the other strong global warming legislation that has been proposed this year, including the Sanders-Boxer bill.
The bipartisan progress made in this bill is a reflection of how far we have come, and brings us closer to the day when we enact comprehensive legislation to deal with the challenge of global warming.
It is with great pride that I yield the floor to Senator Joe Lieberman.