The Obama administration and leaders in the U.S. House and Senate have made passing global warming legislation a top priority. Our nation's endangered wildlife, fish and plants have a lot at stake in their not only finding long-term solutions, but also safeguarding species and their habitats starting today.
It is critical that Congress take action this year to advance global warming solutions and the House-passed legislation is a good start (see a description of the endangered species related provisions here), but should also be strengthened.
As Congress continues to debate global warming legislation, the Endangered Species Coalition will be working to protect and strengthen the provisions safeguarding species.
The House-passed legislation contains important provisions instructing federal and state agencies to create adaptation plans to benefit our nation’s natural resources and lessen the impacts of global warming. In addition to this framework, global warming legislation needs to ensure that adequate funding will be dedicated to implementing these plans. The Senate should increase the allowance proceeds that are dedicated to safeguarding wildlife and ecosystems. The process used to distribute this funding also needs to ensure that the revenues are dedicated to these purposes and cannot be misdirected elsewhere.
Science-Based Emissions Reductions Targets
Working to lessen the impacts of climate change alone will not be enough to protect wildlife, fish and plants from the increased risk of extinction brought by global warming. The emissions of heat-trapping gases like CO2 must be dramatically and quickly reduced. Emission reduction targets in global warming legislation must be based on what the best available science indicates is needed to avoid the worst impacts of global warming to humans and wildlife alike.
To avoid the most severe impacts possible from global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states a need to reduce emissions from 1990 levels 25 to 40 percent by 2020. Other recommendations go further and state that we should stabilize global CO2 levels to 350 ppm, which is below even our present day level of 389. In addition to setting the strongest 2020 target possible, global warming legislation should contain provisions to respond to emerging climate science and any identified need to set deeper and more accelerated emission reduction targets.
Preserving Existing Environmental Protections
As new legislative measures are developed to combat global warming, they should not preempt or curtail existing laws but rather supplement them in a mutually reinforcing manner.
The House-passed legislation eliminates the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) ability to crack down on global warming pollution from the nation’s oldest, dirty power plants and other existing industrial sources. Specifically, the bill repeals New Source Review for greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing coal-fired power plants and New Source Performance Standards for greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. Only plants permitted after January 1, 2009 would be subject to performance standards, but not until 2025. The Senate must ensure that the oldest, dirtiest coal plants do not have a lifetime license to pollute, especially if plants substantially increase CO2 emissions.
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