Blair on US Climate Change Legislation

In advance of Senate consideration next week of the Lieberman Warner legislation on climate change, Tony Blair has penned a thoughtful and compelling op-ed in today's Washington Post that puts forth the case for a cap and trade system in the United States. 

Why is a former British PM writing editorials in a Washington paper?

As members of the Brown government in the UK told me in London recently, Europe views US leadership as critical to global action on climate change.  The US withdrawal from Kyoto was harmful to the world's climate.  By passing strong climate legislation now, the US can set the stage for a real global accord next December in Copenhagen when the UN will lay out a successor accord to Kyoto to take effect in 2012.

If the US fails to take action on climate change by next year, it will go into the Copenhagen meeting in a considerably weakened position.  The US would then be following, equivocating and reacting, rather than leading.  Alternatively, if the US passes climate change legislation before then, we will have the opportunity to shape the Copenhagen accord and resume our rightful leadership position on the issue as the world's largest economy.  Without meaningful US leadership, it is doubtful developing countries such as China and India can be brought in, further raising the stakes for legislation and the future.

President Bush has threatened to veto the Lieberman Warner legislation and the bill the Senate will debate next week faces clear obstacles.  However, the debate next week--even if the final vote falls short--will help set the stage for action next year.  Since all three remaining Presidential candidates support climate change action, the prospect of getting a bill done will increase dramatically on January 20th.  But so will the stakes.

The urgency Blair expresses is well considered.  The Senate should do its best to move the ball forward because, on this issue, there is a deadline.