Senator Bingaman Delivers Climate Address to NDN

This morning, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, delivered an address on climate change at an NDN Green Project event. The speech laid out his vision for how to address climate change through uniform, workable, flexible and realistic cap and trade legislation that focuses on reducing greenhouse gasses and encouraging investment in the technology necessary to reform our energy system.

In introducing Chairman Bingaman, NDN Green Project Director Michael Moynihan pointed toBingaman the critical need to transition to a post-carbon economy, a challenge driven home to Americans every day by soaring gasoline prices.

Entitled, "Finding the Path Forward on Climate Legislation," the speech was a truly important step in enunciating a view of how to responsibly tackle climate change. As the Senate recovers from the aftermath of the Lieberman-Warner debate and looks forward to the next Congress, full statements of principles from key leaders on climate and energy, such as the one today by Senator Bingaman, will be crucial to stimulating the necessary debate to pass effective legislation.

From Senator Bingaman’s introduction to his remarks:

A little over a month ago, on June 6, the Senate failed to invoke cloture on the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act. That vote ended any realistic prospect we had of dealing with the problems of climate change in any comprehensive way in this Congress.

From one perspective, the relatively short debate that we had in the Senate on the measure was a disappointment. No substantive amendments were considered or had action taken on them. Despite the tremendous amount of effort put into developing the bill by the sponsors -- Senators Lieberman, Warner, and Boxer – much of the debate was on the generalities of dealing with climate change and not on the specific merits of any particular part of their proposal.

Looked at another way, though, last month’s debate demonstrated an important transition that is underway in Congress. Congress has moved beyond a debate on the science of global climate change. We are now starting a much more difficult debate – one on how best to construct a mandatory regulatory regime to mitigate global climate change.

No one expected that last month’s legislative process would produce a law that would be enacted this year. For one thing, the President issued a statement declaring that he would veto such a law. More importantly, many of us are still trying to master the complexities of this issue, in terms of its multiple effects on the global ecosystem and the global economy, as well as its multiple effects on both the environment and the economy here in the United States.

One thing is clear at this point. Any proposal to seriously address the challenges of responding to climate change will require sustained action -- and a sustained commitment to keep taking increasingly more stringent actions -- over the course of many years.

To approach this issue responsibly, it is important for us to understand two things about the scale of the global challenge of climate change. First, we need to understand the scale of the problem. Second, we need to understand the scale of the system we have -- for producing and using energy -- to change in order to deal with the problem.

We have to keep our eye on both these issues of scale. On the one hand, if we fail to recognize how enormous and urgent the problem of climate change is, we will fail in our responsibility to act sensibly and soon. On the other hand, if we fail to recognize how enormous and difficult a task it is to change our energy system, we may embark on a course of action without making clear from the start the potential sacrifices involved.

As Senator Bingaman notes, the transition to the post-carbon economy will not be simple; the scale of this transformation is vast. By embracing the changes necessary in our energy system as an opportunity to develop a truly competitive and innovative 21st century economy, and by understanding that energy reform is part of any sound economic policy going forward, America can put itself on a path toward sound energy, climate, and economic future.

To view Senator Bingaman’s full remarks, click here.