Global Trends by Martin Khor
Monday 7 March 2011
US Congress blow to global green agenda
The environmental crisis is rapidly worsening,
but recent moves by conservatives in the
Just when the world needs a big boost of pro-environment
action, there is activism of the opposite kind -- conservatives in
the Congress rolling back the green agenda in the
Last week, Republicans introduced bills in the US Congress to prevent the Environment Protection Agency from using air pollution laws to reduce carbon dioxide.
If the bills are passed, the EPA would not be able to regulate carbon emissions from factories and power plants.
This would strike at the heart of the
It is now clear that the US Congress will not itself adopt climate action laws, since the Republicans who are generally skeptical about climate change now control one branch of Congress, the House of Representatives.
But the Republicans, backed by some big industries and companies, are making a concerted effort to stop such environmental initiatives. So Congress is much more likely to adopt anti-environment rather than pro-environment bills.
In fact the new energy tax prevention act is designed to counter the existing clean air act which empowers the EPA to act.
The London-based Guardian newspaper (5 March)
describes what it calls the greatest assault on environmental protection
ever seen in the
“This is almost unprecedented in environmental history, in that they are moving in so many directions and in so many ways to effect the same results,” commented Bill Becker, secretary of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.
James Goldstene, of the California Air Resources
Board (which is in charge of protecting air quality in
“By going further, and gutting the Clean Air Act
to remove sensible EPA regulations, the proposed legislation would send
the stark message that the
Besides the new bill, the Republicans have also proposed to cut the budget of the EPA by 30%, deeper than any other agency, as part of their overall budget proposal.
This would starve the EPA of funds needed to regulate
carbon dioxide, and remove funds for other activities such as to protect
The Republican proposal also includes cutting off the funds for the post of President Obama's energy and climate advisor and the state department's envoy to the UN climate negotiations, the article adds.
This bad news from the
Since the 1992 Rio Summit the global environment has deteriorated significantly. There are multiple environment crises including climate change, extinction of species, decline of fish stocks, loss of fertile land through degradation, unsustainable pressure on resources, dwindling amount of fresh water.
There are increasing risks that environmental damage could pass “unknown points of no return”, as the UNEP report Global Environment Outlook warned in 2007.
In the climate talks under the UN Climate Convention, governments are grappling with the tall order of having to cut global Greenhouse Gas emissions drastically as soon as possible, and to come to some agreement on how the burden of these emission cuts are to be distributed among countries.
All countries are obliged to take climate actions, and the developed countries have agreed to take the lead and show the way.
And this in turn will influence the position of the other countries. There may thus be a downward spiral of the level of actions governments will commit to.
Hopefully public awareness and action in the