A cap and trade system is a system where economic sectors, broadly defined as electrical generation, industrial, and transportation, will be required to register with a Federal Greenhouse Gas Registry managed by a non-government entity (in S. 2191 the Climate Change Credit Corporation).
The covered facilities under the regulated sectors of the economy are allocated emissions allowances each year (2012-2050) that equal 100% of the total emissions for the broadly defined sectors in a given year. The goal is to limit the emission of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), effectively reducing emissions over the bill’s lifetime. The sum value of allocated emissions allowances equals the cap; each emissions allowance allows a covered facility the authorization to emit 1 carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gas as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Emissions allowances are considered to be “under the cap”. The environmental lobby will work towards reducing the cap, i.e. less emissions; whereas other lobbies work for a higher- or no- cap.
The offset allowances outside the cap are by their nature more stringent, but no farmer is required to participate in the offset program. The offset allowance is a regulated allowance monitored by the EPA. These allowances require a unit of reduction in the quantity of emissions or an increase in sequestration equal to 1 carbon dioxide equivalent at an entity that is not a covered facility. The reduction in emissions at the said facility, or increase in sequestration, is eligible to be used as an additional means of compliance for the offset certification submission requirements established under the emissions allowances section of the bill. These offset allowances are beyond the cap and could, if they are not true forms of sequestration (i.e. where sequestration is the capture, permanent separation, isolation, or removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, as determined by the EPA Administrator), weaken the bill. As a result there is pressure on the land-based sequestration lobby to develop a very scrupulous set of measuring, monitoring and verification criteria to ensure a high level of rigor.
What is happening in Congress and the Administration...
The Congressional leadership has stated that Climate Change is a priority for the 110th Congress. However, if movement on the bill does not occur in June (and this is questionable), it is likely that next year’s bills (introduced in the new Congress) will have a new approach. New Climate Change bills introduced in the 111th Congress will be shaped in the presence of several new circumstances. Next year, Senator John Warner (R-VA) will no longer be in office, meaning that a new Republican must step forward to co-sponsor. It is unclear who would be willing to do so. Additionally, the bill will likely be assigned to the Committee on Environment and Public Works (who authorizes language for the EPA), and needs to be passed by that committee before it goes to the Senate floor. That means that it will have to have bipartisan support from that committee. Finally, the new President will have to sign that bill into law. It is undetermined who will win the presidency and if that individual will be supportive of climate change legislation.
In short, there are many factors weighing into the climate debate on the domestic front. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out.
We are interested to hear from you! What is the role of our Societies in this debate? Please let us know what you think!
More links about Climate:
House Committee on Science and Technology
House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Environment and Public Works