US climate change taskforce launched in Congress

Efforts to address climate change in Washington have been boosted by the launch of a ‘taskforce’ to focus members of Congress on global warming.

Co-chaired by Representative Henry Waxman and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse – both Democrats – the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change’s stated aim is to develop effective policy responses to climate change.

“Congress and the public need to understand that climate change impacts are turning out worse than expected and our window to act is closing,” said Rep. Waxman. “This threat is not waiting until we are ready to deal with it.

Waxman is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a Republican dominated body that recently announced it was hosting a series of hearings into the benefits of fossil fuels.

Waxman says putting a price on carbon could be an effective policy option to incentivise private sector investment in the green economy

The pair recently wrote to wrote to over 300 businesses and organizations, soliciting their views on actions the federal government could take to reduce carbon pollution.

They intend to share their findings with the Administration, and have also invited colleagues from Democrat and Republican parties to participate.

Climate change has been a toxic issue on Capitol Hill for the past decade.

The most recent attempt in 2010 to curb carbon emissions through legislation saw then Senator John Kerry and his Republican ally Lindsey Graham admit defeat in the face of fierce opposition.

The plan involved a cap on emissions for utilities, a modest tax on fuel and incentives for green and renewable technologies – but failed to gain support among Republicans in the Senate.

“Washington is gripped in a barricade of special interests on the urgent issue of climate change,” said Senator Whitehouse.

“That’s why we want to break the Beltway barricade and ask a broad array of businesses, non-profit organizations, and academic institutions to share their ideas about actions the federal government can take.

“Climate change is already affecting all of us, and we want to get all ideas on the table to address it.”

Environmental groups are hopeful that an Obama second term will see stronger action on the climate, even if he decides to take a regulatory rather than legislative route.

One of John Kerry’s first decisions as Secretary of State will be whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, carrying oil and gas from the Canadian tar sands.

Obama also has to choose replacements for Energy Secretary Steven Chu and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

Both have been strong proponents of renewable energy – and have also been at the receiving end of heavy criticism during their tenures in office.

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