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December 22, 2011 / Mridul

United States scores low on climate action in 2011, 2012 likely to be worse

Coming into 2011, a big question was how far Congress would go (and how far the administration would go along) in slowing or stopping action by the EPA and other federal agencies. While the House repeatedly approved anti-environment and anti-climate measures, those efforts did not make it through the Senate. In a sign of strength, the administration has consistently signaled that President Obama would veto such measures if they ever got to his desk.

Another question was what would happen as a result of President Obama’s call in the State of the Union address for a clean energy standard that would set a goal of generating 80 percent of the country’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2035. While the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee issued a white paper for comment, no further action was taken. Senator Bingaman, the committee chairman, has indicated that he intends to introduce clean energy standard legislation in 2012.

A look back at US climate policy in 2011

The biggest achievement by the US policy makers on the climate change front in 2011 was the new set of fuel standards for the automobile sector. While these fuel standards seem almost nothing in front of the various measures announced by other developed as well as developing countries during the year, the failure of the Obama Administration in the environment front can be gauged from the fact that the President himself announced this minuscule step. They just didn’t have anything major to announce this year!

It’s shameful that the administration has failed so badly on the climate change front. The fact that this year’s climate change conference was the first where not a single member of the US Congress was present shows the seriousness of Washington towards the issue of climate change.

Sure, they are reeling under grave economic crisis but so it the EU. They have the strictest emission reduction targets in the world, the most ambitious renewable energy targets in the world and are already planning to increase them. They will include new industries into their emissions trading scheme, starting with the aviation sector in 2012.

It seems that the EU is capable of taking such steps even when faced with their own economic crisis because the issue of climate change is not politicised in Europe. Politicians in the US cannot even decide whether there is climate change or not, even after thousands upon thousands of reputed scientists have confirmed it.

2011 was not an election year, 2012 is. The action on climate change is likely to be absolutely nil.

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