Last Friday, the Clean Air Act triumphed in the District of Columbia court of appeals. An oil industry effort to block the EPA act that would regulate greenhouse gases was unanimously thrown out by a panel of three judges -- but will the decision last long enough to even take a victory lap?
After a long and drawn-out two weeks in Cancun, hope prevailed over obstructionism at the eleventh hour as 193 nations -- including the U.S. -- came together to accept a climate agreement, restoring faith in a UN process badly battered by last year’s climate talks in Copenhagen.
The COP16 climate talks are coming to a close in Cancun, Mexico, and while we hoped countries could come together in solidarity in the face of climate disaster, (much like the Palestinian firefighters who recently came as some of the first respondents to an Israeli climate crisis) many nations - especially our own -- came up short.
Last year's UN climate change conference in Copenhagen was a disappointment by almost any measure. Like many U.S. progressives, we hoped that things would go differently, but in the end, the U.S. failed to help negotiate anything fair or binding.
So why hinge any expectations onto this year's discussions? Because we know that this time the climate movement can push President Obama for true climate leadership -- and we need his leadership on climate right now.
Representatives from 194 nations have descended on Cancun, Mexico for this year's U.N. Climate Conference (COP16). Despite a lack of leadership at the international level, the Obama Administration has been moving forward on clean energy on multiple fronts: reining in offshore drilling, calling for renewable energy R&D, and setting strong Clean Air Act regulations for big polluters. Meanwhile, the lame duck U.S. Congress remains consumed with compromising over how to extend the Bush tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year.
The world's poorest nations are on the front lines of catastrophic climate change. The recent floods in Pakistan and droughts in Africa are just the most recent examples of how the world's poor are suffering because of our leaders' indifference to the climate crisis. Now that we face a Congress full of climate deniers and shills for big polluters, President Obama must become a true global climate leader to help the world's poorest nations cope with climate chaos.
Last week's election will have major consequences for U.S. climate and energy policy. Republicans won a net victory of 60 seats in the House, 6 seats in the Senate, and at least 6 governorships. A number of climate champions lost tight races to candidates who deny climate science, but in California's Prop 23, the only race with global warming on the ballot, climate won by a decisive margin.
The dust from yesterday's election is settling and it's already clear that we're about to have the most pro-dirty energy Congress we've seen in a long time. As you'd expect, dirty energy companies and their allies are already spinning this election in the press as a rejection of climate and clean energy legislation.
This spin is outrageous, and it's our job to push back.
From where I stand it's very simple: Big Oil and Dirty Coal spent a fortune to swing this election, and last night they got exactly what they paid for.
If you remember nothing else about Election 2010, remember this: Big Oil and Dirty Coal have spent $70 million on energy-related attack ads this election cycle and put $20 million directly into the pockets of their allies running for Congress. That's on top of the $500 million they've already spent on lobbying in the past two years.
Now that they've bought themselves a new Congress more to their liking, big polluters will try to spin this election as an endorsement of dirty energy. But they can't change the fact that the American people overwhelmingly support policies that cut climate pollution and create new jobs in a clean energy economy. They can't spin away the strength of the climate movement, either. The 10/10/10 Global Work Parties showed just how big and vibrant the climate movement really is, while the defeat of Prop 23 in California showed how this movement can lead voters to vote their hopes, not their fears.
The battle for what will become the "conventional wisdom" in the press about yesterday's election is on-- and we can't allow Big Oil and Dirty Coal to spin this election as a legitimate victory for them. That's why we're asking all our supporters to write their local newspapers and tell them how big polluters bought this election -- and that it can't happen again.
Now that the election is behind us, many of us in the climate movement will focus much of our energy on pushing the Obama Administration and Congress to use the Clean Air Act to cut global warming pollution and jump start investments in clean energy. We will also push the Administration to support strong climate financing at the upcoming United Nations climate talks in Cancún.
I know that a Congress with so many more climate deniers and tools of dirty polluters is discouraging, but now is not the time for anyone in the climate movement to give up. I personally remember the dark days after the 1994 election, and how we banded together to defend the health of our environment and communities from dirty polluters and their friends in Congress. If we could do it then, we can certainly do it again by joining forces and fighting as hard as we possibly can.
Climate change is escalating even as we keep falling behind much of the world in the race to build clean energy economies. As a movement, we have no choice but to keep fighting. And that's exactly what we're going to do.
The most famous residence in America, which has already boosted its green credentials by planting a garden, plans to install solar panels atop the White House's living quarters. The solar panels are to be installed by spring 2011, and will heat water for the first family and supply some electricity.
The plans will be formally announced later Tuesday by White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley and Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
The White House did the right thing, and for the right reasons: they listened to the Americans who asked for solar on their roof, and they listened to the scientists and engineers who told them this is the path to the future...If it has anything like the effect of the White House garden, it could be a trigger for a wave of solar installations across the country and around the world."
"Putting solar on the roof of the nation's most important real estate is a powerful symbol calling on all Americans to rethink how we generate electricity," Solar Energy Industries Association President Rhone Resch said.
This is a great way to start the final week before the worldwide 10/10/10 Global Work Parties on Sunday. And on a personal note, I'd like to thank President Obama and the AP for giving me the flimsiest of excuses to include a Beatles song with this post: