The Democrats have abandoned attempts to get a comprehensive climate change bill through the US senate.
The bill was along the lines of the House of Representatives bill, passed last year, aimed at using cap-and-trade legislation to reduce US carbon emissions by 17% by 2020, compared with 2005 levels, with 42% cuts by 2030 and 83% by 2050.
Even a watered-down version, addressing the electricity sector only rather than all large polluters, failed to get the required support from 60 Senators. The Republicans hold 41 of the 100 Senate seats and were not prepared to support the Green legislation.
A much narrower bill will be introduced, but its main focus is in addressing the issues raised by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and supporting energy efficiency developments. With elections coming in November and the Republican party expected to make gains, there is little prospect of achieving anything more for the foreseeable future. (Coincidentally, China Daily reported this week that China will begin a domestic carbon trading scheme sometime between 2011 and 2015 to help it meet its 2020 carbon intensity target).
It’s depressing news, mainly because other countries may see a lack of legislation in the US as an excuse for inaction. Understandably, many countries do not want to introduce measures that may make their industry less competitive internationally if others are not doing the same. On the other hand, lack of legislation in the US may hold back the development of a green economy, to the advantage of other countries.
In any case, lack of legislation does not mean lack of action, and the Obama legislation is doing what it can where it can. Just this week The White House announced that the Federal Government will reduce greenhouse gas pollution from indirect sources, such as employee travel and commuting, by 13% by 2020. This is in addition to the greenhouse gas reduction target from direct sources set in January this year.
The IT sector is also doing its bit. Plans to consolidate federal data centres and move to cloud computing are to be incorporated into fiscal 2012 budgets. There was also a recent report from CDW Government that said that 77% of government agencies are implementing some form of virtualization and almost 90% are seeing the benefits.