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Public Statements

Climate Change

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

CLIMATE CHANGE -- (Senate - December 09, 2009)

Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, we live in a world that is being poisoned by greenhouse gases of our own making. If we do not act, we face irreversible, catastrophic climate change. My grandchildren face a world where there will be not enough food, water, or fuel, a world that is less diverse, less beautiful, less secure. As I speak today, we are witnessing a critical moment in our fight against global warming both at home and abroad.

This past Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency acted by releasing its final determination that ``greenhouse gases threaten the public health and welfare of the American people.'' This was an action required by law and ordered by the Supreme Court. This finding will require EPA regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Monday's endangerment finding is a critical step in our country's efforts to stop global warming, which not only poses a threat to public health and welfare but to our national security. I am proud of the strong science-based actions taken by this administration to live up to its Clean Air Act obligations to protect our health. But I strongly believe that the best way for our country to solve the problem of greenhouse gas emissions is through comprehensive legislation enacted in the Congress of the United States. Legislation that invests in clean energy and new, high-tech infrastructure will bring us to long-sought goals: energy independence, good jobs for our citizens, and a healthy planet for our children and grandchildren.

We are now closer to that kind of legislation than we have ever been. The House has passed a bill that puts a limit on the pollution in our air. It dedicates funding to develop new domestic sources of clean energy. It invests in a new infrastructure that is less dependent on foreign fuels and creates American jobs. And we need those jobs. Here in the Senate, we have improved on our colleagues' work. Senate legislation makes additional investments in clean transportation. It provides additional oversight and accountability and support for developing countries. It ensures we do not add one penny to our national deficit. This legislation is consistent with the budget of our country to try to help reduce the deficit and yet make us energy independent, create jobs, and be sensitive to our environment.

But because climate change is a global problem, we need a global solution. This past Monday was also an important day in the international effort. The international community began a 2-week meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, to work on an international agreement to address climate change.

The international community has set the right objectives to make the meeting a success: a political agreement that promises both immediate action and contains the structure for a future formal treaty.

The agreement reached in Copenhagen should include the following points: specific near-term greenhouse gas emission reduction targets--a critical part--the support the developed countries will provide to the developing world to adapt to a changing industrial economy and a changing climate--we have a responsibility to help the developing world--the core elements that will make up the final treaty; and a timeline for reaching that agreement within the next year. We cannot put this off. It is critical we act timely.

The administration has taken several very important actions over the past few weeks to help us secure a global agreement in Copenhagen. EPA's endangerment finding sends an important signal to the world about the United States commitment to take decisive action.

Similarly, the President's announcement that the United States will commit to an emissions reduction in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and his pledge to contribute the fair share of the United States of $10 billion a year in financial support for the developing world by 2012 demonstrate that we are prepared to be serious partners in the fight against climate change.

That is the type of action we want to see, not only in the United States but in other countries that are major emitters.

Many of my colleagues, however, have legitimate concerns that if the United States enacts strong carbon standards, carbon-intense imports will have an unfair advantage in our market. We need to make sure we accomplish our goals internationally and also have a level playing field.

To address this fear, I believe it is critical that our international negotiators include in Copenhagen strong verification and compliance procedures that will make it clear that every state has a responsibility to take action to reduce greenhouse gases.

I have seen too many international agreements that include the highest ambitions for labor, environmental, and human rights protections that fail to achieve those goals in the absence of any consequences for violations of those principles.

The groundwork for achieving a final international agreement in Copenhagen must ensure that major emitting Nations take on clearly defined emissions reductions targets, adopt standardized systems to measure, report, and verify actions and commitments, and it must provide for consequences if countries fail to meet those commitments. Inclusion of these principles in the Copenhagen agreement allows us to pursue these critical components in any final agreement, and sends an important signal that all party countries are committed to real emissions reductions.

I am proud that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee climate change bill introduced by Senator Kerry last week includes language I authored that makes clear our expectations that any international agreement should include strong verification and compliance mechanisms, along with emission reduction targets, and a strong commitment to provide assistance to the developing world.

I will be watching the negotiations and hope it will produce the kind of agreement I have discussed here today. But regardless of what Copenhagen brings, I will continue to advocate for domestic legislation that invests in clean, domestic energy, and frees us from energy policies that undermine our national security and our economy by being dependent upon imported oil.

I will advocate for legislation that invests in the industries of tomorrow to stem the loss of clean energy jobs--jobs that stem from American inventions and ideas--to countries overseas. I will advocate for legislation that provides significant investment in clean fuels and public transit, so we seize an opportunity to build the infrastructure of tomorrow and change the way we move people and goods around this country. Right now, the transportation sector represents 30 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions and 70 percent of our oil use. If we could only double the number of transit riders every day, we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil by 40 percent. That is equivalent to the amount of oil we import every year from Saudi Arabia.

That kind of legislation is good for our country and good for Maryland. But we must remember that even after Copenhagen, any deals we reach, any papers we sign, are still but the foundation. The work must continue with earnest followthrough, dedicated to truly changing the way we work and live and move around this Earth.

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