Prior to Copenhagen, advocates of the US cap and trade legislation were arguing that although its ambition was likely to be low, the best strategy was to get it through the Senate and then aim to strengthen it.
The chances of passing a US climate bill with an economy wide emissions cap this year, however modest, now appear to be fading. Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican sponsor of the bill who as such is critical to its success, was quoted in the New York Times as saying ‘Realistically, the cap-and-trade bills in the House and the Senate are going nowhere.’ Mr Graham believes that Americans favour a focus on jobs, either from clean energy or new oil exploitation, over a punitive emissions cap that forces up energy prices.
On Monday, we posted about two new opinion polls; they suggest Senator Graham may be correct, although others disagree and hold firm to the view that President Obama will use his State of the Union address to underline his commitment to a fully fledged climate bill.
Not wishing to labour the point, but if he’s got one eye on the views of voters, rather than talking up climate action, he’ll stress investment in energy from clean, readily available sources as an alternative to dependence on imported oil. He’ll also talk up the employment and economic benefits of new energy investments.
As he prepares to speak to the nation, a new BBC/Harris poll finds that only 5 per cent of Americans think the President should focus on Environment during his address, whereas unsurprisingly more than half think the economy should be his top priority and 42 per cent want his attention focused on employment.
In the coming weeks we’ll return to the reframing of climate policy, but at this stage it’s probably sufficient to note that good politics – in the US at least – seem to require a move away from overt emissions curbs and environmental argumentation and towards climate compatible measures that address people’s priorities and needs.