From the November 2007 issue of Treasury & Risk magazine

The Heat's On in DC

The North Pole is melting faster than anyone had predicted, but there's also a thaw in Washington DC. For seven years, the Bush/Cheney administration has consigned any talk of mandatory carbon limits to the deep freeze, while pressuring government scientists to water down evidence of climate change.

Suddenly, though, the mood in the nation's capital is changing. It could be incontrovertible evidence that climate change is happening. Or it could be the parade of executives from companies like GE, General Motors and Duke Power, who have formed a lobby, called US-Climate Action Partnership (US-CAP), and are telling Congress that limits on greenhouse gasses are necessary.

Whatever the reason, Congress appears heading towards legislating mandatory carbon caps. And it's not just Democrats. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.) are submitting a bill that calls for caps and for a carbon-trading regime. And Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is vowing to shepherd it to passage.

Even President Bush, though still reportedly opposed to mandatory carbon limits, is talking the talk: In early October, his State Department hosted a forum of the world's largest polluting nations to promote voluntary efforts at limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

"Controls are coming," says Dan Esty, director of the Yale University Center for Environmental Law and Policy. "Cheney has been dead set against anything happening, and he'll probably continue blocking it. But even within the Bush administration, there are people who are trying to tee this up and get things ready for the next administration."

Esty says, "You have a lot of things coming together. There's Al Gore getting the Nobel Peace Prize. There's public sentiment that our studies show is strongly in favor of aggressive action. And you have more and more companies saying it's time for mandatory caps."

"We probably won't see much new legislation next year," says Esty, "but in 2009 a lot is going to start happening, whoever wins the White House."


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