Greens Fault Pataki on Delay on Global Warming

Join in International Protests over American Opposition To Action

(Troy, NY) The Greens criticized today New York State Governor George Pataki for failing to take decisive action on global warming issues.

In faulting the Governor for his delay on both the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and adoption of the California auto emissions standards, the Greens asserted that "Pataki fails to recognize how serious global warming will impact upon New York residents. His proposals do little to correct the problem and then he fails to follow through once he issues his press releases. It is a classis example of too little, too late."

The Greens added that the bottom line on any global warming initiative was a major reduction in carbon emissions. "New York and the United States have to recognize that any real effort to reduce global warming starts with a reduction in the amount of energy we are presently using. Conservation has to be our first priority." The good news is that conservation not only helps limit the impact of already ongoing climate change, but it also reduces the costs of importing fossil fuels into New York State, creates good, high paying jobs, and stimulates development of new energy saving technologies that can generate tax revenues and new enterprises.

The Greens also support major investments in clean, renewable energy technology such as wind and solar as well as increased action to half sprawl and reduce the use of automobiles.

More than one hundred and eighty nations are meeting this week in Montreal in a UN conference to set out the basis for the reduction of greenhouse gases after the Kyoto treaty expires in 2012. The US is the principal country that has refused to sign on to even the limited objectives of the Kyoto protocol. Up to a million people are expected to take to the streets in more than 100 cities in 30 countries today to demand greater action on tackling global warming.

Greens point to widespread evidence that global warming is already underway, such as the recent increase in killer hurricanes like Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, shrinkage of the Arctic ice cap, and disappearance of glaciers and thawing of tundra. An overwhelming majority of scientists assert that the original Kyoto goal of a reduction of 5% to 1991 greenhouse gas levels by 2012 is severely inadequate and urge a 70% reduction, a goal supported by the Green Party. The Bush administration and Congress have failed to take action even though US emissions are projected to increase 30% by 2012.

By contrast, the most recent RGGI proposal calls for stabilizing carbon emissions by 2015 at the average level for 2000 and 2004 (150 million tons for the nine states) and then reducing those levels by 10% by 2020. The Greens question whether RGGI will accomplish even that limited goal. (A summary of the present proposal is at  http://www.rggi.org/docs/rggi_proposal_8_24_05.pdf)

The Greens said it was time to adopt carbon taxes to provide financial incentives to reduce carbon emissions. The tax revenues should be used to provide relief to low-income consumers (e.g., a state supplement to HEAP) and to spur development of the renewable energy systems.

"Cars and trucks are the major source of carbon emissions. That is not addressed by RGGI and the California emission standards don't do enough. More drastic action is needed. Those who are contributing to global warming need to start paying the huge financial costs that will come from climate change. Carbon taxes will help speed up the shift to cleaner energy systems for transportation and electrical production," said Mark Dunlea of the Capital District Greens. "The challenge is to make the taxes high enough to force real reductions in carbon emissions."

"Corporate polluters argue that it will be cheaper to cure the problems created by global warming than to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They contend that global warming will only have perhaps a four percent annual impact upon the GNP in industrial countries, higher in the developing world. That reflects a tremendous underassessment of the economic impact that will be created by destructive storms and changing weather patterns, disruptions to the food system, the relocation costs in areas impacted by rising tides and the human toll from severe changes in the weather patterns. But corporations also realize that it is better for their profits if the environmental impact costs from their operations are paid by taxpayers rather than by the companies. And their campaign contributions help persuade the leaders of the Republican and Democratic Parties to go along with their agenda of inaction on global warming," added Prof. Steve Breyman of the Rensselaer Greens.

The Greens pointed to Pataki's handling of the adoption of California auto emission standards as an example of his posturing on the issue. "Pataki has turned into a watermelon Governor. There is a thin veneer of green on the outside, but underneath, he acts like a leader of a red state. Under the federal Clean Air Act: you either adopt EPA standards or California's. Pataki was right two and half years ago to agree to adopt California's new emission rules for cars. But since the only option for the state was to copy California's rules, why did it take so long for DEC to issue the rules? With the expected court challenges from the auto industry, Pataki will be long gone from the Governorship before it is implemented," added Peter LaVenia, chair of the Albany Green Party.

The Greens also faulted Pataki on his leadership on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, allegedly designed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. "The proposed reductions in emissions are way too small to have a real impact in reducing global warming. First he delayed signing the agreement until after the presidential election, so as not to cast a bad light on President Bush for his inaction on global warming. But here it is seven months after the announced April adoption date and still no agreement. In fact, it appears like Governor Romney of Massachusetts has finally read the thing and now wants to gut it," noted Dunlea.

The Greens said the Pataki designed RGGI to give him favorable media coverage as a "green" while the actual impact would be so limited that the power producers would go along. Also, he hopes to buy off the power plants owners by creating hundreds of millions of dollars in tradable emission permits that he would mainly give to the existing company for free.

After two and a half years of negotiations, Governor Romney wants price controls on what power plant operators would pay to exceed their pollution allowances, which basically undercuts the agreement and eliminates the incentive to adopt cleaner alternatives

According to a recent article in the NY Times the pact would create a "market-driven system" of tradable carbon dioxide emissions permits for over 600 electric generators in the nine northeastern states. Each state would have its own emissions cap, and power plant operators would each be permitted to emit carbon dioxide up to a certain level. The intent is to promote the use of the cleaner plants in order to stay under the limits; operators would be able to sell excess allowances. A recent study commissioned by the states found that if money raised by the sale of the excess pollution allowances were invested in energy efficiency programs, consumers could save up to $108 a year by the year 2021.

The Greens have called for all the carbon emission permits under RGGI to be auctioned off, rather than most of them to be given free to existing carbon polluters. The hundreds of millions of dollars raised annually through the auction process would be used to offset the regressive nature of any "energy tax", with the rest invested in energy efficiency, conservation and development of renewable energy technologies. Romney is demanding that the number of allowances auctioned off be cut for the present 25%.

Other changes that the Greens support to RGGI include reducing the potential for the importation of carbon-intensive electricity (i.e., coal) from outside the region {referred to as leakage) and the creation of reasonable limits and sound guidelines for the use of offset projects (such as planting trees or capturing methane from landfills); The Greens oppose the use of nuclear power.

The Greens also pointed out that the New York State legislature needs to pass legislation to declare carbon dioxide a pollutant to make it easier for the state to take action to control its emission.