House bill shifts focus to climate change adaptation

Adaptation is at the center of a sweeping new climate and energy bill that marks a shift in focus from merely cutting greenhouse gas emissions to dealing with unavoidable consequences of global warming.

The draft climate and energy bill (pdf) unveiled yesterday by House Democrats would establish a cap-and-trade program to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, set a national renewable electricity standard and create new energy efficiency programs.

Beth Lowell, federal policy director for Oceana, said she was encouraged that the bill discusses the need to help marine and coastal environments adapt to climate change and ocean acidification caused by carbon dioxide emissions.



The bill would direct coastal states to come up with plans to protect and restore “ecologically important” coastal lands and coastal and ocean ecosystems. It would also require state and federal agencies to research and monitor ocean acidification’s effects on natural resources.

“At a broad-brush level, what’s there is a good integrated framework,” said Eric Haxthausen, director of U.S. climate policy for the Nature Conservancy. “There’s the right level of planning and coordination among the agencies, and it recognizes the need for international adaptation programs.”

The bill would address adaptation planning at the state and federal levels. All federal agencies would be required to develop general adaptation plans, with the main agencies that deal with natural resources — U.S. EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Agriculture Department, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Interior Department — also charged with developing plans to help protect natural resources from climate change and ocean acidification.

Likewise, states would have to submit adaptation plans if they want to receive federal funding for their adaptation efforts. States would have to address the effects of climate change and ocean acidification on their wildlife, fish and ecosystems and set up plans for monitoring those impacts.

Lauren Morello & Sara Goodman, The New York Times, 1 April 2009. Full article.

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