CLIMATE

Advocacy groups plead for more adaptation, tech funding in Senate cap-and-trade bill

More than 20 environmental and advocacy groups urged key senators yesterday to dedicate billions of dollars in additional money to international adaptation and low-carbon technology efforts compared with last month's House-passed climate legislation.

Oxfam America, 1Sky, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and Nature Conservancy are among the groups pressing for a greater share of allowances on two issues they consider as critical for the United States to demonstrate leadership at international climate negotiations scheduled for December in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The groups want the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to initially dedicate 3 percent of the cap-and-trade program's allowances -- estimated at about $2 billion per year -- toward helping poor countries cope with the inevitable affects of global warming. They also requested starting with a 2 percent earmark -- worth around $1.3 billion -- for research, development and deployment of energy technologies.

"Making these investments should be part of the larger strategy to build a clean energy and climate-resilient economic foundation in the United States and internationally," the groups said in a letter to Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the chairman and ranking member of the Foreign Relations panel, respectively. "U.S. businesses and workers will thrive if we seize this opportunity to be a world leader in driving clean energy innovation and providing the technologies and services needed to build resilience to climate change impacts."

Estimates vary on how much funding is needed in the developing world for adaptation and technology efforts, with some reports putting the price tag at beyond $50 billion annually.

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As for the U.S. contribution, the House in June approved H.R. 2454, which sets aside 1 percent of the climate program's allowances between 2012 and 2021 for both international adaptation and technologies. The amount of allowances dedicated to the two issues ramp up to 2 percent from 2022 to 2026 and top out at 4 percent in 2027.

U.S. EPA estimates project emission allowances will sell for around $15 per ton by 2015, meaning the House bill would generate about $700 million annually for each subject.

The environmental and advocacy groups are also pressing the Senate to increase the emission targets in the House bill, which currently include a 17 percent curb from 2005 levels by 2020.

But David Waskow, Oxfam's climate policy director, said the greenhouse gas cuts are not the only item on his group's wish list. "A lot of attention goes to mitigation, but anyone around negotiations for any length of time knows the finance elements are absolutely crucial to getting a deal in Copenhagen. The United States needs to show its seriousness and readiness to engage at the table."

It is unclear how the Senate will handle requests to change the allowance allocation formula. Democrats face a raft of competing demands, including a push from the electric utility industry to increase its share of allowances from 35 percent to 40 percent. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) will lead a hearing Tuesday on the broader issue of distributing the allowances, which in total equal hundreds of billions of dollars.

President Obama has also put climate change financing issues atop the agenda when he hosts a Group of 20 nations summit Sept. 24-25 in Pittsburgh. And speaking earlier this week at the National Press Club, Kerry said developing countries can expect the United States to contribute an unspecified funding amount during the U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen on adaptation and technology research, development and deployment.

Click here for the environment and advocacy groups' letter.

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