Markey to host summit, Whitehouse touts coalition building, as senators gird for battle

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Senate Democrats said yesterday that now is the time to lay the foundation for future climate change legislation and international action to address emissions.Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), one of the chamber’s newest members, though a veteran of the congressional climate wars, will host a meeting on Capitol Hill tomorrow with more than 100 international legislators who hope to take action domestically to pave the way for an international agreement on climate change in Paris late next year.Senior World Bank and U.N. personnel, including U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, will address representatives from more than 50 countries in a Russell Senate Office Building meeting room. They will release a study on national actions to help inform the post-2020 agreement.

But Markey, who as a House member co-authored a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade bill in 2009, said that he plans to focus on energy policy and adaptation this Congress.

“I believe that energy policy is a big part of solving this problem,” he said. “Energy policy is climate policy.”

On the way to his first hearing yesterday as a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Markey said that reviving the production tax credit for wind energy would be a top priority. The industry had proved its potential as a job creator, he said, and there is bipartisan support for extending the credit, which expired last year.

Preparing for the likely effects of climate change would be another focus, Markey said, including by financing adaptation projects and relief for the victims of frequent storms.

“There’s a lot of damaging climate change that is already loaded into the system,” he said. “We have to talk about how we’re going to be funding the kinds of protections we’re going to be putting in place in order to deal respectfully with those who are most vulnerable who had nothing to do with this climate-based damage that is going to be created.”

Markey said that interest in carbon legislation might revive someday, but “we’ll have to build an environment where that kind of an issue can be debated,” he said.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) has devoted considerable time to messaging on climate change but said yesterday that his goal is to enact policy.

“I think it’s time to start thinking about legislation,” he said, though he added that no legislation is likely to move this Congress.

Whitehouse — who co-chairs both the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change and the Senate’s Climate Action Task Force — said Democrats in both chambers who care about the issue must step up messaging and coalition building this year in order to till the ground for a possible bill as soon as next Congress. Part of their role will be to get potential supporters excited about the prospect of legislation again.

“It’s hard to expect people out there and organizations out there and corporations out there to be energized about solving this problem if we’re not energized about solving this problem,” he said.

Whitehouse and several of his Democratic colleagues plan to stay on the Senate floor all night on March 10 talking about climate change, and they are planning a public engagement event at the Capitol for May (Greenwire, Feb. 14).