After months of closed door negotiations, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) finally released a draft of their climate change mitigation and adaption legislation on 12 May 2010. The release of the draft bill was considered a victory in itself by some, after the loss of co-collaborator Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) last month over Graham’s concerns about the Senate’s timeline for addressing climate and immigration reform legislation.

Similar to the measure passed by the House of Representatives last summer, the Kerry-Lieberman bill would require a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050 through a cap-and-trade program — a market-based approach to establish an absolute cap on emissions and allow trading of emissions allowances. Implementation of the program would be staggered over time, with power plants subject to the first restrictions on emissions. Energy-intensive manufacturers wouldn’t be subject to the program until six years later.

The Kerry-Lieberman bill also outlines a number of provisions related to climate research and natural resource adaptation. The bill would establish a Natural Resources Climate Change Adaptation Panel, chaired by the White House Council on Environmental Quality. This panel would create a national adaptation strategy for our nation’s natural resources and would coordinate its implementation by federal agencies. The strategy aims “to protect, restore, and conserve natural resources so that natural resources become more resilient, adapt to, and withstand the ongoing and expected impacts of climate change.” States would also develop natural resource adaptation plans, which would be eligible for federal funding generated by emission allocations auctions.

With respect to the dissemination of climate science, the Kerry-Lieberman bill would charge both the National Climate Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United States Geological Survey’s National Global Warming and Wildlife Science Center to provide technical assistance, conduct research, and furnish decision tools, monitoring, and strategies for climate adaptation. This differs from the House-passed bill, which granted the National Climate Service the primary authority to serve as a central clearinghouse of climate data and models for end users.

Additionally, in its present form, the Kerry-Lieberman bill would create a National Fish and Wildlife Habitat and Corridors Information Program within the Department of the Interior to help states develop GIS databases of fish and wildlife habitats and corridors. The program would also facilitate the use of database tools in wildlife management programs.


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