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Overview of the Leading Legislative Approaches to Climate Change

The climate legislation working its way through congress is far from the plan that helped sweep Barack Obama into the White House. Obama campaigned on a climate bill requiring polluters to pay (by auctioning 100% of emission allowances) and dedicated 80% of that money for a working families tax cut while investing the rest of the auction proceeds into a clean energy deployment and R&D fund.

In contrast, the Waxman-Markey climate bill that passed the House in June (and a very similar Senate Environment Committee-passed bill) are cap-and-trade schemes hand billions of dollars to corporate utilities, gift Wall Street with a lucrative $2 trillion derivatives market, relies on offsets to achieve false emission reduction targets and raises costs to working families - while bestowing windfall profits to utilities like Exelon and energy traders like Goldman Sachs.

View Public Citizen's response to climate legislation passed in the House

In fact, this cap and trade system is so weak that swing Senators can only be convinced to "support" it by adding unprecedented new nuclear power subsidies and expanded domestic fossil fuel production and who knows what else. It's time to rid ourselves of this conventional wisdom and support the climate plan that swept Obama into office - a cap-and-dividend approach that auctions 100% of the emission allowances and returns the bulk of the money to families - not giant corporations - while implementing science-based emissions reductions.

View Public Citizen's response to climate legislation in the Senate

Alternative Climate Legislation in the Senate

The Cantwell-Collins Senate bill is a start, as it auctions 100% of allowances, limits any role for Wall Street to play in setting pollution prices and does not allow offsets to take the place of real emissions reductions. While the bill isn't perfect - for example, the short-term greenhouse gas emission reduction targets are too low, and the clean energy development fund will largely support new nuclear power and untested "clean coal" technology - the foundation of this "polluters pay, families don't - and get Wall Street out of the room" approach is a far superior starting point to advance the legislation that scientists tell us is necessary to deal with climate change.

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