Emissions Initiative

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(HOST) Several state governments have decided to take action on the matter of power plant emmissions. Vermont is among them and commentator Madeleine Kunin says that this is a good beginning.

(KUNIN) States take the lead.

That’s the latest story on global climate change.

Tired of waiting for the federal government to act on the growing threats posed by global climate change, nine states – including Vermont – have reached a preliminary agreement to freeze power plant emissions at their present level.

By 2020, emissions would be reduced by ten percent. There is both bad news and good news in this announcement. The bad news is that nine states won’t solve the problem. Further bad news is that the federal government, which should take the lead on a national and global problem of unknown dimensions, refuses to acknowledge scientific data, and will have to be coerced by the states to be a reluctant follower.

When sorting out state and federal responsibilities, the air we breathe does not confine itself to neat spaces in the sky that follow the black state borders down below. If there ever was a call for federal action, global climate change is it.

Yet, there is good news here too. First, the plan to reduce emissions was initiated by a Republican, New York governor George Pataki and was supported by both Republican and Democratic governors.

If global climate change is to gain national attention, it has to be a bi-partisan effort, and Republicans, who once were committed environmentalists, will have to be players.

If Republicans and Democrats could hold hands on this regional initiative, there is hope they could act in concert on a national scale.

Already, three other states have started work on a similar agreement – Cali- fornia, Washington and Oregon. These 12 states make up a good chunk of energy consumers and producers. With coalitions forming on the east and west coasts, that could put a squeeze on the rest of the country and accelerate the develop- ment of new technology, greater efforts at conservation, and more renewable energy.

The most exciting part of this eastern states coalition is that it proves that the states “get it.”

The continued spewing of pollutants into the air we breathe and into the skies above us is serious, it’s real, it is man made, and it can, and must, be reduced.

We, the states, have the political will, and are willing to bear some of the costs of grappling with global climate change.

Vermont’s emission cap will be the smallest-1.35 million tons, compared to New York’s, 65.6 million tons.

For all nine states – it’s a significant first step, and who knows, it might just get the attention of those who could do the most – the Bush administration and congress.

This is Madeleine May Kunin.

Madeleine May Kunin is a former governor of Vermont.

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