Funding for adaptation in the Waxman-Markey House-passed climate change cap and trade bill


In addition to creating a cap-and-trade system for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and setting in motion a sustainable energy transformation, the Waxman-Markey “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009,” which the U.S. House of Representatives approved today by a vote of 219-212, would earmark funding mechanisms for a wide variety of federal, state, local, and international activities to plan for enhancing resilience and adapting to the impacts of global climatic disruption.

[Updated to reflect passage of the bill by the House June 26.]

H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, the greenhouse gas emissions cap and trade bill sponsored by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Cal.) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to “create clean energy jobs, achieve energy independence, reduce global warming pollution and transition to a clean energy economy,” is the first major piece of climate change policy legislation to be approved by either house of Congress in the 20 years we have been dealing with the issues of climate change science and policy. 

The bill contains lengthy passages that would create new law on developing “clean energy,” on improving energy efficiency, on “global warming pollution reduction” (a complex, long-term program centered on allocating emissions allowances under a declining cap), and adapting to climate change.  “Adapting to Climate Change,” Subtitle E under Title IV of the bill, contains 155 pages that would create and provide for a panoply of climate change Adaptation programs in the federal government, which would also support both State-level and international adaptation planning and action.

Under the bill, funding for adaptation programs would come from revenue raised by:
(1) auctioning of specified percentages of the available emissions allowances each year by the federal government and designating the revenue for particular adaptation programs; and
(2) earmarking the allocation of specified percentages of allowances – which presumably could be sold in order to create a pool of funding – to support particular programs.

Five new programs for which federal funding would be authorized under these revenue streams, starting in 2012 and continuing through 2050, are:

(1) Domestic Adaptation – federal funding to states that develop approved climate change adaptation plans, according to a population/income formula, and also to tribal governments;

(2) Wildlife and Natural Resources Adaptation – federal funding to state wildlife and coastal management agencies according to formulas specified in current laws;

(3) Climate Change Public Health Fund – federal funding to federal agencies and to state, local, tribal, and foreign governments for preparing health systems to respond to the impacts of climate change;

(4) Natural Resources Climate Change Adaptation Fund – funding to federal agencies with responsibilities for natural resources, according to a percentage formula; and

(5) International Adaptation – bilateral and multilateral assistance to developing countries to support vulnerability assessments, climate change adaptation plans, capacity-building to reduce vulnerability and enhance resilience, and responding to destabilizing impacts.

There is a complex set of allocation formulas and program mandates and guidelines in the bill, which we will not explicate in detail here, but the bottom line is that support for Adaptation ramps up over time. Adding up all the pieces – percentage of the total allocation of emissions allowances plus percentage of designated allowance auction revenue—Adaptation would receive about 3% during the time period from 2012-2021, increase to about 6% from 2022-2026, and to about 12% from 2027-2050.  No specific dollar amounts can be associated with these funding mechanisms in advance.  The amounts of revenue will be contingent on the value of emissions allowances over time.

So, funding for a wide range of Adaptation planning and action, starting small as a percentage of the total cap and trade program, and ramping up over time. Certainly worth having.  With the potential to be stepped up via future legislation, as well as provision of funding for Adaptation through other means outside the cap and trade system, which will surely be necessary and probably in very large amounts, as scientific understanding advances and as events unfold.  And, of course, all potentially too little, too late.

This discussion of the climate legislation will be continued in subsequent posts.

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