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Bold language you might think but what is happening now in America with the Waxman Markey Bill (also known as the American Clean Air and Security Act) is exciting and potentially game changing. The Bill has just passed its first test by getting through its committee stage by 33 votes to 25. It now goes to the Congress and then the Senate where if it passes (big ifs!) then for the first time in history there will be caps on US emissions of greenhouse gases. The caps may not be tough enough yet but with the Bill process set to be complete in time for Copenhagen, the timing could help spur on international negotiators to reach a global deal on climate change. How refreshing it would be for the US to be a potential driver of this instead of an immovable roadblock.

But the US press isn’t exactly full of praise for the Waxman Markey Bill and the principle of ‘cap and trade’. There’s the usual scaremongering going on that industry will be forced to cut more jobs in order to comply with the caps. And many commentators are trying to argue that taxation without a cap would be a more effective solution. Neither of course is true, but the challenge for the climate change lobby in America in addressing these and other arguments is that they are fighting with opponents who mostly seek to simply hold back progress. And it’s much easier to advocate against something than for something – just sow some doubt in people’s minds. This is exactly what the fossil fuel industry has done on the actual existence of climate change and what the tobacco industry used to do about the link between smoking and cancer!

So there are battles ahead but the prize is worth fighting for. An ambitious US ‘cap and trade’ could in and of itself substantially cut global emissions but will also make it much harder for other major polluters to justify inaction. At sandbag we’re gearing up for our Copenhagen campaign on ‘powering down global emissions’. Around a quarter of global CO2 emissions come from just 3,300 power stations (a quarter of the number of installations already capped under the European emissions trading scheme). The right cap in this sector alone could see global emissions falling within a decade. So with the US at least moving towards a cap on its power sector, we’re on our way to the ‘giant leap’ that we so badly need.

Sandbag blog readers may also be intrigued to note that Republican Mary Bono Mack of California crossed the floor to vote for the Bill in committee. Perhaps seeking fame for good deeds like her Irish namesake?