Major Green Groups Offer Plan to Obama
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Twenty-nine of the country's biggest green groups rolled out a comprehensive list of actions and policies they'd like President-elect Barack Obama to adopt after he takes office Jan. 20. In it, the groups stress the need for an approach that unites environment, energy, and economic policies. "We need to dig ourselves out of the financial hole we're in with a green shovel," said National Wildlife Federation President Larry Schweiger during a conference call with reporters.
The groups' 391-page document [PDF], which was delivered to Obama's transition team on Nov. 24, emphasizes the need for green investment to achieve economic growth. It calls for the creation of jobs in the renewable energy sector, building weatherization, a retooled auto industry, investment in infrastructure like public transportation, and major improvements to the electrical grid. The guidelines also detail what can be done in every executive branch agency, department, and office on a number of other environmental issues.
"The entire federal government has a critical role to play in unleashing these innovative solutions, but it is the president who will set the tone," write the groups. "President-elect Obama has an opportunity to galvanize the nation -- to announce bold measures that will channel America's ingenuity into solving the entwined economic, climate, and environmental crises. "
The report is notable for its breadth, as well as the fact that it unites 29 different groups representing a range of issues and positions on the political spectrum. The endorsers include groups that focus primarily on wildlife and public lands, transit groups, and environmental health advocates. Also included are groups that have publicly sparred over climate legislation in the past.
On the intersecting issues of climate and energy, the groups call for Congress to pass legislation in 2009 to cut emissions 35 percent below currently levels by 2020, and 80 percent below 1990 levels by midcentury. They also call for movement toward 100 percent clean electricity through "energy efficiency, modernizing the grid, and greatly expanding power generation from renewable energy resources."
The groups urge Obama to grant California's request for waiver to allow the state to enforce tougher standards for cutting emissions from vehicles, and that he use the Clean Air Act "to declare that global warming pollution endangers public health and welfare and to set standards for power plants, vehicles, and fuels." Other recommendations include a call for tougher fuel economy and appliance efficiency standards,and a mandate that government agencies take into account and plan for climate change in all of their actions regarding energy use and natural resources. The groups also urge Obama to reengage in international climate negotiations.
The leaders participating in the press call on Tuesday seemed confident that Obama's rhetoric on the environment is sincere. "This is an incoming president that on the campaign trail articulated a farsighted agenda," said Union of Concerned Scientists president Kevin Knobloch, noting that the agenda combines economic vitality, clean energy, and climate solutions. "Those of us in the environmental community share a lot of the priorities he laid out."
League of Conservation Voters president Gene Karpinski said he hopes Obama or a high-level appointee will take the lead on climate and energy. While he didn't exactly call for the appointment of a "czar" to head the effort, he said, "We want to make sure the White House creates a very clear authority in the White House to coordinate the work going on in the different agencies ... coordinating all the action we believe needs to occur on energy and global warming."
The groups involved were:
- American Rivers
- Center for International Environmental Law
- Clean Water Action
- Defenders of Wildlife
- Earth Justice
- Environment America
- Environmental Defense Fund
- Friends of the Earth
- Izaak Walton League
- League of Conservation Voters
- National Audubon Society
- National Parks Conservation Association
- National Tribal Environmental Council
- National Wildlife Federation
- Native American Rights Fund
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- Ocean Conservancy
- Pew Environment Group
- Physicians for Social Responsibility
- Population Connection
- Population Action International
- Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
- Sierra Club
- The Wilderness Society
- The Trust for Public Land
- Union of Concerned Scientists
- World Wildlife Fund.