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Capital Corner: Latest Federal Updates

by Art von Lehe, ICLEI Policy Analyst

Capital in Washington, D.C.

Capital Corner is ICLEI's regular update on federal climate and energy policy, viewed through the local government lens.

Local Governments Recognized by the Senate

The past couple of weeks have been very interesting for climate action.  The Senate released a draft bill which formally recognized local governments, in contrast to the House-passed bill from this summer. 

Click here for ICLEI’s initial impressions of the Senate draft climate bill and stay tuned for a more in-depth analysis.

Surprises from Norway to South Carolina

President Obama awoke last week to find out he had become a Nobel Laureate, in part for his commitment to combating climate change, as the press release from the Nobel Prize Committee stated: “Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting.”

Another surprise came from my home state of South Carolina. Senator Lindsey Graham wrote an op-ed in the New York Times with Senator John Kerry to promote a bipartisan approach to addressing climate change.

An excerpt from this potentially game changing piece: “This process requires honest give-and-take and genuine bipartisanship. In that spirit, we have come together to put forward proposals that address legitimate concerns among Democrats and Republicans and the other constituencies with stakes in this legislation. We’re looking for a new beginning, informed by the work of our colleagues and legislation that is already before Congress.”

All of these developments give us reason to hope for meaningful action at the national and international levels before we close out 2009.

  • Click here to read the complete press release from the Nobel Committee.
  • Senators Graham and Kerry’s full op-ed can be found here.
  • Read the Reuters article about the hope for climate progress


1,000 Mayors Can’t Be Wrong

On October 2, Mayor Greg Nickels announced that there are now 1,000 mayors who have pledged to reduce GHGs in line with the targets set out in the Kyoto Protocol.  This historic event reflects the tremendous upwelling of climate action which has moved from the bottom up – from the local level to the national and even international.  This chorus of US mayors has agreed to meet emissions targets that have been rejected by the federal government.  This historic number of 1,000 mayors was reached at an unprecedented time in history as domestic and international policy for climate action is being crafted at the very moment that United Nations Environment Program reported that we are coming closer and closer to crossing profoundly dangerous thresholds with regards to GHG emissions. 

Recently, Neil Pierce of wrote an opinion piece that showcases this bottom up momentum regarding the negotiations leading up to the next international climate – mentioning ICLEI’s role in advocating for increased support and recognition of local governments in the next international treaty.

  • For more information on the 1,000 mayors, read this article in the Seattle Times.
  • For more information on the current state of the climate, please see this UNEP report.
  • To read Neal Pierce’s piece, please click here.
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