Environmentalist Ted Glick is heading to Capitol Hill today to protest Republican opposition to a House-approved energy bill. The Bush administration and leading Republicans oppose the measure. Glick is now on the ninety-ninth day of a fast to protest the failure of Congress to address climate change. [includes rush transcript]
As the IPCC and Al Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, negotiators entered the final week of talks at the UN climate conference in Bali. The meeting hit a roadblock Monday from the United States. The US announced it won’t approve a draft agreement setting firm targets for cuts to carbon pollution. The Bush administration says a proposal for developed nations to reduce emissions by between 25% and 40% by 2020 is “totally unrealistic” and “unhelpful.” The 25%-40% figure is based on the work of the UN’s IPCC. Harlan Watson, the senior climate negotiator for the United States, said the panel’s calculation was based on “many uncertainties”.
Efforts to reform US environmental policy are also stalling on Capitol Hill. On Friday, Republicans blocked a Senate vote on the House-approved energy bill. The Bush administration and leading Republicans oppose the measure. They’ve singled out provisions that would impose $21 billion in taxes on the oil and gas industry and require utility companies to draw 15% of their power from renewable sources by the year 2020.
Ted Glick is the coordinator of the US Climate Emergency Council. He is heading to Capitol Hill today to protest Republican opposition to the energy bill. Ted Glick is now on the ninety-ninth day of his fast to protest the failure of Congress to address climate change.
Joining us from Washington, D.C., Ted Glick, welcome. Your thoughts on these speeches of the Nobel Peace laureates?
Yes, thanks, first of all, Amy, for having me on the program.
A couple of things about Pachauri’s speech. He talked about conflicts over water. We have conflicts right now over oil. We have wars for oil. We have to be clear that right now there are conflicts over continuing the same path that we have to get off of. We have to end wars for oil. But he was very good in terms of the equity issue. We have to understand that this is an issue of climate justice. Those who are most affected already and will be most affected as this crisis unfolds are people in Africa, people in Asia, low-income people, people in the Caribbean hit by more destructive hurricanes, people in the United States hit by hurricanes. The most impact, as we saw in New Orleans, low-income people, particularly people of color.
As far as Al Gore, I was interested in his solutions, what he put forward in terms of solutions. It was important that he called for a moratorium on coal plants. We can’t build any more coal plants absolutely anywhere in the United States, and really it shouldn’t be happening anywhere in the world. He talked about tax shifting, the need to shift taxes from being on payroll or on sales taxes, for example, to taxes on carbon. That absolutely is the way to go. That’s the way we have to go in this country.
My concern, he talked about the cap-and-trade system. What we need is a cap-and-reduce system. Maybe some trading is involved of emissions, carbon emissions permits, but the emphasis has to be on reduction. We can’t let major corporate interests, utilities, coal companies, oil companies game a cap-and-trade system, which we’ve had experience with actually internationally and in Europe.
As far as Congress, there was the beginnings of a turn in the direction that we need to go that took place on Thursday, when the House of Representatives voted a pretty good energy bill. To the credit of Nancy Pelosi and others who worked with her, it’s a good beginning. That was smashed down the next morning, on Friday, by the Senate, with the Republican Party voting overwhelmingly to reject this House bill. There’s now negotiations going on to try to come up with a revised version in the Senate.
Today, about an hour from now, as I’m talking here in D.C, at 10:00, a number of us are going to the office of Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, and we’re going to be sitting in in his office at 10:00 a.m. It’s in the Russell Building, Constitution Avenue, room 361-A. Anybody in the D.C. area who can join us, we’d love to have you there in support. We need to stand up for the future, stand up for justice and our climate. We cannot accept people like Mitch McConnell and George Bush and Dick Cheney and the rest of them, who are, I would say advisedly, climate criminals. I think that’s an accurate phrase, to describe what has been the reality under the Republican administration for the last seven years. What’s happening is really criminal, facing what we are facing in this world.
Explain what the Republicans are opposed to in this bill. And if you can talk about what Harvey Wasserman talks about, “King CONG madness.” That’s CONG — coal, oil, nukes and gas.
Yes. Coal, oil, nukes and gas. If you want to talk about who it is that is the target, who it is that’s preventing what needs to happen in this world, there you go: the coal industry, the oil industry, the nukes, natural gas industry. We have to be clear that we have to overcome those corporations, those entities.
In terms of what is happening — what the Republicans are opposed to, they are opposed to renewable energy. They are opposed to energy from the wind, from the sun, from the tides, from the earth, the heat of the earth. They literally don’t want to have anything or virtually anything in an energy bill in the year 2007 that supports renewables. Again, to me, that’s criminal.
They also want to protect their friends in the oil industry. There’s about $13.5 billion of the — to help finance the renewable energy piece in the House bill, there’s about $13.5 billion of tax breaks that were removed by the House bill that the Republican senators, supported by a very few Democrats, want to put back in.
Again, we have to be clear on who it is that is obstructing forward progress, obstructing it by their dominance over major players, many of those in our federal government, as well as other levels of government, and we cannot accept it, and we have to take strong action. We have to make sacrifices. We have to be willing to go to jail. Al Gore, himself, a couple of months ago talked about how young people need to be sitting in in front of the coal plants to prevent coal plants from being built. That’s true. Young people need to be doing that. Middle-aged people need to be doing that. Older people need to be doing that. And Al Gore needs to be doing that. Let’s get serious about this crisis.
Ted Glick, how do you think so clearly ninety-nine days into this Climate Emergency Fast, as you call it?
Well, what I’ve discovered is that I’m much more focused. I really am. My mind is much more focused, as a result of this fast, on what’s really important. I’ve had experience with fasting before, and I found that to be true in the past, that when you’re fasting about something, every hour, really, every hour, every waking hour, sometimes in your dreams, you are thinking about why it is that you’re putting yourself through this, why you’re not eating. In my case, for twenty-five days, nothing — I was on water only — and since then it’s been liquids, so it’s been no solid food since.
Ted Glick, we only have thirty seconds. In this period of almost a hundred days that you’ve been fasting and been in Washington, do you sense any kind of change?
There are political changes happening in the country, without question. Even in the Republican Party, 77% of Republicans, according to a Zogby poll, support renewable energy, want utilities to be producing more from renewables, as far as their energy production. There are changes happening in the country.
You’re going to sit-in in McConnell’s office; are you going to leave?
No, I’m not leaving. Other people are not leaving. If they arrest of us, they arrest us.
Ted Glick, I want to thank you for being with us, coordinator of the US Climate Emergency Council. He is on the ninety-ninth day of a Climate Emergency Fast in Washington, D.C.