Democrats Set December Deadline for Cap on US Emissions

By Suzanne Goldenberg
February 3, 2009

Barbara Boxer pledges to produce draft greenhouse gas emissions bill before the Copenhagen round of
climate change negotiations in December

Democrat leaders in Congress committed to swift action on a green agenda today,
promising draft cap and trade legislation for the reduction of greenhouse gas
emissions before the Copenhagen round of climate change negotiations in December.

Environmental campaigners had been apprehensive about the chances of the Senate
ratifying a new international treaty a successor to the Kyoto protocol to
combat global warming unless a consensus had already been reached on Capitol Hill.

Barbara Boxer, the chair of the Senate environment and public works committee,
said she was determined to produce a draft cap and trade bill that would have a
strong chance of passage. Congress voted down a bill to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions last year.

"I want to get a bill out of committee that every member has a stake in," she
said. "It could be weeks, not months, but it will be before the end of the year."

The pledge from Boxer comes as Democrats try to capitalise on their majority in
Congress and the installation of a strongly green president in Barack Obama to
press ahead on an environmental agenda.

"When you had a president in the past who wasn't interested in this issue, why
were people going to go the extra mile to move on this?" said Amy Klobuchar, a
Democratic senator from Minnesota and a member of the committee. "Now we have a
president who wants to move on it."

Democrats are lobbying hard for Obama's economic rescue package, now making its
way through Congress, arguing that its green focus will help create - not reduce
- jobs. There were also calls today to set aside substantially more funds for
public transport in the stimulus package.

Boxer, a Californian who will be crucial in steering through any forthcoming
legislation, said she had reached a consensus for future action among fellow
Democrats on the committee.

Flanked by Democratic senators and representatives from environmental and
business organisations, she sketched out six broad guiding principles:

a commitment to reducing emissions to levels guided by science to avoid global warming;

setting enforceable short- and long-term emissions targets;

establishing a carbon market;

investing in clean technology;

supporting efforts by local and state governments to deal with climate change;
supporting developing nations.

But the challenge for Boxer was underlined by the vagueness of the principles
and the absence of any show of support from Republicans on the committee.
Boxer's Republican counterpart is Jim Inhofe, notorious for his description of
global warming as a hoax.

Despite Obama's election, and a public relations campaign by Democrats pushing
the job-creating potential of a green economy, the Republican remains adamantly
opposed to action on climate change.

Conservative-leaning Democrats have also expressed scepticism about legislation
on emissions, fearing it will cost jobs, so Boxer and her Democrat supporters
will need some careful navigation to avoid repeating last year's failed attempt to pass legislation.

She was reluctant to discuss the specifics of future legislation. "We are not
here to talk about the exact numbers, but we will say that science will guide
us," Boxer said.


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