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U.S. Senate bill on climate change delayed

Good morning from Washington, DC, where we are en route back to Ottawa from the climate conference in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Reuters reports today that, “Monday’s unveiling of a compromise Senate climate bill was postponed on Saturday, Democratic Senator John Kerry said, after a dispute arose over unrelated immigration reform legislation.”

It is important for us to follow their climate change legislation because the United States is the largest emitter of carbon (per capita), they have the power to shape global policy on climate change, and because the Harper government has repeatedly said it will follow the U.S. lead on climate change legislation.

“(Kerry) said that after more than six months of detailed meetings with (Republican Senator Lindsey) Graham and independent Senator  Joseph Lieberman, ‘we believe that we had reached’ an agreement on the details of a bill to reduce smokestack emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases associated with global warming.”

“They were planning to outline those details at a news conference on Monday…”

Notably, “the climate bill (is expected to) expand U.S. nuclear power generation and offshore oil drilling.”

“With only a few months left before November’s congressional elections, senators are trying to determine where their efforts should be focused (deciding between either immigration or climate change).”

“Graham wrote a letter to his colleagues informing them that unless Democrats stepped back from plans to move ahead with immigration reform rather than the climate change bill, (he) would drop out of the three-senator working group.”

“Without Graham on board, efforts to pass climate control legislation could be doomed as he was expected to work to win more Republican support for the bill.”

It has been speculated that it could be at least 2-3 years before the U.S. moves on even the weakest (or worst) climate change legislation, a timeline Canada’s environment minister Jim Prentice appears to acknowledge.

The stated U.S. emissions reduction target is 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. The Harper government has matched that target (in words only), though in our context it actually represents a 2.5 percent increase over 1990 levels.

Greenpeace USA has already announced that it opposes the Senate bill.

It expressed concerns about the bill’s inadequate emission reduction goals (4 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020), a provision that strips authority from the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act and pre-empts the ability of states to impose tougher standards (including California’s ability to enforce its tougher tailpipe emission standards), and the billions set aside for the coal and nuclear industries for research and expansion, including ‘clean coal’ technology development, as well as free permits for heavy emitters like manufacturers, oil refiners, and merchant coal generators.

Friends of the Earth US expects that it will oppose the bill. The Sierra Club US is withholding its analysis until the bill is formally released.

The full Reuters article is at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/24/AR2010042402196.html.