Web Date: February 4, 2009
Senate Democrats Set Principles For Legislation
ON FEB. 3, key Democratic senators put forth principles for legislation that they say will give the U.S. greater leverage in upcoming global negotiations on a new climate-change treaty.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, expects to introduce a bill based on the principles in coming weeks. Supporting the principles that Boxer drafted are the nine other Democrats and one Independent on the panel. Boxer pledged that her committee would finalize the global-warming measure by the end of the year.
By having legislation in hand detailing how the U.S. will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, the Obama Administration will have a stronger bargaining position at upcoming international climate talks, said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), a member of Boxer's committee. Negotiations on a new international pact to combat global warming are scheduled to conclude in December.
Boxer's broad principles are the basis for the political horse-trading that will shape the details of the Senate legislation.
Key to Boxer's plan is a nationwide cap on greenhouse gas releases and trading of emissions allowances. The principles call for short- and long-term emissions targets that could be adjusted after periodic reviews of climate-change science.
Under Boxer's plan, revenues from the greenhouse gas trading system would fund several programs. Some monies would help offset the costs of shifting to cleaner sources of energy. Other dollars would go to investments in clean energy technologies and energy efficiency and to conservation of natural systems threatened by global warming.
According to Boxer's principles, part of the emissions trading revenues would also assist developing countries in responding and adapting to climate change. This provision would give U.S. negotiators an important bargaining chip in the upcoming talks because developing countries have long asked wealthier nations for financial assistance in addressing climate change.
The senator said she is reaching out individually to the eight Republican members of her committee to try to garner their support for her bill, but she faces a serious challenge. Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the panel's top Republican who holds great sway over its GOP members, is deeply skeptical about climate-change predictions. He says the principles will only lead to what amounts to a major tax on energy.
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