Senator Predicts Congressional Shift on Climate Change

As was evident in last week’s climate change conference in Montreal, Canada, official Bush Administration policy remains staunchly against any mandatory multi-national agreements over the regulation of greenhouse gas reductions. In the U.S. Congress, however, there appear to be signs of a shift toward greater acceptance of emissions reductions.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) predicted last week that the U.S. Congress could enact a mandatory program to control greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. within the next two years. Bingaman’s comments came in the keynote address delivered to a forum of international legislators participating in the climate change talks in Montreal, Canada. Bingaman is the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee. Bingaman’s remarks highlighted what he said is a major shift in the Congressional debate on global warming and a new interest in addressing the challenge. This summer, Bingaman and Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) worked together to devise an alternative proposal to one on reducing global warming pollution that had been put forward by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.). The Bingaman-Domenici bill set less ambitious goals, included a limit on compliance costs, and provided a mechanism for Congress to adjust the level of U.S. efforts. Bingaman said that he and Domenici were not able to put that proposal together in a final form that could pass because the Energy Committee was committed to passing an energy bill. To get agreement in the Senate on some basic propositions regarding future U.S. global warming policy, Bingaman and Domenici, along with a bipartisan group of nine other Senators, introduced and passed a resolution. Resolutions are non-binding, but it did put the U.S. Senate on record for the first time as asserting that mandatory controls will be necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Senator listed the following reasons for his belief that mandatory carbon emissions legislation is on the horizon: — The scientific evidence for human-induced global warming is getting clearer — The public is getting more worried — Elected officials at the local, state, and regional level are beginning to respond to these concerns with their own control program and policies — Leaders of the business community are becoming more concerned about the potential for conflicts between various state or regional programs — The same business leaders are coming to the conclusion that constraints on greenhouse gas emissions are coming, and they are looking for some regulatory certainty. Information courtesy of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)

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