Senate Will Wait Until Spring to Move on Climate Change Bill

Senate leadership announces it will not have a bill passed ahead of the Copenhagen meeting.

In just a few weeks, world leaders are gathering in Copenhagen, Denmark, for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Many have looked to Copenhagen as a means of bringing major world parties to the table to negotiate.

U.S. leaders had hoped to take passed legislation to the meeting showing a true commitment to addressing global climate changes.

But as the Senate remains tied down with health care legislation, Senate leadership has succumbed to the realization that a bill will not make it out of the Senate ahead of the December world climate talks.

Agricultural groups have been working for months with Senate staff to craft offsets language that could result in a net economic benefit for farmers, helping offset the projected higher prices of climate change legislation implementation.

Earlier in November, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee passed the Boxer-Kerry climate change legislation out of Committee despite a Republican boycott of the meeting.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and five co-sponsors introduced long-awaited legislation that seeks to add an agriculture piece, including an ag offsets program, to the Boxer-Kerry draft. Specifically, the bill would put USDA in charge of agriculture and forestry offset programs, provide incentives to early actors, support other ag and forestry actions that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and support climate-related research in agriculture, including research on adaptation to changing weather patterns.

Copenhagen another Doha?
The World Trade Talks began in Doha, Qatar in 2001. But the word "Doha" has become associated with failure and an inability of world leaders to reach consensus on improving world trade.

Will Copenhagen be another Doha?

Despite the push by Congress and President Barack Obama to again reenter world climate change talks after former President George W. Bush rejected the idea, it appears this Administration will not go to Copenhagen with a solid U.S. offer as they had once hoped.

Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), recently said in an interview that he recognizes that the U.S. Senate must be behind any deal. And as shown in Doha talks, it is unwise to negotiate at the world level something Congress can't agree to.

The previous world climate agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, did not have President George W. Bush's support because Bush saw it as harmful to the U.S. economy and it did not require action by developing countries.

Those sentiments still resonate in U.S. today, but de Boer said he is hopeful Obama can help persuade India and China and Congress to come on board with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In an interview with Environment & Energy Publishing (E&E) de Boer said the four essentials calling for an international agreement in Copenhagen are:

1. How much are the industrialized countries willing to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases?


2. How much are major developing countries such as China and India willing to do to limit the growth of their emissions?


3. How is the help needed by developing countries to engage in reducing their emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change going to be financed?


4. How is that money going to be managed?


Pause for reflection
One of the largest U.S. farm groups, the American Farm Bureau Federation, welcomed this week's announcement from Senate leadership that it would not address climate legislation until Spring 2010.

"This move offers a great opportunity for lawmakers to go back to the drawing board and re-assess the need for this legislation and the impact it will have on all Americans," a statement from AFBF President Bob Stallman said.

"We now know there will be no international agreement resulting from the upcoming meeting in Copenhagen. Furthermore, we have heard testimony from the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency that the House-passed bill would have no significant impact on the global climate. These bills represent all pain and no gain for our nation and American agriculture and now the Senate has a chance to correct that error," Stallman added.

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