/ 2 November 2007

US edges towards cap on greenhouse gases

The United States on Thursday took a first step towards mandatory controls on greenhouse gas emissions, in direct defiance of the Bush administration’s policy on climate change.

The vote in a Senate subcommittee marks the first US move towards European-style policies. Although the caps on emissions approved do not go as far as those in Europe, environmental campaigners said they marked a decisive break with the administration’s policies.

”Whether or not a Bill reaches President Bush’s desk before he leaves office, this vote was a clear sign that his Just Say No policy on global warming has reached the end of its useful political life,” said Philip Clapp, the president of the independent National Environmental Trust (NET).

”This is a very big deal,” said Tony Kreindler, of Environmental Defence, a campaigning group. ”We finally have all the elements that we need to get us to the point where we are making law.”

The proposed legislation would set a target of a 15% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, compared with the 20% reduction that is the goal in the EU. It calls for capping emissions at 2005 levels by 2012 and provides for a market-based system for trading emissions permits. The Bill is expected to move swiftly through the legislative process. It enjoys broad support from Republicans and Democrats, and support for measures to tackle global warming is growing among large US corporations.

The legislation was introduced by a Republican, John Warner of Virginia, and Joe Lieberman, an independent senator from Connecticut. It was backed by senators from coal-producing states in what campaigners saw as growing public support for action against global warming.

The Bill is expected to be put to a vote of the full committee this month. Barbara Boxer, a Democrat from California, who chairs the committee, has said she wants to shepherd the Bill through committee before the start of the Bali conference on climate change in early December.

It remains unclear how George Bush would react to any legislation emerging from the Democratically controlled Congress that imposes mandatory controls on emissions. The administration has softened its language in recent months. It acknowledges that climate change is a problem, a reversal of its earlier insistence that the science was inconclusive.

But as recently as last week evidence emerged of White House officials tampering with reports from government scientists that do not toe the administration’s line on climate change.

”The most likely scenario is that the president would veto the Bill given his record but given the rapid shift in public opinion on this issue, I think there is a glimmer of hope,” said Angela Anderson, the director of climate change for NET. – Guardian Unlimited Â