U.K. official confident U.S. will act on climate change legislation

Even though climate change legislation has stalled in Congress, a senior British official who is working with U.S. policymakers expressed confidence that the bill’s prospects are bright.

In an interview with The Hill, United Kingdom Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Miliband said U.S. lawmakers and the White House are committed to moving the bill this year.

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Miliband, who met with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John KerryJohn KerryChanging America: America’s growing education divide Speaker Ryan, the fate of our policy toward Russia rests in your hands Frustrated Dems say Obama botched Russia response MORE (D-Mass.) this week, said, “The [climate] bill is being worked on as I understand it, and it will emerge soon.”

While acknowledging that President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaDems face identity crisis Inspector general report: Park Service did not change records of crowd size at inauguration Feehery: Medicaid reform opening MORE’s number one priority in 2009 is healthcare reform, Miliband said, “My sense from talking with the administration is there is a significant amount of commitment to the December deadline.”

Miliband is referring to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, which is scheduled to take place Dec. 7-18. The Obama administration has expressed hope that a climate change bill will be signed into law by then, setting the stage for a historic international agreement.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDems face identity crisis Heller under siege, even before healthcare Charles Koch thanks Harry Reid for helping his book sales MORE (D-Nev.) earlier this week suggested a deal in the upper chamber might not be reached until 2010.

Miliband, however, is not giving up on the December goal.

“The world has a very clear deadline with Copenhagen in December,” Miliband said. It is important to act globally to address climate change soon, he said, partly because of scientific reasons but also because of the politics of the moment.

“The lesson I learned in politics is you need to seize the opportunities as they arrive,” he said.

Miliband is working closely with the Obama administration, including Carol Browner, a senior adviser to Obama on climate change, as well as State Department policymakers Todd Stern and Michael FromanMichael FromanUS will investigate aluminum imports as national security hazard Overnight Finance: WH floats Mexican import tax | Exporters move to back GOP tax proposal | Dems rip Trump adviser's Goldman Sachs payout Froman heads to Council on Foreign Relations MORE.

He also said he talks regularly with former Vice President Al GoreAl GoreBudowsky: Dems madder than hell Misreading lessons of an evolving electorate Manatt snags Jack Quinn MORE. Lawmakers who he has conferred with on climate change include Sens. Kerry, Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerTime is now to address infrastructure needs Tom Steyer testing waters for Calif. gubernatorial bid Another day, another dollar for retirement advice rip-offs MORE (D-Calif.), John McCainJohn McCainChanging America: America’s growing education divide Congress needs to support the COINS Act GOP’s message on ObamaCare is us versus them MORE (R-Ariz.), Bob CorkerBob CorkerOvernight Defense: House panel unveils 6.5B defense policy bill | Bill threatens to suspend nuke treaty with Russia | Corker vows to block Gulf arms sales Corker vows to block arms sales to Gulf countries amid Qatar crisis This week: Senate races toward ObamaCare repeal vote MORE (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).

The 39-year-old British policymaker said he doesn’t have a strong preference whether the U.S. should tackle carbon emissions through legislation or regulation, but adds there is an appetite on Capitol Hill to pass a bill.

Still, he recognizes the hurdles lawmakers face: “We need to understand each other’s constraints so I’m certainly not coming here to lecture the United States.”

He said many in Europe were pleasantly surprised with the passage of the House climate bill earlier this year.

Obama “defied expectations” by urging Congress to act so soon after his inauguration, Miliband said, noting that some were under the impression the president would tackle climate change in his second or third year in office. He pointed out that the measure crafted by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyDems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity Dem senator: Trump 'doesn't respect' the presidency Overnight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief MORE (D-Mass.) is more ambitious than what Obama promised during his presidential campaign.

U.S. concerns about competitiveness regarding India and China’s involvement in reducing their carbon emissions are legitimate, Miliband said.

Yet, Miliband said, there needs to be some understanding of their perspectives: “We are asking [China and India] to do something which we didn’t do. We’re saying to them: ‘You’ve got to grow in a low-carbon way.’ We grew in a high-carbon way for the last 150, 200 years.”

China and India recognize they must act, Miliband said. If they don’t, he added, they know they will face devastating effects of climate change.