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 Forbes KerryKerry: Trump's rhetoric gave North Korea a reason to say 'Hey, we need a bomb' Russian hackers targeted top US generals and statesmen: report Trump officials to offer clarity on UN relief funding next week 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 Hussein ObamaOvernight Cybersecurity: What we learned from Carter Page's House Intel testimony | House to mark up foreign intel reform law | FBI can't access Texas shooter's phone | Sessions to testify at hearing amid Russia scrutiny Russian social media is the modern-day Trojan horse Trump records robo-call for Gillespie: He'll help 'make America great again' 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 ReidTop Lobbyists 2017: Grass roots Boehner confronted Reid after criticism from Senate floor GOP in uncharted territory rolling back rules through resolutions 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 GoreDem Murphy wins New Jersey governor's race CNN to air sexual harassment Town Hall featuring Gretchen Carlson, Anita Hill GOP gov hopeful veers to right in New Jersey MORE. Lawmakers who he has conferred with on climate change include Sens. Kerry, Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerFour more lawmakers say they’ve been sexually harassed by colleagues in Congress California Hispanics are the vanguard for a new political paradigm Trump riles Dems with pick for powerful EPA job MORE (D-Calif.), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP rushes to cut ties to Moore GOP strategist: 'There needs to be a repudiation' of Roy Moore by Republicans World leaders reach agreement on trade deal without United States: report MORE (R-Ariz.), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTax Foundation: Senate reform bill would cost 6B GOP senators raise concerns over tax plan Dem House candidate apologizes for saying it 'shouldn't take brain cancer' for McCain to show courage 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 MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyCBS series 'Madam Secretary' exploring 'fake news' plot Senate Dems warn against cutting ObamaCare fund to pay for children's health program Trump’s North Korea strategy requires an intervention from Congress 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.