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.
While acknowledging that President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaObama's post-presidential vacation delayed by bad weather Trump redecorates Oval Office with gold drapes Trump puts Churchill bust back in the Oval Office 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 ReidThe DC bubble is strangling the DNC Dems want Sessions to recuse himself from Trump-Russia probe Ryan says Trump, GOP 'in complete sync' on ObamaCare 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 FromanOvernight Finance: Carson, Warren battle at hearing | Rumored consumer bureau pick meets Trump | Trump takes credit for Amazon hirings | A big loss for Soros US launches trade case against China over aluminum subsidies Trade with China important to US economy, report MORE.
He also said he talks regularly with former Vice President Al GoreAl GoreTrump fails to mention Clinton in inaugural address Hillary Clinton under microscope at inauguration For presidents and politics, geography still matters MORE. Lawmakers who he has conferred with on climate change include Sens. Kerry, Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerFeinstein to hold campaign fundraisers, a hint she'll run again Becerra formally nominated for Calif. attorney general 10 freshmen to watch in the new Congress MORE (D-Calif.), John McCainJohn McCainSenate committee to vote Monday on Tillerson Trump fails to mention Clinton in inaugural address Hillary Clinton under microscope at inauguration MORE (R-Ariz.), Bob CorkerBob CorkerHaley ready for UN role despite dearth of foreign policy experience Top Dem: Don’t bring Tillerson floor vote if he doesn’t pass committee Trump’s UN pick threads needle on Russia, NATO 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 MarkeyBuying that new-used car: Congress must put safety first Overnight Finance: Scoop – Trump team eyes dramatic spending cuts | Treasury pick survives stormy hearing Senate Dems want Trump to withdraw from Pacific trade deal 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.