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 ObamaWhite House staff to skip correspondents' dinner Overnight Energy: Trump signs climate order | Greens vow to fight back GOP lawmakers defend Trump military rules of engagement 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 ReidRepublican failure Senate about to enter 'nuclear option' death spiral Top GOP senator: 'Tragic mistake' if Democrats try to block Gorsuch 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: 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 Overnight Finance: Carson, Warren battle at hearing | Rumored consumer bureau pick meets Trump | Trump takes credit for Amazon hirings | A big loss for Soros MORE.
He also said he talks regularly with former Vice President Al GoreAl GoreOvernight Tech: Trump's tech budget - Cyber gets boost; cuts for NASA climate programs | FTC faces changes under Trump | Trump to meet with Bill Gates Trump's NASA budget cuts earth, climate science programs Obamas sign with agency for speaking gigs MORE. Lawmakers who he has conferred with on climate change include Sens. Kerry, Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerAnother day, another dollar for retirement advice rip-offs Carly Fiorina 'certainly looking at' Virginia Senate run Top Obama adviser signs with Hollywood talent agency: report MORE (D-Calif.), John McCainJohn McCainSenate braces for fallout over Supreme Court fight Republicans seek to lower odds of a shutdown Nunes endures another rough day MORE (R-Ariz.), Bob CorkerBob CorkerSenate braces for fallout over Supreme Court fight Senate takes up NATO membership for Montenegro GOP lawmaker: Time to work with Dems on healthcare 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 MarkeyOvernight Energy: Trump signs climate order | Greens vow to fight back House passes bill undoing Obama internet privacy rule The Hill’s Whip List: 30 Dems are against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee 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.