By Ben Geman - 12/17/09 12:24 AM EST
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said at the Copenhagen climate summit Wednesday that reaching an international accord at the talks would pave the way for a final U.S. emissions-cutting law.
said he is highly confident the Senate can pass a bill — if negotiators
at the contentious talks craft a plan that ensures verifiable emissions
curbs in nations like China and India.
The talks are scheduled to culminate
Friday, when President Barack Obama and scores of other heads of state
will be in attendance.
Kerry is a key architect in Senate
efforts to craft a law that mandates deep cuts in U.S. emissions,
following House passage of a sweeping climate and energy bill in June.
Kerry, at the same press briefing, said the shape of Senate plans
remains in flux. He cited the importance of creating a cost for
emitting carbon dioxide, but added that the mechanism remains under
“I can’t tell you the method or the means,
amount, by which we might price carbon. I can’t tell you that. We have
not resolved that issue yet,” Kerry said.
Kerry, according to
an aide, later clarified his comments to underscore that “it’s going to
include some kind of trading mechanism.”
But his comments
nonetheless underscore the fluid nature of discussions among lawmakers
who are struggling to craft a package that can attract 60 Senate votes.
has co-sponsored a so-called cap-and-trade plan with Environment and
Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).
establishes a declining nationwide ceiling on greenhouse gas emissions
and allows polluters to trade emissions permits and use offsets — that
is, funding climate-friendly projects such as forest preservation — to
meet their emissions limits.
Cap-and-trade is at the heart of the sweeping energy and climate bill the House approved in June.
a number of competing proposals have emerged in the Senate, including
plans aimed at appeasing concerns among lawmakers about creating a
sprawling emissions trading market that could provide a bonanza for
Wall Street banks.
Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Susan
Collins (R-Maine) last week unveiled a plan that severely constrains
the trading of emissions permits and keeps banks on the outside of the
primary trading market, among many other differences with the major
Other Capitol Hill discussions have
included the idea of a cap-and-trade plan applied only to the
power-plant sector, while separate policies would be used to address
emissions from factories, vehicles and other sources.
is working with Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham
(R-S.C.) on a compromise climate and energy plan that blends emissions
curbs with wider offshore oil-and-gas drilling and expanded federal
financing for nuclear power plants.
A broadly worded
framework the three senators released last week doesn’t say
“cap-and-trade” specifically but strongly suggests it, calling for a
“market-based” system with robust carbon-market oversight. At a Dec. 10
press conference about the framework, Lieberman called it the
“market-based system for punishing polluters previously known as
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
plans to bring a climate and energy bill to the floor in the spring. An
aide declined to address questions about the bill’s specific mechanism
for controlling emissions.
“The Senate will consider
comprehensive legislation in the spring that creates jobs, reduces
pollution, increases energy independence and provides stable funding
for clean energy development,” the aide said, adding, “Sen. Reid looks
forward to talking with Sens. Kerry and Graham on their progress in
preparing a bipartisan bill that has broad support.”
Daniel J. Weiss of the liberal Center
for American Progress Action Fund likewise said there is little reason
for Kerry to provide details about his plans until a “critical mass” of
senators is on board. “My guess is that he is keeping his cards close
to the vest until he has more chips in his stack,” Weiss said.
from former Vice President Al Gore, Kerry was the first major political
figure from the U.S. to address the summit. Secretary of State Hillary
Rodham Clinton is slated to take part in the talks Thursday, to be
followed by Obama’s Friday attendance.
But this week Obama was already in touch with heads of state from countries including the U.K., France and Bangladesh as negotiators try to negotiate a thicket of contentious issues.
At press time it remained unclear whether Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would lead a House delegation to the talks.