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Browner: U.S. in 'good standing' heading into Copenhagen talks

White House climate czar Carol Browner downplayed the idea that the absence of a domestic emissions law would hinder U.S. leverage in Copenhagen and said the U.S. could tout major accomplishments heading into next month’s international climate talks.

In wide-ranging remarks at a climate conference in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, she also said President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaFive takeaways from the first North Dakota Senate debate Live coverage: Heitkamp faces Cramer in high-stakes North Dakota debate Khashoggi prompts Trump to reconsider human rights in foreign policy MORE and Chinese President Hu Jintao made substantial progress in their Beijing discussions this week.

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Browner, the senior White House energy and climate adviser, pointed to tens of billions of dollars in “clean energy” financing in the stimulus law, as well as House passage of broad energy and climate legislation. A slow-moving Senate bill has been put off until next year.

She also cited several steps the administration has taken using its existing power, such as EPA and Transportation Department work to create joint vehicle mileage and greenhouse gas standards, as well as Energy Department appliance efficiency standards.

“We think we are in very, very good standing that this president has clearly demonstrated incredible leadership,” she said at a conference hosted by The Economist.

The aim of next month’s Copenhagen talks has been downgraded to reaching a political accord on emissions, aid for climate change mitigation and adaptation, and other measures. Efforts to reach a final, legally binding international agreement have been pushed into next year.

Obama and Hu, according to the White House, reached agreements on a number of areas, including that each country would take “significant” efforts to curb emissions, and that the Copenhagen political accord should include emissions mitigation commitments by developed and developing nations. They also agreed that both nations would stand behind its commitments, among other areas.

Signs of cooperation by the two countries are closely watched because China is now the world’s top emitter and the U.S. is the second-largest source of heat-trapping gases.

“We move on now to Copenhagen with really an important statement from the Chinese on what they are prepared to discuss,” Browner said.

Browner said there has not yet been a decision about whether Obama would attend the Copenhagen talks.

In other remarks, she urged against splitting up sweeping energy and climate legislative plans into smaller pieces, deflecting suggestions such as a cap-and-trade plan applied only to power plants.

Some lawmakers, such as Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), have called for the Senate to act separately on an energy package approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in June, which includes a national renewable electricity standard, a so-called “green bank,” and a suite of other energy measures. It does not impose an emissions-cutting mandate.

But Browner said the White House wants a broad energy and climate package that includes an economy-wide cap-and-trade plan. “We want comprehensive legislation,” she said. She said a piecemeal approach would not provide industries with enough predictability. “Slicing and dicing isn’t going to work,” she said.

Browner also called joint efforts by Sens. John KerryJohn Forbes KerryKhashoggi prompts Trump to reconsider human rights in foreign policy Biden: ‘Totally legitimate’ to question age if he runs in 2020 Kerry decries ‘broken’ Washington MORE (D-Mass.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Memo: Saudi storm darkens for Trump Trump changes tone on Saudi Arabia amid mounting pressure Trump rebukes Saudis, but also gives them more time MORE (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) to craft a bipartisan climate package outside of the committee process a significant step. The three are working on a plan that would marry emissions limits with wider offshore oil-and-gas drilling and expanded federal support for building new nuclear power plants. “We meet with them on a regular basis,” she said.

Their effort is aimed at assembling a compromise deal that can attract 60 Senate votes, which the cap-and-trade plan that emerged from the Environment and Public Works Committee lacks.