UNITED NATIONS -- Even if a U.S. climate change and energy bill is not ready before December's international climate talks, the Obama administration should be able to adopt firm greenhouse gas reduction targets there, the chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said today.
Speaking to reporters following her meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said the absence of signed legislation should not be construed by other countries as evidence that the United States is not moving forward on the problem.
The Obama administration's negotiators should be able to adopt firm greenhouse gas reduction targets during the meetings in Copenhagen, Denmark, on the basis of what has already been accomplished, Boxer said. "I think the administration is very strong on this, and I do think targets are very important," Boxer said. "My own belief is the genius inventors of the world, the entrepreneurs of the world ... are going to really be working on technologies. And so I don't think it will be that hard to meet these targets."
"We are making tremendous progress and in our regular budget. We see this president really prioritizing energy efficiency, and in his stimulus package ... there were great investments in high-speed rail and transit and energy efficiency projects and research and development," Boxer said. "I don't agree that the only way to judge if America is moving forward is passing and having it signed into law by Copenhagen."
Boxer also emphasized that EPA also stands ready to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and said the United States should also be given credit for individual state action on climate change, most notably through new regulations in California and the formation of the Northeastern states' Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
Obama administration officials have also emphasized regulatory advances and the House-passed climate bill as evidence that the United States is committed to action on global warming, but last week, lead U.S. negotiator Jonathan Pershing told reporters in Bangkok that it would be "extraordinarily difficult" for the administration to commit to a specific numerical reduction target before Congress passes a bill (Greenwire, Oct. 9).
Boxer was at the U.N. headquarters in New York to give Ban and his climate change team an update on the status of climate legislation that she and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) are working on. Boxer also came to discuss violence against women and recent reforms made within the U.N. system to strengthen protections for women in conflict zones.
Boxer said she agreed with several U.N. officials who have said that it would be ideal for Congress to completely pass new climate legislation prior to the Copenhagen gathering. Ranking U.N. officials have said that passage of a final bill would give the Obama administration a better negotiating mandate.
As for timing, Boxer told reporters the Senate bill should be out of her committee "soon." Boxer is waiting on an U.S. EPA analysis of the Senate cap-and-trade bill, and an EPW Committee markup is not expected until next month (Greenwire, Oct. 8).
"Of course the secretary-general wanted to know when and how, and I gave him my best answer that I believe we will get this bill out of my committee soon, and certainly before Copenhagen," Boxer said. "We're hoping to maybe even have it on the floor, but that's something that the Majority Leader [Harry] Reid will discuss and decide."
The legislative package has been receiving "good responses" from her fellow lawmakers, she said.
"We've had some breakthroughs by Republicans on it, which is good," she said. "We're building our coalition."