Carol Browner, President Obama's director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, said Friday that the chance that Congress will pass a climate bill before December, when the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen will take place, is "not likely." With a bill or not, Browner said the U.S. is serious about action as demonstrated by the EPA's announcement this week that the agency will begin regulating so called stationary sources of greenhouse gas emissions that exceed 25,000 tons per year of emissions.Browner spoke Friday at a conference organized by The Atlantic magazine.
"Obviously we'd like to be through the process -- that's not going to happen," Ms. Browner said at a conference on politics and history organized by The Atlantic magazine. "I think we would all agree the likelihood you would have a bill signed by the president on comprehensive energy by the time we would go in early December is not likely."
Yet Ms. Browner said it was possible that the Senate could at least complete its hearings on the bill by the time the international climate talks open on Dec. 7. Those hearings, along with the Obama administration's recent moves toward regulating greenhouse gases, would provide evidence that the nation was serious about cutting emissions, she said.
The Senate bill introduced this week exeeds the short-term targets of the House version of the bill, which narrowly passed this summer with a vote count of 219-213. The House bill called for a 17 percent cut in carbon emissions below 2005 levels by 2020, and about an 80 percent reduction by 2050. The Senate bill calls for 20 percent reductions by 2020.
The targets are well below what the best science says is needed. The IPCC maintains that industrialized nations must cut their carbon output by at least 40 percent by 2020, relative to 1990 levels. Additionally, the bill is compromised by up to 2 billion tons of offsets made available every year to polluters, meaning they can do business as usual while sending jobs and investment overseas.
It's unclear how much latitude U.S negotiators will have in Copenhagen without a U.S. bill.