(May 18, 2007)

Democrats urge Bush to take firmer stand on climate

By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent
From Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic congressional leaders urged President George W. Bush on Friday to "reverse course" and strengthen -- not weaken -- the U.S. stance on global warming in a declaration by the world's richest countries.

Fifteen heads of committees in the House of Representatives cited reports that the Bush administration wants to delete references to specific limits on global warming and the greenhouse gases that spur it from a declaration by the Group of Eight industrialized countries next month.

"We are deeply concerned about reports that the United States is seeking to weaken a proposed G8 declaration regarding global climate change," they said in a letter to Bush. "We are writing to urge you to reverse course and strengthen the G8 declaration. The United States must no longer delay action to address this major threat."

The 15 head House committees that deal, at least tangentially, with the effects of global warming.

"Support is growing for aggressive legislation to cap global warming pollution and cut it dramatically over the coming decades," they wrote. "But we need an Executive Branch that engages the rest of the world to solve this problem rather than stubbornly ignoring it."


The chief U.S. climate negotiator, Harlan Watson, said on Thursday that the United States will continue to reject emissions targets or plans to cap greenhouse gas emissions and set up a system where allowances for this could be traded, a plan known as cap and trade.

"We don't believe targets and timetables are important, or a global cap and trade system," Watson told Reuters, speaking on the fringes of a U.N.-hosted climate change meeting in Bonn, Germany. "It's important not to jeopardize economic growth."

Germany wants G8 countries at a meeting it hosts next month to agree to halve climate-warming carbon emissions by 2050 and promote carbon trading to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Watson's comments were in line with the White House stand, which is to combat global warming by promoting alternative fuels rather than by setting limits on emissions.

A spokeswoman for the White House Council on Environmental Quality declined to comment on specific U.S. proposals in the run-up to the G8 meeting, but struck a conciliatory tone.

"There is increasing common ground," said the council's Kristen Hellmer by telephone. "We agree that climate change, sustainable development, economic growth and energy security must all be addressed at the same time ... So really our challenge and our opportunity here is developing an approach that is appropriate for all the major emitting countries."

The lawmakers who signed the letter to Bush are: Henry Waxman, Tom Lantos, George Miller and Bob Filner of California; Charles Rangel, Nydia Velazquez and Louise Slaughter of New York; Barney Frank and Edward Markey of Massachusetts; Bart Gordon of Tennessee; James Oberstar of Minnesota; John Conyers of Michigan; Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio; David Obey of Wisconsin, and John Spratt of South Carolina.

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