- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2001

The prospects for national global-warming legislation appear to be bright, even as international negotiations on the issue struggle as a result of the Bush administration's rejection of the Kyoto treaty, according to members of Congress and environmental groups.
Democratic and Republican senators, even those who have opposed the international environmental treaty, are pushing legislation that would step up research on the remaining scientific uncertainties on climate change and create a federal office devoted to the issue.
Members say current legislative proposals pick up on proposals from 1997 before the Kyoto treaty that would place curbs on the greenhouse gases thought to cause global warming, was negotiated.
"We've been moving down this road for three years," said Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican.
Mr. Hagel, with Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, sponsored a resolution in 1997 criticizing certain aspects of the climate-change talks. It passed the Senate 95-0. Mr. Byrd has since criticized the administration as "throw[ing] the baby out with the bath water."
Today, with international climate-change talks under way in Bonn, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on legislation sponsored by Mr. Byrd and Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican, that would establish a White House office to spearhead U.S. efforts on global warming.
In Bonn yesterday, Japanese officials were still holding out hope that the United States might return to the negotiating table over the Kyoto pact, despite Mr. Bush's contention that the agreement is "fatally flawed."
"It is very important for all the countries to combat global warming under one rule, and therefore to have the United States participate is the best scenario," Environment Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said at a news conference. "At the same time, we do not have any intention to delay the international process that is going on."
Japan's participation is critical for the success of the treaty, which was negotiated in Kyoto, Japan. To enter into force, it must be ratified by at least 55 countries or by nations emitting at least 55 percent of greenhouse gases, a threshold that cannot be reached without Japan, now that the United States has opted out.
The U.S. legislative move has given hope to environmental groups, who advocate mandatory greenhouse gas emission caps, that the United States will move unilaterally to combat global warming, even as international talks slow.
"I think we're going to see some broad-based legislation [get moving] over the next few months," said Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
The situation represents a switch from even a year ago, when international action on climate change was much more likely than legislation, she said.
At the same time, members are wary of the potential for partisan strife over the global warming issue.
For example, Republicans are worried that Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat and chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, will use his new platform simply to excoriate the administration.
"A lot will depend on whether or not both sides just want to score political points," one Republican Senate aide said.
Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who is the ranking member on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said any global-warming legislation "has to be bipartisan."
Though critical of the Kyoto agreement, Mr. Byrd and Mr. Stevens do not endorse the contention of some business groups there is little scientific evidence that greenhouse gases, principally carbon dioxide, are warming the Earth's atmosphere.
"The body of evidence tells us that something is occurring in our atmosphere that is changing our climate and that the human hand has played a role in affecting that change," Mr. Byrd said upon introducing the legislation.
The bill would allocate $4.3 billion over the next 10 years toward formulating a national strategy on climate change. It would create a National Office of Climate Change Response in the White House, in addition to an independent, nonpartisan Climate Change Response Review Board.
The measure also encourages research into technologies that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions at the source.
"This bill will create a process for the United States to seriously and responsibly address the climate-change issue," Mr. Stevens said.
He held a hearing in Fairbanks, Alaska, in May to assess the impact of climate change on the Arctic region.
The Senate also could take up legislation sponsored by Sen. James M. Jeffords, Vermont independent, to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, as well as those of mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen. But Mr. Jeffords would like to put mandatory ceilings on those emissions, something Republicans oppose, a Senate aide said.

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