U.S. envoy optimistic Senate will pass climate bill

WASHINGTON Wed Jan 13, 2010 7:49pm GMT

Steam and emissions are seen coming out of a funnel at an oil refinery in Melbourne July 2, 2009. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas

Steam and emissions are seen coming out of a funnel at an oil refinery in Melbourne July 2, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Mick Tsikas

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top U.S. climate negotiator said he hopes the U.S. Senate will pass a global warming bill in the first half of the year, but the country will have to work on alternatives if the legislation fails.

"I'm quite optimistic there will be action," Jonathan Pershing, the U.S. Deputy special climate change envoy, told a panel on Wednesday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"I don't think its a plausible scenario" that Congress would not pass a bill aiming to lower emissions of heat-trapping gases, but passage would be more likely over the next year than the next month, he said.

Democratic Senator John Kerry is working with independent Senator Joe Lieberman and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on a compromise climate bill that would include more incentives for nuclear energy and offshore drilling than a climate bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.

At the recent climate summit in Copenhagen, Kerry left open the possibility of not including an emissions cap and trade market in the climate bill.

But the legislation's future is uncertain amid opposition from lawmakers in coal states and others who say a cap and trade market on emissions would raise energy costs.

"We will have to see how it plays out and we will have to start working on alternatives if it doesn't happen," Pershing said.

He did not say what the alternatives might be.

Pershing said the nonbinding Copenhagen Accord, signed by the United States, China, India, and other countries, put the ball in the court for governments to develop their plans to combat climate change.

The United States was working to get countries to pledge climate actions on two of the accord's appendixes, one for developed country emission targets for 2020 and one for the voluntary pledges of major developing countries, he said. The deadline for the pledges is January 31.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner)

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