"Serious" climate talks hinge on U.S. bill: lawmaker

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts Thu Aug 6, 2009 8:24pm EDT

Congressman Edward Markey (D-MA), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, addresses the CERAWEEK 2009 Conference on the Energy Future held in Houston February 9, 2009. REUTERS/Richard Carson

Congressman Edward Markey (D-MA), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, addresses the CERAWEEK 2009 Conference on the Energy Future held in Houston February 9, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Richard Carson

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CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (Reuters) - The fate of a U.S. climate change bill will send signals to the rest of the world as to whether upcoming global climate talks will be "serious or not," one of the bill's co-authors said on Thursday.

The bill, which aims to cut U.S. emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, passed the House of Representatives and Massachusetts Representative Edward Markey said he hopes to see it make its way through Senate by the year's end.

"This bill is a bill the world is waiting for to make a determination as to whether or not the negotiations that we will be undertaking in Copenhagen will be serious or not," Markey said in a speech at Harvard University in Cambridge. "The Chinese are looking at it, the Europeans, the rest of the world ... The bill is now pending in the Senate and my great hope is that we will see passage of that before the end of this year."

Negotiators from about 190 countries are scheduled to meet in the Danish capital of Copenhagen in December for a round of talks aimed at getting rich nations to agree to cut their greenhouse gas emissions sharply and to help emerging economies -- which are rapidly becoming major emitters as they consumer more energy -- do the same.

The climate bill, written by Markey and Representative Henry Waxman, to reduce U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming, by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

One of the challenges facing the climate bill is the crowded legislative agenda. U.S. President Barack Obama has also made health care reform a top priority -- leaving Congress to take on a thorny and emotional issue that Americans have been debating for decades.

"These are the top two priorities of the President and the Congress and so they're going to be moving along simultaneously this fall within the legislative process," Markey told reporters after his speech. "Each of them will require, to some extent, success on the other. It's important for us to move forward on these together because the opponents of them are using both bills as reasons why President Obama is taking us in the wrong direction and we have to make the counter-argument that it's why he's taking us in the right direction."

The climate bill, which uses a cap-and-trade system to lower emissions, made it narrowly through the House, carrying by just seven votes. The Senate is expected to try to produce its own version of the bill, which if passed would need to be harmonized with the House version. (Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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