Senate Democrats to unveil climate bill Sept 30

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Democrats will unveil legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions next Wednesday, kicking off what is likely to be a battle in Congress as lawmakers tussle over the economic impact of controlling global warming.

Senator John Kerry speaks during a news conference in New Delhi February 20, 2008. REUTERS/B Mathur

The bill has not been released formally but will be coauthored by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry and California Senator Barbara Boxer, a Congressional source said on Thursday.

“The overall architecture of the Senate bill is going to be very similar to the House version of the bill,” a separate source at an environmental group said via telephone from the G20 summit in Pittsburgh.

The proposal will add to an already full plate for lawmakers in Congress who are still working to hammer out details on healthcare and financial reforms.

The House narrowly passed a climate change bill in June that called for a 17 percent cut in carbon emissions below 2005 levels by 2020, and about an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

It would also require companies to acquire permits for the right to emit carbon. Initially about 85 percent of the carbon permits would be provided to companies for free.

Another source said the Senators are contemplating requiring a 20 percent cut in greenhouse gases by 2020.

Any climate legislation in the Senate likely faces an uphill battle, as lawmakers from heavy industrial states in both parties have raised concerns about burdening companies with additional energy costs.

Republicans, in particular, have characterized so-called cap and trade legislation as a massive energy tax that will kill jobs and dampen economic recovery.

If the Senate is able to pass its version of the climate bill, then lawmakers will have to hammer out any differences before the bill becomes law.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he hopes to bring this legislation to the floor for a vote by the end of this year. He has also said he plans to combine the bill, with a comprehensive energy package that was approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee earlier this year.

The announcement comes as U.S. President Barack Obama hosts a meeting of major economies in Pittsburgh where they are expected to discuss how industrialized nations could provide support to developing nations dealing with climate change.

This summit is a precursor to negotiations over an international climate accord in Copenhagen in December.

David Hunter, director of U.S. policy for the International Emissions Trading Association, said “odds are slim” that the Senate will be able pass a climate bill before the Copenhagen meeting.

Representative Mike Doyle, speaking to Reuters Television at the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, said “it’s going to be tough” for the Senate to clear a climate change bill this year.

But he thinks the Senate will move forward with climate change legislation once the healthcare reform bill is done, which is expected by the end of October.

“We passed a (climate change) bill in the House. So we’re waiting on our colleagues in the Senate,” Doyle said.

A United Nations report released Thursday said there are signs that the pace of climate change is surpassing the worst-case scenario scientists predicted in 2007.

The report said mountain glaciers in Asia are melting at a rate that could eventually threaten water supplies, irrigation or hydropower for 20 percent to 25 percent of the world’s population. Also, increased absorption of the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by oceans is leading to acidification of sea water faster than expected.

Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner and Tom Doggett; Editing by Marguerita Choy