Obama says deeply committed to passing climate bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama welcomed on Wednesday a Senate bill to cut carbon emissions and said he was “deeply committed” to passing it even as the White House played down chances that it would happen this year.

President Barack Obama makes remarks about stimulus funding being used for biomedical research during his visit to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland September 30, 2009. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Obama, whose international credibility on global warming is largely tied to the Senate’s effort, called the draft a major step forward in his plans to revamp U.S. energy policy.

Representatives from about 190 nations are set to meet in Copenhagen in December to forge a U.N. climate pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012 and which the United States never ratified.

Having a U.S. law that mandates greenhouse gas emission cuts in place is seen as crucial to those talks, and Obama’s role in pushing that legislation will be watched closely.

“My administration is deeply committed to passing a bill that creates new American jobs and the clean energy incentives that foster innovation,” Obama said in a statement.

Some environmentalists and international observers have questioned Obama’s commitment to the climate bill, fearing his top domestic priority of healthcare reform has hijacked the congressional agenda.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, asked when the president wanted a bill passed, told reporters: “As soon as it can get passed.” His comments reflect a growing consensus that U.S. negotiators will go to Denmark without a finished law.

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Gibbs indicated that a version of the bill already agreed by the House of Representatives would be enough to illustrate U.S. intentions to tackle global warming.

“I think obviously the United States is on record with the vote in the House on a strong plan to deal with greenhouse gas emissions,” he said, adding that other countries would have to step up to make the U.N. talks a success.

“We’re going to need the Chinese, the Indians, the Brazilians, and many others to show a willingness to also take the same steps that the House of Representatives is on record as taking to address this situation.”

Developing countries are reluctant to sign up to emissions curbs of any kind until the United States commits to its own.

Senate passage is required before the climate bill can become a law.

Obama has said he wants Washington to lead the global fight against climate change. His predecessor, George W. Bush, resisted calls for the United States to curb its emissions.

Editing by Will Dunham