October 23, 2009 / 8:07 PM / 10 years ago

Obama sees consensus growing on climate change bill

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Friday he saw consensus building in the U.S. Congress on climate change and energy legislation that is considered critical to international talks on a new global warming pact.

President Barack Obama is pictured as he delivers a speech about renewable energy and climate change at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, October 23, 2009. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Obama, who supports a bill to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, promoted the legislation during a visit to Massachusetts, saying it would transform the U.S. energy system and spur the United States to lead the world on developing technology for “clean” types of fuel.

“Everybody in America should have a stake in legislation that can transform our energy system into one that’s far more efficient, far cleaner, and provide energy independence for America,” he told an audience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, urging bipartisan support for a new law.

Obama has said he wants the United States to lead the world on climate change, but his focus on healthcare reform has dominated his and lawmakers’ legislative focus for several months. A bill is unlikely to reach his desk by the time U.N. talks on an new global warming agreement begin in December.

On Friday the president urged speed in the broader shift in U.S. energy priorities and said he believed lawmakers — many of whom are skeptical of the energy bill — are following.

“It is a transformation that will be made as swiftly and as carefully as possible, to ensure that we are doing what it takes to grow this economy in the short, medium, and long term,” Obama said.

“I do believe that a consensus is growing to achieve exactly that.”

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill aimed at cutting carbon emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and about 80 percent by 2050.

In the Senate, Democrats have unveiled a bill with a stronger target to reduce emissions blamed for global warming by 20 percent by 2020.

Both the House and Senate bills include a cap-and-trade system that limits carbon emissions, similar to the European Union’s.

Companies would need permits for every ton of carbon pollution they release into the atmosphere. Utilities and factories that don’t use all their permits could trade, or sell them, to companies that need more.

The Senate Environment and Public Works committee is set to release an updated version of the climate bill late on Friday, a committee aide said. The committee will also release the Environmental Protection Agency’s analysis on costs of the legislation for consumers and the impact on the U.S. economy.

In addition, the Senate committee will hold a series of hearings on the bill next week.

Additional reporting by Ayesha Rascoe and Patricia Zengerle in Washington

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