September 17, 2009 / 11:33 PM / 8 years ago

EU worries U.S. Senate dragging its feet on climate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The EU ambassador to the United States said on Thursday that any delay by the U.S. Senate that pushes action on climate into next year could subject the country to the charge that domestic politics will always trump its international commitments.

Such a move would postpone the formation of an overall U.S. climate plan until after a U.N. climate meeting in Copenhagen in December, when 190 countries hope to craft a new treaty to fight greenhouse gas emissions.

“If this were to happen it would open the United States to the charge that it does not take its international commitments seriously, and that these commitments will always take second place to domestic politics,” John Bruton, the EU’s ambassador to the United States, said in a press release.

He said asking an international conference “to sit around looking out the window for months, while one chamber of the legislature of one country deals with its other business, is simply not a realistic political position.”

The United States is the top greenhouse gas emitter after China.

U.S. Democratic senators Barbara Boxer and John Kerry are writing climate legislation and hope to unveil it this month after two delays.

They are building on a bill passed narrowly in the U.S. House of Representatives in June that aims to cut U.S. emissions 17 percent under 2005 levels by 2020.

President Barack Obama wants quick congressional action on a bill. Earlier on Thursday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama will continue to work with the Senate to make sure it addresses climate change.

But several Democratic senators have questioned whether it is possible to vote on a climate change bill this year, with healthcare reform taking up so much time.

In addition some lawmakers from agricultural and heavy coal-burning states oppose the bill, saying it would raise energy prices. It is unclear whether the Senate has the 60 votes needed to pass the bill this year.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is also taking steps on greenhouse gases, including setting efficiency standards for automobiles, in case the bill dies in the Senate. The EPA action is seen as a way to spur the legislation along.

A possible delay in the Senate measure is not the only hurdle for a new global climate pact.

Many climate experts say a lingering divide between rich countries and poor ones on how to share the burdens of taking action on climate change could delay a full agreement until after the Copenhagen meeting.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Xavier Briand

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