WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two senators on Tuesday gave a boost to next week’s global environmental summit in Copenhagen, with a senior Democrat advocating more U.S. funding of climate change efforts by poor nations and a key Republican calling for quick action on a U.S. climate bill.
Democratic Senator John Kerry, a leading advocate of climate control legislation in Congress, recommended that the Obama administration include $3 billion in next year’s budget to help fund efforts to address global warming. This year’s funding is about one third that amount.
Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the few Republicans willing to negotiate with Democrats on a climate change bill, told Reuters, “I think we need to act by next spring” to pass a bill limiting U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.
Graham also said it is time for the U.S. business community to get behind such an effort. “Business has to weigh in here,” Graham said in an interview.
“The environmental community is becoming very reasonable,” Graham added, by signaling its openness to more offshore oil and gas drilling and expanded nuclear power.
“The business community has to tell the Congress we need certainty, we need a system that gives us markers to work toward,” Graham said, referring to climate change legislation.
In October, Kerry and Graham joined up in an effort to write compromise climate control legislation. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed its version of a climate bill, but the Senate has not yet acted.
In a letter sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Kerry, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said: “I urge you to include $3 billion in international climate finance in the FY11 budget to support our short-term climate finance obligations.” Fiscal year 2011 begins next October 1.
If the administration made such a request and it won approval by Congress, the $3 billion would represent a near tripling in U.S. spending aimed at helping developing countries adapt to climate change problems and invest in new, cleaner energy technologies.
Questions over how much funding rich countries will provide poor countries are a major source of dispute in international negotiations that will intensify at the summit in Copenhagen.
Without a strong commitment by the United States and other developed nations, developing countries are not expected to go along with a hoped-for political agreement in Copenhagen on new steps to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, which scientists say is causing global warming.
Noting the $1.2 billion that President Barack Obama requested for this year’s budget, Kerry told Clinton: “It is critical that we advance these base funding levels to enable our agencies to ramp up programs to address adaptation, clean energy deployment and deforestation in developing countries.”
There are estimates that up to $10 billion annually will be needed in the short-term for an international fund to which the United States would contribute. Details of who would operate the fund also must be worked out.
But long term, the cost of helping poor countries develop alternative energy and deal with the expected effects of global warming — from more severe flooding and drought to the spread of disease — could hit $100 billion a year or more, according to some projections.
Graham wants a compromise U.S. climate control bill to include an expansion of the U.S. nuclear power industry along with provisions to expand U.S. production of oil and natural gas to help make the country more energy independent.
Graham said any bill also would have to ensure that U.S. businesses and utilities could meet the requirements the legislation would set for moving away from dirty coal and oil as an energy source and toward cleaner fuels that likely would be more expensive.
Environmentalists hope that a productive December 7-18 global warming summit in Copenhagen will encourage the U.S. Senate to end a deadlock and pass early next year a climate bill mandating domestic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Editing by Will Dunham