August 21, 2009 / 9:28 PM / in 9 years

Pass U.S. climate law, then strengthen: Waxman

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The United States can follow California’s lead of raising climate change goals over time, a congressional leader on global warming initiatives said on Friday.

Representative Henry Waxman, the Democrat who navigated a climate change bill through the U.S. House of Representatives this year, urged his counterparts in the Senate to move quickly on its bill.

“Get your act together. Get a bill passed,” Waxman said during a University of California, Los Angeles, climate change panel monitored by webcast.

Lawmakers could then iron out the details on a final version that would be put up to both chambers.

Many in Congress are eager to pass climate change legislation in the face of global warming and to solidify a leadership role for the United States before international talks in Copenhagen in December.

But the U.S. climate change bills being debated in Congress have divided legislators by region of the country, political party and more. A bill passed the House with major changes from its original, and the Senate is tackling health care first, so it may be months before a Senate version is ready for a vote.

Waxman used California as a model.

California leads the nation on climate change legislation, with targets for renewable energy and a regional carbon trading market set to launch in 2012, absent a federal plan.

The state has raised its goals over the years to the governor’s current target of one third of electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2020. The original target of 20 percent of electricity from renewable electricity by 2017 has been changed a number of times.

The House bill would require 20 percent of electricity from renewables and energy efficiency gains by 2020, Waxman said.

“I would have liked a more aggressive approach,” Waxman said, but the bill had to face political realities.

“So what we did is look to California’s example. ... We can strengthen the renewable standards over time. The essential thing is to get something in place and get going with this now, as California has done.”

Editing by Doina Chiacu

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