US House panel rejects greenhouse gas emission parity with India, China

May 20th, 2009 - 12:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 20 (IANS) A US House panel debating climate change legislation has rejected by a 36-23 party-line vote a Republican attempt to delay a cap on US greenhouse gas emission levels until India and China adopt similar standards.

Republican member Mike Rogers’ proposal in the House Energy and Commerce Committee Tuesday, would have allowed limits in the US only if those two countries adopt greenhouse gas emission standards that are “at least as stringent”.

Fred Upton, another Republican representative, argued that the US economy would lose jobs if Congress enacted a pollution cap-and-trade bill without similar environmental standards adhered to in China and India.

“If we don’t demand that they have the same kind of criteria that we do, we’re going to see those jobs go,” Upton said. “We can put a gun to China’s head” to push them to adopt pollution limits, he said.

The vote was part of a week-long committee meeting on legislation to establish a system to cap greenhouse gas emissions while allowing companies to buy and sell pollution credits.

“What bothers me about this amendment is we’re going to let some other country decide our fate,” said the committee Chairman Henry Waxman, a California Democrat and co-sponsor of the legislation.

Democrats said the climate programme would create jobs by spurring demand for clean energy technologies in the US.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act would give free pollution permits to steel, aluminium, paper, chemical and other manufacturers whose prices are sensitive to foreign imports.

The free permits would last until at least 2025 to protect against energy cost increases that could benefit non-US competitors, said Democrat Mike Doyle, who opposed Rogers’ amendment.

After 2025, the cap-and-trade legislation would let the president impose a tariff on goods produced in countries without greenhouse gas limits.

Waxman wants his committee to pass a climate bill by the end of the week, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she wants a full House vote on the measure by August.

President Barack Obama has urged Congress to act on climate-change legislation before a global meeting in Copenhagen in December.

Obama Tuesday announced the first national standard for greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles and tougher fuel-mileage standards. Automakers must meet average efficiency standards of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.

The Republican insistence that China and India have greenhouse gas emission caps kept the US out of the 1998 Kyoto Protocol and from 2000 repeatedly scuttled international agreement on emission caps by industrialised countries at annual summits of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Kyoto Protocol says industrialised countries must reduce their emissions by five percent from 1990 levels between 2007 and 2012. The Copenhagen summit is expected to come up with an agreement on tighter caps for the post-2012 period, and there is now immense international pressure on China and India to commit to reduction or at least to caps on their greenhouse gas emissions.

China is now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. US is the second and India the fifth. But developing countries including China and India have repeatedly pointed out that almost all greenhouse gases in the atmosphere today - leading to climate change - have been put there by industrialised countries over the past 150-plus years, and it is unfair to expect developing countries to cap their emissions as it will hamper power generation from conventional sources such as coal and oil.

The Obama administration, not bound by the mandatory Kyoto Protocol commitment, has promised a much less stringent emission reduction level - by five percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

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