November 13, 2008

Climate Change Top Issue For New President

Climate change will soon take center stage when President-elect Barack Obama takes office, according to an environment adviser who said Obama will act quickly amid doubts that a US carbon-capping program will be in place before 2010.

"The president-elect will move quickly on climate change," Jason Grumet, the Obama campaign's lead energy and environment adviser, told a conference on carbon trading.

Grumet has been mentioned as a possible choice for the new U.S. administration's energy secretary.

He said, "My suggestion to all of you is to enjoy the holiday season ... and rest up because I think it's going to be a very, very busy 2009."

Grumet told the conference that the United States has "operated absent a federal climate policy, a federal climate program with mandatory elements, for many, many years now." That includes the carbon-capping Kyoto Protocol, whose first phase runs out in 2012.

December 2009 is just one deadline for crafting a follow-up international agreement. That's the date when 190 nations are scheduled to agree on a new climate deal in Copenhagen.

Last year, a bill to establish a cap-and-trade system failed to pass the Senate.

Cap-and-trade is shorthand for a strategy to limit the emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, and allows those who emit more than the limit to trade credits with those who emit less.

New Mexico Democrat Sen. Jeff Bingaman has been active on climate change and chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

He said energy legislation focusing on the development of alternative energy sources and improving energy efficiency would likely pass before climate change legislation.

"I wouldn't limit it to the first year (of the next two-year Congress)," Bingaman told the conference. "I think the reality is that it may take more than the first year to get it all done."

The complexity of the situation and the current financial crisis are factors that could impede the process down in Congress. However, Bingaman contended the incoming Obama administration would keep the momentum going.