Senate Panel Approves Key Climate Change Legislation

WASHINGTON ? In a strong show of bipartisanship, members of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee today unanimously approved landmark legislation that would create a new White House office on climate change responsible for developing, coordinating, and implementing a national strategy to address the problem of global climate change and bring the United States into compliance with the Senate-ratified 1992 Rio Treaty. With ten senators present, the Committee voice-voted the bill to the floor without opposition.

“This is a red-letter day for the environment,” Chairman Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) said of the panel?s action on S. 1008, the Climate Change Strategy and Technology Innovation Act of 2001. “This initiative represents a substantial step forward in our quest to tackle one of the most complex and potentially devastating problems that mankind has ever faced.”

The legislation, introduced by Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), and cosponsored by Lieberman, would also create a new Department of Energy research office that would focus on “breakthrough” technologies to help combat global warming. The research effort would be funded at $4 billion over the next decade.

Lieberman expressed hope that the bill could provide “common ground” on which Americans could come together to address the climate change crisis. “Although some of us have taken sharp issue with President Bush?s decision to walk away from the Kyoto global warming treaty without offering any viable alternative, I think we can all agree on the need for a national strategy to address this worldwide phenomenon, and beyond that, a rational process for developing and implementing climate change policy as well as promoting research on climate-sensitive technologies .”

The senator cautioned that the legislation would not solve all problems. “This is not a panacea ? it is a very useful instrument, but like a surgeon?s scalpel, you need to know how to use it, or the patient will suffer. In other words, we still have to make the hard decisions about how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions ? whether, for example, we need to have binding targets and timetables in order to drive innovation, which I favor. Nevertheless, enacting this measure would send an important signal that the United States wants to be part of the solution to the problem.”