Senator Richard Lugar, R-Ind., says he doesn't see any climate bill on the table right now that he can support. Lugar emphasizes that his constituents are more focused on the economy and did not see the bill authored by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., as politically viable. Lugar, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations committee, believes the Senate will have to start from scratch in terms of crafting climate legislation.
During a closed door session with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Kerry and others emphasized that the United States was moving toward a mandatory cap on greenhouse gases linked to climate change. This was said despite the fact Kerry recognizes the uncertain political prospect of climate legislation at this point.
Ban expressed optimism that the United States could still play a key role in the Copenhagen talks beginning Dec, 7, saying that no country is more important than the United States in resolving these climate change issues.
Many in the agriculture industry as well as some farm-state lawmakers have concerns with the climate change legislation approved by the Senate Environment Committee.
One of the concerns is that the measure does not include the agriculture protections House Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson, D-Minn., negotiated in the House-passed legislation. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said last week that USDA should be in control determining what ought to be considered an offset based on its expertise and long-standing research on issues relating to climate change.
Vilsack says the rules must be clear and responsibilities must be clearly delineated between agencies. But as it relates to what happens on the farm, he stresses there is recognition of the important role USDA has to play.
"In order for this to work there has to be a robust offset system," Vilsack said. "In order for there to be a robust offset system, given the fact that agriculture and forestry are in the best position to most quickly and effectively provide offsets, you have to include them in a significant way."
Vilsack says the U.S. can send a clear message to those in Copenhagen that we're serious about climate change and ready to take a role internationally. With proper offsets, Vilsack says there are studies that climate change could be a $20 billion opportunity for rural communities."
"We estimate farm income, net farm income at about $55 billion in 2009," Vilsack said. "$20 billion represents a rather significant infusion of new resources. You add that to the electric money, you add that to the broadband capacity, you add that to what we are going to do with our rural development monies to create processing facilities, storage facilities and warehouse facilities: you've got jobs, you've got income, you've got money, you've got wealth being created. I think there are exciting days ahead, I really truly do."