Reuters writers Chris Buckley and Alister Doyle reported yesterday that, “U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday next month’s climate talks in Copenhagen should cut a deal with ‘immediate operational effect,’ even if its original aim of a legally binding pact is not achievable.
“About 40 environment ministers meeting in Copenhagen made progress toward a scaled-down U.N. deal next month, while African leaders accepted for the first time that the December meeting would not agree a full treaty.
“Obama was speaking after talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao in which he said the world’s top two greenhouse gas emitters had agreed to take ‘significant’ action to mitigate their output of carbon dioxide.”
Ben Geman reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “President Barack Obama touted the importance of next month’s climate change summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, in spite of the event’s downgraded objectives.
“Obama over the weekend acknowledged the meeting won’t produce a legally binding deal to cut emissions, but on Tuesday he insisted a political agreement in Copenhagen, the new goal of the summit, will have an ‘immediate’ effect.
“‘Our aim there, in support of what Prime Minister [Lars Lokke] Rasmussen of Denmark is trying to achieve, is not a partial accord or a political declaration, but rather an accord that covers all of the issues in the negotiations, and one that has immediate operational effect,’ Obama said in Beijing following a meeting with China’s president.”
The Hill article added that, “Obama made the remarks after he and Chinese President Hu Jintao announced a series of joint ‘clean energy’ agreements that Obama cast as a sign of progress on climate change. China and the U.S. are the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions.”
Jonathan Weisman and Ian Johnson provided a more general assessment of the conclusion of the U.S.-China meetings in today’s Wall Street Journal.
The Journal writers explained that, “President Barack Obama was set to leave China on Wednesday after an awkward summit with some achievements but a long list of unfinished business — a result that suggests challenges ahead for the U.S. as it struggles to come to terms with Asia’s increasingly assertive superpower.
“The president secured a far-ranging framework for cooperation Tuesday with Beijing. But that deal was announced as frictions between the two nations appeared to increase over human rights and economic policy.
“President Obama and Chinese leader Hu Jintao issued their ambitious statement on cooperation in a clumsy fashion — at a media ‘availability’ where they took no questions, didn’t address each other and exhibited body language that seemed to say they had been frustrated by the entire exercise.
Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson highlighted some of the key details of the U.S.-China joint declaration relating to climate change in today’s Washington Post.
Eilperin and Mufson pointed out that, “Buried in the text of Tuesday’s joint declaration between President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao was a hopeful clause about climate talks: The Obama administration is likely to offer emission-reduction targets at next month’s climate summit, as long as the Chinese offer a proposal of their own.
“U.S. reluctance to set a short-term emissions goal has been a sticking point in the U.N.-sponsored talks for nearly a year. Almost all industrialized nations, and many developing countries, have announced plans to curb their greenhouse-gas output by 2020. Neither the United States nor China — which is not obligated to do so under the U.N. framework, even though it ranks as the world’s biggest emitter — has done so, thereby hampering the prospects of an agreement.”
The Post article added that, “Michael Levi, a senior fellow on environmental and energy issues at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the U.S.-China declaration ‘has moved expectations up a bit for Copenhagen.’”
The AP indicated today that, “A joint statement by the U.S. and Chinese presidents on climate change is encouraging as pressure builds in the last few weeks before a 192-nation conference in Copenhagen, but the language leaves a lot unsaid, observers in both countries said Wednesday.”
As news developments regarding climate issues between the U.S. and China were streaming from Beijing, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing yesterday that explored some of the international aspects of global climate change.
In her opening statement at yesterday’s hearing, Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) brought up domestic climate issues within the context of international actions and discussed U.S. “leadership” with respect to climate targets and whether other countries would be motivated by specific U.S. action.
To listen to a portion of Sen. Murkowski’s comments from yesterday, just click on this FarmPolicy.com audio link (MP3-3:10).
Dr. Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations also testified at yesterday’s hearing and offered additional perspective on the international context of climate legislative issues. To listen to a brief portion of his remarks, click on this FarmPolicy.com audio link (MP3-1:19).
Meanwhile, in more specific focus on domestic legislative developments on the climate issue, Ian Talley reported today at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “Senate Democratic leaders said Tuesday they would put off debate on a big climate-change bill until spring, in a sign of weakening political will to tackle a long-term environmental issue at a time of high unemployment and economic uncertainty.
“Legislation on health care, overhauling financial markets and job creation will be considered before the Senate takes up a measure to cap emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to climate change, Senate Democratic leaders said Tuesday.”
The Journal article noted that, “Momentum for a climate bill has been undermined by fears that capping carbon-dioxide emissions — the inevitable product of burning oil and coal — would slow economic growth, raise energy costs and compel changes in the way Americans live.
“‘It’s really big, really, really hard, and is going to make a lot of people mad,’ said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.).
“Democrats looking ahead to the 2010 midterm elections are concerned about a backlash from voters in industrial and heartland states dependent on coal.”
With respect to the voter “backlash” issue, Alex Kaplun of Greenwire reported yesterday at The New York Times Online that, “For much of the year, Democratic leaders and their allies off Capitol Hill have claimed that a vote in favor of a sweeping climate change bill would prove to be a political windfall rather than disaster for moderate Democrats facing tough elections.
“Perhaps nowhere will that theory be put more to the test than a congressional district in southern New Mexico, where a first-term Democrat has spent much of the last few months attempting to justify his vote in favor of climate legislation and where a former Republican congressman is hoping to ride dissatisfaction over the legislation back to Capitol Hill.
“New Mexico’s 2nd District seat, now held by Rep. Harry Teague (D), is one of the Republican Party’s top targets in the 2010 election cycle.”
Also with respect to the political aspects of climate legislation, Lisa Lerer reported yesterday at Politico.com that, “Forget the debate over green jobs, wind farms and solar power. In the Senate, all deals on climate change run through coal country.”
And a recent item posted at The Economist Online (“Farmers v greens: The biggest obstacle to a climate-change bill is rural America”) stated in part that, “Rural Americans are on average poorer than their urban compatriots, and rely more on fossil fuel. Their draughty homes cost more to heat than snug apartments. Their tractors are seldom solar-powered. They cannot ride the subway to work, or haul their hogs by bicycle. Even rural folk whose jobs are not energy-intensive—Mr Wright’s wife [Bruce Wright, who grows wheat and other crops on a couple of thousand acres near Bozeman, Montana], for example, is a telecommuter—must drive miles to the shops, or to visit friends. A study by Michael Cragg and Matthew Kahn found that poor, conservative areas emit more carbon dioxide per head than rich, liberal ones. By an amazing coincidence, the politicians from such areas are much less likely to support carbon curbs. That was why the House cap-and-trade bill had to be sweetened—and made less effective—with hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of giveaways.”
In additional Senate developments regarding the climate legislative schedule, Alexander Bolton and Ben Geman reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “Clear differences have emerged among the Democratic chairmen of the six Senate committees with jurisdiction over climate change legislation.
“Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Commerce Committee, who both represent states with significant coal industries, would like to proceed cautiously.”
“Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) would like to pass the bill as soon as possible,” the Hill article said.
“In the middle is Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Natural Resources Committee whose home-state coal interests are not as significant as Baucus’s and Rockefeller’s but whose constituents are not as liberal as Boxer’s and Kerry’s.
“A sixth chairwoman with jurisdiction, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) of the Agriculture Committee, told The Hill earlier this month that the Senate should focus on jobs and the economy,” Bolton and Geman explained.
In a separate analysis, Emily Vaughan penned an item that was posted yesterday at The National Journal Online titled, “Climate Change Bill’s Five Biggest Opponents.” The lead politician featured in yesterday’s update was Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma).
In other climate related news, Bloomberg writer Ben Sharples reported yesterday that, “Australia’s upper house of parliament is due to start debating draft carbon-reduction laws for a second time as expectations fade for a binding global accord on climate change at next month’s Copenhagen summit.
“The government needs support from seven opposition or minor party Senators to pass the proposals, approved yesterday in the lower House of Representatives, where the ruling Labor Party holds a majority. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd wants a vote on the legislation by the end of November, when parliament’s final sitting for the year concludes.”
Sen. Ag. Committee Hearing: Nutrition Programs
Deborah Tedford reported yesterday at National Public Radio (NPR) Online that, “Just one day after a federal report revealed that 1 in 7 U.S. families struggled to get enough to eat last year, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urged lawmakers to reauthorize school nutrition programs that help feed the nation’s schoolchildren.
“Appearing before the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee on Tuesday, Vilsack said the child nutrition programs provide an opportunity to fight child hunger. A USDA report released Monday said 49 million people experienced what the government calls ‘food insecurity’ in 2008.”
The NPR item noted that, “In the 2010 budget, President Obama has proposed an additional $10 billion over 10 years for programs to provide meals and improve child nutrition.
“The National School Lunch Program serves 31 million children in 100,000 participating schools across the country; the School Breakfast Program serves about 11 million children in 88,000 schools.”
Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln’s (D-Arkansas) opening statement from yesterday’s hearing is available here.
A news item released yesterday by Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia) stated in part that, “Sen. Chambliss noted that federal nutrition programs are not only important tools to combat hunger, but also effective in the promotion of healthy lifestyles and curbing obesity. Regarding the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recently released a report with specific recommendations to USDA on how to update the nutritional requirements of the meals, calling for more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. USDA is expected to issue a proposed rule on how best to implement the IOM’s recommendations.”
Former Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) offered some very interesting perspectives regarding health issues and federal nutrition programs at yesterday’s hearing. To listen to a portion of his remarks, click on this FarmPolicy.com audio link (MP3-3:37).
The New York Times editorial board indicated in today’s paper that, “Congress should make a priority of expanding federal nutrition programs that are aimed at helping millions of struggling families feed their children. The need to bolster these programs was underscored again this week in a dismaying Department of Agriculture study showing that a record number of households had trouble getting sufficient food at one time or another last year.
“These facts are troubling enough, but a separate federal study showed that even before the recession began, more than two-thirds of families with children who were defined as ‘food insecure’ under federal guidelines contained one or more full-time worker. This suggests that millions of Americans were trapped in low-wage jobs before the downturn that made it more difficult for them to provide children with adequate nutrition.”
The Times noted that, “Mr. Obama, who is traveling in Asia, has set himself the task of wiping out child hunger by 2015. To do that, Congress needs to get busy on a broad plan to expand and fully pay for a whole range of nutritional programs aimed at school-age children and their families. Only then will vulnerable children across the country get the nutrition they need.”
A news release issued yesterday by the House Agriculture Committee noted in part that, “Today, the House Agriculture Committee held a hearing to review discussion draft language that would create a systemic financial risk regulator and oversee financial firms considered ‘too big to fail.’ The Committee called the hearing to review the Financial Stability Improvement Act discussion draft because of provisions that fall under the Agriculture Committee’s jurisdiction.
“Draft legislation was released by the House Financial Services Committee on October 29, based on a proposal put forth by the Treasury Department earlier this year. The language creates a Financial Services Oversight Council made up of several agencies – including the Commodity Futures Trading Commission – which would be given powers to identify certain financial players and activities that could pose a systemic risk to the economy. The Federal Reserve would be given broad powers in the draft, with the ability to impose standards despite the objections or expertise of Council member agencies.”
Reuters writer Charles Abbott reported yesterday that, “Leaders of the House Agriculture Committee said they oppose legislative proposals that could turn the Federal Reserve into a back-up regulator of U.S. futures exchanges.
“The Fed could gain power under legislation to create a systemic risk regulator and set heightened prudential standards for large financial firms. The administration says comprehensive reform is needed to fill regulatory gaps exposed by last fall’s financial crisis.
“‘If they have anything where the Federal Reserve can trump CFTC, I would have a big problem,’ said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, referring to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the regulator of U.S. futures markets.”
The Reuters article added that, “The committee’s Republican leader, Rep. Frank Lucas, said the Fed lacks the experience to be a day-to-day market regulator, and Congress should respect the ‘competent regulatory scheme’ now in place in futures markets.
“The House Financial Services Committee began work on Tuesday on a bill to expand federal power to regulate and restructure large financial firms whose failure could damage the banking system and the U.S. economy.
“‘If the legislation’s impacts on those areas in our committee’s jurisdiction are not addressed, we may be back here again,’ Peterson said at an Agriculture Committee hearing to review systemic-risk proposals.”
Meanwhile, the Senate Ag Committee will hold a hearing this morning titled, “Reforming U.S. Financial Market Regulation.”