A U.S. Senate committee has passed landmark legislation aimed at combating global warming by limiting carbon dioxide emissions. The vote was timed to coincide with the U.N. conference on climate change taking place in Bali, Indonesia. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.
The bill would set caps on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from electric utility, transportation and manufacturing industries beginning in 2012 with the goal of cutting emissions 60 percent by 2050. It would create an incentive system that would give credits to industries that cut pollution. Industries that failed to reduce emissions would be forced to buy credits from others.
The Democratic-led Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 11 to eight, largely along party lines, to send the measure to the full Senate for what supporters hope will be action early next year.
"We are facing a crisis that will hit our children and our grandchildren the hardest if we do not act now. Not to act would be wrong, cowardly, and irresponsible," said Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, chairwoman of the committee.
Senator Boxer, who is expected to travel to Bali as part of a U.S. congressional delegation next week, said committee approval of the bill sends a signal to the rest of the world that the United States is serious about reducing global warming.
But many Republicans oppose the legislation, saying it would increase energy costs and lead to job losses. They argue the measure does not ensure that other nations, particularly China and India, will cut emissions.
"China's emission will continue to accelerate as it builds coal plants and imports jobs from the United States. This will be enormously expensive to households within seven years as electricity prices skyrocket by 35 to 65 percent," said Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the committee.
But co-sponsor Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia, who broke with many in his party to support the measure, offered a different view: "If we do not act, China and India will hide behind America's skirts of inaction and take no steps of their own. Therefore we simply have to lead," he said.
The House of Representatives has yet to draft its own version of the legislation.