European concern is growing about the prospects of securing a new international climate treaty, as support appears to be waning in the US for domestic climate legislation that would include a cap-and-trade system.
US President Barack Obama’s drive for ambitious energy and climate policies started well last year with the passage of the cap-and-trade bill in the House of Representatives.
But it then slowed down as the healthcare debate took centre stage, and the green bill is now stalled in the Senate, where it requires the support of 60 out of 100 senators.
With mid-term elections approaching, scepticism about the chances of passing major legislation is growing as Republicans are expected to gain seats in Congress.
US analysts viewed as symptomatic of the waning support a decision by three large corporations last week to quit the US Climate Action Partnership, which has been lobbying in Washington for a cap on greenhouse gas emissions. Oil and gas giants BNP and ConocoPhillips and equipment manufacturer Caterpillar said they preferred to influence the bill from outside of the environmental coalition, which they felt was too focused on passing the bill regardless of its content.
In the meantime, Obama enraged environmentalists by announcing an $8 billion loan guarantee to restart the country’s nuclear industry after three decades without building a nuclear reactor. The move was seen as fishing for Republican votes in favour of the climate package and was strongly criticised for overlooking the problems of nuclear waste security and storage.
Europe is observing the developments amid growing concern that the global community will have to bury all hopes of securing a new international climate treaty if the US fails to pass its climate bill.