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Sweden urges US Senate to pass climate bill

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STOCKHOLM – Sweden's environment minister urged the U.S. Senate on Monday to pass legislation to control greenhouse gases, saying a delay in the vote is impeding negotiations on a new international climate treaty.

Minister Andreas Carlgren said America's complex debate over health care reforms is sidelining its vote on a climate bill that is needed to persuade other nations — especially the fast-growing economies of India and China — to commit to lowering their greenhouse gas emissions at the Copenhagen climate summit in December.

"It is crucial that the Americans deliver a reliable emission pathway," Carlgren said, referring to a plan for how emissions will be cut to stated targets. "But that is dependent on the Senate's lawmaking."

Last week, Todd Stern, the U.S. State Department's special envoy for climate change, made a similar appeal, saying that with the negotiations on a new international climate treaty proving difficult, the U.S. Senate must pass legislation to control the gases blamed for global warming. He said that would give the U.S. the "credibility and leverage" it needs to persuade other countries to reduce their pollution.

Carlgren said an international meeting in Washington this week — the Major Economics Forum on Energy and Climate — is unlikely to produce any new breakthroughs and that the time plan for negotiations will become "very tight" toward the end of this year. The forum includes representatives from 17 major economies, including the U.S., the European Union, China, India and Brazil.

Sweden currently holds the rotating EU presidency and plays an active role in the talks leading up to the Copenhagen summit, which aims to replace the Kyoto Protocol with a new treaty for cutting global greenhouse gas emissions.

The Kyoto accord placed no obligations on developing countries, but now industrialized nations want nations such as India and China to agree to halt, and eventually cut, their emissions. U.S. commitments play a key role in getting those countries onboard.

The U.S. House has passed a bill that would set a limit on greenhouse gases. Factories, power plants and other sources would be required to cut emissions by about 80 percent by 2050. But action on the bill in the U.S. Senate has been delayed as lawmakers wrestle with the complex issues of proposed U.S. health care reforms.

The U.S., which did not sign the Kyoto Protocol, agreed with nearly 200 other nations at a conference in Bali, Indonesia, in December to negotiate a new agreement by the end of 2009.

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