Bill to Create Ambassador-at-Large for Global Climate Change Passes House Committee
"The United States must take the lead on promoting an international response to the threat of global warming," said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) today during committee consideration of comprehensive legislation he cosponsored with U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) that aims to increase U.S. involvement in the effort to reach a global agreement on climate change.
As the House Foreign Affairs Committee moved to pass the "The International Climate Cooperation Re-engagement Act" (H.R. 2420), Lantos (D-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and prime sponsor of the bill said, "The Lantos-Smith bill signals a turning point in United States engagement with the international community on global warming." Lantos added that the bill acts to "curtail global warming in a far-reaching and significant way."
The Lantos-Smith bill calls for active, dedicated U.S. re-engagement in the effort to reach a global agreement on climate change, by among other things, creating an Office for Global Climate Change within the U.S. Department of State to be headed by an Ambassador-at-Large, and requiring a high-level delegation at key international meetings on climate change.
"The idea of designating an office within the State Department to focus attention and energy on a single critical issue has proven itself time and time again," said Smith, who is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the lead Republican cosponsor of the bill. "This has been the case, for example, with the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and the Office of International Religious Freedom, which have both made a profound difference in fighting the scourge of human trafficking and preventing religious persecution. The replication of that concept in this bill, I believe will move the ball forward on the issue of climate change," said Smith.
Smith noted that he has long advocated for the creation of an office to address global climate change, pointing to legislation he authored in 1990 to achieve that goal.
"More than 17 years ago, I introduced legislation that would have created an office to work with foreign countries and others to address the effects of global climate change. Had we enacted that legislation 17 years ago, I believe we would have had much more success in coordinating a policy around the world as well as in our own country. An office within the State Department to address global climate change is an idea that's time has come," Smith said.
The Lantos-Smith bill mandates serious U.S. re-engagement in the effort to reach a global agreement that requires binding emissions mitigation commitments from all the major emittersincluding China and Indiatwo countries not included in the Kyoto Protocol.
"This bill emphasizes the necessity for all major greenhouse emitting countries to cooperate in reducing and stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of these gases, and calls on the United States to play a leadership role in this endeavor by, among other things, engaging in concerted diplomatic negotiations with rapidly industrializing countriesincluding China and Indiathat are becoming major pollution contributors," Smith said.
Additionally, the Lantos-Smith bill authorizes $1 billion over five years for assistance programs to developing countries that will promote clean-energy production in even the poorest nations.
"We know that climate change has a disproportionate impact on the vulnerable, poor populations of our world. Therefore, I am pleased that this legislation includes authorization of funding for developing countries to promote clean and efficient energy technologies. This is an important aspect of creating local, sustainable capacity and will compliment well the other program goals of our foreign assistance," Smith said of the bill, which was reported favorably by the committee which voted 29-16 to send the bill to the floor for consideration by the full House of Representatives.
Finally, the Lantos-Smith bill creates the International Clean Energy Foundation, which will promote programs that serve as models for significantly reducing global greenhouse gas emissions through clean and efficient energy technologies, processes and services. Partnerships with foreign governments, especially with member countries of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, as well as the private sector will be sought in order to leverage resources.
"The International Clean Energy Foundation promises to add a particularly effective tool in our arsenal against adverse climate change. The Foundation will be charged with harnessing global knowledge from experts around the world and with creating a repository of information on best practices for the utilization of clean and efficient energy technologies," Smith said.
Smith's bipartisan efforts with Lantos on H.R. 2420 mark a continuation of his long-standing leadership on environmental issues and global warming. Along with H.R. 2420, Smith is cosponsoring legislation in the 110th Congress to increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for cars and light trucks (H.R. 1506); to increase tax credits to make solar and wind power more affordable and accessible to all Americans (H.R. 1596); and to extend existing tax credits for solar and fuel cell property (H.R. 550).