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Hearing of the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee - Administration Perspectives on United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali

Location: Washington, DC


REP. G.K. BUTTERFIELD (D-NC): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for convening this important hearing today, and I thank the witness for coming forward today with his very important testimony. I appreciate the witness's willingness to come today to speak to us about the Administration's perspective on the recent U.N. climate change conference in Bali. But I must admit that I am mystified to some extent about how concise or inconcise the written testimony that has been provided to us appears to be. Most of the members of Congress were not able to participate in the conference, and so I am looking forward to hearing the testimony today, and hopefully we can be provided more details than have been forthcoming.

We've all heard the phrase, Mr. Chairman, about kicking the can down the road. Well, I'm worried that if we don't take immediate action on this subject, there won't be much of a can to kick anymore, or even a road for that matter. Thankfully, parties were able to agree upon a framework for continuing discussions by way of the ad hoc working group that will meet at least four times this year, and it is my sincere hope that the U.S. will have something more substantive to contribute in April than an innocuous agreement on technology transfer with other nations.

The world in eight months will witness the Olympics. They will be in China, the country that now holds the distinction of being by some estimation the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gasses. China's capital, which is the city of Beijing, is currently attempting at this late hour to reduce its crippling level of smog and pollution. And so athletes traveling there will be able to compete without covering their faces.

I'm not sure if the Chinese will get things under control by then, but the point is that this country, the United States, cannot chastise the Chinese for their chronically bad pollution levels because we are in no better position than they are to throw accusations. Since the beginning of this Administration, it has consistently undermined world bodies that were put in place to facilitate order and compromise on some of the world's most pressing concerns.

My point is that these actions continue to undermine our historically strong position to negotiating good faith with the rest of the world. Now, with one more year left in this Administration, I'm not sure what the Administration has to gain by continuing this line. Cynicism has become so evident that the delegates moved the goal post a little and decided that negotiation should -- agreed upon by December of 2009, not really enough time for whatever a new administration has in place, but enough time to move past the inaction that has crippled us to this point.

I would like to hear more from the witness about two principle concerns that I have as a member from a coastal state, who will undoubtedly be the first to bear the brunt of whatever adverse effects of climate change this country experiences.

Mr. Chairman, I have run out of time. I'm going to reserve the remainder of my statement. I will include it in the record, and I will ask the appropriate questions at the appropriate time. Thank you.


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