— Two strong candidates for the 2008 US presidential elections have joined forces to address climate change.
On Friday, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama plus independent senator Joe Lieberman - will present a bill in Congress calling for mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, industry and oil refineries.
The legislation would require that US greenhouse gas emissions be cut by 2% every year. The senators say that as a result of these cuts, emissions would drop back to 2004 levels by 2012, and to 1990 levels by 2020.
By 2050, the equivalent of 2100 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide would be emitted each year, down from 6100 metric tonnes in 2004, they say.
In contrast, the United Nations' Kyoto Protocol, which the US has not ratified, requires that parties return their emissions to 5% below 1990 levels. Whether or not this Kyoto target will be sufficient to avoid a global temperature rise of 2°C often used as a threshold beyond which the world would face "dangerous climate change" is cause for debate.
And the European Commission this week proposed a plan to reduce Europe's emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2020 (see European energy plan targets big carbon cuts).
Senator Jeff Bingaman, the Democrat chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is preparing a more modest climate change bill, according to Associated Press.
In September 2006, Bingaman asked the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA) to look into regulating US emissions through a cap-and-trade system that would resemble the European emissions trading scheme. It would seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for relative to the country's gross domestic product i.e. squeezing more production value out of every tonne of greenhouse gas emitted.
The EIA concluded that Bingaman's proposal would actually allow emissions to continue to rise but at a reduced rate until 2030 and then perhaps decline and that the system would have a modest effect on household energy costs and little cost to the US economy.
Republican McCain announced on 15 November 2006 that he was preparing for a 2008 presidential campaign. Together with senator Hilary Clinton, Obama is one of the favourites for the Democrat candidacy.