Fresh hope for a climate deal?

October 12, 2009 at 1:04 pm | Posted in Climate Change | Leave a comment

If you’ve been paying any sort of attention to the protracted, furious and utterly miserable fight over healthcare in the U.S. Congress, you probably won’t be holding out too much hope that this same body can agree to tough measures to combat climate change. Until yesterday, that is, when hope was restored by a quite unusual source:

First, we agree that climate change is real and threatens our economy and national security. That is why we are advocating aggressive reductions in our emissions of the carbon gases that cause climate change. We will minimize the impact on major emitters through a market-based system that will provide both flexibility and time for big polluters to come into compliance without hindering global competitiveness or driving more jobs overseas.

Whilst to most eyes the above paragraph is a fairly unremarkable, bog-standard political position, what makes it incredibly significant is that it was co-authored by Lindsey Graham, the Republican Senator for South Carolina. In an op-ed which appeared in yesterday’s New York Times, Graham & Democrat John Kerry spelled out their commitment to reaching a deal on climate change and pushing it through the Senate.

It’s the partnership between Kerry & Graham which gives me hope that an agreement can be reached. Graham is a hardcore Republican who doesn’t deviate too often from his party’s platform. But despite his trenchant conservatism, he is rational and seems increasingly eager to talk his own party out of its extremism – even to the point of publicly slapping-down Glenn Beck. Crucially, he also has power and influence on the rest of his party, and putting his name on any legislation could encourage the moderate Republicans in the Senate (all two of them) to follow suit.

It’s very early days, of course, and a speedy resolution to the health care impasse is vital for a deal to be reached before the mid-term elections. Still, it’s one to watch, I think.

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