WASHINGTON - Senators trying to craft bipartisan climate legislation offered a revised proposal yesterday that would add incentives for building nuclear power plants and open the way for expanded oil and gas drilling off the nation's coastlines in hopes of attracting wider support.
The new framework for a Senate climate bill would also ease back requirements for early reductions of greenhouse gases.
It calls for cuts of 17 percent by 2020, instead of 20 percent, similar to reductions approved by the House and what Obama is to call for at the international climate conference in Copenhagen.
"We would like to underscore the fact that the framework we are releasing today is a starting point for our negotiations," said Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.).
Kerry has for weeks been working with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of North Carolina and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.) on broadening the Senate bill in hopes of gaining more Republican support.
Neither Graham nor any other Republican senator has endorsed the legislation Democrats pushed out of the Environment and Public Works Committee, although Graham supports the need to address climate change and mandatory reductions in greenhouse gases.
The three acknowledged they are not near getting the votes needed to overcome an expected GOP filibuster on any climate legislation.
"We don't have 60 votes," Lieberman said.
Their framework provided only a broad view of what a compromise bill would include, with details to emerge early next year.
But it reflects a widespread view that the climate bill that advanced out of committee in early November would need to be revised for any hope of getting bipartisan support from at least 60 senators.
In a statement, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the three senators' framework "is a positive development toward reaching a strong, unified and bipartisan agreement in the U.S. Senate."
The blueprint's release also was timed to give American delegates at the Copenhagen climate talks ammunition to argue that the United States is taking climate change seriously and that Congress is making progress - even if at a glacial pace - on reducing heat-trapping pollution.
In Copenhagen yesterday, American billionaire George Soros warned that the 192-nation gathering could be wrecked if rich nations don't come up with more than the $10 billion a year for three years they have proposed for helping poor nations adapt to climate change.
The World Bank projects that hundreds of billions of dollars a year, in public and private money, will be needed to help poorer nations build coastal protection and irrigations systems; modify or shift crops threatened by drought; preserve forests, and move from fossil fuel to low-carbon energy systems such as solar.
Soros told reporters he had developed a partial solution on funding.
The investor-philanthropist suggested shifting some of the resources that the International Monetary Fund has set aside to provide liquidity to stressed global financial systems to a new mission - financing projects in developing countries for clean energy and for adapting to climate change.
About $100 billion in a one-time infusion could be generated this way, said Soros, a major supporter of causes in the developing world.
But he acknowledged U.S. congressional approval would likely be a major hurdle.
Conference participants have about a week to deliver something for President Obama and more than 100 other national leaders to sign on Dec. 18, its final day.
Fighting back against climate-change skeptics, 1,700 scientists in Britain have signed a statement defending the evidence that climate change is being caused by humans, Britain's weather office said yesterday.
Skeptics have seized on a cache of leaked e-mails as proof of a scientific conspiracy to stifle or twist data that did not back their claims on climate change.
"We, members of the U.K. science community, have the utmost confidence in the observational evidence for global warming and the scientific basis for concluding that it is due primarily to human activities," the statement posted to the Met Office Web site said. "They come from decades of painstaking and meticulous research."
E-mail stolen from the University of East Anglia and released to the Internet last month appeared to show top climate scientists discussing ways to shield data from public scrutiny.
- Associated Press