Dozens of legislators from rich and developing nations will meet in Washington next month to discuss plans to lower greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. The legislators will come from the Group of Eight most industrialised nations — Russia, France, Germany, Italy, Britain, Japan, the United States and Canada — and key emerging economies like China, India, South Africa, Mexico and Brazil.

The talks are being spearheaded by five US senators who last week introduced a bill that would help companies control costs through emission credits trading, and calls for US “leadership” in spurring other energy consumers like India and China to move towards emissions reductions and alternative energy sources like nuclear power.

Emission trading allows countries to buy and sell emission credits depending on whether they pollute above or below their targets, taking an international market-based approach to the carbon problem. The talks will convene in the US Congress for the Legislators Forum on Climate Change and Energy Security from February 14-15. Keynote speakers include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will attend via video link; Sir Nicholas Stern from the British Treasury, who recently issued a widely publicised report warning about the catastrophic economic impacts of unchecked global warming; and Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank. Under the proposals by US lawmakers, the federal government would play a lead role in researching and commercialising new energy technologies, and particularly nuclear plant designs.

The meeting of some 80 legislators next month will likely table these proposals and others. The US lawmakers also say they want the country’s major trading partners to take comparable action. The legislation was submitted by heavyweight US lawmakers Senator John McCain, a 2008 presidential campaign hopeful, and Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman. Other co-sponsors include Senators Barack Obama, Olympia Snowe, Blanche Lincoln and Susan Collins. It has provisions that would allow US companies to certify emissions reductions, which may be traded on the international market to other nations. It would cut greenhouse gas emissions to 2004 levels by 2012, 1990 levels by 2020, and 60 per cent below 1990 by 2050, which some environmentalists applauded as tougher targets than were sought in an earlier version of the legislation in 2005. An international treaty already exists to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming. Under the Kyoto Protocol, 36 highly industrialised nations must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Over 300 US mayors have signed an agreement to reduce emissions in their cities. More US companies are parting with the notion that limiting global warming emissions would devastate the energy-dependent US economy. On Monday, several major US companies joined with environmental groups and pro-mised a strong effort to convince Congress to quickly pass compulsory limits on carbon emissions and with a robust trading system. The companies included Alcoa, BP America, Caterpillar, Duke Energy, DuPont, Florida Power & Light, GE, Lehman Brothers, PG&E Corporation, and PNM. — IPS