Thanks from Bangkok (khob khun krub), Boxer, Kerry

Whatever else you can say about the draft bill that Senators Boxer and Kerry introduced in the Senate yesterday, it was welcome news to country negotiators and NGOs at the climate talks in Bangkok.

For several weeks the main question everyone has been asking me is “What’s the next U.S. move and when will it happen?” Now I can give them an answer – Senators introduced draft climate and energy legislation. Today.

I’m still reading the draft, and clearly it’s just a skeleton so it’s a beginning not an end. But that seems to be the strategy. Introducing it keeps the momentum going and momentum is like oxygen to getting a climate deal in the U.S. and at the U.N. talks this year.

The first thing I did in Bangkok today was send the New York Times article to all my U.N. delegate contacts. Their reaction was basically, “Well I guess you were right.” Because like I wrote in my post last week – U.N. climate week is going to provide the political momentum, and then the Senate is going to act and you’ll see it’s for real, the U.S. is coming along.

I know a lot of delegates want the move faster, especially in the EU where they have an up-and-running cap and trade system in place. Developing countries are also looking for more information about the numbers – they want to know what incentives there will be for countries with lower emissions to act and to adapt to climate change.

I tell them we have some numbers already from the global warming bill the House passed, and that on the Senate side, we’ll know soon when more and more pieces of the puzzle are filled in. But the message is clear – the Senate is back in business.

Rainforest nations in particular are asking me about deforestation provisions in the bill. At this point the Senate is using very similar REDD provisions to the Waxman-Markey bill approved by the House – so U.S. companies can use forest credits for compliance and there’s $3-5 billion annually in public funding to help countries get ready to reduce emissions from deforestation.

The draft bill has a way to go but it sends an important signal to everyone here – “keep negotiating, keep building the framework, if the Senate keeps moving as expected then Copenhagen will produce the building blocks of an agreement and we can fill in the numbers this December.”

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