The tail is now wagging the dog in U.S. climate-change struggle

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As the world prepares to meet in Bali next month at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, U.S. governors have decided to take action at home.

Weary of Congressional foot-dragging, the governors have made regional agreements on global warming and joined hands in a concerted bid to generate public and political support for legislation now before the Senate. But can anything meaningful take place while President Bush is still in office?

Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, Jon Huntsman Jr. of Utah and Brian Schweitzer of Montana launched the drive this week with 30-second ad spots talking about the threat posed by greenhouse gas emissions.

The campaign is underwritten by Environmental Defense, an advocacy group pressing for quick action on a climate-change proposal by Senators Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut and John W. Warner of Virginia that would cap carbon emissions at 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and establish a trading system for industries to meet the goals.

Environmental Defense is spending $3 million to broadcast the advertisement, which will appear in 17 markets in 11 states over the next few weeks. The ad will also appear during the Sunday morning talk shows on Nov. 25.

In addition, nine Midwestern governors and the premier of Manitoba have signed an agreement to reduce carbon emissions and set up a trading system to meet reduction targets. The Midwestern accord is modeled on similar regional arrangements among Northeastern, Southwestern and West Coast states.

The governors, who did not receive a fee for appearing in the advertisement, say state leaders are moving to reduce climate-affecting emissions, but federal leaders have so far failed to pass any significant legislation on climate change or energy.

“In state after state, we’re taking action,” the governors say, taking turns speaking. “Now it’s time for Congress to act by capping greenhouse gas pollution.”

Governor James Doyle of Wisconsin said a national cap-and-trade system is unlikely before Bush leaves office but “we will have one in the Midwestern region on a scale that can work.”

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