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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 October 2007, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
Democrats eye key climate summit
By Roger Harrabin
Environment analyst, BBC News

John Kerry (Image: AP)
John Kerry has already stated that he will attend the Bali summit
A team of leading US Democrats is planning to send a delegation to a key UN climate conference to rival President Bush's official team.

They are so frustrated by Mr Bush's refusal to support US emissions cuts that they will travel to Bali to set out their alternative vision.

The UN summit in December is seen as a vital step towards a new global climate deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

The delegation may be led by House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Her office has not confirmed or denied Ms Pelosi's travel plans, citing security reasons, but sources say she is keen to attend if the legislative schedule allows.

Details of the delegation are expected to be released in the next few days, but Senator John Kerry, the former presidential candidate and long-term environmentalist, has already publicly stated that he will make the trip.

Power struggle

While it is common for opposition politicians to attend meetings of the UN climate process, this delegation may take on greater significance as the Bush administration nears the end of its time in office and the Democrats' majorities in Congress prepare their strategy.

What happens in the corridors is just as important, maybe more important, than what happens in the negotiating hall
Dr R K Pachauri,
IPCC chairman
Soon, they will push through an Energy Bill that goes further than President Bush wants.

And they are set to introduce a Climate Change Bill in the Senate mandating binding carbon dioxide (CO2) cuts in the US; details of the bill should be published on 15 October.

The Democrats' visit is welcome news to EU politicians, who have pledged to cut Europe's emissions by an ambitious 30% by 2020 from 1990 levels if other big nations make similar effort.

Big developing nations like China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico are refusing to make any international commitments while the US refuses to move.

Climate negotiators from Europe and Africa have told BBC News that a Democratic presence in Bali would be very welcome. They said it could apply pressure on President Bush's representatives in the negotiating hall.

Last week, Sigmar Gabriel, the German environment minister, said he had visited Mr Bush's Washington meeting on climate change and that he had enjoyed very fruitful discussions with the Democrats about the shape of US climate policy.

Dr R K Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), observed: "I think it's very important for legislators from every country to be exposed to what's going to happen in Bali.

"In a Conference of the Parties (COP), what happens in the corridors is just as important, maybe more important, than what happens in the negotiating hall," he told BBC News.

"I would like to see legislators from China and India taking part, too."

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