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Aust's ETS debate is "entertaining", says US ambassador

By Warwick Stanley
Tue Dec 1 00:54:55 EST 2009
Mon Nov 30 13:54:55 UTC 2009

PERTH, Nov 30 AAP - The US Congress is poised for the kind of "robust" debate on climate change policy now dominating Australian politics, says newly appointed US ambassador Jeffrey Bleich.

Delivering his first official address since arriving in Australia last week, Mr Bleich says he's been impressed and entertained by opposition ructions and federal parliament's deliberations on an emissions trading scheme (ETS).

A long-time friend of President Barack Obama, he told guests that the US administration was committed to reducing carbon emissions and President Obama was looking forward to working with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on a global approach to the problem.

"People and our planet are relying on the United States," he told a Perth lunch.

Mr Bleich would not be drawn on whether Australia should be taking a parliament sanctioned ETS to the Copenhagen climate change talks.

"I can't really comment on what Australia should or shouldn't do," Mr Bleich said.

"But I think this has been very impressive. It's been a very robust debate.

"It's been entertaining as well.

"It's been very interesting for me as ambassador to see some of the challenges that have been raised ... and I expect this is happening in capitals around the world.

"So whether things work out at Copenhagen or they work out later, I think the process that's going on right now is important to put forward climate change (on the global agenda)."

Mr Bleich said he expected strong debate within Congress on the Clean Energy bill that has gone through the House of Representatives.

The bill recommends a reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020 and calls for pollution permits, the majority of which would initially be given away free to utilities, manufacturers and government authorities.

"I expect similar robust debate (to that in Australia) within the house of Congress before the final determination," Mr Bleich said.

"I don't think we're going to see a double dissolution but we'll see what happens. ... ".

Mr Bleich, a former law clerk for the chief justice of the US Supreme Court, said the US "simply has no better friend in this world" than Australia.

He said the two nations shared common values and interest in issues ranging from security and finance to the environment and the threat from nuclear proliferation.

He said their regional interests were the other binding force in the relationship.

"The Australian-US bilateral relationship was built by far sighted people over generations and the alliance has solid bipartisan support in both countries because it's built on these pillars of security, prosperity and most importantly our shared values," he said.

"It is solid because it hasn't been neglected.

"We tend to focus on long-term goals rather than on short-term self interest to resolve any differences as they arise.

"And with that simple approach, we take on this vast ocean that separates us and we turn into this zone of peace that defines us."