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Yesterday saw an important step in the U.S. Senate toward meaningful U.S. climate legislation – and one in Oslo to endorse the role of forests in fighting climate change.

Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) held a press conference to discuss the legislative framework for climate change that they have sent in a letter to President Obama. Senator Kerry began the press conference by referring to the EPA endangerment finding regarding carbon emissions released earlier this week. The finding is a signal to Congress to “get moving,” he said.

Although the framework is short on details, it elaborates on some key points and should send reassurance to moderates interested in sound sensible legislation that achieves environmental goals while protecting consumers and advancing domestic manufacturing.

The framework released by the three senators is a “starting point” for climate legislation – a platform for negotiation, in effect. The senators have been reaching out to their colleagues over the last several weeks — and they made clear yesterday that the reason they have not issued legislation yet is that they are still negotiating for votes, and that they are committed to respect the committee process, including the interests of the Senate Finance, Agriculture, and Commerce committees.

Lieberman said that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has asked Kerry to begin this process to combine the climate legislation from the Environment and Public Works Committee and the energy legislation from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee.

Senator Graham emphasized strongly that although he is not a scientist, he believes that the environment is changing:  “Unlimited perpetual carbon pollution is not going to create a better environment for millions of Americans,” he said.

Senator Kerry noted that what is needed is action by all countries – and that, for the United States, this should include domestic emission reductions paired with assistance to developing countries to reduce their emissions from deforestation, adapt to climate change, and prepare for a low carbon future.

Also of note for those (like the Conservancy) who are following the role of forest conservation in climate change, President Obama spoke in Norway earlier today following his meeting with the Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg, saying that he was “very impressed” with the effort underway between Norway and Brazil to make progress in avoiding the deforestation of the Amazon.

The president called it “probably the most cost-effective way for us to address the issue of climate change — having an effective set of mechanisms in place to avoid further deforestation and hopefully to plant new trees.”

This stance is consonant with a point in the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman framework — one that notes regarding efforts to reduce deforestation that “additional private climate finance provided through international offsets has the added benefit of reducing costs for American consumers.”

(Image: The U.S. Capitol dome at night with the American flag.  Credit: Laura Padgett/Flickr through a Creative Commons license.)

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