McCain Breaks Sharply from Bush on Environment

By Nitya

May 12, 2008 9:09am

ABC News’ Ron Claiborne Reports: Campaigning in the Pacific Northwest, presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, R-Ariz., broke sharply from the Bush administration on climate change, calling for urgent steps to confront its threat and saying that as president he "will not shirk the mantle of leadership" on the issue.

In an implicit rebuke to the Bush administration, McCain said at the Vestas Wind Energy Training Facility in Portland, Oregon. "I will not shirk the mantle of leadership that the United States bears. I will not permit eight long years to pass without serious action on serious challenges." Referring to the Kyoto Protocols on greenhouse gas emissions the U.S. never signed, McCain added, "I will not accept the same dead-end of failed diplomacy that claimed Kyoto."

"We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great," McCain said. ""The most relevant question now is whether our own government is equal to the challenge."

McCain proposed a "cap-and-trade" system that sets overall limits on domestic greenhouse gas emissions and allows companies with low emissions to sell their credits to companies that fail to meet their benchmarks. He called for capping total U.S emissions nationwide at 2005 levels by the year 2012, at 1990 levels by 2020, with the aim of cutting emissions by 2050 by at least 60 percent of the 1990 levels. He does not mention mandating higher fuel efficiency levels for vehicles.

McCain also favors increasing reliance on nuclear power.

"It doesn’t take a leap in logic to conclude that if we want to arrest global warming, then nuclear energy is a powerful allow in that cause," he said.

This week, McCain is embarking on a series of environmental-themed campaign events. McCain advisers say it is a way to distinguish himself from President Bush. Charles Black, a senior aide to McCain, noted that climate change is an issue is of particular importance to younger voters, a group among whom Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill, has done well in the Democratic primaries. As the the Democrats continue to attack McCain as offering what amounts to a third Bush term, the McCain campaign says the Arizona Republican will stepping up efforts to highlight his differences with the president, including talking frequently about environmental issues.

During his presidential quest, McCain has spoken out often on climate change. He was one of the only Republican candidates do so and was the most forceful GOP contender to talk about the issue. In 2003, he sponsored the first bill calling for mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

McCain has indicated he may support legislation sponsored by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Ind-Conn., and Sen. John Warner, R-Va, that would mandate a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 70 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, support the Lieberman-Warner bill, but have called for even greater reductions, to 80 percent below 1990 levels by mid-century.

Despite having been outspoken on the issue of climate change for years, McCain earned only a 24 (out of 100) lifetime rating by the League of Conservation Voters. He received a 0 score for 2007 because he failed to vote on any of what the LCV considered important environmental legislation.

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