updated 2/15/2007 10:20:33 AM ET 2007-02-15T15:20:33

A panel of U.S. senators told lawmakers from about 20 countries that political pressure is building in Washington to commit to mandatory cuts in carbon emissions, despite opposition from President Bush.

The lawmakers were attending a forum on global warming held at the U.S. Senate. Some speakers noted that in 1997, the Senate expressed such adamant opposition to the Kyoto protocol on global emissions that the treaty was never submitted to Congress for approval by then President Clinton.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who addressed the forum by video, said that she has sensed a political shift in Washington. She cited recent proposals from Bush on global warming that have stopped short of embracing mandatory carbon caps.

"Here in Washington you can help make sure that the new thinking is followed by decisive action," Merkel said in German.

Bush's energy proposals, made in his State of the Union address last month, include ramping up the production of alternative fuels such as ethanol made from new, non-corn feedstocks. Many Europeans would like the United States to agree to mandatory caps on carbon emissions such as those dictated by the Kyoto Protocol. Bush has rejected the pact, under which 35 other industrial nations agreed to cut their global warming gases by 5 percent on average below 1990 levels by 2012.

'Critical mass' sought
U.S. lawmakers from both major parties say that the Bush administration has begun to shift its position as public support builds for tougher measures on emissions.

"I do think the administration is coming to the view that something needs to be done," Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee told the forum Wednesday.

Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe said that pressure is coming from both parties in Congress for more effective U.S. policies. "We have reached a scientific critical mass, the question now is how do we reach a political critical mass," she said.

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer said the venue for the lawmakers forum sent a message in itself. "I think the fact that we are having a world leaders summit on climate change in Washington, is in itself newsworthy," she said.

G8 focus on warming
Merkel, whose country currently holds the rotating presidencies of the Group of Eight industrialized nations and the European Union, said that global warming was a top priority for her leadership this year. She stressed that improving energy efficiency has important implications for international security. The stance is shared by the Bush administration, which has warned against over reliance on energy imports from unstable countries.

"Our recent experience has clearly demonstrated to us in Europe and America how dependent we are on oil, and how vulnerable that makes our economies," Merkel said.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, who told the forum that Europe remained hopeful that the United States would join coordinated global efforts against warming, ended his address with a quip.

"I think that Winston Churchill said about 60 years ago that Americans always do the right thing after exhausting all the other possibilities," he said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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