US President Barack Obama on Sunday called a House-passed climate change bill "an extraordinary first step," but spoke out against a provision that would impose trade penalties on countries that fail to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
"At a time when the economy worldwide is still deep in recession and we've seen a significant drop in global trade, I think we have to be very careful about sending any protectionist signals," Obama said in an Oval Office interview reported by The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post.
"I think there may be other ways of doing it than with a tariff approach," Obama said.
The Democratic-controlled House on Friday passed the climate change bill that would require large US companies, including utilities and manufacturers to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases associated with global warming by 17 per cent by 2020 and 83 perc ent by 2050, from 2005 levels.
A top priority for Obama, the measure was approved by a 219-212 vote, with only eight Republicans joining Democrats in support of the bill. Republicans said the bill would neither effectively help the environment nor improve an economy reeling from a deep recession.
Obama dismissed the Republican criticisms and castigated opponents for "lying" about cost projections and "scaring the bejeezus" out of voters, the Los Angeles Times said.
Obama also accused Republicans of being stuck in a 1990s-era debate on energy when the American people "have moved forward" with concerns about climate change and hope for renewable power, the newspaper said.
Obama predicted similar energy legislation faced a difficult path through the Senate and would require additional compromises to win enough votes for passage, The New York Times reported. The article said Obama did not set a timetable for Senate action but called on the leadership to "seize the day."
An aide said Obama plans to announce new energy-saving standards for light bulbs this week to keep the focus on energy issues, the newspaper said.