Washington: The United States, under pressure from other nations as one of the world's largest greenhouse-gas polluters, will present a target for reducing carbon dioxide emissions at next month's climate conference in Copenhagen, Obama administration officials said.
The development came as the European Union urged the United States and China to deliver greenhouse gas emissions targets at the long-anticipated summit, saying their delays were hindering global efforts to curb climate change.
For nearly a year the Obama administration has indicated it would eventually come up with specific targets for quick reductions in pollution that causes global warming, as part of international negotiations. Those targets will soon be made public, officials said.
A senior administration official, briefing reporters only on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the administration's thinking, said that all countries, including the US, "will need to put their emissions targets on the table."
The Obama administration has resisted talking specific numbers without the backing of Congress, which is not expected to pass climate legislation until next year at the soonest. The official would not offer details about the US targets but said any US goal will reflect the unfinished state of legislation on Capitol Hill and would not seek to get ahead of it.
A House-passed bill would slash heat-trapping pollution by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. A Senate bill seeks a 20 percent reduction over the next decade, but that number is likely to come down to win the votes of moderate Democrats.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama is still considering attending the climate conference. His decision is expected to be announced within a few days.
The United States has historically been the world's largest greenhouse gas-polluter until China zoomed ahead in 2006.
Two weeks before the UN-sponsored conference, the world's two biggest polluters have not put any firm bids, or proposals, on the table.
"Without a bid from the US or China, only half of emissions are covered," Sweden's environment minister, Andreas Carlgren, said after he led talks with other EU nations. He said an agreement was "totally dependent" on both countries promising cuts.
Chinese President Hu Jintao said last week that nations would each do what they were able — referring to China's view that developing nations should not be required to make cuts. China has promised to curb emissions but has not said by how much.
Carlgren said any agreement also had to include pledges from developing countries — especially major economies such as China — to curb emissions.
World leaders are no longer expected to reach a legally binding agreement in Copenhagen, and are aiming instead for a political deal that includes commitments on reducing emissions and financing for developing countries to deal with climate change.
The EU's environment commissioner, Stavros Dimas, said nations still had a lot of work to do in Copenhagen because they have to set new emission targets and agree on other actions to curb global warming — such as how they plan to prevent widespread deforestation.
He said the talks should also set a timetable for 2010 meetings to work toward a full, binding global treaty.
A panel of UN scientists has recommended that developed countries cut between 25 percent and 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 to avoid a catastrophic rise in sea levels, harsher storms and droughts, and climate disruptions.
The EU aims for deeper cuts than most other industrialized nations — pledging to move from a 20 percent cut below 1990 levels to 30 percent if others follow suit. By 2050, it wants to eliminate most emissions, with a target of up to 95 percent.
The US is considering a far lower cut — 17 percent from 2005 levels or about 3.5 percent from 1990. Japan has promised a 25 percent reduction from 1990 levels. Per head, Americans account for twice the emissions compared to Europeans and Japanese.
While the EU sees itself as a trailblazer, it has delayed promising cash to poorer nations to help them tackle global warming. EU leaders have pledged to pay their "fair share" into an annual global fund but gave no amount.
They estimated that USD148 billion a year is needed and that half should come from governments. The EU's executive suggested that the 27 EU governments should give up to USD22 billion a year from 2013 to 2020.
First Published: Tuesday, November 24, 2009, 10:33