US vows to cut carbon emissions by 17% by 2020
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Last Updated: Wednesday, November 25, 2009, 23:38
  
Washington: President Barack Obama will attend the climate summit in Copenhagen next month and offer to cut US greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, officials said on Wednesday.

Obama hopes to "give momentum to the negotiations" on December 9 when he attends part of the 12-day global summit aimed at finding a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change that expires in 2012, a senior official said.

The president will commit to the near-term US emissions reduction target of 17 percent as long as China and other emerging nations made serious pledges of their own, a White House statement said.

"In light of the president's goal to reduce emissions 83 percent by 2050, the expected pathway set forth in this pending legislation would entail a 30 percent reduction below 2005 levels in 2025 and a 42 percent reduction below 2005 in 2030," it said.

Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is in charge of the December 7-18 Copenhagen conference, warmly welcomed Obama's decision to attend.

"I think it's critical that President Obama attends the climate-change summit in Copenhagen," de Boer said in a telecast news conference from Bonn.

"The world is very much looking to the United States to come forward with an emission reduction target and to contribute international finance support to help developing countries adapt to the impact of climate change.

"I think that if he can deliver on his election campaign statements that Copenhagen needs to be a success by coming to Copenhagen himself, that I think will be critical to a good outcome."

When Obama goes to Copenhagen on December 9, he is likely to be the only head of state or government there as the others are coming for the last three days of proceedings.

Obama sought Tuesday to boost hopes of a meaningful deal at the Copenhagen climate summit, saying recent progress after meetings with the leaders of key players like India and China meant serious progress was being made.

India, China and other developing nations have been pressing for Western nations to offer technology and other support to help them reduce the intensity of emissions blamed for global warming.

But the emerging economies have resisted legally binding requirements, saying that wealthy nations, not them, bear the historic responsibility for carbon emissions.

As the leader of one of the world's two biggest polluters, Obama had been under considerable pressure from US allies to attend the conference.

The ambitions of any US targets on greenhouse gas emissions are restricted by the fact that Congress is struggling to pass legislation for comparatively meagre cuts.

Obama's position for Copenhagen exactly reflects a House of Representatives bill, passed in June that also envisages cuts of 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and by 83 percent by 2050.

A slightly more ambitious bill before the Senate, but not due to be debated again until early next year, talks of a 20 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020. Related article: Climate action 'can avert health crisis'

Compared to the 1990 benchmark used by almost every other country, the US target only amounts to something like a four-percent reduction.

The European Union has vowed to reduce its emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels before 2020, raising the target to 30 percent in the event of an international agreement. Japan has offered 25 percent, but attached conditions.

The United States was the world's biggest carbon emitter until it was overtaken by China in 2006, according to the Global Carbon Project, a consortium of leading climate scientists.

But Chinese officials point out that its per capita emissions are between one-third and one-fifth of developed countries.

Bureau Report


First Published: Wednesday, November 25, 2009, 23:38


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