‘Copenhagen does not hinge on US lawmakers’
New York: Days before a crucial climate change conference in Copenhagen, the UN climate chief has exuded confidence that US President Barack Obama would "commit" reasonable targets for emission cuts and not rely on a future legislation of the Congress on the issue.
"I am not relying on the speed of Congress," Yvo de Boer, who is the director of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said.
Obama has demonstrated "incredible courage and leadership" and wants a "strong" policy agreement on the issue, he added.
"The climate change legislation will be dealt with early next year but having said that I am confident that the President of the United States can come to the Copenhagen with a target and with a financial commitment," he added.
The top UN official pointed out that when the Kyoto Protocol was agreed to in 1997 not a single country that "signed on the dotted line" had its legislation in place.
"They all offered a target in Kyoto, signed the agreement then went back home and turned that target into legislation, which they put to their senate and then they came back and ratified it," Boer explained.
"There were targets in President Obama's election campaign, there were targets in the legislation that was accepted by the Congress (House of Representatives), there are targets in the legislation presented by the senate …all of those targets are very ambitious …they reflect a major change in course of US economy," he noted.
Originally around 192 countries that will meet in the Danish capital were expected to hammer out a climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol since the first commitment period under this treaty ends in 2012.
Now, the bar has been lowered and governments are expected to agree on four essential elements, which will be worked into a treaty in six months following the treaty.
These include ambitious emission reduction targets for industrialised countries, nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries, and financial and technological resources for developing countries to adapt and achieve clean economic growth.
The Kyoto Protocol signed in 1997 strong, legally binding measures committing 37 industrialised States to cutting emissions by an average of 5 percent against 1990 levels over the period from 2008 to 2012.
UN scientists have underlined the need for aggregate emission reduction by industrialised countries of between minus 25 percent and 40 percent over 1990 levels by 2020 with global emissions falling by at least 50 percent by 2050.
One of the principle obstacles in the path of a binding agreement at Copenhagen is US Congress’s failure to pass a domestic climate legislation that sets binding targets based on which Obama can make international commitments.
Despite the fact that the United States is the only industrialised country that has not set individual reduction targets for Copenhagen, Boer expressed confidence in Obama’s commitment to the issue of Climate Change.
Boer observed that the Obama administration had been preoccupied with the Healthcare Bill, and was getting a late start since the Bush administration had ignored the issue of Climate Change but stressed that Washington would have to pick up the pace to make up for lost time.
"I cannot fault the President of the United States for setting priorities," the UN official said.
"I think people will respect that the United States has a different starting point in this than the Kyoto country parties but people will expect to see an effort that is comparable to that of other industrialised countries."
With the world’s largest population China is the overall top emitter of Greenhouse Gases followed by United States, which still has the highest per capita carbon emissions.
"Nobody has any appetite for a second bite at the Climate Change cherry without the United States…the United States has to be in the Copenhagen agreement," he said.