Europeans join UN in welcoming Obama to climate talks



Europeans join UN in welcoming Obama to climate talks Brussels: Europeans joined the United Nations on Wednesday in hailing US President's Barack Obama's decision to attend the upcoming UN climate summit, saying it boosts the hopes of a positive outcome.

But they were more reserved in reaction to the United States' proposal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 - the first time Washington has put a target for Copenhagen on the table.

"The fact that President Obama will be coming to Copenhagen raises expectations," said Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, whose nation holds the rotating EU presidency.

"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," added Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Obama will head to Copenhagen on December 9, two days after the summit opens and the day before he collects his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, officials said in Washington - although he will not stay for the end of the 12-day meeting.

"The visit emphasises the President's will to contribute to an ambitious global deal in Copenhagen," Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen said.

"As more and more heads of state and government confirm their attendance, momentum is building for a successful conclusion to this crucial world gathering," said Farhan Haq, spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

"At Copenhagen, an agreement can and must be reached to set the world on a new course that will ensure a healthy planet, a robust and sustainable economy, and a brighter future for all," said Haq at UN headquarters in New York.

In Brussels, European Commission President Jose Manual Barroso, through a spokesman, said it was essential for as many world leaders as possible to make the journey to Copenhagen.

Despite the warm welcome to Obama's decision to attend the talks, there was little immediate reaction to Washington's offer of a 17 per cent cut in emissions - less than what the EU, Japan and UN scientists are calling for.

"With this offer, the US is preparing for a significant reduction in emissions compared with the present situation," Carlgren of the Swedish EU presidency said.

"It is of value that the US has also presented offers for 2025 and 2030 that increase the credibility of the offer presented. I note that the offer for the period after 2020 appears to state more rapid reductions than the EU's commitment does."

"However, I regret that the level of emissions reductions up to 2020 is not higher, as previous estimates indicate that it is possible for the US to do more," Carlgren added.

"We will analyse what the offer means and the possibilities for the US to achieve greater emissions reductions, for example by means of further action against deforestation and in developing countries."

For his part, French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo called the US position "extremely encouraging”.

"To have a figure put on an American undertaking, announced by the White House, is worthwhile progress," said Borloo as he headed off for Beijing for talks with Chinese officials.

That said, he regretted Obama's intention not to stay for the closing days of the Copenhangen meeting, when the real hard bargaining is likely to occur.

The European Union is pledging 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, with conditions.

Bureau Report