Barack Obama's climate envoy dismisses calls at major economies summit for US and other rich nations to cut emissions by 40% by 2020
President Barack Obama's climate envoy has rejected calls for the US and other rich nations to make radical greenhouse gas cuts over the next decade.
Speaking at the end of a ministerial level meeting of the world's most polluting countries in Mexico yesterday, Todd Stern dismissed the idea that the US might comply with calls for industrialised nations to cut carbon emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2020.
"In our judgment [this kind of cut is] not necessary and not feasible given where we are starting from," he said. "So it is not on the cards."
Stern had earlier showered praise on the flagship US climate change bill expected to be debated by Congress this week calling it "an enormously ambitious proposal for the United States." The bill calls for a 17% reduction in US emissions from 2005 levels by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050.
The demands of developing countries and campaigners for a 40% minimum emissions cut by rich countries has been a constant theme in the run up to the crucial December summit in Copenhagen which is supposed to produce an agreement to replace the Kyoto protocol that runs out in 2012. Scientists have also recommended that averting catastrophic global warming requires industrialised countries to cut carbon emissions by 25% to 40%.
"It is disappointing that the Obama administration is not supporting rigorous scientific standards for battling climate change," said Daniel Kessler of Greenpeace. "The administration now has just a few months before Copenhagen to rectify its position and lead the world to a fair, equitable and adequate climate agreement."
This week's meeting of the Major Economies Forum of Energy and Climate in Jiutepec in central Mexico brought together 19 countries that collectively account for over 80% of both global wealth and global emissions. The US and China alone make up about 50% of emissions in roughly equal proportions.
It was the third and final preparatory gathering ahead of the summit in L'Aquila in Italy in July where the leaders of the G8 plus 5 hope to finalise a common proposal to take to Copenhagen.
With most new scientific studies indicating that the planet is speeding ever faster towards disaster, the pressure to produce a strong global accord in Copenhagen is huge. And with the reversal of position in the post-Bush White House, the possibility of reaching some kind of consensus looked better than ever.
But if the activists outside the Mexico meeting felt let down this week, the few delegates willing to talk were cautiously optimistic.
"The fact that the US now has a clear willingness to work towards an agreement is helpful," Mexico's environment minister, Rafael Elvira Quesada, said. "But you cannot reach an accord at the stroke of a pen."
The disagreement over emissions cuts is only one of the complex issues involved. There are also serious divergences over how to help the developing world both finance the conversion to green technologies, enabling clean economic growth, and adapting to the impacts of climate change.
Mexico's Green Fund idea is one of the two main financing proposals currently on the table, and was described as "very interesting" by the US envoy.
The Green Fund would require all but the poorest countries to contribute money based on individual criteria such as per capita GDP and emissions. All countries would have a say how the cash that would be distributed, driven by how many tons of greenhouse gases a particular project saves.
The other main proposal comes from Norway and would require developed nations to put 2% of the carbon pollution credits they currently receive under Kyoto up for auction. The money raised would finance climate change projects in the developing world.
Copyright Speakers Corner 2016