The Heat Is Online

Obama To Pledge US Emission Cuts at Copenhagen

US pledges major emissions cuts, Nov. 25, 2009

President Barack Obama is to pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the US in several stages, beginning with a 17% cut by 2020, the White House has said.

The offer will be made at December's UN climate talks in Copenhagen, which Mr. Obama will attend. He does not plan to be there for the crucial last days.

The talks will try to draw up a new global climate treaty to supplant the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

UN climate chief Yvo de Boer said his attendance could be vital for a deal.

"It's critical that President Obama attends the climate change summit in Copenhagen," he told journalists.

So far more than 60 world leaders have said they will attend the summit.

Observers say the presence of such figures as Mr. Obama will raise hopes for action on climate change, although the talks are not expected to result in a new treaty.

'Momentum for talks'

Officials said the US would pledge a 17% cut in emissions by 2020, 30% by 2025, 42% by 2030 and 83% by 2050.

Mr. Obama will outline a "pathway" towards these goals at the summit, a White House statement said.

It described the cuts as "a significant contribution to a problem that the US has neglected for too long".

The president will be in the Danish capital on 9 December, a day before receiving his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.

But he does not plan to return for the key last stages of the summit, which runs from 7-18 December.

White House aide Mike Froman said the decision to go to Copenhagen was "to give momentum to the negotiations there".

The decision follows intense speculation about whether the US president would go at all.

Delegations from 192 countries will be attending the summit. Leaders saying they will attend include UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva.

Hu Jintao, president of the world's largest polluter, China, is yet to commit to attending.

The US is the second largest polluter after China.

Mr. Obama has made climate change a major priority for his administration, after previous incumbents had failed to ratify the Kyoto treaty.

But a bill to cut US emissions is currently stuck in the Senate and is not expected to pass before the end of the year.

Correspondents say most nations have given up hope of a legally binding treaty because of uncertainty about the US position.


Obama to Go to Copenhagen With Pledge

of Emission Cuts

The New York Times, Nov. 25, 2009


WASHINGTON — President Obama is pledging a provisional target for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, the first time an American administration offered even a tentative promise to reduce production of climate-altering gases, White House officials said Wednesday. Mr. Obama will travel to the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen next month to deliver the pledge in hopes of spurring significant progress at the talks.


Mr. Obama will tell the delegates to the climate conference that the United States intends to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions “in the range of” 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, officials said. No American administration has ever delivered even a tentative pledge on emissions reductions because Congress has never enacted climate legislation or approved an international global warming agreement with binding emissions targets.


Mr. Obama, who had not previously committed to making an appearance at the climate summit, had been under considerable pressure from other world leaders and environmental advocates to make the trip as a statement of American seriousness about the climate change negotiations. He will appear on Dec. 9, near the beginning of the 12-day session, on his way to accept the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Dec. 10, officials said.


By making the pledge in an international forum, Mr. Obama is laying a bet that Congress will complete action on a bill next year and will be prepared to ratify an international agreement based on the commitment. White House officials acknowledged that those outcomes will depend in large measure on whether major developing nations, notably China and India, themselves deliver credible pledges on reducing emissions.


Mr. Obama has spoken to leaders of China and India about their energy and climate change programs in recent days, but neither has made public its carbon-reduction plans. China has given hints that it may announce a reduction in energy use relative to economic growth, or “carbon intensity,” before the Copenhagen conference opens.


Carol Browner, the president’s senior adviser for energy and climate change, said the president hoped that the announcement of the American target would spur other countries to show their cards.


“Obviously we hope other major economies will put forth ambitious action plans of their own,” Ms. Browner said at a White House briefing Wednesday morning.


In June, the House passed a bill calling for greenhouse gas reductions of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Last month, a Senate committee passed a measure calling for a 20 percent cut, but that is expected to be weakened as the legislation moves through other Senate committees and onto the floor, perhaps next spring.


The United Nations-sponsored climate talks, involving more than 190 nations, are expected to produce a wide-ranging interim political declaration but stop short of proposing a binding international treaty. Delegates are expected to pledge to complete the treaty next year.


Mr. Obama has said recently that he would attend the session if his presence could help lead to a successful outcome. It is significant that he will appear at the beginning rather than at the end of the 12-day meeting. Most major decisions at such environmental forums come at the very end of the process.

In making the announcement, the White House also announced that several cabinet secretaries will speak at the Copenhagen conference to explain actions the United States is taking to address global warming and to urge other nations to step up their efforts.


Among those who will be dispatched to speak in the early days of the meeting are Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; Steven Chu, the secretary of energy; Ken Salazar, secretary of interior; Gary Locke, commerce secretary; and Tom Vilsack, secetary of agriculture.


Ms. Browner and Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, will also represent the United States at the talks, the White House said.


Early reaction was generally favorable, but some expressed concern that Mr. Obama’s appearance early in the conference, before other world leaders arrive, may have a limited effect on the outcome.


Keya Chatterjee, director the World Wildlife Fund’s climate program, said she hoped that Mr. Obama would offer more than words at the conference.

“We are pleased that President Obama will be in Copenhagen during the early part of the climate summit,” Ms. Chatterjee said. “It’s important that his words during this important moment convey that the United States intends to make climate change a legislative priority, not simply a rhetorical one.”


She added that if the talks appear to be bogged down, “we hope the President will be willing to return to Copenhagen with the rest of the world’s leaders during the final stages of the negotiations.”


Representative Edward J. Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who co-sponsored the House climate change legislation, said the president’s embrace of even an imprecise target could spur other nations to make firmer commitments about their own ambitions.


“By putting a serious number for U.S. emission reductions on the table, the president just called the world’s bet and then raised it for our negotiating partners,” Mr. Markey said in a statement. “The president’s attendance at the conference demonstrates his personal commitment to getting a deal that is good for the U.S. and good for our energy future. It’s a powerful statement that the U.S. is back, ready to lead the world.”


Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, said that Mr. Obama’s decision to announce a target was a “game-changer” for the negotiations and restored American credibility on environmental matters.


“By announcing a provisional target, contingent on the support of Congress, the President has defined a path to an international agreement that challenges the developed and developing nations to fulfill their obligations,” Mr. Kerry said. “It lays the groundwork for a broad political consensus at Copenhagen that will strip climate obstructionists here at home of their most persistent charge, that the United States shouldn’t act if other countries won’t join with us.”


This will be Obama’s second trip to Denmark this year. He made short trip to Copenhagen on Oct. 2 to make a vain pitch for 2016 Summer Olympics in Chicago during a meeting of the International Olympic Committee.


© 2009 The New York Times