7 march 2009

Climate change accord boosted by Obamas commitment

7th March 2009, The West Australian

President Barack Obamas determination to reverse Bush administration policy on combating climate change is a huge deal that will help produce a global agreement this year, a United Nations envoy said.

"They have a huge willingness to come up with an ambitious plan and reach an agreement," the UN's Yvo de Boer told reporters at the UN today after meetings this week in Washington with congressional leaders and Obama administration officials.

De Boer is charged with overseeing negotiations between 192 countries for the creation of a new global agreement to cut emissions of gases blamed for global warming, which the world body's scientists say is causing sea levels to rise, an increased frequency of droughts and making storms more intense.

The US didn't ratify the only international climate change treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, whose provisions expire in 2012.

The UN is seeking to broker a new accord in December in Copenhagen that draws all nations into the effort.

De Boer said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will appeal to Obama to attend a proposed mini-summit at the UN this spring when the two meet in Washington on March 11.

At the same time, de Boer cautioned that it may be too early in the Obama administration for the US to propose a comprehensive policy on the climate-change talks.

The whole international community is breathless to see where the US will go on this topic, de Boer said.

The Obama administrations commitment will generate increasing enthusiasm of others to be ambitious and come to the table, he said.

Still, de Boer said it was clear that Obama wants to see an agreement reached in Copenhagen; wants to offer a national greenhouse gas emissions-reduction target; wants to see Congress adopt cap-and-trade legislation; and is willing to work with developing nations such as China and India that have said the US is doing enough to combat climate change.

Obama, who has pledged to spend $150 billion ($A233 billion) over 10 years to combat climate change, build clean energy and create green jobs, made an election promise to bring US emissions down to 1990 levels by 2020.

That's less than a commitment by the 27-nation European Union to slash the gases by 20 percent by 2020.

The US by that year is projected to be releasing 34 percent more greenhouse gases compared with the same base year, de Boer said.

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