US Must Lead in Climate Negotiations, World Leaders Say

During the week of March 2, several world leaders convened in Washington, DC, to discuss with top US officials the prospects for upcoming UN climate negotiations. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting will take place in Copenhagen in December to negotiate a potential successor to the Kyoto Protocol, set to expire in 2012. Several leaders expressed a desire to see the United States play a leadership role in upcoming talks, based upon President Obama’s support for binding greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. “President Obama's commitment is a very significant and very welcome advance on previous US policy and will in that sense have a positive effect on others' willingness to come forward,” said Ed Miliband, the UK’s Minister on Climate and Energy. The Danish Minister for Climate and Energy, Connie Hedegaard, emphasized the momentum created by US engagement in climate talks: “As soon as the US administration and this House (of Representatives) and Senate can sort of come up with the American position, the more strong the pressure will be on all of us” at the UN conference.

Todd Stern, Obama’s special envoy for climate change, called upon Congress to pass climate legislation before December’s negotiations, saying “nothing would give a more powerful signal to other countries than to see a significant, major, mandatory plan” from the United States. In UN negotiations that took place last year in Bali, a road map was created that called for industrialized countries to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by between 25 and 40 percent by 2020. Stern reiterated Obama's goal of returning US emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020, saying that anything beyond that was “not possible.” Stern noted that the United States could compensate by making swifter reductions beyond 2020 and that Obama supports a plan that reduces GHG emissions to roughly 80 percent of 2005 levels by 2050.

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