Obama urges action as Europe ups climate pressure on US

5th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

Fresh from a White House meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama held talks with EU leaders to assure them his administration supported a new treaty at next month's summit in Copenhagen.

Washington -- US President Barack Obama stood shoulder to shoulder with Europe Tuesday pressing to "redouble" efforts to combat global warming, but opponents in Congress made clear there would be no smooth path to a climate deal.

Fresh from a White House meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who also made a heart-felt plea for a climate protocol in a speech to US lawmakers, Obama held talks with European Union leaders to assure them his administration supported a new treaty at next month's summit in Copenhagen.

At a EU-US summit here, which continues Wednesday with talks with US Energy Secretary Steven Chu, the Europeans pressed Washington to take action on climate change ahead of December's climate summit, warning that not enough had been done.

"All of us agreed that it is imperative for us to redouble our efforts in the weeks between now and the Copenhagen meeting to assure that we create a framework for progress in dealing with (a) potential ecological disaster," Obama said after talks with European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt of Sweden, who holds the EU presidency, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

Merkel, in a rare speech to a joint session of Congress, compared the battle over climate change to the struggle to bring down the Berlin Wall two decades ago this week.

She also backed Western calls for emerging nations to do more. "I'm convinced that once we in Europe and America show ourselves ready to adopt binding agreements, we will also be able to persuade China and India to join in," she said.

But even as she and Obama stressed the need to solidify a framework agreement at Copenhagen, US Republican lawmakers boycotted a committee meeting on an Obama-backed bill to set the first US requirements on curbing carbon emissions blamed for global warming.

Asked what impact Merkel's speech might have on the US debate, Senator James Inhofe, the top Republican on the committee looking at the climate legislation, said: "None whatsoever."

Earlier Tuesday Barroso, who praised Obama for having "changed the climate on climate negotiations," said he was "worried by the lack of progress in negotiations" ahead of the December 7-18 climate meeting

The summit in the Danish capital has been convened to seal a treaty to succeed the landmark Kyoto Protocol, whose obligations to cut carbon emissions expire in 2012.

"Of course we are not going to have a full-fledged binding treaty, Kyoto-type, by Copenhagen," Barroso told reporters. "This is obvious. There is no time for that."

An international meeting next year in Mexico could be used to finalize a treaty, but Barroso said Copenhagen needed to come up with the framework of the deal, and that the world's largest economy in particular should take a lead role.

"What we are asking is the United States to show leadership in this, such an important issue," Barroso said.

After meeting with Obama he stressed that "I am more confident now" about Washington's commitment, but he also warned against protracted negotiations akin to the stalled Doha round of trade liberalization talks.

"Let's not do to Copenhagen what has been happening with trade in Doha, where systematically every year we are postponing," Barroso said.

Sweden's Reinfeldt said the United States should at least agree on targets for cutting emissions and on financing for developing nations.

"I said that we need to have a clear commitment on targets and on financing coming from the United States," Reinfeldt told AFP after talks with key senators.

"We can understand if it's not possible to have everything in place exactly now. But we want a full agreement in Copenhagen and we are able to work through details in the months that come after Copenhagen," he said.

Reinfeldt spoke as pre-summit negotiations were underway in Barcelona, Spain, where divisions again ran deep between key developed nations and emerging economies.

An EU summit last week agreed that developing nations will need 100 billion euros (146 billion dollars) per year by 2020 to tackle climate change, but failed to nail down how much it would give.

The US role in Copenhagen is overshadowed by the debate in Congress.

The House of Representatives in June narrowly passed the plan to curb carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020 but the bill -- already criticized by other developed nations as not ambitious enough -- is bogged down in the Senate, where a slightly more ambitious version calls for a 20-percent cut by 2020.

Michael Mathes/AFP/Expatica

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