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U.S. Says Climate Policies Among World's Toughest

Date: 27-May-09
Country: US
Author: Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

U.S. Says Climate Policies Among World's Toughest Photo: David Gray
Migrant workers dig a trench in front of a power station as part of construction for the North-South water canal on the outskirts of the town of Xichuan in Henan province in this February 20, 2009 file photo.
Photo: David Gray

PARIS - Washington defended its plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions as among the most ambitious in the world Tuesday as major economies meeting in Paris rallied around a Mexican plan to raise cash to fight climate change.

"The United States is proposing to make a seismic change" in toughening policy, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern said after two-day talks among 17 major emitters including China, the European Union, India and Russia.

"If you look at what the U.S. is proposing from where we are now -- which is, after all, all we can gain control of -- it's every bit as ambitious as anything that anybody in the world is proposing," he told a news conference.

Many countries at the meeting, including France and major developing nations, want Washington to make deeper cuts than President Barack Obama plans by 2020 as part of a new U.N. deal due to be agreed in Copenhagen in December.

French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said U.S. plans for 2020 fell well short of advice from scientists. "It's not slanderous to anyone to say that -- and I think the Americans know it," he said.

A U.S. congressional panel last week agreed a plan to cut U.S. emissions of heat-trapping gases by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, taking them back to about 4 percent below a U.N. 1990 benchmark, and 83 percent below by 2050.

The European Union is planning to cut by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and by 30 percent if other countries sign up to curb global warming, which according to the U.N. Climate Panel will bring more droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

Stern said that the U.S. plan was strong, partly because it mapped out cuts all the way to 2050.

CHINA FLEXIBLE

And in Beijing, a senior official said China might be flexible about its demands for 2020 cuts by developed nations of at least 40 percent below 1990 levels, indicating that a deal in Copenhagen might be more about principles than firm targets.

"It will be difficult to reach an agreement that satisfies everyone, for example, with developed countries cutting emissions by 40 percent," Gao Guangsheng, a leading official in the National Coordination Committee for Climate Change, told Reuters.

In Paris, ministers gave provisional support to a Mexican proposal for a mechanism to raise billions of dollars to fight global warming. "It's without doubt the most important advance," Borloo said. The meeting did not define overall cash needs.

Many studies say that tens of billion of dollars a year will be needed to combat climate change as part of a U.N. deal to fight global warming, due to be agreed in Copenhagen in December.

"We made particularly good progress on the area of financing," Stern said. He said the Mexican plan was "highly constructive."

Mexico's plan would oblige all countries to provide cash to fight climate change based on their past and current emissions of greenhouse gases -- mainly from burning fossil fuels -- and the size of their gross domestic product.

That would mean that biggest emitters since the Industrial Revolution, such as the United States and Europe, would pay most. By contrast, the poorest nations in Africa, whose emissions are near zero, would receive large net funds.

A third and final preparatory round of the Major Economies Forum is due to be held in Mexico on June 22-23 before a summit in Italy in July. Obama called the talks to try to contribute to a new U.N. deal.

(Editing by Charles Dick)

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