US opens way towards dual-track climate deal

THE US has for the first time outlined a dual path toward cutting greenhouse gases.

The plan would involve both President Barack Obama’s administration and Congress, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) head Lisa Jackson said in Copenhagen yesterday.

She also said her decision earlier this week that greenhouse gases should be regulated was intended to work alongside US legislation, not to supplant Congress’ work.

“This is not an either/or moment. This is a both/and moment,” she said.

The agency on Monday gave the president a new way to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions when it ruled that scientific evidence showed they were endangering Americans’ health. That means the EPA could regulate the gases without the approval of Congress.

The decision was welcomed by other nations at the talks that have called on the US to boost its efforts to cut emissions.

The US Senate has yet to take up legislation that calls for greenhouse gases to be cut by 20% by 2020, a target scaled back to 17% in the House after opposition from coal-state Democrats.

She promised the US would take “meaningful, common sense steps” to cut emissions.

Negotiators, meanwhile, worked to bridge the chasm between rich and poor countries over how to share the burden of fighting climate change

Lumumba Di-Aping of Sudan, the head of the 135-nation bloc of developing countries, said the $10 billion a year proposed to help poor nations paled in comparison to the more than $1 trillion already spent to rescue financial institutions.

“If this is the greatest risk that humanity faces, then how do you explain $10bn?

“10 billion will not buy developing countries’ citizens enough coffins.”

Meanwhile, small island nations, poor countries and those seeking money from the developed world to preserve their tropical forests were among those upset over leaked competing draft texts from Denmark and China outlining proposed outcomes for the summit.

Some feared too much of the burden to curb greenhouse gases is on them. They want billions of dollars in aid from wealthy nations.

Developing countries and climate activists complained the Danish hosts pre-empted the negotiations with their draft proposal, that would allow rich countries cut fewer emissions while poorer nations would face tougher limits and more conditions on getting funds.

A Chinese counter-proposal would extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which required 37 industrial nations to reduce emissions of CO2 and other gases blamed for global warming by an average 5% by 2012, compared with 1990 levels.

This plan would incorporate new, deeper targets for the industrialised world for a further five to eight years. However, developing countries including China would be covered by a separate agreement that encourages taking action to control emissions but not in the same legally binding way.

Poorer nations believe the two-track approach would best preserve the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” recognised by the Kyoto treaty.

Meanwhile tiny Tuvalu demanded strong action to curb global warming.

The Pacific island nation proposed amending the UN climate treaty to require the world’s nations to keep the rise in temperatures to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

But conference president Connie Hedegaard did not advance the proposal after objections from other nations, including oil producers, who would be hurt by strict limits on burning fossil fuels. Tuvalu and other low-lying nations will be the first victims if seas rise.


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