09 Dec 2009:
U.S. Vows Sharp CO2 Cuts,
But Will Not Pay Climate ‘Reparations’
Lisa Jackson, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, told delegates at the Copenhagen conference that the Obama administration will use its executive authority and will also push for climate legislation in an effort to place the nation on a path to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Jackson said her announcement that the EPA would begin regulating greenhouse gases as a threat to human health was not meant to supplant climate legislation now before Congress but to work in tandem with it.
“This is not an either/or moment,” said Jackson. “This is a both/and moment.”
Jackson is one of a handful of high-level U.S. officials and cabinet secretaries in Copenhagen taking part in climate negotiations. Another official, Todd Stern — President Obama’s special envoy for climate
change — said that although the U.S. will contribute to a fund to help poor nations deal with climate change, the fund should not be viewed as a payment for the U.S. being the largest cumulative emitter of greenhouse gases
. “We absolutely recognize our historic role in putting emissions in the atmosphere, but the sense of guilt or culpability or reparations, I just categorically reject that,” Stern told reporters.
Stern also said that the U.S. would not contribute to a fund designed to help China — with its booming economy — adapt to climate change or develop renewable sources of energy. “I don’t envision public funds, certainly not from the United States, going to China,” said Stern.
Jackson said that Congress needs to pass a cap-and-trade bill to make it clear to business and industry what sort of costs they can expect to bear as the government limits CO2 emissions. In addition to legislation, Jackson said, the EPA needs to take “meaningful, common-sense steps” to curtail emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases. She vowed that the U.S. would work hard to forge a treaty reducing greenhouse gas emissions, saying, “We are seeking robust engagement with all of our partners around the world. We are seeking to prevent the rapid approach of climate change.” Joining Jackson in Copenhagen is Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. President Obama will arrive at the end of the conference next week.
As the 192-nation conference entered its third day, delegates from industrialized and developing nations continued to try to bridge the gap between them over the level of emissions reductions targets that wealthy nations will pledge to make, as well as the amount of money that developed nations will provide to poor nations for adapting to global warming and producing renewable energy. Four nations — Britain, Australia, Mexico, and Norway— said they are working on a proposal to set up a structure for a fund to aid developing nations.
But delegates from some poor nations said that a proposed plan by industrialized nations to create an initial fund of $10 billion was woefully inadequate and that hundreds of billions of dollars were needed to help developed nations adapt to climate change. “If this is the greatest risk that humanity faces, then how do you explain $10 billion,” said Lumumba Di-Aping of Sudan, the head of the 135-nation bloc of developing countries. “Ten billion will not buy developing countries’ citizens enough coffins.”
The BBC reported that a split had developed between some of the nation’s poorest states, including those in Africa, and richer developing countries, such as China. While African states and small island nations support a tough treaty requiring countries to commit themselves to binding emissions reductions, China is reluctant to sign on to such an agreement, fearing it would limit economic growth. The Chinese have been circulating a draft agreement that would mandate new, larger CO2 emissions reductions targets for industrialized nations for the next five to eight years, while developing nations would be covered by a second agreement that encourages emissions reductions but not in a binding way. China’s top climate envoy, Xie Zhenhua, said that his country could accept a target to halve global emissions by 2050 if developed nations pledged more aggressive CO2 cuts by 2020 and agreed to help the developing world deal with climate change. Xie also said he hoped that when President Obama visited Copenhagen next week, he would pledge a sharper emissions cut than the offer of reducing emissions by four percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
The New York Times
analyzes what it would cost to implement a global treaty that weans the world off fossil fuels, spurs development of renewable energy, and funds efforts to adapt to global warming. The answer? Many trillions of dollars, though such a massive expenditure would largely be offset by new economic activity, the creation of more jobs, more secure energy supplies, and a reduced danger of climate catastrophe.
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