Mon, Mar 30, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Climate negotiators await US team’s debut in Germany


US President Barack Obama has laid out an aggressive domestic program to fight climate change. Now the rest of the world is waiting to hear if he will match those ambitions in a global deal.

The Obama administration was scheduled to make its debut yesterday at the 190-nation climate talks. The two-week meeting is the latest round in an effort to craft an agreement to govern the emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that scientists say are dangerously warming the planet.

The pact to be concluded in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December is meant to succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which requires 37 industrial nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent from 1990 levels by 2012 when it expires.

The US was instrumental in negotiating Kyoto, but could not win enough support in Congress to bring it to a vote.

The UN talks on a new pact have been slowed by the former Bush administration’s refusal to commit to reduce carbon emissions and its general lack of enthusiasm for an international accord.

In an upbeat signal to the 2,000 delegates in Bonn, Obama dispatched his top negotiator, Todd Stern, to deliver the message: “We’re back.”

But the talks have barely picked up momentum since Obama’s election. Everyone is waiting for the new team to clarify its stand on a host of issues, from emission targets to financing for poor countries threatened by increasingly fierce storms, droughts and failing crops.

“There is a clear reluctance to go too fast and too quickly into numbers until we know what the US will say,” said Harald Dovland, chairman of one of the two key forums through which the talks are being conducted.

Three more meetings — six weeks of actual negotiations — are scheduled this year. Officials say at least one extra “panic session,” and possibly two, will be added because of the late start by the Americans.

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