German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday urged the US to agree to binding climate goals, telling US lawmakers in a speech to Congress there was “no time to lose” in the fight against global warming.
Speaking to a joint session of Congress days before the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, Merkel said it was time for the US and Europe to unite to confront new barriers, from the economic crisis to security and the environment.
“We have no time to lose,” Merkel said, referring to a UN climate conference next month in Copenhagen, where countries will be trying to forge a successor to the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.
“We need an agreement on one objective — global warming must not exceed two degrees Celsius,” she said. “To achieve this, we need the readiness of all countries to accept internationally binding obligations.”
US climate legislation narrowly passed in the House of Representatives in June, but opposition largely from Republicans has held up a separate bill in the Senate and chances of a breakthrough before the end of the year are slim.
This is likely to prevent the administration of US President Barack Obama, which has taken a strong public stance on the climate issue, from agreeing concrete targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the Dec. 7 to Dec. 18 summit in Copenhagen.
Merkel, who began her second term in office last week, met Obama at the White House before giving the first address to the US Congress by a German leader since Konrad Adenauer in 1957.
Speaking to reporters during a picture-taking session in the Oval Office, Obama praised Merkel’s leadership on climate change and warned of a “potential catastrophe” if countries allowed global warming to continue unabated.
In addition to the climate issue, the two leaders discussed Afghanistan, non-proliferation and the global economic crisis, US and German officials said.
Merkel, the first German leader to have grown up in communist East Germany, touched on her childhood behind the Iron Curtain and said she would have never dared to dream back then she would get the opportunity to speak to Congress.
She thanked the US for standing up against communism during the Cold War, drawing stand-up applause when she mentioned former US president Ronald Reagan’s famous “tear down this wall” speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in 1987.
“I know, we Germans know how much we owe to you, our American friends. And we shall never, I personally shall never, ever forget this,” she said.
She acknowledged that the allies have had differences, saying Americans sometimes viewed Europeans as “hesitant and fearful,” while Europeans saw Americans as overly “headstrong and pushy.”
But she said the West must work together to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb and to stabilize Afghanistan so that security responsibilities could be handed over to the government in Kabul.