Climate Negotiators Grow Impatient at Lack of Leadership From America

Greenpeace activists hang banners at the Sagrada Familia Temple, designed by Antoni Gaudi, in Barcelona November 2, 2009. Climate negotiators from 175 nations will meet in Spain from November 2-6 in Barcelona for a final session to try to break deadlock between rich and poor and salvage a U.N. deal due in Copenhagen in December. The banner at right reads, "Save the Climate". (REUTERS/Albert Gea)

Climate Negotiators Grow Impatient at Lack of Leadership From America

UN and EU pile pressure on US to set ambitious carbon cuts and timetables to improve chances of deal at Copenhagen

With just five days' formal negotiations left before the start of crucial UN climate talks in Copenhagen next month, key figures in the negotiations are showing clear signs of impatience at the US position.

At international climate talks in Barcelona, the United Nations and European Union, backed by international environment and development groups, today piled pressure on the US to set more ambitious targets and timetables to cut greenhouse emissions in order to reach an agreement.

"We expect American leadership. President Obama has created great expectations around the world. Now we urge [the US] to contribute in the way that we have," said Andreas Carlgren, Swedish environment minister talking on behalf of the EU presidency.

In a clear reference to the US, he added: "We are prepared to cut a deal. Other countries should demonstrate leadership and step up their current pledges."

Countries accept that the Obama administration's hands have been tied by delays in Congress but they urged the president to show more personal leadership and to instruct his negotiators to be less intransigent.

"I remind the US that it is not the only country in the world that has to have discussions with its domestic parliament," said Connie Hedegaard, the Danish environment minister who will host the talks in Copenhagen.

"The expectation out there worldwide among populations and the young [is for] the US to deliver on one of the key challenges of our century. The Americans will have to come up [with an offer] one way or another," she said.

Yvo de Boer, head of the UN framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) echoed the call for more ambition from the US. "We need to see clear targets from the US at Copenhagen," he said.

But US chief negotiator Jonathan Pershing responded that the US wanted a deal. "Notions that the US is not making an effort is not correct. To apportion blame is not the constructive thing to do. We do not want to be outside [an agreement]. We have the best chance to [make an agreement] if we can implement something domestically. We and Congress recognise the need to move forward," he said.

Pershing accepted that China had moved significantly to reduce its emissions, but said that it needed to go further. "It is very clear that China has taken enormous steps to reduce greenhouse gases. We look forward to an aggressive [next] step from China," he said.

However, groups like Greenpeace accused the US of doing too little. In a letter sent to Obama today they said: "Our critical assessment is that the [US] legislation pending in Congress in the crucial near term will be a perpetuation of business as usual and it will not decrease emissions in the US."

"The continuation of business as usual means doing nothing to reduce emissions. The US position is to reduce US emissions by 17% below 2005 levels. This is far short of what science demands and what Europe has committed to achieve. The 17% reduction shrinks to an actual 4% if measured against 1990 levels." This is the accepted benchmark year used by the Kyoto protocol.

"Congress and parliaments [around the world] have set themselves up to pass new laws to reduce emissions. It is the collective effort that should be reflected," said Pershing.

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