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The Hill (Washington, DC)

EU Climate Chief ‘Shocked’ at US Debate

Ben Geman

European Union climate chief Connie Hedegaard is disposing of diplomatic niceties when describing U.S. political battles over climate change.

“I’m shocked that the political debate in the U.S. is so far away from the scientific facts,” she said, according to The Copenhagen Post.

“When more than 90 percent of researchers in the field are saying that we have to take [climate change] seriously, it is incredibly irresponsible to ignore it. It’s hard for a European to understand how it has become so fashionable to be anti-science in the U.S.,” Hedegaard said in the Post account, which reprints comments she made to the Danish paper Politiken.

“And when you hear American presidential candidates denying climate change, it’s difficult to take,” she said.

Her remarks come amid a split in the GOP presidential field, where candidates including Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann dispute the mainstream scientific view that the planet is warming and human activities are a key factor.

The European Union in 2007 committed to cut its overall emissions by at least 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and has offered much steeper cuts if other major emitting countries agree to an international deal.

The EU has also implemented a cap-and-trade system to curb emissions from power plants, factories and other facilities.

In the U.S., climate change legislation collapsed on Capitol Hill last year, while Environmental Protection Agency plans to craft greenhouse gas standards for power plants and refineries are under attack by Capitol Hill Republicans and some major industry groups.

EPA recently said it would delay the unveiling of proposed emissions standards for power plants that had been slated for Sept. 30. The agency maintains that it's committed to issuing the rules.

Internationally, hopes have faded — at least, for now — for a binding emissions-reduction treaty any time soon to replace the Kyoto Protocol, although the last two major United Nations summits have led to more modest agreements on deforestation, climate finance and other matters.

The next big U.N. climate summit will take place in Durban, South Africa, in late November. “In Durban we will attempt to lay out a plan with deadlines for when we will arrive at a legally binding agreement that includes both the U.S. and China,” Hedegaard said.

President Obama on Sunday attacked Perry on his climate views, drawing a counterattack from the Texas governor's camp. The president also said it’s imperative that “our planet doesn’t reach a tipping point in terms of climate change.”

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