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France sees U.S. as main obstacle to climate deal


By Emmanuel Jarry

PARIS, Nov 15 (Reuters) – The United States is the main obstacle to concluding an ambitious agreement at the Copenhagen meeting on climate change next month, French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said on Sunday.

Speaking after world leaders meeting in Singapore said it was unrealistic to expect binding targets to be negotiated by the time the meeting starts on Dec. 7, Borloo said Washington was posing the biggest difficulty.

“The problem is the United States, there’s no doubt about that,” Borloo, who has coordinated France’s Copenhagen negotiating effort, told Reuters in an interview.

“It’s the world’s number one power, the biggest emitter (of greenhouse gases), the biggest per capita emitter and it’s saying ‘I’d like to but I can’t’. That’s the issue,” he said.

Borloo’s comments follow a joint declaration by President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Saturday, aimed at committing rich countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050.

Borloo said France was looking at an option that would allow countries that had not signed up to the Kyoto protocol, including the United States some leeway, possibly including allowing it an extra delay of some years to meet targets.

“There needs to be international pressure on the United States, that’s clear,” Borloo said. “But at the same time, we have to allow some flexibility in the formulation.”

But he said this did not mean compromising on the need for an “irreversible, binding and measurable” commitment.

World leaders agreed on Sunday to a two-stage plan aimed at securing a political accord at the Dec. 7-18 talks, to be followed by a process of working out binding commitments on targets, finance and technology transfer.

This would allow time for the U.S. Senate to pass carbon-capping legislation, allowing the Obama administration to bring a 2020 target and financing pledges to the table at a major U.N. climate meeting in Bonn in mid-2010.

Borloo said such a deal could not be allowed to get in the way of binding commitments. If a political agreement “means vague and non-binding declarations of intent, the answer is no,” he said.

“Behind the word ‘political’ there has to be precise declarations with figures,” he said.

  1. November 16th, 2009 at 21:40 | #1

    There are many Americans who do care about climate change, and politicians as well. But unfortunately at the moment the country is tangled in huge debates over health care policy, the economy and the strategy in Afghanistan…these have consumed a lot of Obama’s political capital and time as well.

    Added to this is the complication caused by the complete political divide in Congress between Republicans and Democrats – there is virtually no bipartisanship, and without 60 votes in the US Senate (out of 100), it is rather impossible get new laws passed. Even though Democrats have a large majority, there are what we call “Blue Dog Democrats”, more conservative, and not all are pushing for a climate change deal.

    For many right now, the economy is the most important issue and a lot of people see ideas like “cap and trade” for reducing CO2 emissions as a hamper on business, something that the economy certainly does not need right now. The fundamental conflict is short-term v. long-term…in the short-term, cutting CO2 emissions will take some sacrifices but it would ultimately produce a “green revolution” in clean energy, transportation and jobs, and in the long term cutting CO2 emissions is necessary for our planet’s survival.

    In order for a global deal to be agreed upon, the US, more than anyone else (including China), must show leadership in pushing for a reduction in CO2 emissions. Unfortunately chances for a deal in Copenhagen are looking slim. Do US politicians have the courage to take the step in the right direction, or will they be prevented by business interests? Only time will tell…

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