US business leaders counter critics on climate
Washington (AFP) Dec 3, 2009
US lawmakers on Thursday rolled out business leaders who back action on climate change, hoping to counter criticism that a deal at this month's Copenhagen summit would hit the wobbly US economy.
Four days before the high-stakes climate meeting opens in the Danish capital, President Barack Obama and his allies are trying to show US commitment to a global deal even though key legislation has yet to clear Congress.
Democratic Senator John Kerry invited executives of major companies to the US Capitol to provide ammunition for his and Obama's argument that US restrictions on carbon emissions blamed for global warming would generate a new green economy.
"If you look at China in particular, despite how much of the US wants to portray it sometimes, they are being very aggressive in developing energy efficient products," said David M. Cote, chairman and CEO of US conglomerate Honeywell.
"We're lagging behind in that job creation."
Preston Chiaro, group executive for technology and innovation at Rio Tinto, said the Anglo-Australian mining giant was creating 1,500 jobs in California by building a carbon capture plant that will have 100 permanent jobs once completed.
"We think that the lack of certainty around climate legislation is actually hindering investment," he said. "This new technology will open the door for the future of coal and that's why we support it."
Kerry's push on climate change also enjoyed a boost from Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the rival Republican Party who has broken ranks to work on a bill.
"You'll never convince me that America cannot have the cleanest air and the purest water of any place on the planet," Graham said.
"If Congress does not act soon, the world will leave us behind."
But other Republicans spoke out sharply against climate legislation, saying that plans by Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to head to Copenhagen showed they were out of touch with US voters concerned about the economy.
"The president and the speaker have far more pressing problems to worry about here at home -- namely stopping runaway spending, getting our fiscal house back in order and working on some common sense solutions that get Americans back to work," said Eric Cantor, the number two Republican in the House of Representatives, where a climate bill squeaked through in June.
Climate change skeptics also seized on leaked emails by British scientist Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia that called into question the basis for studies that the planet is heating up.
The emails offered "increasing evidence that scientific fascism is going on," charged Republican Representative James Sensenbrenner.
Obama plans to tell the world climate summit that the United States will cut carbon emissions by about 17 percent by 2050 off 2005 levels, in line with legislation in Congress although less ambitious than what UN scientists recommend.
With the Senate not set to act until next year, Kerry introduced a separate bill to set up a government board that would distribute aid to developing nations to cope with climate change.
Kerry wants the United States to pump as much as three billion dollars in immediate aid to show the world's second-biggest polluter is serious about a deal in Copenhagen.
The United States had demanded that developing countries take action as part of the next international treaty. The Kyoto Protocol, whose obligations run out in 2012, required emission cuts only from wealthy nations.
India on Thursday followed China's lead in announcing it would commit to hard numbers on reducing the intensity of its carbon output.
Nine Democratic senators, some from heavy-industry states, wrote to Obama calling for him to insist on a "global response" on climate change.
"Poorly designed climate policies could jeopardize US national interests by imposing burdens on US consumers, companies and workers without solving the climate challenge," they wrote.
The letter was signed by senators Mark Begich, Sherrod Brown, Kay Hagan, Tim Johnson, Amy Klobuchar, Carl Levin, Claire McCaskill, Arlen Specter and Debbie Stabenow.
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Paris (AFP) Dec 3, 2009
The Copenhagen climate summit is a "test of modern leadership" and a failed outcome would almost certainly condemn the planet to disaster, Mikhail Gorbachev said Thursday in an interview. The Nobel laureate and last leader of the Soviet Union also told AFP that Russia had put forward serious targets for curbing carbon emissions and should not be cast as a spoiler going into the December 7-18 ... read more
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