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US ready for 'binding' reductions of greenhouse gases: official

by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) Feb 25, 2008
The United States is ready to accept "binding international obligations" to reduce greenhouse gases, which could be announced as soon as July, a senior White House official said here Monday.

Daniel Price, assistant to President George W. Bush for International Economic Affairs, said the undertaking would have to be made as part of a "global agreement" in which all major economies would make the same commitment.

The agreement could be announced "in conjunction" with the G8 summit of the world's most industrialised nations in Japan in July, Price told journalists, without fixing a date.

"We would like to reach an agreement on a long term global reduction goal -- this is a collective goal," Price said.

Price, accompanied by James Connaughton, chairman of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality, was in Paris to lay the groundwork for a meeting here of "major economies" that account for 80 percent of the greenhouse gases that drive climate change, expected for mid-April.

The group of 17 -- including the G8 nations, the EU and major developing economies such as China and India -- met at Bush's behest last September in Washington, and then again in January, in Hawaii.

The United States refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the UN agreement mandating emissions reductions for industrialised nations through 2012, because it did not cover developing nations.

"An effective framework requires the participation of all major economies, developed and developing alike," Price said. "Europe and the US could turn out the lights today and come 2030, come 2050 we would not have addressed the problem of climate change."

China is poised to surpass the United States as the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases. It already uses twice as much coal -- the most polluting of all carbon-based fuels -- and is projected to use five times as much by 2020.

There are currently some 26 million cars and trucks in China, and that number could increase 10-fold within decades, experts say.

But critics of the US position say that trying to force China and India into accepting binding commitments of greenhouse gases is neither realistic or fair.

"It isn't going to happen," said Stephan Singer, a climate change expert at the World Wildlife Fund.

He points to the fact that China's per capita output of greenhouse gases is far below either the United States, which has the highest levels in the world, or Europe.

"Why should they (China and India) do something when the United States has done nothing for the last eight years?", he said.

UN-brokered negotiations in Bali in December set a deadline for a new post-2012 global agreement on how to fight climate change for the end of 2009.

Price said he was "frustrated" at repeated criticisms that the United States had launched their initiative -- which focuses on technology-driven solutions to climate change -- to compete with UN-sponsored negotiations.

"The major economies process is intended to supplement, compliment and support the UN negotiations. It is not an alternative to those negotiations," he said.

He said the United States has already shown its willingness to engage in binding agreements, pointing to a handful of national programmes implemented since 2001 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency.

A mandate to increase production of renewable fuels by 500 percent before 2022, for example, would replace 15 percent of current oil fossil fuel consumption with renewable alternatives, he said.

Other national measures mandate a 70 percent increase in lighting efficiency, more stringent energy standards for dozens of appliances, and a 30 percent improvement in energy efficiency for the US government, which accounts for one-sixth of the domestic economy.

"It is constantly suggested that the US favours only aspirational goals, non-binding goals, voluntary measures," he told journalists. "That is simply not true."

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EU official heads to US to discuss greenhouse gas deal
Brussels (AFP) Feb 25, 2008
EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas travelled Monday to the United States for talks on a possible binding international agreement on reducing greenhouse gases, his spokeswoman said.

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