Barroso: Forget climate treaty, aim for pact in Copenhagen

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A fully-fledged climate treaty to fight global warming will not be reached next month in Copenhagen but a framework pact is still possible, the head of the European Commission said on the margins of an EU-US summit.

“Of course, we are not going to have a fully-fledged binding treaty – Kyoto-type – by Copenhagen,” European Commission President José Manuel Barroso told reporters before meeting with US President Barack Obama. “There is no time for that.” 

But Barroso said he believed it was still possible to develop a framework agreement with clear commitments from developed and developing countries. Such a framework would include firm timetables for lower emissions from richer countries and an agreement on what actions developing countries will take, Barroso said. 

Developed countries like the United States and EU members need to put “numbers on the table” for emission cuts and funding to help developing countries, he said. 

The EU has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020 and is prepared to go as high as 30% depending on what others do, Barroso said. 

But a month before the Copenhagen meeting, work in the US Senate on legislation to address climate change has barely begun and is not expected to finish this year. The Senate plan, which already faces stiff opposition, calls for a 20% cut in US emissions from 2005 levels. 

‘Wait and see’ what the US brings to Copenhagen

Barroso credited Obama with improving the international mood surrounding climate negotiations by placing much more importance on the issue than his predecessor, George W. Bush. 

President Obama said that efforts need to be redoubled in order to make progress at the Copenhagen. “And all of us agreed that it was imperative for us to redouble our efforts in the weeks between now and the Copenhagen meeting, to assure that we create a framework for progress in dealing with what is a potential ecological disaster.”

Barroso welcomed Obama’s efforts. “But let’s see what the United States is ready to present at Copenhagen,” he added. 

The European Commission estimates that developing countries will need about $150 billion in public and private funding annually by 2020 to adapt to climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

EU members states agreed last week to provide a “fair share” of that funding, Barroso said, saying he planned to raise the issue with Obama. He said such financing would be linked to developing countries implementing national plans to cut emissions. 

Negotiators from around the world will be meeting on 7 December to hash out an global agreement to lower the greenhouse gas emissions that are blamed for global warming. 

Currently rich and poor nations are deadlocked about how to share the burden of curbing emissions and aid to fund a deal. “It’s quite obvious Copenhagen will not be the end of the road – but it can be a very, very important moment to signal at the highest level this kind of global agreement,” Barroso said.

Reinfeldt sounds wake up call

Meanwhile, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Tuesday (3 November) called on all countries to contribute to the success of the climate change conference in Copenhagen next month.   

“We can only reach an ambitious agreement in Copenhagen if all parties contribute to the process,” Reinfeldt said in an op-ed piece in the daily Dagens Nyheter.   

All developed countries must show their leadership to take on ambitious emissions reductions, present proposals on financing and intensify their work, said Reinfeldt, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency.   

The developing countries must also present clear commitments that reflect their responsibility and ability, he said. 

“My message to China is this: raise your ambitions so that emissions peak by 2020 at the latest and then fall,” said Reinfeldt, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

“We know that China has all the requirements for success and I hope that concrete commitments will be announced at the conference in Copenhagen,” he wrote in the article.

(EURACTIV with Reuters.)  

The global community is currently engaged in negotiations to agree a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which expires in 2012.

The latest round of UN climate talks in Bangkok ended with little progress, leaving negotiators preparing for the Copenhagen summit in December on the assumption that not every detail will be agreed (EURACTIV 13/10/09).

Last year, the European Union committed to reducing its own emissions by 20% unilaterally by 2020, regardless of what other countries do.

The target would be raised to 30% in the event that other developed countries such as the US agree similar cuts and emerging economies such as China and India slash their own emissions by 15-30% below business-as-usual by the same date (EURACTIV 29/01/09).

In the US, President Barack Obama is facing an uphill battle on climate change. 

Yesterday (3 November), Republicans boycotted a Senate committee debate on climate change legislation, arguing that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not sufficiently modelled exactly what the effect of cap-and-trade legislation championed by the Democrats will be. 

Democrats on the committee carried on with the session anyway, skirting committee rules, which require two minority party members to reach a quorum.

Senator Barbara Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment Committee, touted a letter released by the US Chamber of Commerce. In the letter, the Chamber endorsed a bipartisan approach to climate change legislation like the one recently endorsed by Senators John Kerry and Lindsey Graham. Kerry is co-sponsoring climate change legislation with Boxer, but the Chamber wants to see this changed to reflect the views of Republicans and others. Boxer called the letter a "game changer".

The Chamber has come under fire from some of its members for not promoting climate change legislation. Apple recently left the organisation over the issue.

The Republican boycott of the committee hearings will likely continue until the EPA examines the proposed legislation again. 

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