U.S. Faces Rising Pressure to Act on Climate Change

by | Jan 29, 2009

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Not long after President Barack Obama pledged to tackle climate change, the pressure has risen for him to take meaningful action ahead of the climate-change talks scheduled for December in Copenhagen.

Stavros Dimas, the E.U. environment commissioner, published an open letter challenging the U.S. to be a powerful leader in the global effort to reduce carbon emissions, reports the New York Times.

The EU already has a working cap-and-trade policy, mandatory emissions reductions targets, and policies to promote energy efficiency and reduce deforestation, said Dimas – making it clear that the US has both the ability and the responsibility to take decisive action.

Todd Stern, Obama’s newly appointed Climate Envoy, has said “The time for denial, delay and dispute is over.” But he’s frustrated by the glacial pace of United Nation negotiations, according to the Wall Street Journal, and prefers working out new climate accords with the E-8, a group of eight developed and developing countries that together account for 70 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions.

So it is unclear if the U.S. can meaningfully forge ahead or if it must bring China and India on board first. Both China and the U.S. want to fit climate policy within the context of economic recovery, instead of pitting them against each other.

In an interview with the Wall St. Journal, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry called the economic stimulus package “an incredible opportunity” to invest in low-carbon technology, and cited Obama’s directive to the EPA to reconsider state requests to regulate their own auto emissions standards as a sign that the new administration is making progress.

But while admitting that the US is “behind the curve” on emissions reductions, Kerry doesn’t believe it’s critical for the US to start regulating power-plant emissions to gain credibility in advance of the Copenhagen talks.

For now, Kerry has only said he will brief Senate Democrats on new scientific evidence that global greenhouse-gas emissions are increasing at four times the rate they were in the 1990s. They will also hear testimony from Al Gore on the status of United Nations-led global-warming talks.

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