Climate Talks Failure Would Embarrass Obama, EU Says

Posted on October 8, 2009. Filed under: America | Tags: , , , , , |

Oct. 8 (Bloomberg) — U.S. President Barack Obama faces “more than an embarrassment” should his nation fail to lead international negotiations to complete a new climate-protection treaty by December, a senior European climate negotiator said.

Obama’s scope is limited because the U.S. Congress may not approve a domestic law to control emissions before the December deadline for signing an international climate accord in Copenhagen, Karl Falkenberg, director-general for environment at the European Union’s executive body, said in an interview.

“Obama and his administration are very committed, and it will be more than an embarrassment for them if at Copenhagen they would have to admit they are not ready,” Falkenberg said late last night in Bangkok, where more than 180 nations are meeting for talks. “We can just help, but helping them also means directly telling them that the world has an expectation.”

Delegates wrap up two weeks of talks in Thailand tomorrow in an effort to replace or extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, whose emission limits for industrialized nations expire in 2012. Kyoto requires reductions of about 5 percent in greenhouse gases from 1990 levels, with no limits for developing nations.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation, and a companion bill has yet to be considered in the Senate. Failure to have a new law in time for Copenhagen’s final round of negotiations would raise question marks over what commitments the U.S. can make, Falkenberg said.

U.S. negotiators “have to admit their margin will be defined by what happens in the Congress,” he said. What the U.S. commits to will “trigger what countries like China or India or Brazil are going to be prepared to do,” he said.

White House officials declined to comment.

Stalled Talks

Two years of climate talks have stalled as developed nations disagree over 2020 emission limits. Developing nations said they are waiting for richer countries, which have put most of the gases into the atmosphere over the past century, to cut their output first.

The talks in Bangkok are going “too slow to make a deal in Copenhagen,” Falkenberg said. “It needs to very seriously accelerate. We need more political commitment.”

After the Bangkok talks, countries have another week in Barcelona in November before the December summit in Copenhagen.

While “significant advances” have been made in Bangkok, “lack of leadership on the key political issues” has impaired the process, Yvo de Boer, the UN’s top climate official, told reporters today in Bangkok.

‘No Good Faith’

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