Tuesday, July 28, 2009

US Copenhagen optimism

Anne Davies, Washington

The Age, July 29, 2009

CHIEF US climate negotiator Todd Stern has given his most bullish prediction yet of a successful outcome in Copenhagen, saying that China is equally keen to achieve a new climate treaty.

Speaking after the first day of a US-China economic and strategic dialogue, Mr Stern said: ''The issue has risen to the top of the US national security set of priorities.

''With respect to prospects, you know, we're slogging ahead. I think that we will get there. I think we will end up with an agreement.''

Mr Stern cautioned that the perspectives of the major developing countries such as China and India were still quite different.

''But I do think that we will get there, and I think that there is a lot of interest on the Chinese side to arrive at a constructive and successful outcome in Copenhagen,'' he said.

The US-China dialogue has provided an unusual chance for a large number of Chinese ministers and senior US officials, including cabinet secretaries, to hear directly from each other on climate change.

As a measure of how seriously China is taking the negotiations, Wang Qishan, the country's Vice-Premier in charge of economic and financial affairs, chaired the plenary session on climate change.

US Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, a noted scientist, provided an update on the scientific evidence of global warming, while Xie Zhenhua, China's environmental protection secretary-general, outlined the steps that China is taking to limit carbon dioxide emissions.

As to the likely agreement, Mr Stern said that the ''critical element'' would be different targets for the developed and developing countries.

''In the case of developed countries, that's a reduction against ... the baseline. And in the case of developing countries, that's a ... substantial reduction, but against a business-as-usual path, rather than something absolute,'' he said.

Mr Stern said the agreement would include measures to achieve longer-term, low-carbon paths, including a financing package to provide help to developing countries.

The different targets for developed and developing nations and talk of a financing package will be controversial with the US Congress and trade unions, which have expressed concern about the impact on US manufacturing if China and India are treated differently.

US President Barack Obama appeared to rule out tariffs proposed in the House of Representatives version of the climate change legislation passed last month.

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