"This transition has been very smooth, collegial and effective," said Daniel Reifsnyder, a senior member of the U.S. delegation sent to a major climate conference in Poznan, Poland, by President George W. Bush. Reifsnyder is managing the transition to an Obama-appointed team, which he will also join.
In Poznan, delegates are paving the way to agree by late 2009 to a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012.
The U.S. delegation, headed by Paula Dobriansky, this week received a lot of praise for what Yvo de Boer, the United Nations' top climate official, called a "constructive" position.
Washington in the past has been criticized for hindering progress on climate protection; President-elect Obama has since promised to have America rejoin the global effort to curb climate change.
James Connaughton, the chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said the climate-protection commitments already adopted in the United States are extensive.
"Unlike most other countries, America now has mandates supported by substantial incentives in eight of the most significant sectors that contribute to greenhouse gases," he said.
These include some $700 billion in technology funding for carbon-neutral energy production and stringent lighting efficiency standards, Connaughton said.
Dobriansky said Washington had always remained committed to the negotiations process, praising "the evolution from where we were a number of years ago to where we are now."
She also praised major emerging countries like India and China for stepping up their involvement in climate protection.
"It's going to be an exciting 2009," she said of the year that will see the decisive U.N. climate meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark.