U.S. launches climate charm offensive

Dec. 11, 2009 at 11:17 AM
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COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- Washington has launched a major charm offensive at climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, in a bid to convince the world that it is serious about tackling climate change.

"You won it, now earn it" -- such was the motto voiced by Greenpeace activists Thursday in front of the building in Oslo, Norway, where Obama was receiving his Nobel Peace prize. The activists urged the U.S. president to use the momentum of his prize to push forward the climate negotiations in Copenhagen.

The president will join the Copenhagen summit on Dec. 18 for a high-level gathering of world leaders, but he has already dispatched several Cabinet-level secretaries, advisers and special envoys to assure the negotiators from 192 countries assembled there that Washington intends to deliver on climate protection.

The United States is "committed to achieving the strongest possible outcome," at Copenhagen, Jonathan Pershing, U.S. deputy special envoy for climate change, said earlier this week. "There is a deal to be done, and if we … continue to find common ground, we will forge an agreement that preserves our planet and strengthens our economies."

Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, was in Copenhagen to laud her group's decision to declare greenhouse gases blamed by scientists for global warming are a threat to human health, and thus subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act. This means that Washington could order emissions reductions without having to await the approval of the Cabinet, which in the past has been slowing down climate-protection legislation.

Some 15,000 representatives from 192 countries are currently meeting in Copenhagen for a Dec. 7-18 climate conference aimed at producing a deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012.

Officials hope the deal will include binding carbon dioxide emissions reduction commitments from the world's major emitters -- including the United States, India and China -- as well as dozens of billions of dollars in financial aid to poor nations.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is also in Denmark, a country that satisfies more than a fifth of its electricity demand by wind energy. Salazar is a known supporter of wind energy and has in the past called for offshore wind to be pushed in the United States. He has touted Obama's plan to boost the share of renewables in the power mix to 25 percent by 2025.

But developing countries still criticize what they say is a U.S. unwillingness to commit to more ambitious emissions reductions and to write checks to poor countries to help them avert a phenomenon they did least to create.

Observers say it will be up to Obama and his negotiation team to deliver on the many promises the president's aides have made here over the past few days.

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