Major shift in US climate policy sparks hope for global treaty

The United States is no longer insisting that China and other large developing countries must make cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions under proposals tabled by the Obama administration for a new global treaty to combat climate change.

In a major shift in US policy, reflecting the views of President Obama, Dr Jonathan Pershing who was in Beijing this week for talks with Chinese officials made it clear that this would not require countries such as China to make cuts, merely to carry out actions.

Dr Pershing, who is head of the US delegation at the UN climate talks in Bonn, said yesterday that the large emerging economies would be required to take actions aimed at curtailing the growth in their emissions, rather than having to make actual cuts.


The US proposals, which call for the adoption of a new legal instrument under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to supplement or even supplant any agreement to extend the Kyoto Protocol, are being studied closely by the EU.

The US is of the view that we need a new agreement, to frame what comes next, Dr Pershing said.

This would call for all countries to take action, but the US and other developed countries would take additional action in line with their historical responsibility and capacity.

Under the US proposals, a legally binding implementing agreement in effect, a new treaty all developed countries would have to make significant and substantial reductions in their emissions, while large developing countries undertook commitments to change course.

Dr Pershing said the US expectation was that large emerging economies, including India and Brazil, would take actions that would be quantified, measured and reported.

This was not the same thing as saying that the outcome is binding .

Dr Pershing said he anticipated that this would be enough to satisfy sceptical US senators, who have insisted that China in particular should make a comparable effort to reduce its carbon footprint.

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