U.S. Says Steep Climate Curbs May Not Be Needed
VIENNA -- Curbs needed to fight global warming could be less drastic than a 50-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 favoured by the European Union, the United States' chief climate negotiator said on Monday.
President George W. Bush agreed at a summit in Germany with his main industrial allies in June that U.N. climate reports showed that "global greenhouse gas emissions must stop rising, followed by substantial global emission reductions".
However, the text of the agreement did not define "substantial".
"A long-term goal will mean probably substantial reductions, at least from a business-as-usual case," U.S. climate negotiator Harlan Watson told Reuters on the sidelines of a 158-nation U.N. global warming conference that began in Vienna on Monday.
Business-as-usual will mean rising emissions in many countries, including the United States and especially fast-growing developing nations such as China and India.
"I think we're probably looking at cuts (in overall emissions)," Watson said, when asked if the U.S. strategy might permit rising emissions. "Clearly there has to be a deflection" away from a path of rising global emissions, he said.
The International Energy Agency, which advises rich governments, has forecast that global emissions of carbon dioxide are set to rise by 55 percent by 2030.
Watson said Washington was not yet able to give figures for the extent of curbs needed, either worldwide or in the United States. "We're working through what that might be on a national level, doing analysis," he said.
The EU says the world should cut emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, by at least 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 to avert what it believes will be "dangerous" climate change such as more heat waves, droughts and rising sea levels.
Japan and Canada also foresee deep global cuts as part of a goal of widening emissions caps agreed by 35 industrial nations under the Kyoto Protocol that lasts until 2012.
Washington, which is outside Kyoto, says it has devoted $37 billion to climate change related activities since 2001, and says new technologies such as hydrogen and clean coal may help. Bush said Kyoto would cost too much and wrongly excluded targets for poor countries.
Watson said that a U.S.-hosted meeting of major emitters in Washington on Sept 27-28 to define long-term cuts in emissions would contribute to a U.N. drive for a new global climate change treaty by the end of 2009 to succeed Kyoto.
"It's meant to contribute to an agreement by 2009," he said. The Aug. 27-31 talks in Vienna are also looking at ways to widen Kyoto to include all major emitters beyond 2012. Some delegates say Bush's talks may be a rival to the U.N. track.
"(Bush) obviously will not be in office then (at the end of 2009) but what he's trying to do is to set the stage," Watson said. Bush's second term ends in January 2009.