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Major economies hail US reversal on environment

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-04-28

The world's major economies hailed the US turnaround on environmental issues as the top US climate negotiator said he was "optimistic" about agreeing a new global warming treaty following two days of talks in Washington.

The world's major economies hailed the new US administration's turnaround on environmental issues as the top US climate negotiator said he was "optimistic" about agreeing a new global warming treaty after two days of multilateral talks in Washington.
   
"I come out of this meeting a bit more optimistic," climate envoy Todd Stern told reporters after the talks on Tuesday.
   
Representatives from 18 major economies met for two days in Washington to help lay the groundwork for December's conference in Copenhagen, which is meant to approve a new global treaty on fighting global warming.
   
President Barack Obama's administration has vowed to play a leadership role in drafting the new treaty, marking a major turnaround from his predecessor George W. Bush, who rejected the Kyoto Protocol as too costly.
   
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the envoys on Monday that the United States is ready to lead the fight against global climate change.
   

Clinton: US is 'no longer absent without leave'


Obama "and his entire administration are committed to addressing this issue and we will act," Clinton told delegates from major European countries, China, India, Indonesia and other powers.
   
"The United States is fully engaged and ready to lead and determined to make up for lost time both at home and abroad," she told a forum Obama set up to build political momentum for the climate talks in December in Copenhagen.
   
"The United States is no longer absent without leave," she said alluding to widespread criticism that the preceding US administration played down the threat from climate change and failed to do much about it.
   
German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel hailed the US turnaround, saying he was glad "the Americans are no longer standing aside but are participating actively in negotiations about climate protection."
   
"The atmosphere in the negotiations is completely different from how it used to be under the previous US administration," he said.
   
But he warned that the negotiations would be tough.
   
"I don't expect a breakthrough before the UN conference in Copenhagen in December," he said.
   
Carroll Muffett, campaigner for the environmental group Greenpeace, called for tougher action by Obama and the US Congress to commit the United States to reducing greenhouse gases.
   
"It is very encouraging to see the president really re-engaging and committing the US to be part of the answer," he told AFP. "At the same time, what the US has brought to the table remains woefully inadequate."
   
For Clinton, there is no dispute about the evidence behind climate change.
   
"We know climate change threatens lives and livelihoods. Desertification and rising sea levels generate increased competition for food, water and resources," said the chief US diplomat.
   
"But we also have seen the dangers that these trends pose to the stability of societies and governments. We see how this can breed conflict, unrest and forced migration," she said.
   
"So no issue we face today has broader long term consequences or greater potential to alter the world for future generations," she asserted.
   
The chief US diplomat said the United States and its fellow participants must cooperate to work on new policy and new technologies needed to resolve the global crisis.
  
The talks in Washington, which closed to the media after Clinton's speech, are among several forums on the way to a UN meeting in Copenhagen in December aimed at sealing an international pact for curbing greenhouse gases beyond 2012.
   
That is when the obligations under the Kyoto Treaty -- rejected by Obama's predecessor George W. Bush -- are set to expire and be replaced by the Copenhagen deal.
   
The Bush administration maintained that Kyoto would be too costly for US businesses to implement and called on developing countries to do more.
   
Represented here are Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, the European Commission, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, the United States, Denmark and the United Nations.

 

Date created : 2009-04-28

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