Skip to content

U.S. Administration Abandons Hope Of Global Climate Treaty

The US climate negotiator said Tuesday it was politically unrealistic for the next treaty to impose global targets on emission cuts, amid deep divisions between rich and developing nations.

Special envoy Todd Stern said a better model was the “bottom-up architecture” proposed by Australia during last year’s Copenhagen summit, in which each nation submits details of its own actions to the United Nations.

“No across-the-board, top-down target would be acceptable at this stage to most developing countries and, indeed, it would not work well for us either,” Stern said at The Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank.

“The notion that you’re going to negotiate some across-the-board target with China, India, Brazil and South Africa and many other countries… is not that likely.”

Over 190 nations are negotiating a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol to fight climate change, which UN scientists warn could bring growing disasters and threaten entire species if left unchecked.

The Kyoto Protocol had set a target of industrialized nations cutting emissions blamed for global warming by an average of five percent by the end of 2012 from 1990 levels, with a corresponding figure calculated for each country.

The United States was the only major nation to reject the treaty, arguing it was unfair because it made no demands of fast-growing emerging economies such as China — now the top carbon emitter.

President Barack Obama reversed course when taking office by seeking action on climate change, but Stern said he was mindful of the political lessons from the Kyoto pact, which he helped negotiate under former president Bill Clinton.

“We sort of came into this with a sense that the way we did Kyoto didn’t work so well,” Stern said.

“We negotiated the target in Kyoto not only before there was any law, but before there was any foundation of domestic support” for legislation, he added.

The US Senate just last week took up a bill that would set up the first nationwide plan to curb carbon emissions, although individual states have taken similar initiatives.

“It is enormously important for our international leverage and credibility that we pass strong legislation,” Stern said.

“If the United States means to assert leadership, it needs to act like a leader.”

Yet the envoy cautioned that the roadblocks to reaching a final agreement “wouldn’t disappear” even if the United States approved climate change legislation.

Full story