U.S. Climate Change Ambassador Paula Dobriansky told more than 100 foreign ministers that “the United States will agree to reductions in greenhouse gases by at least 50 percent by 2050.” She emphasized the words, “at least.”
Her remarks received tepid applause from those in the massive room at the U.N. Climate Change Conference. But, the response was a whole lot better than the chorus of boos she received at last year’s event in Bali, Indonesia.
In July, leaders of the Group of 8 pledged to cut emissions in half by 2050. That meeting put the U.S. on record for the first time as embracing a specific long-term goal. But it gave no indication on how the goal will be achieved. There is even a dispute about the baseline for the 50% reduction. Some call for using 1990 emissions levels and some more recent measurements.
Of course, President-elect Obama has already agreed to make a far stronger commitment, an 80 percent reduction by 2050. Yet, some countries are calling on the largest polluting countries to reduce by 95 percent.
Acting as an emissary for Mr Obama at Poznan, Senator John Kerry told Sky News Online that the new president will meet the world’s high expectations when he is inaugurated in January: “I think the fact that the US is going to take genuine efforts to reduce emissions is going to put billions of dollars into the greening of our economy.”
Ambassador Dobriansky got in a subtle dig to China by saying that a recent World Bank study says that some poor, developing countries will become rich, developed countries within two decades. (HINT: CHINA!) Her point is that China shouldn’t get by with lower emission reduction goals than the U.S.
Senator Kerry also warned that under Obama’s administration, the U.S. would only sign up to mandatory emission cuts if China does too.
The overwhelming majority of countries were perfectly clear in their remarks: Those who pollute the most need to start taking action immediately before expecting us to do so.
A rare appearance by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon kicked off the informal ministerial roundtable. Ki-moon said, “A financial crisis cannot be a used for backsliding on your commitments. Rather, we must expand our field of vision.” In Poznan, he has called for a “Green New Deal” that would both curb global warming and salvage the world economy.
Australian Ambassador Penny Wong concurred: “Some in Australia have suggested that we delay action in climate change. This is not the view of our government. Our view is delay will simply increase the costs.”
The French Ambassador said the economic crisis provides a historic opportunity to provide massive green infrastructure.
Sweden today announced it would give an impressive $500 million, and Canada announced it was contributing $100 million to help poor countries deal with climate change adaptation.
Kevin Tuerff, CEO, Green Canary Sustainability Consulting, is reporting for Environmental Leader from Poznan, Poland.