U.S. cites strides in cutting emissions

  • Article by: MICHAEL CASEY
  • Associated Press
  • November 26, 2012 - 6:49 PM

DOHA, QATAR - Anticipating an onslaught of criticism from poor nations, the United States claimed "enormous" strides in reducing greenhouse emissions at the opening of U.N. climate talks Monday, despite its decision not to join other industrialized nations in committing to binding cuts.

The pre-emptive U.S. approach underscores one of the major showdowns expected at the two-week conference as China pushes developed countries to take an even greater role in tackling global warming.

Speaking for a coalition of developed nations known as the G77, China's delegate, Su Wei, said rich nations should become party to an extended Kyoto Protocol -- an emissions deal for some industrialized countries that the United States long ago rejected -- or at least make "comparable mitigation commitments."

The United States rejected the Kyoto plan because it didn't impose binding commitments on major developing countries such as India and China, which is now the world's No. 1 carbon emitter.

U.S. delegate Jonathan Pershing offered no new sweeteners to poor countries on Monday, only reiterating what the United States has done to tackle global warming: investing heavily in clean energy, doubling fuel efficiency standards and reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants. Pershing also said the United States would not increase its earlier commitment of cutting emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. It is half way to that target.

"It is not to say we haven't acted. We have and we have acted with enormous urgency and singular purpose," he said.

The battles between rich and poor nations have often undermined talks in the past decade and stymied efforts to reach a deal to keep global temperatures from rising more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, compared with preindustrial times. A recent projection by the World Bank calculated that temperatures are expected to rise by as much as 7.2 degrees by 2100.

Countries are hoping to build on the momentum of last year's talks in Durban, South Africa, where nearly 200 nations agreed to restart negotiations with a deadline of 2015 to adopt a new treaty and extend the Kyoto agreement between five and eight years.

The concentration of greenhouse gases has jumped 20 percent since 2000, according to a U.N. report released last week. The report also showed that there is a growing gap between what governments are doing to curb emissions and what must be done to protect the world from potentially dangerous levels of warming.

Many scientists say extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Sandy's onslaught on the U.S. East Coast, will become more frequent as the Earth warms, although it is impossible to attribute any individual event to climate change.

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