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DOHA, Qatar— Despite calls from leaders of developing countries and non-government organizations to take a tougher stance and support a binding deal in fighting climate change, the United States has asserted that it has fairly committed to the global effort to address climate change on an “enormous scale”.
“As the world’s largest economy, the US has a unique opportunity and responsibility to take bold action on climate change issue. It is time to end the climate silence,” said Ousman Jarju, chair of the Least Developed Countries at the United Nations climate change negotiations. About 194 countries have gathered here for the two-week long talks of the United Nations Framework Committee on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which started Monday.
The meeting comes amid a backdrop of more climate-related disasters and deepening financial crises in the developed world, even as scientists brace themselves for next month’s expiration of the Kyoto Protocol.
Expectations of a firmer endorsement from the US owe to the recent outcome of its elections. According to Alden Meyer, Director of Strategy and Policy, Union of Concerned Scientists, the re-election of President Barack Obama should allow more concrete action from the US.
"We need the US to hit the reset button on their existing negotiating positions and to make a real commitment to keeping temperatures below two degrees. Specifically, the US negotiators should be more forthcoming in Doha on just how the US will meet its pledge to reduce its emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, as well as how it will achieve the near-total decarbonization of the US economy needed by mid-century to meet the two degree goal,” Meyer said.
But at a press conference, US deputy climate envoy Jonathan Pershing reiterated that the Obama administration has committed its effort to a process which will work on technology and programs for climate-change adaptation as well as climate financing for the poor nations.
“We committed ourselves in our effort to the fast-start finance. We committed to a process which will work on technology and develop programs for adaptation. We have done both at an enormous scale. We committed ourselves to a series of programs domestically where we begin to reduce and bend the trend of emissions in the near term and in the longer-term,” Pershing said.
Pershing added that at the near-term, the US has carried out programs that double automobile efficiency and reduce the emissions of greenhouse gas emissions of the power sector. For the longer term, he said the US engaged in “massive investment” in research and development to look at the technologies of the future.
“So I think I would suggest that those who don’t follow what the US is doing may not be informed of the scale and the extent of the effort, but its enormous,” Pershing stressed.
In 1997, the US signed the Kyoto Protocol, a legally binding agreement for rich countries to reduce carbon emissions, but subsequently refused to ratify it unless emerging countries such as China and India also agree on legally binding emissions target.
Under the major goals of the UN, all countries will have to agree by 2015 on an agreement to slow climate change that will enter into force by 2020. The US, including China, India, the EU and Russia are the top greenhouse gas emitters.
Pershing said extreme weather events happening globally, including widespread droughts and strong typhoons in the US, have changed the minds of Americans about the need to take action in climate change.
“They are certainly consistent with what will happen in a warming world and those events are certainly changing the minds of the Americans and making clear to people at home the consequences of the increase growth of emissions,” the US deputy climate envoy said.
Pershing acknowledged that more actions need to be done to address climate change. “I am struck by the kinds of commitments that countries made in this particular processes and it seems that collective effort is in fact [what] all of us are undertaking.”