Washington: US President Barack Obama Saturday stepped into the battle to combat global warming unveiling an international forum of 17 major economies to speed up work towards a key UN accord.
Dubbed the Major Economics Forum on Energy and Climate, Obama invited 16 other nations to join the United States at talks to be hosted in Washington at the end of April.
The April 27-28 preparatory talks will be followed by a summit of the 17 leaders to be held in Italy in July, aiming to help hammer out a new agreement to curb greenhouse gases to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.
“The Major Economies Forum will facilitate a candid dialogue among key developed and developing countries, help generate the political leadership necessary to achieve a successful outcome at the UN climate change negotiations,” the White House said in a statement.
Obama hopes the new forum will aid talks in Copenhagen in December aimed at producing a new UN accord.
And he aims to “advance the exploration of concrete initiatives and joint ventures that increase the supply of clean energy while cutting greenhouse gas emissions,” the White House statement said.
UN talks on delivering the historic deal are set to resume in Bonn on Sunday, with many hoping Obama’s untested negotiators can breathe life into the troubled process.
Some 190 nations will launch a marathon of meetings designed to culminate in Copenhagen with a new pact for curbing greenhouse gases beyond 2012.
“The real negotiations are beginning here in Bonn this weekend,” the UN’s top climate official, Yvo de Boer, told AFP.
Scientists have warned that global warming caused by burning fossil fuels on a massive scale could devastate the planet, hitting the poorest countries hardest with floods, droughts and disease.
But the United States, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, never ratified the Kyoto Treaty.
The previous administration of former president George W. Bush walked away from the treaty, maintaining that it would prove too costly for American businesses to implement and demanding that developing countries should do more.
The UN goal is either for halving emissions compared with a benchmark year, or pegging temperature increases below 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial times, according to a UN text unveiled last week.
But there remains deep disagreement on how to divvy up the burden between rich and emerging economies and what stepping-stone targets should be set along the way.
Industrialized nations are prepared to take on the larger burden, but want China, India, Brazil and other major carbon polluters also to make commitments of some kind.
Obama has made the battle against global warming one of the top priorities of his administration, and the US announcement came as major cities and world landmarks plunged into darkness Saturday in a symbolic energy-saving exercise which unfolded across the globe.
The Egyptian pyramids at Giza, the Acropolis in Athens, Niagara Falls and the Eiffel Tower switched off the electricity as countries worldwide joined in “Earth Hour.”
Denmark, which is hosting the United Nations meeting in December to draw up a new agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, and UN chief Ban Ki-moon were also invited to the Washington talks.
The preparatory sessions would conclude with a summit to be hosted in July by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in La Maddalena, Italy.
The 17 major economies are Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States.