London: The US, the biggest emitter of gases blamed for global warming, said it will contribute to the next round of emissions cuts, a first step to setting limits since rejecting the Kyoto Protocol six years ago.
“We will also come through with what we believe will be our contribution” to limits that will be set during talks through next year, Harlan Watson,the senior climate negotiator for the US department of state, said on Wednesday at a media conference in Vienna. He didn’t say by how much the US would curb its emissions.
The 1997 Kyoto Protocol sets limits for reducing emissions through 2012 by an average of 5% from 1990 levels. The European Union (EU) and 36 industrialized nations were bound by those targets. The treaty doesn’t assign targets to developing nations such as China and India, and the US also rejected the accord in 2001. The next round starts after 2012.
“The acknowledgement that they will make cuts is new,” said Angela Leford Anderson, the climate spokeswoman for the National Environment Trust, a Washington-based lobby group. “I heard a very different tone from Watson,” compared with the previous US stance, she said in an interview in Vienna, where the United Nations is holding climate talks this week.
US President George W. Bush rejected the 1997 UN protocol, citing costs to the US economy of mandatory caps, and China’s exclusion from them. In May, Bush called for a new round of global talks to set goals. Negotiators from the world’s biggest economies will attend those talks in Washington next month. Preserving the climate “is going to require tremendous cuts, well beyond 50% in a number of countries, not just in developed countries, but in developing countries,” Watson said. China may overtake the US as the biggest emitter as early as next year, according to the International Energy Agency.
Leford Anderson wants the US to make a binding agreement to cut emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Under emissions trading, nations can either cut emissions or buy credits from projects in developing nations to counter any output that goes over the target.
“To be more credible, the US needs to set quantitative objectives,” Colette Lewiner, the global leader of energy, utilities and chemicals for management consultants Cap Gemini, said from Paris. “Unless that (happens), it’s nice words.”
The European Commission (EC), the regulatory arm of the 27-nation EU, wants developed nations to cut their greenhouse gases by 30% by 2020 compared with 1990 levels and to half of 1990 levels by 2050.
The EC is pressing developed nations to curb emissions in a bid to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius. Under one proposal, developing nations would be allowed to emit more as their economies grow, peaking around 2020, according to a 10 January statement.
Watson said some of the world’s developing nations make a good case for being allowed to increase their emissions. China and India say they should be allowed to increase emissions to produce the energy needed to stoke economic growth, and that “is a very compelling?argument,”?he said.
The US emitted 19.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person from energy in 2004, compared with 3.7 tonnes for China. The US hasn’t before so publicly acknowledged the contribution to climate stability of low emissions in developing nations, Leford Anderson said.