April 2, 2008

Climate Negotiators Ready for Next U.S. President

As nations have less than two years to finalize a highly demanded deal to halt increasing threats posed by global warming, many say they will wait for the result of the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

Talks began in Thailand on Monday, but many questions will remain unanswered until the next president takes his place in the Oval Office.

"The nature of the U.S.' commitment ... is unclear, and I suspect we're not going to get a clear signal from the U.S. until after the next election," said Ian Fry, a representative for the island nation of Tuvalu.

"The uncertainty is troubling, particularly for highly vulnerable countries, like small island states."

Tuvalu is among those small island states currently threatened by rising sea levels.

President Bush declined to ratify the 1997 Kyoto global warming agreement that aimed for 37 wealthy nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Bush said the agreement was unfair because it would hurt the economy and it failed to place the same restrictions on developing nations.

Harlan Watson, head of the U.S. delegation in Bangkok, said the administration was fully involved in the negotiations for the new pact, but added that the U.S. still wants commitments from major developing nations as well.

"At this point in the process, there's no enthusiasm for talking" about specific targets, Watson said. "We don't want to do anything that's going to cut off the next administration's options."

U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer said that decisions on how much emissions will be cut among industrialized countries would best be discussed with a new U.S. administration.

China and the U.S. continue to exist as the two leading emitters in the world. Negotiators in Thailand said the new pact would fail without involvement from Washington.