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Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 5:20 EDT

Climate Chief Says US Won’t Speed Up Emission Cuts

May 25, 2009

The world’s top emitters of greenhouse gases met on Monday to discuss possible cuts in the months leading up to the new UN climate treaty in Copenhagen.

Representatives of 17 nations met in Paris on Monday to kick off the first of two days of Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) talks being led by the US in order to discuss the feasibility of proposed cuts in carbon dioxide emissions.

“We are jumping as high as the political system will tolerate,” said Todd Stern, the US Special Envoy for Climate Change.

“The 40 percent the Chinese have talked about is not realistic,” he told AFP on Sunday.

China has led the charge that some rich nations are failing to make sweeping changes in greenhouse gas emissions due to the recession.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also blamed the US on Sunday for falling behind the European Union in its commitments to slash emissions.

“I don’t think it’s correct to say that Europe is proposing a lot and the United States little,” Stern argued.

“If you look at things from the point of view of the progress that each nation will have to make to reach its objectives, the U.S. level of effort is probably equal, or superior, to that of Europe.”

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in China this week to meet with Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry at a clean energy forum in Beijing.

The European Union has committed to cut emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, with provisions to cut up to 30 percent if other rich nations will make the same promise.

US legislators are currently looking at a bill proposal that would vow to cut emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and by 83 percent from 1990 levels by 2050.

But both the EU and the US’ proposed cuts still can’t compete with those calls from China and India to cut emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

“It is clear that the United States is going to have to do more,” said France’s environment minister, Jean-Louis Borloo.

“We completely agree it is vital that developed countries get a path that is ambitious and consistent with what science is telling us to do,” Stern told AFP.

“But perfect is the enemy of good — you can insist on that, say you really need to have it, and you can end up with nothing.”

“We mean to have very in-depth conversations with respect to climate change per se, and our hope and intention of developing a very, very robust, high-octane clean energy partnership with the Chinese,” he said, referring to a scheduled meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua and other officials next month.

The meeting in Paris this week is the second this year leading up to the MEF summit being held by the US in La Maddalena, Italy next month.

The 17 major economies involved include Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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