Obama to offer target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions

US and China hindering effort, Europeans say

By Robert Wielaard
Associated Press / November 24, 2009

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WASHINGTON - The United States, under pressure from other nations as one of the world’s largest greenhouse-gas polluters, will present a target for reducing carbon dioxide emissions at next month’s climate conference in Copenhagen, Obama administration officials said yesterday.

The European Union has urged the United States and China to deliver greenhouse gas emissions targets at the long-anticipated summit, saying their delays were hindering global efforts to curb climate change.

For nearly a year, the Obama administration has indicated it would eventually come up with specific targets for quick reductions in pollution that causes global warming. Those targets will soon be made public, officials said.

A senior administration official, briefing reporters only on condition of anonymity, said all countries “will need to put their emissions targets on the table.’’

The Obama administration has resisted talking about specific numbers without the backing of Congress, which is not expected to pass climate legislation until next year at the soonest. The official would not offer details about the US targets but said any US goal will reflect the situation on Capitol Hill.

A House-passed bill would slash heat-trapping pollution by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. A Senate bill seeks a 20 percent reduction over the next decade, but that number is likely to come down to win the votes of moderate Democrats.

Meanwhile, President Obama is still considering attending the climate conference. His decision is expected within a few days.

The United States had been the world’s largest greenhouse gas-polluter until China zoomed ahead in 2006.

Two weeks before the United Nations-sponsored conference, the world’s two biggest polluters have not put any firm proposals on the table. Sweden’s environment minister, Andreas Carlgren, said an agreement was “totally dependent’’ on both countries promising cuts. China has promised to curb emissions but has not said by how much.

UN scientists have recommended developed countries cut between 25 percent and 40 percent of emissions by 2020.