16 September 2009

US-Europe Climate Rift?

The Guardian has an interesting, though somewhat speculative, article today about emerging U.S. plans to propose an alternative international climate policy architecture to that embodied in the Kyoto Protocol:

The dispute between the US and Europe is over the way national carbon reduction targets would be counted. Europe has been pushing to retain structures and systems set up under the Kyoto protocol, the existing global treaty on climate change. US negotiators have told European counterparts that the Obama administration intends to sweep away almost all of the Kyoto architecture and replace it with a system of its own design.

The issue is highly sensitive and European officials are reluctant to be seen to openly criticise the Obama administration, which they acknowledge has engaged with climate change in a way that President Bush refused to. But they fear the US move could sink efforts to agree a robust new treaty in Copenhagen.

The US distanced itself from Kyoto under President Bush because it made no demands on China, and the treaty remains political poison in Washington. European negotiators knew the US would be reluctant to embrace Kyoto, but they hoped they would be able to use it as a foundation for a new agreement.

If Kyoto is scrapped, it could take several years to negotiate a replacement framework, the source added, a delay that could strike a terminal blow at efforts to prevent dangerous climate change. "In Europe we want to build on Kyoto, but the US proposal would in effect kill it off. If we have to start from scratch then it all takes time. It could be 2015 or 2016 before something is in place, who knows."

Energy Secretary Steven Chu had these interesting remarks as well:
The goal for the climate conference in Copenhagen is to reach a deal that can actually be implemented, rather than agreeing on binding high targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, US Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Tuesday in Vienna. The United Nations' International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is calling for countries to make firm commitments to reduce emissions that cause global warming by 25 to 40 per cent below 1990 levels.

"Let's not make that one particular time the be-all and end-all, and if it doesn't happen, oh, we are doomed," Chu told reporters in Vienna, where he was attending the International Atomic Energy Agency's annual general conference.
Expect more trial balloons, pronouncements of negotiating doom and confusing reports in the months ahead.

(h/t CCNet)