US admits responsibility for emissions to bring big polluters together

Climate chaos0

US admits responsibility for emissions to bring big polluters together

Hillary Clinton offers admission to ease obstacles towards reaching agreement at climate change summit in Copenhagen


Greenpeace activists display a banner from a crane near the State Department in Washington

Greenpeace activists display a banner from a construction crane near the State Department in Washington Photograph: Tazz/Tazz/Greenpeace

The Obama administration issued a mea culpa today on America’s role in causing climate change, in a move to get the major economies working together on a global warming treaty.

The admission by Hillary Clinton at a two-day meeting of the world’s biggest polluters was intended to ease some of the obstacles towards a deal at UN talks in Copenhagen in December. She placed the gathering of officials from 17 countries, the European Union and the United Nations on a par with the G20 meeting on the economic crisis earlier this month.

As the secretary of state opened the meeting, the Greenpeace US executive director, Phil Radford, was arrested in his first day in the job. He and six other climbers unfurled a banner from a construction crane near the state department with a message for the environment ministers: “Stop Global Warming. Rescue the Planet.” Radford called for the industrialised world to commit to deeper cuts in emissions and provide assistance to developing countries.

Clinton addressed the complaints of developing countries such as India and China that America and the EU, by demanding binding emissions cuts, want to saddle them with the burden of climate change; they argue they did not cause the problem and must prioritise growth. She said the US recognised industrialised countries bore a responsibility: “Some countries like mine are responsible for past emissions.” She wanted China and India to grow their economies: “We want people to have a higher standard of living.”

Obama had broken with eight years of denial under George Bush, Clinton said. “The United States is fully engaged and ready to lead and determined to make up for lost time both at home and abroad … the US is no longer absent without leave.”

She saw climate change as the gravest problem facing the international community: “The facts on the ground are outstripping the worst case scenario models.”

Diplomats see the gathering of Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European commission, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Britain, the United States, Denmark and the UN as an important ­station on the road to Copenhagen.

The two-day meeting – one of three such before December – is not expected to produce definitive agreements. But diplomats hope to get a clearer idea of how countries are prepared to act. There is also hope of establishing negotiations on financial aid and technological assistance to developing countries which will bear the brunt of global warming.

In almost 100 days in office, Obama has worked to persuade the world he wants to play a leadership role on climate change. Clinton emphasised that progress, noting directives by Obama, and US rulings designating CO2 as a pollutant.

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