Connie Hedegaard, EU climate action commissioner, says the US must lead by realising the promises made in UN speech
Barack Obama has six months to deliver on the promises he made in a rousing speech at the United Nations climate change summit, Europe’s climate action commissioner said.
Obama, in a well-received address on Tuesday, promised the United States would play a leading role in reaching an international agreement to fight climate change, due to be finalised in Paris at the end of next year.
Connie Hedegaard, who is responsible for ensuring the European Union meets its climate change obligations, told the Guardian that after the president’s speech raised expectations, other countries, especially the rising economies of China, India and Brazil, will be looking closely at what the US has to offer in six months.
Governments have set a deadline of March 2015 to spell out what they are prepared to offer for a new climate deal, including how far they will cut emissions. “It matters a lot what will come out of America in the first quarter of 2015, we should not be mistaken,” Hedegaard said in an interview on Wednesday.
She said Obama’s speech, which promised the US would help lead efforts for a deal, had further stoked expectations. “After his speech yesterday, I think it will be very, very tough for the United States of America not to come up with something substantial for 2015,” Hedegaard said.
Obama in his speech claimed America had done more than any other country to cut carbon pollution, and would continue on his watch to fight climate change.
“There should be no question that the United States of America is stepping up to the plate,” he said. “We recognise our role in creating this problem. We embrace our responsibility to combat it. We will do our part, and we will help developing nations do theirs.”
Administration officials have mounted what the White House described as a “full court press” around the summit, with officials fanning out around the country announcing new climate-themed initiatives.
The administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, will follow up on those efforts on Thursday, with a policy address outlining the economic benefits of moving to a clean energy economy.
But the administration – for all of its efforts to promote its own climate action – is adamant that it still expects rising economies to outline steps to begin cutting their own emissions. As Obama told the summit: “Nobody gets a pass.”
Those rising economies will be the ones watching most closely as America sets out its intentions early next year, Hedegaard said. “If you were India, if you were China, before you present what you intend to do, you would still be looking at what the US, the second largest emitter on planet, and what the EU will be doing,” she said.
“The first quarter of 2015 will be absolutely interesting, and what the US can come forward with there will be absolutely interesting,” she went on.
China promised the summit it would peak emissions, without declaring a date. But India took a harder line: its environment minister told the New York Times it was still focused on growth, not emissions cuts.
“What cuts,” the environment minister, Prakash Javadekar, asked. “That’s for more developed countries.”
He said India could adopt a less polluting course of growth but that it would be at least 30 years before it could actually reduce emissions.
Source: The Guardian