US set to regulate CO2 emissions

15Jan

The United States said it had seized the climate initiative with a regulatory shift that labels greenhouse gases a dangerous pollutant, as a landmark conference entered a second day Tuesday.

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The shift by the Environmental Protection Agency was announced on the opening day of a 192-nation meeting in Copenhagen aimed at drawing up a global pact to tackle climate change amid warnings of environmental catastrophe.

The US move “means that we arrive at the climate talks in Copenhagen with a clear demonstration of our commitment to facing this global challenge”, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said.

Jackson signed orders declaring six greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, including carbon dioxide, to be pollutants that are subject to government regulation.

The decision sidestepped a divided Congress and was greeted with outrage by Republicans and some US business leaders. But delegates to the talks in Copenhagen said it would lend momentum to the 12-day conference.

“It will only help to persuade delegates and observers from other countries that the US is seriously using all the tools it has,” said David Doniger, policy director of the National Resources Defense Council’s climate centre.

“The administration has the task of persuading other countries that it is seriously tackling this issue at a time when the legislation is still working its way through Congress,” he said in the Danish capital.

France’s climate ambassador Brice Lalonde said: “This gives additional credibility to the US commitment.”

The impact on humanity of man-made drought, flood, storms and rising seas was spelt out Monday at the start of the meeting, which will climax with a summit attended by more than 110 leaders including US President Barack Obama.

“For the next two weeks, Copenhagen will be Hopenhagen,” Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen said.

“By the end, we must be able to deliver back to the world what was granted us here today: hope for a better future,” he said.

The Copenhagen marathon gathers members of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Delegates must craft a blueprint for tackling man-made greenhouse gases blamed for trapping solar heat and disrupting the climate.

They must also put together a funding mechanism able to channel hundreds of billions of dollars to poor nations most exposed to climate change.

If all goes well, the leaders on December 18 will agree a political deal that sets down the course of action, including a roster of national pledges.

Further negotiations are expected to take place in 2010 to fill in the details. A legally binding treaty would take effect from the end of 2012.

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