Beijing President Barack Obama, with China’s leader at his side, lifted his sights Tuesday for a broad interim accord at next month’s climate conference that he said will lead to immediate action and “rally the world” toward a solution on global warming.
Obama and President Hu Jintao talked of a joint desire to tackle climate change, but failed to move off differing positions on a root issue that could block a deal at the 192-nation conference in Copenhagen: how much each country can contribute to curb greenhouse gases and how the world will pay the billions of dollars needed to fight rising temperatures.
Hu said nations would do their part “consistent with our respective capabilities,” a reference to the firmly held view among developing nations — even energy guzzlers like China, India and Brazil — that they should be required only to set goals for reining in greenhouse-gas emissions, not accept absolute targets for reducing emissions like the industrialized countries.
Nonetheless, the symbolism of the world’s two largest polluters pledging no half measures in an agreement during the Dec. 7-18 conference was an attempt to take the sting out of the admission by Obama and other leaders over the weekend that Copenhagen would be only a way station rather than the endpoint envisioned two years ago when negotiations for a new climate treaty began.
Obama administration officials acknowledge that the Copenhagen talks are not expected to produce a final legal agreement, putting that off until next year. So the administration is hurriedly looking for ways to rescue a process that has gone far off track by building hopes that a significant, though interim and nonbinding, deal will be struck and keep international talks alive. Obama said Tuesday that he wants next month’s talks to produce something more than “an agreement to have an agreement” at a future date.
“We need numbers on the table in Copenhagen,” said Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, speaking to the top negotiators of 44 nations meeting for informal consultations. He said the agreement should be “concrete and binding on countries committing to reach targets, to undertake actions, and to provide agreed finance.”
Obama said the aim of the summit “is not a partial accord or a political declaration, but rather an accord that covers all of the issues in the negotiations, and one that has immediate operational effect.”
He said an all-encompassing agreement addressing all the areas for an eventual treaty “would be an important step forward in the effort to rally the world around a solution to our climate challenge.”
Obama did not elaborate. But the United Nations and the European Union have called for a fund of at least $10 billion annually in the next three years to help poor countries draw up plans for moving to low-carbon economies, slow deforestation and take emergency steps against the effects of climate change.