EU welcomes Obama climate vow

The European Union presidency on Tuesday welcomed US President Barack Obama’s vow to lead the world in tackling climate change, as the EU prepared to unveil its own environmental action plan.

“Europe has gained a strong partner,” said Czech Environment Minister Martin Bursik, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency.

“Barack Obama is quickly implementing what he has promised. He acts efficiently,” he added.

Obama, in an apparent swipe at former president George W. Bush’s reluctance to take control of international efforts to combat climate change, said Monday that “we will make it clear to the world that America is ready to lead.”

“To protect our climate and our collective security, we must call together a truly global coalition,” the president said at a White House ceremony.

Obama signed memoranda aimed at prodding the struggling US auto industry to design new fuel-efficient vehicles to lessen US dependence on energy sources, which he said bankrolls dictators, and to spur the US economy.

Eager to take the lead on climate change, the European Union aims to pile pressure on the United States and big emerging countries to sign up to an ambitious strategy to reduce greenhouse gases.

Last month European leaders approved a climate change action plan that the 27-nation bloc hopes will become a model for international negotiations in Copenhagen in December.

The European Commission will on Wednesday unveil a strategy for gradually ramping up investments aimed at tackling climate change to a target of 175 billion euros (231 billion dollars) per year by 2020.

The overall EU goal is to prevent a global temperature increase of more than two degrees centigrade over pre-industrial levels.

To do so it will encourage developed nations to commit to cut their emissions by 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

The target for developing nations should be set at 15-30 percent, acccording to the EU’s executive arm, with “significantly increased financial resources” required, including help from richer nations.

Among the sources of finance, the commission recommends making polluters pay for each tonne of carbon dioxide that they emit, according to draft proposals seen by AFP.

EU leaders committed last month to a climate-energy package that would decrease the bloc’s greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020, make 20 percent energy savings and bring renewable energy sources up to 20 percent of total energy use.

With four billion tonnes of CO2 a year, the EU generates 14 percent of the 27 billion tonnes that escape into the atmosphere each year.

The United States is the biggest polluter with 5.8 billion tonnes, followed by China with 5.1 billion tonnes.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, in an open letter to Obama, said “the commitment of your administration to this issue is a source of great encouragement.”

Washington’s engagement was important not just because the United States is the biggest polluter but “because many other countries, like China, cannot see why they should decarbonise their own economies if the world’s richest economy does not also make firm commitments.”

He added: “If Europe’s efforts are to make a real difference then we need America to join us shoulder to shoulder in the battle against climate change.”

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