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Obama heads to talks as hope runs out

By | December 18th 2009


President Barack Obama headed to Copenhagen to help secure a UN climate pact.

He is expected to arrive in the Danish capital this morning.

The time is short and the stakes are high. The president plans to stay in Copenhagen less than a day. That may or may not be enough time to overcome persistent disagreements between developed and developing nations that have marred two weeks of talks, but Obama’s presence and contribution could be a potential dealmaker.

Obama is unlikely to propose a more aggressive emissions reduction target, which many countries have demanded. His goals are based on a Bill that passed the House of Representatives, but has yet to go through the Senate before it can become law.

Financial support

Still, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama hoped to help break a deadlock around outstanding issues surrounding developed countries’ emissions targets and disagreements about financial support for poor countries dealing with climate change.

Environmentalists say Obama could turn the talks around by pledging his support for the Senate climate Bill, which has a more aggressive 20 per cent emissions reduction target, and by putting his efforts into the issue once healthcare reform is finished. He could also ease conflicts over funding by promising to ask Congress for more money in the US budget for fiscal 2011 to help poor countries adapt to climate change.

His visit is fraught with risks. If the president, a Democrat, puts a more aggressive offer on the table, he could face criticism from Republicans who charge the US is going too far without getting enough in return from big developing economies like India and China. If he is cautious and the talks falter, he would be connected to the failure and his efforts to pass domestic climate change legislation could suffer along with his credibility.

There is speculation Obama would also sign an updated pact with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to reduce nuclear arms stockpiles during the trip.


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