US to propose CO2 cut target at Copenhagen talks

Mon Nov 23, 2009 12:19pm EST

* White House to decide on Obama trip in coming days

* U.S. will put emissions target on table at UN talks (Adds details from official, background)

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON, Nov 23 (Reuters) - The United States will propose an emissions reduction target at a climate change conference in Copenhagen in line with proposals backed by U.S. congressional leaders, an official said on Monday.

The senior Obama administration official also said the White House would decide in the coming days when and whether President Barack Obama would attend the December U.N. climate talks, which are slated to run over two weeks.

Several heads of state and government have agreed to go to the meeting but Obama has not yet confirmed his attendance.

The talks are meant to help forge a deal to fight global warming after the Kyoto Protocol -- a pact that binds countries around the world to cut emissions -- runs out in 2012.

The United States, the world's biggest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases, is a key player in the talks, but the Obama administration's position has been hampered by slow progress on a climate bill in the U.S. Senate.

Most nations have given up hopes of agreeing a binding legal treaty text in Copenhagen, partly because of uncertainty about what the United States will be able to offer.

The senior official said U.S. negotiators will propose an emissions reduction target that takes into account bills in the Senate and the House of Representatives -- even though a final law is not complete.

"We don't want to get out ahead or be at odds with what can be produced through legislation," the official told reporters.

"Whatever number we put on the table will be with reference to what we think can come out of the legislative process."

The official declined to say whether the proposal would be a range or a single figure.

The House of Representatives passed a bill that sets a 17 percent reduction target for emissions by 2020 from 2005 levels. A Senate version is shooting for a 20 percent cut.

GOING TO COPENHAGEN

Host Denmark still hopes that leaders can agree a "politically binding" agreement under which developed nations would set goals for cutting emissions by 2020, developing nations would agree to slow the rise of their emissions, and the rich would come up with new aid and clean technology to help the poor cope with climate change.

Denmark said on Sunday that 65 world leaders -- including those from Britain, Germany, France, Australia, Japan, Indonesia and Brazil -- have confirmed that they will attend a summit at the end of the Dec. 7-18 meeting.

Obama's presence is seen as critical to the legitimacy of any deal that would be agreed.

"The president has always said ... if it looks as though the negotiations have proceeded sufficiently that going to Copenhagen would give a final impetus or push to the process ... that he would be willing to go," the official said.

He said a decision would be made in the "next few days." (Additional reporting by Alister Doyle, editing by Jackie Frank) ((jeff.mason@thomsonreuters.com; Reuters Messaging: jeff.mason.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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