Germany urges Obama to give world new "green" deal

BERLIN (Reuters) - The United States after Barack Obama becomes president must work closely with Europe to fight climate change, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Thursday.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier delivers a speech during a session of the German lower house of parliament 'Bundestag' in Berlin, November 4, 2008. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz

“The world needs a ‘new green deal’,” Germany’s Vice Chancellor said in a speech opening a two-day conference “Climate Change as a Security Threat.” Steinmeier has warned climate change is a cause of friction and a threat to peace. Germany long has been a leading critic of U.S. President George W. Bush’s resistance to cuts in greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

President-elect Obama said in his acceptance speech on Tuesday that climate change was a top priority, alongside wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- marking a sharp shift with Bush.

In his speech, Steinmeier said he was confident Obama was serious about tackling climate change. Steinmeier, who met Obama in July, said he had made his views on fighting climate change clear during the U.S. election.

“Obama is fully aware of America’s global responsibility,” Steinmeier said at the conference in Freiburg, a hotbed of photovoltaic energy production in Germany’s southwest corner also known as the country’s “solar city.”

“It’s hard to imagine a better time for this conference -- 24 hours after the U.S. election,” he said in the speech, extracts of which were released by the Foreign Ministry.

“Climate change is a challenge that we’ll either rise to meet collectively or we will fail collectively,” Steinmeier said, adding close European-American cooperation in the fight against global warming is vital to finding solutions.

Germany is a world leader of renewable energy and produces more than half of the world’s photovoltaic energy. The European Union plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

Obama aims to cut U.S. emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050 even though U.S. emissions were 14 percent above 1990 levels in 2006.

Obama’s targets are nevertheless a welcome shift from Bush, who kept the United States isolated from 37 other industrial nations by rejecting the U.N.’s carbon-capping Kyoto Protocol.

Writing by Erik Kirschbaum; editing by Michael Roddy