Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Obama opens new green chapter for US on climate

Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington

Barack Obama yesterday renewed his promise to make a decisive break with George Bush on the environment, using a summit convened by Arnold Schwarzenegger to promise a "new chapter in America's leadership on climate change".

The video appearance by Obama confirmed the Californian governor's role as a global leader on climate change, a position shored up only hours earlier when Schwarzenegger set a bold new target for his state to get a third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

In his address, the president-elect accused Bush of failing to show leadership on the issue of climate change. "That will change when I take office," said Obama.

He went on to lay out an ambitious agenda, beginning with targets aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Obama also reiterated a campaign pledge to invest $15bn (£10bn) a year in clean technology - including clean coal and nuclear power.

"This investment will not only help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, making the United States more secure. And it will not only help us bring about a clean energy future, saving our planet. It will also help us transform our industries and steer our country out of this economic crisis by generating 5m new green jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced."

Obama added: "Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all. Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high. The consequences too serious."

Schwarzenegger's targets for electricity generation as well as Obama's appearance at the conference confirmed the governor's leadership in efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions at a time when there has been a vacuum at federal level.

In his remarks to the conference yesterday, Schwarzenegger said Obama's election means that he would now be "in synch" with the new administration in taking action to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. "Five years ago when we talked about yes we can protect the environment and we can protect the economy on the same time, there were a lot of doubters," he said. "We have also faced obstacles on the federal level with the federal government."

But he added: "Our revolution now does have soldiers and it is spreading around the globe." He said the conference was intended to advance negotiations on a sequel to the Kyoto protocols in Poland in two weeks, and in Copenhagen next year.

Yesterday's summit comes at a pivotal time amid expectation of a dramatic shift in US environmental policy once Obama is in the White House. As Obama noted in the video address, he will not attend the meeting in Poland but had asked members of Congress who will be there to report back to him.

"Once I take office, you can be sure that the United States will once again engage vigorously in these negotiations, and help lead the world towards a new era of global cooperation on climate change," he said.

"When I am president, any governor who's willing to promote clean energy will have a partner in the White House. Any company that's willing to invest in clean energy will have an ally in Washington. And any nation that's willing to join the cause of combating climate change will have an ally in the United States."

Schwarzenegger's meeting brought together European, Indian and Chinese officials, oil firm executives and environmentalists, along with a handful of Schwarzenegger's fellow governors from Florida, Illinois, Kansas and Wisconsin. Representatives from Michigan, Colorado, Utah and Washington state were also on hand.

The summit was said to be carbon-neutral, with emissions associated with the conference offset by giving money to global environmental causes. And there were other eco-touches, with room keys, name badges, lunch boxes and coffee cups made from recycled material.

Original here

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