U.S. Vote Kills Hopes For Global Climate Treaty

  • Date: 21/01/10

Hopes for stronger world action in 2010 to curb climate change have dimmed after the U.S. Democrats lost a key Senate seat to a Republican opposed to capping emissions, experts said on Wednesday.

The election of Republican Scott Brown, an opponent of cap and trade, to the Senate after the death of Democrat Edward Kennedy dims prospects for U.S. action. Once Brown takes office, Democrats will have 59 seats in the Senate and the Republicans 41. The bill needs 60 votes to overcome procedural hurdles.

Backers of the existing international Kyoto Protocol, which obliges all industrialized nations except the United States to cut emissions until 2012, will be more reluctant to take on tougher new goals for 2020 unless Washington also joins in.

U.N. climate talks in Mexico in November are meant to build on a weak “Copenhagen Accord” worked out last month by nations including the United States that sets a goal of limiting warming to no more than 2 Celsius (3.6 F) above pre-industrial times.

But the Mexico meeting will be undermined if the United States, the top emitter behind China, has not set caps on carbon emissions. That might dash hopes for a Kyoto successor from 2013 and mean a system of domestic pledges instead.

“We can’t afford climate to be a dysfunctional regime like trade,” said Nick Mabey, head of the E3G climate think-tank in London. He said there were risks talks would stall, like the inconclusive Doha round on freer world trade launched in 2001.

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