US endorses legally binding emission cuts for all

US chief climate negotiator focuses on current emissions rather than historical emissions in forging a roadmap towards new global climate agreement

By Vijeta Rattani
Published: Friday 17 October 2014

Photo courtesy: UNEP

US would back a climate deal in which all countries agree to legally binding emission targets, declared the country’s chief climate negotiator, Todd Stern, while speaking at the Yale University on Tuesday.

“There would be a legally binding obligation to submit a schedule and various legally binding provisions for accounting, reporting, review and periodic updates,” he said.

He, however, pointed out that these emission cuts would be based on “differentiation”. This means all countries would make significant cuts but not at the same levels as others. Such a deal may not be very ambitious but would be fair and applicable to all. If the international community agrees to this arrangement, the US and many other industrialised countries would also agree.
Countries are aiming for a new legal instrument to be signed in Paris 2015 which would come into force by 2020.

Stern highlighted the current trends of carbon emissions, pointing out that China is now the biggest emitter followed by the US and India, thereby indicating that historical emissions (which caused climate change) may not be a practical approach to allotting which nation would emit how much.

The EU has been the biggest advocator of legally binding commitments for all. It has cited its own experience as a multilateral actor relying on legally binding emissions and has assertively emphasised that only such arrangement can address climate change well. This is the first time that the US has also started talking on the same lines as the EU.

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