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Obama Climate Plan Praised as 'Catalytic Event'

June 5, 2014
coal fired power plant

U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan to cut power plant emissions by 30 percent can spur other major emitters to step up greenhouse gas cuts, envoys from developing countries said at United Nations climate talks.

"We’re looking at this as a catalytic event," Seyni Nafo, a delegate from Mali, said in an interview in Bonn, where 12 days of UN climate discussions began yesterday. "This is the type of thing you need. It’s going to put some pressure on Canada, some pressure on Japan."

Developing countries have been calling for years for the U.S. to step up action against climate change. That’s because the U.S. is the biggest cumulative polluter since industrialization began, and it never ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the only treaty limiting emissions in richer nations.

Obama failed in 2010 to get an emissions-limiting law through Congress. That has forced him to use his executive authority through the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the gases that are blamed for pushing up global temperatures. The EPA this week proposed cutting power plant emissions in 2030 by 30 percent from 2005 levels. Electricity generation accounts for almost a third of U.S. emissions.

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"We see this as the beginning of great cooperation between the United States and the rest of the world on this issue," Tony de Brum, a minister from the Marshall Islands, said in an interview in Bonn. "We’re now on the same wavelength."

The U.S. already cut emissions from power plants by about 15 percent since 2005, said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

"About half of the level of effort has been done in 8 years without the rule in place," Meyer said in an interview. "Clearly we need to get the 2030 numbers up."

U.S. Pledge

The Bonn negotiations are part of a UN effort to write a new global agreement to fight climate change at a meeting at the end of next year in Paris. Delegates to the talks have set themselves a goal of limiting warming since the industrial revolution to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The UN projects as much as 4.8 degrees of warming by 2100 on current trends.

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