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US ready for ‘binding’ reductions of greenhouse gases: official

The United States is ready to accept "binding international obligations" to reduce greenhouse gases, which could be announced as soon as July, a senior White House official said in Paris yesterday.
"The US is prepared to enter into binding international obligations to reduce greenhouse gases as part of a global agreement in which all major economies similarly undertake binding international obligations," said Daniel Price, assistant to President George W. Bush for International Economic Affairs.
The agreement could be announced "in conjunction" with the G8 summit of the world's must industrialised nations in Japan in July, Price told journalists, without fixing a date.
"We would like to reach an agreement on a long term global reduction goal — this is a collective goal," Price said.
Price, accompanied by James Connaughton, chairman of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality, is in Paris to lay the groundwork for a meeting here of "major economies" that account for 80 percent of the greenhouse gases that drive climate change, expected for mid-April.
The group of 17 — including the G8 nations, the EU and major developing economies such as China and India — met at Bush's behest last September in Washington, and then again in January, in Hawaii.
The United States refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the UN agreement mandating emissions reductions for industrialised nations, because it did not cover developing nations.
"An effective framework requires the participation of all major economies, developed and developing alike," Price said. "Europe and the US could turn out the lights today and come 2030, come 2050 we would not have addressed the problem of climate change."
Price said he was "frustrated" at repeated criticisms that the United States had launched their initiative — which focuses on technology-driven solutions to climate change — to compete with UN-sponsored negotiations.
"The major economies process is intended to supplement, compliment and support the UN negotiations. It is not an alternative to those negotiations," he said.
He said the United States has already shown its willingness to engage in binding agreements, pointing to a handful of binding national programmes implemented since 2001 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency.
A mandate to increase production of renewable fuels by 500 percent before 2022, for example, would replace 15 percent of current oil fossil fuel consumption with renewable alternatives, he said.
"It is constantly suggested that the US favours only aspirational goals, non-binding goals, voluntary measures," he told journalists. "Let me be very clear: that is simply not true."