Hopes for climate deal get a boost
Obama changes plans on talks, will attend at critical juncture

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 5, 2009

President Obama will attend the high-level portion of international climate talks in Copenhagen on Dec. 18, the White House announced Friday, ratcheting up expectations that the United Nations-sponsored negotiations could produce a significant deal on global warming.

Obama had planned to stop in Copenhagen on Wednesday, on his way to Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Instead, the president will be there during the critical period when more than 80 heads of government convene to try to finalize an agreement.

In a statement, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama has determined that "there is progress being made towards a meaningful Copenhagen accord" now that both China and India have announced nationwide energy-efficiency targets in the last week.

Indian announced Thursday that it will lower its carbon emissions relative to the size of its economy by 20 percent by 2020, and China announced a week earlier that it would lower its emissions relative to its economy's size by up to 45 percent over the same period.

Obama's aides have said for weeks that he would attend the closing hours of the world meeting only if he thought his presence could help secure an accord.

In the statement, Gibbs indicated that the United States would be willing to support a short-term financial package to help poorer nations curb their emissions and cope with climate change, an initiative that could cost the United States several billion dollars.

Gibbs said: "There appears to be an emerging consensus that a core element of the Copenhagen accord should be to mobilize $10 billion a year by 2012 to support adaptation and mitigation in developing countries, particularly the most vulnerable and least developed countries that could be destabilized by the impacts of climate change. The United States will pay its fair share of that amount and other countries will make substantial commitments as well."

Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in an interview from Copenhagen that Obama's decision to go suggests that "he'll be here at the end to help seal the deal."

Even conservative critics of the president such as Kenneth P. Green of the American Enterprise Institute said Obama's switch in timing "changes the game." He wrote in an e-mail: "It suggests that a 'deal' is already in the bag, and Obama's expecting that he'll get to bask in the glow of a new global agreement, flagrantly repudiating the position of the Bush administration in previous climate negotiations."

Staff writer Michael D. Shear contributed to this report.

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