Obama makes plea for compromise deal on global warming accord

December 18, 2009

COPENHAGEN (AP) -- President Barack Obama squeezed two impromptu meetings into his tight schedule and made an animated plea for compromise Friday, making plain his frustration over the difficulty of pushing world leaders to settle on a plan to combat global warming.

"We are running short on time," Obama told the 193-nation summit as the clock was running out on its final day. "There has to be movement on all sides."

He indirectly acknowledged that some nations feel the United States is doing too little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and he urged leaders to accept a less-than-perfect pact. Meanwhile, he offered no new U.S. concessions.

"No country will get everything that it wants," Obama said.

It's possible that Obama's biggest success here will have nothing to do with the climate. He said the United States and Russia are "quite close" to a new nuclear arms control treaty.


Before and after his climate speech, Obama huddled with large and small groups of leaders from numerous nations. He met privately with Premier Wen Jiabao of China, the only nation that emits more heat-trapping gasses than does the United States. Officials said the two men made a step forward in their talks, but the degree of progress was not clear.

In larger meetings attended by Obama, China sent lower-level officials.

In his speech, Obama said the United States has acted boldly by vowing to reduce greenhouse gasses and help other nations pay for similar efforts. Critics note that many industrialized nations have promised much larger reductions.

Without mentioning China specifically, Obama addressed Beijing's resistance to making its emissions-reduction pledges subject to international review.

"I don't know how you have an international agreement where we all are not sharing information and making sure we are meeting our commitments," Obama said. "That doesn't make sense. It would be a hollow victory."

And yet Obama arrived in snow-covered Copenhagen with no new proposal from the U.S. side. Some had hoped he might increase Washington's emissons-cut pledge, now only a fraction of those from other developed countries, or put a specific dollar amount on America's expected contributions to short- or long-term aid funds to help poorer nations deal with the effects of climate change.

Obama planned to spend only about nine hours at the summit.

His one-on-one meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev focused on nuclear weapons. The two nations are negotiating to replace an expired Cold War-era arms control treaty.

The U.S. commitment to reduce greenhouse gasses mirrors legislation before Congress. It calls for 17 percent reduction in such pollution from 2005 levels by 2020 -- the equivalent of 3 percent to 4 percent from the more commonly used baseline of 1990 levels. That is far less than the offers from the European Union, Japan and Russia.

Even that target was hard-won in a skittish Congress, and Obama has decided he can't go further without potentially souring final passage of the bill, approved in the House but not yet considered in the Senate. He also could imperil eventual Senate ratification of any global treaty that emerges next year.

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