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> U.S. tells Europe it's open to binding deal on climate, News article relating a major shift in the Bush administration's policy on the environment
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post Feb 27, 2008, 11:39 PM
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I'm skeptical as to the reason for the shift in policy, but these news are welcome nonetheless:


A senior White House official outlined a new tactic to prove to a skeptical Europe that the Bush administration supported reaching a meaningful climate agreement, saying for the first time that the United States could enter into a binding pact that could be tailored to the capabilities of individual countries.

The pledge, made in an interview by telephone Tuesday with James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who is on a tour of three European capitals this week, represented a stepped-up effort by the Bush administration to burnish President George W. Bush's environmental credentials before he leaves office in early 2009.

"We are prepared to put our national plans into an international agreement if other countries do, too," Connaughton said by telephone from Berlin. A prerequisite for U.S. agreement on a binding pact, Connaughton said, would be a binding commitment, as well, from the largest developing countries.

"We would have an interest in joining an internationally binding agreement as long as China and India are also legally bound," he said.

Asked how the United States would like to formulate a binding agreement, Connaughton said, "We haven't defined what form that could take, and all options are on the table."
The comments show Bush officials substantially adjusting their sales pitch, for the first time stressing that Bush would be willing to embrace a binding agreement limiting greenhouse gases.

Until now, Bush and his administration have spoken about forging agreement by year's end among the world's major economic powers on a common "aspirational" goal for long-term cuts in such emissions, along with medium-term steps committed to by individual countries that could include binding and voluntary measures on their own turf.

But the administration has long avoided saying the United States would agree to new binding international obligations - until this week.

Hints of the new stance emerged Monday evening in Paris. In a briefing with French media, Daniel Price, deputy assistant to the president and the deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, said the United States was ready to accept binding obligations on reducing greenhouse gas emissions if other nations did the same.

Price and Connaughton will leave Berlin and travel to London on Wednesday to meet with British officials.

James Kanter reported from Paris and Andrew C. Revkin from New York.
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