UNITED NATIONS -- U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern today urged nations that signed the Copenhagen Accord to submit their greenhouse gas emissions-reduction targets and to hammer out details critical to implementing the broad agreement.
"It's incredibly important that those things happen," Stern said, speaking before an audience of Wall Street and institutional investors meeting at the U.N. headquarters in New York.
In his first public comments since returning from the U.N. climate summit last month in Copenhagen, Stern sought to dispel notions that the resulting three-page, nonbinding agreement was a failure. He also said the Obama administration fully intends to press ahead with energy and climate legislation designed to reduce U.S. emissions, though he did not endorse a particular approach such as a cap-and-trade program.
"There will be a significant effort on the part of all in the administration to press forward," he said. "The president is focused on it, and the White House is focused on it."
Under the accord, major industrialized and developing countries are supposed to submit emissions-reduction targets by Jan. 31. Stern said getting that on paper, alongside an agreement from China and other countries to allow some form of international inspection of the progress in making those reductions, should be considered a significant achievement.
Confidence that emissions reductions promised by major emitters can be verified, particularly in the United States, China and India, led President Obama's agenda once he arrived on the final day of negotiations.
"That was the single biggest personal focus for President Obama," he said.
Chinese officials resisted measures that could subject their economy to international oversight, despite the strong preference by the United States and European Union to have some level of guaranteed transparency built into any binding or nonbinding agreement.
In the debriefing before major private-sector investors concerned about climate change and uncertainty about global energy policies, Stern said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton shifted the dynamic of the failing talks late in the two-week summit by committing the United States to $100 billion a year in financing for poor nations by 2020. The accord included a fast-track plan to build a $30 billion fund in three years.
"It did really include significant breakthroughs," Stern said, noting that it was the first time so many national leaders sat together to hammer out a deal -- despite its near collapse. "You can't underestimate the breach in the firewall between developed and developing countries."
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