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Sceptics wary of more hot air from big pollut -

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Sceptics wary of more hot air from big polluters

Kim Landers reported this story on Wednesday, September 23, 2009 12:10:00

ELEANOR HALL: But we begin today in New York where the United States and China are both pledging to
take action on climate change.

The leaders of the world's two biggest greenhouse gas polluting nations told the United Nations
summit that they recognise the importance and urgency of addressing global warming.

But there is still scepticism about whether either of them moved far enough to boost the chances of
a global climate agreement at Copenhagen in December.

This report from North America correspondent Kim Landers.

KIM LANDERS: World leaders have tried to inject momentum into climate change talks. The US
President Barack Obama has issued a rallying cry for action, but he's also warned that prospects
for a global deal face tough political realities.

BARACK OBAMA: We seek sweeping but necessary change in the midst of a global recession, where every
nation's most immediate priority is reviving their economy and putting their people back to work.

And so all of us will face doubts and difficulties in our own capitals as we try to reach a lasting
solution to the climate challenge, but I'm here today to say that difficulty is no excuse for
complacency.

KIM LANDERS: The US and China are the world's top polluters. China's President Hu Jintao has used
the UN summit to lay out a new plan to tackle his country's emissions.

HU JINTAO (translated): We will endeavour to cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by a
notable margin by 2020 from the 2005 level.

Second, we will vigorously develop renewable energy and nuclear energy.

KIM LANDERS: President Barack Obama did not offer any new proposals, nor did he urge quick passage
in the US Senate for a climate change bill, which many observers believe is crucial to getting an
international agreement.

But China's pledge to curb the growth of its carbon dioxide emissions may help rally support in the
Senate for that legislation. Andrew Light is a senior fellow at the Centre for American Progress.

ANDREW LIGHT: One thing that you have to realise is that the common mantra in the United States
Senate is that China is doing nothing, and not only did President Hu remind the world and certainly
the American public that China has already embarked on a number of extremely significant energy
efficiency and energy intensity targets, as well as targets to decrease deforestation and in fact
re-forest big chunks of China but also he has committed to some carbon, to emissions reductions by
2020.

KIM LANDERS: And Australia has a role too. Michael Levi from the Council on Foreign Relations says
the Australian proposal to focus on national schedules, and on making sure that the actions in them
are measurable, reported and verified, is an important one.

MICHAEL LEVI: The Australian proposal that's out there, I think is one of the most important pieces
of the discussion right now. It's being talked about by a lot of folks and it or some variation on
it combined with other proposals could form the basis for a constructive agreement.

KIM LANDERS: There are less than 80 days to go before the pivotal Copenhagen conference which is
designed to get a global climate change agreement. Andrew Light says expectations for Copenhagen
have been too high.

ANDREW LIGHT: It's just false that at the end of the last hour of the last meeting on the last day
in Copenhagen you must absolutely have a fully finished treaty including emissions targets for 2020
and 2050 completely filled in, or you have a failure.

It's perfectly acceptable according to its process to, with Copenhagen on getting architecture for
a new treaty and then we can have successive meetings, say six months later, even a year later,
where we decide on the absolute target numbers.

KIM LANDERS: Barack Obama says the world's response to the climate change challenge will be judged
by history and if current leaders fail to meet it, they'll be consigning future generations to what
he calls an "irreversible catastrophe".

This is Kim Landers in Washington for The World Today.