U.S. Commits to Global Climate Pact

'We want to be part of a new agreement,' says head of U.S. delegation during U.N. climate-change negotiations under way in Bangkok.

The U.S. reaffirmed its commitment to signing a global climate treaty Monday, with pressure mounting for Washington to take a leading role as negotiations resumed over the disputed draft text.

"We want to be part of a new agreement," said Jonathan Pershing, the U.S. delegation head for the United Nations climate change negotiations, as meetings began in Bangkok amid fears that time is running out to break a deadlock on the pact.

The talks are the next to last before a showdown in Copenhagen at the end of the year, when 192 countries must agree on a treaty for tackling greenhouse gases beyond 2010, after the current Kyoto Protocol expires. The U.S. -- which signed the Kyoto deal but later saw it rejected by Congress -- is due to introduce its new climate change and energy bill in the Senate this week, and there are fears the bill will not pass ahead of Copenhagen.

"The waiting is now on what position the U.S. administration will take," United Nations Climate Chief Yvo de Boer said at a press briefing Monday. "Will the U.S. administration be able to take a position before U.S. legislation has passed through the Senate or not?"

President Barack Obama said at a major UN climate conference in New York last week that the United States was "determined" to act on global warming but warned of tough negotiating ahead of the Copenhagen conference.

Without naming the Bush administration, which was pilloried around the world for lack of action on climate change, Obama said his government had made a "historic recognition" on the need for action on behalf of the American people.

While the European Union, pegged to a 1990 benchmark, has set a 20% target for emissions cuts by 2020, and Japan 25% if others follow suit, the U.S. so far has only set the equivalent of 4% as a target.

But Pershing told reporters that the U.S. was "actively engaged with parties in the preparation for a Copenhagen agreement that we can join."

"We are I think domestically working quite aggressively trying to promote action in the Congress," he said, explaining that "instead of starting internationally, we're starting domestically."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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