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U.S. Environment Agency Chief Urges Action Now on Climate Change

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Staff Writer

Washington — Climate change is real, and now is the time to act, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told a U.N.-sponsored international conference in Copenhagen.

“We have reached the first point in history where the impact of everyday human activities is affecting the health of our entire planet,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said. “Our commerce and trade, our population growth and our social behavior are having profound effects on our environment.”

Jackson spoke about global warming and its impact on the planet during the third day of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen December 9. Other members of the U.S. administration are scheduled to address the 192-nation conference this week and next. President Obama is scheduled to address the conference on December 18, according to the White House.

The conference aims to draft an internationally binding treaty to control greenhouse gas emissions that are believed to cause the Earth’s temperature to rise.

Obama has worked for a positive outcome in Copenhagen since coming into office, though most experts believe this conference is a steppingstone to a full accord in 2010.

“The president’s decision to go is a sign of his continuing commitment and leadership to find a global solution to the global threat of climate change, and lay the foundation for a new, sustainable and prosperous clean energy future,” the White House said.

Officially known as the 15th Session of the Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the conference is being held December 7–18 in Copenhagen. The new climate accord is designed to succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which required 37 industrialized nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions an average of 5 percent by 2012.

At the heart of the international climate talks are specific pledges from advanced economies like the United States and Japan and emerging economies like China and India to cut greenhouse gases, which are widely regarded as a significant contributor to global warming.

“The president is prepared to put on the table a U.S. emissions reduction target in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels in 2020 and ultimately in line with final U.S. energy and climate legislation,” the White House said in a statement. “In light of the president’s goal to reduce emissions 83 percent by 2050, the expected pathway set forth in this pending legislation would entail a 30 percent reduction below 2005 levels in 2025 and a 42 percent reduction below 2005 [levels] in 2030.”


Jackson said the Obama administration has worked from the day it took office in January to promote clean energy and prevent further damage to the environment.

On December 7, the EPA announced a finding that greenhouse gas emissions pose a danger to human health and the environment. The decision came after a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that required the EPA to determine if carbon dioxide and five other climate-altering gases threatened human health and to take measures to regulate them if they did. The decision was based on the 1970 Clean Air Act, which was designed to protect the nation’s air from pollution.

“That verdict echoed what many scientists, policymakers and concerned citizens have said for years: There are no more excuses for delay,” Jackson said.

Jackson said the Obama administration has established new energy standards for commercial and residential products like kitchen appliances and stricter fuel standards for automobiles and light trucks. The administration also promotes renewable offshore energy projects such as wind energy. The federal government has proposed new vehicle standards that will require an average fuel economy of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, she said.

Beginning in January, the U.S. government will begin tracking approximately 85 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, an move which is seen as a first step in comprehensive action on emissions reductions, she said.

“We will know with accuracy how much greenhouse gas each large facility is emitting, and where energy-efficiency investments and new technologies may be particularly effective at reducing greenhouse gases,” Jackson said.

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.  Web site:
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