Merkel wants climate action from US, China, India

AP News
Posted: Nov 10, 2009 9:13 AM

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Tuesday for the U.S., China and India to make substantive pledges of action against global warming in order to prevent the failure of next month's climate summit in Copenhagen.

"A failure of the world climate conference in Copenhagen would set back international climate policy by years," Merkel said in a speech to parliament outlining her new government's agenda. "We cannot afford that."

Merkel said the European Union has put forward a clear position on fighting climate change, and "we now expect contributions from the USA and countries such as China and India."

"A substantial political agreement is essential and the condition for an internationally binding ... protocol for the time after 2013," she said.

The Copenhagen conference, aimed at drawing up an accord that would replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to curb emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming when it expires, starts on Dec. 7.

Merkel indicated that she would attend the meeting if success appeared likely. She did not define what a "substantial political agreement" would entail.

In a speech last week to the U.S. Congress, Merkel placed special emphasis on the need for a climate change accord and said that "we have no time to lose."

Merkel won re-election in September, achieving a majority for a new center-right government after four years in an awkward "grand coalition" of right and left. The conservative's new coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats took office Oct. 28.

She told lawmakers that its top priority will be overcoming the effects of the economic crisis, and defended plans _ which remain vague _ to cut and reform income tax starting in 2011 in a bid to stimulate growth.

Germany's export-dependent economy, Europe's biggest, returned to modest growth in the second quarter following a deep recession. Still, Merkel warned that the country isn't yet over the crisis.

"The full impact of the effects of the crisis will reach us next year," Merkel added, with Germany's budget deficit set to reach 5 percent in 2010 _ above a European Union-imposed limit of 3 percent.

In a break from her previous government, Merkel's new coalition wants to halt a plan to shut Germany's nuclear power plants by 2021, extending the lives of some of the 17 until more renewable energy is available. Details have yet to be resolved.

Turning to foreign policy, Merkel renewed a call for a strategy to eventually hand over responsibility in Afghanistan to local forces. Germany has more than 4,000 soldiers serving in an unpopular mission there.