European Union officials are chiding the United States for backtracking on its multilateral climate change commitments. Specifically, EU diplomats are dismayed by U.S. wavering on the goal of keeping climate increases below 2 degrees Celsius. Via the BBC:
At the 2010 UN climate convention meeting, governments agreed to take "urgent action" to meet the [2C] target.
But last week the chief US climate negotiator Todd Stern said insisting on the target would lead to "deadlock"....
Isaac Valero-Ladron, the EU's climate spokesman, said governments including the US had to live up to prior promises.
This most recent sparring is part of a continuing divergence between Washington and Brussels on global environmental policy. The United States and the EU had very distinct strategies for the recent Rio earth summit and reacted quite differently to the outcome document. U.S. officials mostly expressed satisfaction, while the lead EU negotiator grumbled about the document's lack of ambition and concrete goals.
There's also been longstanding tension over a planned European tax on carbon emissions by airliners. Earlier this month, the United States hosted more than a dozen countries--none European--to discuss the issue. The New York Times reported that "all the participating nations reaffirmed their strong opposition to the European Union’s Emission Trading Scheme (ETS)." Prodded by U.S. airlines, the Obama administration is apparently considering filing a formal complaint with the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization, a move that would likely sour relations further.
Update: U.S. special envoy for climate change Todd Stern, whose speech last week triggered reports of a policy shift, has released a statement insisting there has been no change:
There have been some incorrect reports about comments I made in a recent speech relating to our global climate goal of holding the increase in global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius. Of course, the US continues to support this goal; we have not changed our policy. My point in the speech was that insisting on an approach that would purport to guarantee such a goal -- essentially by dividing up carbon rights to the atmosphere -- will only lead to stalemate given the very different views countries would have on how such apportionment should be made. My view is that a more flexible approach will give us a better chance to actually conclude an effective new agreement and meet the goal we all share.
David Bosco reports on the new world order for The Multilateralist.