Citing steps by India and China and an emerging plan to help developing countries mitigate impacts with $10 billion a year, President Barack Obama has delayed his appearance in Copenhagen in the hope of hammering out an accord on global climate change.
Obama will now be at the climate change summit on its last day Dec 18, typically the time when last minute accords are worked out, as opposed to his original plan to be in Denmark next Wednesday on his way to Oslo to receive his Nobel Peace Prize.
"After months of diplomatic activity, there is progress being made towards a meaningful Copenhagen accord in which all countries pledge to take action against the global threat of climate change," the White House said in a statement announcing the change.
"China and India have for the first time set targets to reduce their carbon intensity," it said but noted "There are still outstanding issues that must be negotiated for an agreement to be reached, but this decision reflects the president's commitment to doing all that he can to pursue a positive outcome."
"Based on his conversations with other leaders and the progress that has already been made to give momentum to negotiations, the president believes that continued US leadership can be most productive through his participation at the end of the Copenhagen conference on December 18 rather than on December 9," the White House said.
The development came a day after India said it would cut the ratio of greenhouse gas pollution to production by 20 to 25 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, but would not agree to hard limit on the amount of heat-trapping gases it could release. India's pledge, like the one made earlier by China, is a cut in carbon intensity.
Obama's initial plan to attend only the beginning of the conference was criticised by some, including the environmental activist group Greenpeace, which said it is more important that he be there at the end of the week.
The White House statement said the United States will have representation in Copenhagen from state department and cabinet officials throughout the negotiating process. The president has discussed the status of climate change negotiations with the leaders of Germany, France, Britain and Australia, it said.
"There appears to be an emerging consensus that a core element of the Copenhagen accord should be to mobilize $10 billion a year by 2012 to support adaptation and mitigation in developing countries, particularly the most vulnerable and least developed countries that could be destabilized by the impacts of climate change," it said.
The White House has said that Obama is prepared to set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels over the next decade. It has also reiterated Obama's goal of reducing US emissions by 83 percent by 2050.