PARIS (Reuters) - The United States is the main obstacle to concluding an ambitious agreement at the Copenhagen meeting on climate change next month, French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said on Sunday.
Speaking after world leaders meeting in Singapore said it was unrealistic to expect binding targets to be negotiated by the time the meeting starts on December 7, Borloo said Washington was posing the biggest difficulty.
"The problem is the United States, there's no doubt about that," Borloo, who has coordinated France's Copenhagen negotiating effort, told Reuters in an interview.
"It's the world's number one power, the biggest emitter (of greenhouse gases), the biggest per capita emitter and it's saying 'I'd like to but I can't'. That's the issue," he said.
Borloo's comments follow a joint declaration by President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Saturday, aimed at committing rich countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050.
Borloo said France was looking at an option that would allow countries that had not signed up to the Kyoto protocol, including the United States some leeway, possibly including allowing it an extra delay of some years to meet targets.
"There needs to be international pressure on the United States, that's clear," Borloo said. "But at the same time, we have to allow some flexibility in the formulation."
But he said this did not mean compromising on the need for an "irreversible, binding and measurable" commitment.
World leaders agreed on Sunday to a two-stage plan aimed at securing a political accord at the December 7-18 talks, to be followed by a process of working out binding commitments on targets, finance and technology transfer.
This would allow time for the U.S. Senate to pass carbon-capping legislation, allowing the Obama administration to bring a 2020 target and financing pledges to the table at a major U.N. climate meeting in Bonn in mid-2010.
Borloo said such a deal could not be allowed to get in the way of binding commitments. If a political agreement "means vague and non-binding declarations of intent, the answer is no," he said.
"Behind the word 'political' there has to be precise declarations with figures," he said.
By Emmanuel Jarry 11-15-09
(Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Jon Hemming)