8 December - US ruling on CO2 as a toxic gas 'strengthens Obama's hand'
The US Government has declared carbon dioxide a 'toxic' gas that endangers public health in a judgement that analysts said would strengthen the Obama administration's negotiating position in Copenhagen.
The Environmental Protection Agency also found that greenhouse gas emissions from on-road vehicles contributed to the threat of public health. It provides a legal basis for capping harmful emissions.
'The accumulation of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can lead to hotter, longer heat waves that threaten the health of the sick, the poor, the elderly - that can increase ground-level ozone pollution linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses,' said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
The ruling will allow the agency to regulate planet-warming gases even without legislation in Congress, according to Reuters. 'The agency could begin to make rules as soon as next year to regulate emissions from vehicle [exhausts], power utilities and heavy industry under existing laws,' it said.
Ms Jackson said that the announcement was the 'prerequisite' for strong new emissions standards for cars and trucks, which President Barack Obama announced last spring.
The UK Government praised the decision. 'The announcement further demonstrates the US' seriousness to taking domestic action on climate change,' said a spokesperson for the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
'But it is up to each individual country to decide how it implements the commitments it makes internationally.'
The European Commission applauded the ruling, saying that it should give further impetus to negotiations underway here aimed at crafting a new global agreement to curb greenhouse gases.
The so-called endangerment finding by the EPA was 'an important signal by the Obama administration that they are serious about tackling climate change and are demonstrating leadership,' a spokesman from the European Commission told the New York Times.
Andreas Carlgren, the Swedish environment minister, the country that currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, said in an e-mail message that the ruling 'shows that the United States can do more than they have put on the table'.
Media commentators hailed the decision, saying that it would strengthen President Obama's negotiating position ahead of his arrival in Copenhagen next week.
The Financial Times said that it had increased the President’s 'firepower' at the climate change conference, saying that gave Mr Obama a 'tangible achievement to tout when he travels to Denmark'.
In its lead editorial, the paper said the US presence in Copenhagen would not be 'more purposeful'. 'The prospect of EPA action will focus minds in Congress and make passage of cap-and-trade more likely. And it means Mr Obama will be far from empty-handed when he goes to Copenhagen.'
The Guardian said the declaration allows the government to impose emissions cuts 'without agreement of a reluctant Senate'.
'The timing of the announcement – in the opening hours of the UN's Copenhagen climate change summit – prevents Barack Obama from arriving at the talks without concrete evidence that America will do its bit to cut the emissions that cause global warming,' the report said.
The American media also gave the move a positive response. The LA Times said that the EPA action had sent a strong message to the Senate, where progress on a crucial climate bill has stalled.
In its editorial column it said: 'The finding by the EPA, which paves the way toward concrete regulatory limits on greenhouse gases, is the most significant action taken by the federal government to date to address the problem. That should make President Obama's mission in Copenhagen next week a little bit easier.'
In its editorial the New York Times said that if Congress wanted to prevent the EPA from imposing emissions cuts, there was 'one obvious way - and that is for Congress to pass a credible and comprehensive bill requiring economy-wide cuts in emissions.'
The wildlife charity WWF welcomed the decision, saying that it showed that the Administration was 'committed to enforcing the Clean Air Act and addressing dangerous climate change'.
EPA Greenhouse Gases Threaten Public Health and the Environment / Science overwhelmingly shows greenhouse gas concentrations at unprecedented levels due to human activity, EPA - United States Environmental Protection Agency 07 December 2009
EPA moves on climate as Congress stalls, Reuters 08 December 2009
Europe Praises U.S. Ruling on Greenhouse Gases, The New York Times 08 December 2009
Emissions ruling adds to US firepower, Financial Times 07 December 2009
A changed climate, Financial Times 07 December 2009
US climate agency declares CO2 public danger, Guardian 07 December 2009
The EPA's long-overdue climate change ruling, Los Angeles Times 08 December 2009
The Endangerment Finding, The New York Times 07 December 2009
WWF welcomes US EPA finding on greenhouse gases, WWF 07 December 2009
Twitter feed - DECC
DECCgovuk: Chris Huhne confirmed as Secretary of State for DECC - www.decc.gov.uk
Full list of Cabinet members now available on www.number10.gov.uk
DECCgovuk: @treenl These pages also give more info on low carbon businesses, http://bit.ly/d1TMEN & http://bit.ly/9hFFfO @JohnyMoz @thecarbontrust
DECCgovuk: Now in a period of restricted activity & will only make factual updates as necessary to website and social media until after #ukelection
DECCgovuk: @nommo Hi, regional domestic electricity price stats are at http://bit.ly/9KtXlF - these are annual figs.
DECCgovuk: CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme and Feed in tariffs (FITs) go live today - more info, user guide & video case studies at www.decc.gov.uk
DECCgovuk: Dr Helen Mounsey reappointed as chair of the Coal Authority http://tinyurl.com/ycggwl5
DECCgovuk: Live now - PM's opening remarks at the High Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing, http://www.number10.gov.uk/
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