The US will present a greenhouse gas emissions target before the UN climate conference in Copenhagen next month, a White House official said.
A polar bear on melting ice. Climate change is the subject of intense debate among scientists
[IMG]The US will present a greenhouse gas emissions target before the UN climate conference in Copenhagen next month, a White House official said.[/IMG]
The announcement, which would remove a major obstacle to a deal, followed criticism from Europe that the United States and China were hindering global efforts to curb climate change.
Refusing to be drawn on what that target would be, the official indicated that Mr Obama would announce it in the next few days along with a decision on whether or not he will fly to the Danish capital.
Sixty-five leaders have already committed to participating in the meeting, which many fear will fail to create a treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Leaders hope, however, to reach a "political agreement" and to set targets.
As president of one of the world's two biggest polluters, Mr Obama is under pressure from US allies to attend the conference and show flexibility on new emission targets.
"Countries will need to put on the table what they are willing to do on emissions," said the official.
"I am not going to make an announcement here what that's going to be, but I think over the next several days that should be able to become more clear in terms of what the US might be able to do."
Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Swedish prime minister, said it was "untenable" that neither the US nor China, the world's other biggest polluter, would arrive without convincing emissions targets.
"It provides no global answer. It does not solve the threat of climate change," he wrote on an EU website. Sweden currently holds the rotating EU presidency.
What Mr Obama is able to promise will be contingent on what Democratic leaders think can be achieved in legislation working its way through the Senate.
The Senate has confirmed that it will fail to meet the White House's desired target of passing legislation in time for Copenhagen.
The House of Representatives passed a bill in June, calling for cutting US greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020 and by 83 per cent by 2050. The Senate's slightly more ambitious bill calls for a 20-per cent cut by 2020.
"We're cognisant of what has passed the House, we're in close touch with what is being worked on in the Senate and we'll try and craft a submission that reflects where we think we can come out," the US official said.
"We expect that a decision will be made in the coming days."