Todd SternTodd SternAs Dave lamented last week, most of the predicting and posturing preceding the Copenhagen climate talks amounts to little more than Some Person Guessing. You might consider the weekend news from the UK Observer — which reported the Obama administration’s intention to set a provisional target for U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions — to be more of the same, though it at least relies on the head of Obama’s climate negotiation team.

From the Observer:

President Barack Obama is considering setting a provisional target for cutting America’s huge greenhouse gas emissions, removing the greatest single obstacle to a landmark global agreement to fight climate change.

The Observer has learnt that administration officials have been consulting international negotiators and key players on Capitol Hill about signing up to a provisional target at the UN global warming summit in Copenhagen, now less than three weeks away.

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Todd Stern, the state department climate change envoy, said the administration recognised that America had to come forward with a target for cutting its emissions. The US, which with China is responsible for 40% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, is the only major developed nation yet to table an offer.

“What we are looking at is to see whether we could put down essentially a provisional number that would be contingent on our legislation,” Stern said from Copenhagen, where he was meeting Danish officials.

By doing so, the administration would get out ahead of Congress—pledging something that 67 senators may not be willing to ratify. It has so far refused to do that in its climate work, to the detriment of its international popularity. But this is what European Union countries do all the time, Rob Bradley, the World Resources Institute’s director of international climate policy, said on Friday. They make agreements at the international level, then pass national legislation to make good on their promises. And, said Bradley, they’ve grown tired of hearing why this doesn’t work in the United States.

Stern’s suggestion—a U.S. commitment contingent on Congress passing legislation—could help the administration work around that dilemma.

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Finally, a bit more from Agence France-Presse:

The United States will present an emissions target at upcoming UN climate change talks in Copenhagen, a senior official said Monday, as President Barack Obama mulled whether to attend the conference.

The official refused to be drawn on what that target would be but indicated that Obama would announce it in the next few days along with a decision on whether he will fly to the Danish capital to give added impetus to proceedings.

Added impetus to proceedings–let’s hope our inspirer-in-chief finds a more inspiring way to put it.

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