Nairobi/Kenya, 20 November 2008 - U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's latest speech on climate change has been welcomed as "very meaningful" by Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
In a video message to an international conference on climate change hosted by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on 18 November, Mr. Obama said his presidency "will mark a new chapter in America's leadership on climate change".
Obama referred to the upcoming climate convention in Poznan, Poland, on 1-12 December, telling the delegates to the conference that "your work is vital to the planet".
"While I won't be President at the time of your meeting and while the United States has only one President at a time, I've asked Members of Congress who are attending the conference as observers to report back to me on what they learn there," he said. "And once I take office, you can be sure that the United States will once again engage vigorously in these negotiations, and help lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change."
Mr. Steiner welcomed his comments, saying that: "President-elect Barack Obama yesterday confirmed that in the coming months a fundamentally new climate policy will define the position of the USA. This is very meaningful, and not just for the climate conventions. It is also a signal that in spite of - or rather because of - the current financial crisis, a greener economic policy is finding new momentum."
The President-elect said his administration will start with a federal cap and trade system and annual targets that will set the U.S. on a course to reduce emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce them an additional 80 per cent by 2050.
He also announced that his government will invest US$15 billion each year in solar power, wind power and next generation biofuels "to catalyze private sector efforts to build a clean energy future."
"When I am President, any governor who's willing to promote clean energy will have a partner in the White House. Any company that's willing to invest in clean energy will have an ally in Washington. And any nation that's willing to join the cause of combating climate change will have an ally in the United States of America," he concluded.
Mr. Obama's remarks were also welcomed by Yvo de Boer, Executive Director of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - which is leading the climate talks: "Obama indicated that he wants to show leadership both domestically and internationally," he told AP. "I feel that's a very important signal of encouragement for all of the countries in these negotiations."
"The lesson of Kyoto is that we clearly need to find a way forward that the United States is willing to commit to," Mr. de Boer added.