As serious negotiations on a new global treaty to fight global warming get underway following the adoption of a work programme at Poznan, environmentalists in the US have been given another reason to rejoice. Unveiling his energy-environment team, on 15 December, President-elect Barack Obama rolled out a group of people with sterling records in promoting legislation to tackle climate change. If Obama's new green dream team' can act quickly and effectively at home as he wants, it will crank up the pressure on other governments to make binding commitments.

This is good news for the EU, which is pushing for a post-Kyoto treaty that involves deep, mandatory emission cuts. One EU official, asked what he expected from the new president, said "he needs to do what he said would do". Early signs are promising. Announcing his team, Obama said "just as we work to reduce our emissions we must forge international solutions to ensure that every nation is doing its part. As we do so, America will lead not just at the negotiating table - we will lead, as we always have, through innovation and discovery". In November, Obama pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the US to 1990 levels by 2020 and by 80% by 2050. This will be far from easy to achieve. US businesses are likely to resist any emission-cutting measures that impose extra financial costs on them. Given the harsh economic climate, their opposition is likely to curry some sympathy from the US Congress, whose backing is needed to enact such measures.

Countering that, however, will be the green team'. Carol Browner, tapped to be assistant to Obama on energy and climate change, is being dubbed the climate czar'. Browner, who headed the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1993-2001 under President Bill Clinton, will coordinate Obama's policies with other US government agencies and with US state and local governments. Under outgoing President George Bush, states and municipalities often adopted climate policies completely at odds with Bush's ones. The clearest example of this was California, which enacted its own cap-and-trade scheme in 2006, and has tried - despite White House resistance - to impose stricter fuel efficiency standards for...

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