In his news conference, Stern reiterated that the Obama administration was unwilling to go beyond its pledge "in the range" of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, which is roughly the size of the cut laid out in the climate bill the House passed last month. He also said the total reductions spurred by climate legislation, which is pending in the Senate, could still end up being much higher than 17%.
Large sums of financial aid could help bridge the gap and bring African and island-nation delegates to an agreement, said environmentalists who spent the day talking with diplomats. "They want to find a way forward" with a financing package, said Heather Allen, an international advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Chinese officials offered similar signals in Beijing. "We still maintain that developed countries have the obligation to provide financial support," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said, adding that that was "the key condition for the success of the Copenhagen conference."
In Copenhagen, optimism reigned in the pronouncements of conference leaders as the negotiations shifted to a ministerial level. Dignitaries such as Britain's Prince Charles and former Vice President Al Gore called for action, and security workers began preparing for the arrival this week of more than 110 heads of state and government, including Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
"The deal is clearly visible," Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said, "and not just any deal, but a deal that can be . . . a real turning point."