Merkel addressing climate change with US lawmakers

 German Chancellor Angela Merkel was making the case Tuesday for a global deal on climate change to a skeptical audience: members of Congress.

Merkel was addressing both chambers of Congress, a rare honor extended to America's closest allies and not to a German chancellor since Konrad Adenauer in 1957. She was to meet with President Barack Obama before the speech.

It is an opportunity for Germany to make a case to the lawmakers whose support will be crucial if the United States is to sign on to a new global climate deal that European leaders and Obama are seeking.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel in this June 26, 2009 photo

Merkel's address comes ahead of the 20th anniversary Nov. 9 of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and she also was expected to highlight the trans-Atlantic cooperation that brought it down. The theme of solidarity probably will touch on Germany's commitment to Afghanistan, a delicate issue for Merkel. The United States has urged European countries to step up efforts in NATO's operations, but the war is unpopular in Germany.

The speech comes less than a week after Merkel was sworn in for a second term. Her formation of a new center-right coalition has created some expectations in Washington that the coalition would make it easier for Merkel to support the United States on Afghanistan and other foreign policy issues, including reining in Iran's nuclear program.

Annette Heuser, executive director of the Bertelsmann Foundation Washington, a nonprofit organization that focuses on trans-Atlantic cooperation, said political pressures in Germany against the war in Afghanistan remain the same for Merkel.

"On Afghanistan, it will be a big challenge for her to balance the speech for both an American and a German audience," Heuser said.

Despite some skeptical lawmakers, climate change may be less contentious. Ahead of her trip, Merkel said she would look to build support for the climate change deal, which will be under negotiation during a December meeting in Copenhagen. World leaders had hoped the meeting would seal a follow-on agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, but now expect it will take longer.

The United States did not sign the Kyoto document, even though former Vice President Al Gore was a negotiator behind it.

"The world will be watching Copenhagen, and the fight against climate change is one of the most urgent tasks worldwide," Merkel said in a weekend video message posted on the Internet.

U.S. commitments have been tied up in legislation slowly making its way through Congress and unlikely to be completed before the conference. The House has passed a version of a bill that has been criticized as not going far enough, while the Senate is just beginning legislation.

Obama has promised to return the United States to a position of leadership on managing climate change after years of U.S. resistance to capping emissions that scientists believe contribute to global warming.

Merkel also was expected to take up the issue in her meeting with Obama. The leaders also were likely to discuss Afghanistan, Iran, Middle East peace talks and the delicate global economic recovery.

Merkel and Obama have demonstrated a friendly and pragmatic relationship, but there have been few signs that they have forged particularly close ties.

source AFP

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