Washington: A top White House adviser has described the limited, non-binding Copenhagen accord as "a great step forward" saying the US could challenge India and China if they don't meet their stated goals.
As part of the agreement between the US and four other countries, China and India have set goals for combating climate change, noted Obama adviser David Axelrod. "We're going to be able to review what they're doing. We're going to be able to challenge them if they don't meet those goals," Axelrod told CNN.
"Now the Chinese, the Indians, the other major economies are coming along and this is the result of (Obama's) strong leadership," he said of the limited agreement reached just as the 12-day meeting in Copenhagen was ending.
The agreement with India, China, Brazil and South Africa calls on countries to identify their own voluntary commitments to reducing climate change so that compliance can be internationally monitored. The administration does not want to put the United States at a competitive disadvantage relative to the world's other large economies, he said.
Calling the Copenhagen accord a step in the right direction in the battle to control climate change that lays the groundwork for more independent efforts by the US, Axelrod said the US intends to pursue efforts to lessen greenhouse gas emissions even in the absence of making a binding international commitment to do so.
"We're going to pursue this anyway because the president understands that our future lies with a clean energy economy."
"Nobody says that this is the end of the road," Axelrod said. "The end of the road would've been the complete collapse of those talks (in Copenhagen)," he said adding: "This is a great step forward."
While the White House has sought to project the Copenhagen accord as a success, many environmentalists and political observers view it as the administration's last ditch effort not to leave the closely watched Copenhagen talks completely empty-handed.
A Democratic bill for a cap-and-trade system governing carbon emissions has passed in the House but a similar bill has been stalled in the Senate, which is focused on passing health care reform by the end of this year.