Wyoming Gas Drill Photo by Shutterstock

A spokesperson for the United States at the 18th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in Doha, Qatar cited the country’s investments in “fracking” as its contribution to the global goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Long vilified for failing to ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which it initially signed, the U.S. was the biggest spewer of greenhouse gas emissions for many years until China took the lead. This is due in part to a widespread program to replace coal plants throughout the U.S. with shale gas, the extraction of which comes with its own environmental price.

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Speaking at the opening day of the conference in Doha, where 17,000 people from 200 countries have gathered to begin drafting a successor to the Kyoto Protocol and develop policy solutions to keep greenhouse gas emissions down so that global warming will not exceed two degrees celsius, Jonathan Pershing, a senior negotiator for the US, defended the country’s contribution to cutting emissions.

“Those who don’t know what the US is doing may not be informed of the scale and extent of the effort, but it’s enormous,” The Guardian quoted him as saying. “[Our efforts so far] doesn’t mean enough is being done,” he added. “It’s clear the global community, and that includes us, has to do more if we are going to succeed at avoiding the damages projected in a warming world.”

Pershing was referring to the United States’ uptake of shale gas, which is believed to release fewer emissions than coal, though a Cornell study disputed this assumption. Either way, shale gas is not a carbon neutral resource like solar or wind energy and “fracking” has a host of other environmental consequences, including contamination of groundwater resources.

Meanwhile Christiana Figueres, the top UN climate official, warns that if we are to keep global temperatures at or below a two degree rise, we have to act fast.

“In the last three years, policy and action towards a sustainable, clean energy future has been growing faster than ever,” she said.

“But the door is closing fast because the pace and scale of action is simply not yet enough. So Doha must deliver its part in the longer-term solution.”

Via The Guardian

Images of COP18 via jzachhollo, flickr