20090128 stavros dima 18
European Union Environment Commissioner Stavros Dima gestures during a press conference on climate change at European Union headquarters in Brussels. - 


KAI RYSSDAL: Former Vice President Al Gore was on Capitol Hill today. Climate change was the topic du jour. Gore pressed lawmakers to act quickly on global warming legislation, and he said the U.S. has to take "decisive action" at home if it's going to take a leadership role abroad on the subject. Specifically he was talking about a new international climate treaty said to be debated in Copenhagen, Denmark, later this year. But according to the European Union, a new global climate deal needs more than just U.S. leadership. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sam Eaton reports.

SAM EATON: Today the European Union floated a plan for reaching global agreement at December's UN climate talks. With the U.S. now on board, the EU has turned its attention to the next major obstacle -- getting developing nations like China and India to buy in. Elliot Dirringer is with the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

ELLIOT DIRRINGER: This is the first time we're really having a discussion about what developing countries are going to have to do. And it's all conditioned on the understanding that what they do has to be supported by us.

In other words the world's richest nations have to pony up so the world's poorest will cooperate. The EU today promised to sweeten the pot with billions of dollars in aid -- money that would be used to mitigate global warming in places like Africa and to spur green technologies in countries like China. Developing countries would have to collectively spend more than a hundred billion dollars a year by 2020 in order to cut their emissions. Jake Schmidt is with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

JAKE SCHMIDT: Developing countries are now saying that we'll be willing to take some action on our own. And we would be willing to go even further if we were provided with a set of properly designed incentives.

But the EU didn't specify just how much it's willing to spend. Critics say that's because wealthy nations are caving under the pressure of the global economic crisis. Heather Coleman with Oxfam America says doing so would be a fatal mistake.

HEATHER COLEMAN: Unless developing countries see hard cash on the table, there's a real danger that they'll simply walk away from global climate negotiations.

Dashing the chances of a new global climate deal at a time when the potential for success looks brighter than ever.

I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

Follow Sam Eaton at @eatonsam