03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Todd Stern Says No Treaty at Copenhagen

Special U.S. Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern yesterday arrived at the United Nations Foundation meeting on Climate Change, a big jet-lagged, and went right onto the press conference stage. He said that the United States believes the outcomes here in Copenhagen will become a "politically binding agreement" but not legally binding.

A Copenhagen Treaty is "not in the cards," said Stern. "But a Copenhagen Agreement can take effect right away."

Rhetoric between the U.S., and China, is really heating-up. The Tiny Island of Tuvalu has proposed a return to Kyoto Treaty requirements and reduction levels which the U.S. will not sign. However, 35 nations have now joined the tiny South Pacific island of 12,000 people in calling for 45% carbon reductions by 2020. Pressure on the U.S. and China is mounting.

The U.S. will not become part of Kyoto: that is "not on the table," Stern challenged. Stern said the U.S. objective was "always a treaty," for Copenhagen. But when EU President Connie Hedegaard of Sweden told the UN she thought it unlikely to gain full treaty consensus here, according to Stern, the U.S. wanted to "focus on results not the legal" requirement.

Stern had once voiced optimism with regard to reaching a new global treaty at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen (COP15), later this year or perhaps in 2010. "I'm not going to kid anybody - I don't think it's easy - but I think that we will get there," Stern told reporters according to published accounts after the first of two days of the U.S.-Chinese talks in Washington, DC. That prompted the closely linked U.S. and China reduction announcements just a week before Copenhagen.

"I think there's a lot of interest on the Chinese side fundamentally to arrive at a constructive and successful outcome in Copenhagen," he added. That has not proven to be the case with all the finger pointing here between the two superpowers.

Stern said that President Barack Obama's administration has made it clear to China that global warming was a top priority.

The object for the U.S. is to get "best deal we can on a path to climate change reduction," Stern added cautiously. But then stated: "China will acct for 50 percent of GHG (Greenhouse Gas Emissions) by 2050," if left unabated.

So the dance continues.

Mike Smith is reporting live from Copenhagen. Follow his tweets at smittypa