WASHINGTON // The German chancellor Angela Merkel was making the case for a global deal on climate change to members of Congress today. Mrs Merkel was addressing both chambers of Congress, a rare honour extended to Washington's closest allies and not to a German chancellor since Konrad Adenauer in 1957. She will meet with the US 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 US is to sign on to a new global climate deal that European leaders and Mr Obama are seeking.
Mrs Merkel's address comes before the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9. She is also expected to highlight the trans-Atlantic co-operation that brought it down. The theme of solidarity will probably touch on Germany's commitment to Afghanistan, a delicate issue for Mrs Merkel. The US 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 Mrs Merkel was sworn in for a second term. Her formation of a new centre-right coalition has created some expectations in Washington that the coalition would make it easier for Mrs Merkel to support the US on Afghanistan and other foreign policy issues, including reining in Iran's nuclear programme. Annette Heuser, executive director of the Bertelsmann Foundation Washington, a non-profit organisation that focuses on trans-Atlantic co-operation, said political pressures in Germany against the war in Afghanistan remain the same for Mrs Merkel.
"On Afghanistan, it will be a big challenge for her to balance the speech for both an American and a German audience," Ms Heuser said. Despite some sceptical lawmakers, climate change may be less contentious. Before 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 US 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," Mrs Merkel said in a video message posted on the internet. US 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 criticised as not going far enough, while the Senate is just beginning legislation.
Mr Obama has promised to return the US to a position of leadership on managing climate change after years of resistance from Washington to capping emissions that scientists believe contribute to global warming. Mrs Merkel also was expected to take up the issue in her meeting with Mr Obama. The leaders also were likely to discuss Afghanistan, Iran, Middle East peace talks and the delicate global economic recovery. Mrs Merkel and Mr Obama have demonstrated a friendly and pragmatic relationship, but there have been few signs that they have forged particularly close ties.