Climate change in negotiation

By Kevin Clarke| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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President Obama, who recently reversed gears on U.S. climate change policy by offering to commit the United States to a greenhouse gas reduction of an aggressive 17 percent below the nation's 2005 level, has also changed his e-ticket for the UN-sponsored climate change negotiations starting this week in Copenhagen. Instead of arriving at the beginning of the conference when a lot of pointless preliminary wonk-outgassing takes place, Obama will now arrive at the end of the conference when presumably anything of import would likely be announced. Does he know something we don't know?

The president's 17 percent solution was more than matched by China (which indicated that it was willing to go further if the United States did the same), and Brazil and India have also expressed renewed interest in serious commitments aimed at significant reductions in greenhouse gases. These new moves bode well for a conference which just a few days ago appeared to be on the verge of accomplishing . . . not much. Expectations were extraordinarily low and the recent revelations of data-fudging, massive data loss, and academic back biting that emerged from a data-dump of stolen e-mails from the UK's University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit seemed to provide climate change skeptics with a diversion serious enough to derail the conference altogether.

A White House statement also indicates that President Obama, joined by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown have accepted "an emerging consensus that a core element of the Copenhagen accord should be to mobilize $10 billion a year by 2012 to support adaptation and mitigation in developing countries, particularly the most vulnerable and least developed countries that could be destabilized by the impacts of climate change." Obama plans to discuss In Copenhagen, the need for long-term strategy for offering such aid. According to the White House: "Providing this assistance is not only a humanitarian imperative—it’s an investment in our common security, as no climate change accord can succeed if it does not help all countries reduce their emissions."

The President now has a lot riding on a successful conclusion to the conference, as do we all, but the week's sudden burst of activity and renewed optimism that the global community may finally be ready to face up to the implications of climate change shows what a world of difference a little leadership can make.