Clean Action Commitments: World Waits on U.S.
White House, Congress Appear to be Stepping Toward Commitments
By Keith Schneider
U.S. Climate Action Network
Delegates from the United States and 191 other nations gather in Copenhagen next month to draw up a comprehensive, ambitious, and fair international agreement to solve climate change. Hundreds of public interest organizations and tens of thousands of citizens from around the world will join them.
Arguably the biggest unknown still is whether the United States will publicly commit on reductions it is prepared to make in greenhouse gas emissions, and how much it is willing to invest to help developing nations make the transition to a low-carbon economy. Just as in Stockholm in 1972, when global leaders first met to limit the harm caused by industrial pollution, and again in Rio in 1992 and in Kyoto in 1997, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen is a rare turning point moment for the world to consider the environment and the economy, and the dire consequences of burning fossil fuels.
Last month, during climate negotiations in Barcelona, Jonathan Pershing, the deputy special envoy for climate change and the chief American negotiator, dropped plain hints that the U.S. was prepared in Copenhagen to make such commitments, which the rest of the world views as essential to the success of the Copenhagen conference and the new treaty.
Earlier this week, during the U.S.-China Summit in Beijing, President Obama seemed to draw closer to making commitments when he described his resolve to reach a substantive climate agreement in Copenhagen. “Our aim is not a partial accord or a political declaration,” the president said, “but rather an accord that covers all of the issues in the negotiations, and one that has immediate operational effect. This kind of comprehensive agreement would be an important step forward in the effort to rally the world around a solution to our climate challenge.”
Should the U.S. commit in Copenhagen to emissions limits and financial assistance to developing nations, it would close a circle of global engagement on climate action that began in November 2008 with elections that brought significant changes to the office of the White House and both chambers of Congress.
The first significant legislative action by the White House and Congress in 2009 was enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which committed the U.S. to spend $100 billion over the next two years on energy efficiency, clean energy manufacturing, clean energy research, biofuels production, and other carbon-reducing energy practices.
See the summary of Federal events by my USCAN colleagues Mathew Todaro and Kate Smolski by clicking the White House and Congress tab on the USCAN Copenhagen page. Mat and Kate map how the United States is taking the first crucial steps to develop a low-carbon economy and generate globally significant momentum for an international climate agreement.