November 19, 2009
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 approaching United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen is a rare turning point moment for the world to carefully consider the ties between the environment and the economy, and act to solve the dire consequences of burning fossil fuels.
What’s important to understand is that much of hard work of writing an agreement that cools the planet and heats up the global economy is done. Delegates met in Bali two years ago, and a year later in Poznan to construct the basic architecture of a new climate treaty. They agreed to build a five-story treaty, the results of which are clearly visible. The limits that developed countries are willing to put on carbon pollution that causes climate change is now common knowledge. The dimensions of the technological changes that are necessary to completely alter how the world powers itself have come into clearer focus. The science of climate change is irrefutable. The magnitude of the cost of making the transition to a new epoch have been calculated. And there is general agreement that the wealthy nations that burned all that carbon-rich fuel have financial responsibilities to the developing countries that want to get cleaner and economically greener.
Media attention in the U.S. and globally has focused on the several large barriers to completing the treaty, including crucial commitments from the United States to limit carbon emissions and contribute financially to the clean energy economic transition in developing nations.
But the question of how much of the remaining work will be finished in Copenhagen can now be answered. Almost all of it.
During the U.S.-China Summit in Beijing this week, President Obama declared 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.”
The United States and 191 other nations, we are convinced, can leave Copenhagen with much of what they committed to in 2007: A comprehensive, ambitious, and fair international agreement to solve climate change. Talk to you next week, Keith