|Peter Bahouth, Executive Director
June 20, 2011
Progress at Glacial Speed
As the latest round of UN climate talks wrapped up last Friday and new reports further demonstrated the gap between scientific reality and political action, there was a growing sense that, as one USCAN member put it, while ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day, we can’t keep fiddling while it burns either.’
While climate negotiators in Bonn finally moved on from their agenda debates, making some progress on the details of mechanisms to share clean technology and working out a mechanism to help the poor adapt to impacts from floods to rising seas, the United States did its best to block any meaningful discussion on the sources of climate finance from 2013 to 2020 and beyond. Despite new reports this week predicting a decade of high and volatile food prices – with up to half of this increase due to climate change, discussions on mobilizing money for the Green Climate Fund have barely begun and current commitments to fund climate action in poor countries in 2013 came in at a whopping $0. In attempt to give that project a jump-start, the German government has invited environment ministers to a meeting in Berlin next month. As for the next official talks, another meeting has been agreed to in principle ahead of the summit in Durban to keep the ball rolling. The full details of that meeting, such as a date and a place, are another piece of unfinished business from the climate talks in Bonn.
But all is not lost. While Durban could result in a stalemate, this outcome is far from inevitable at this point. Despite the fact that Japan (who presided over the COP that produced Kyoto), Russia (who’s support brought the treaty into force) and Canada (who launched the negotiations for a second commitment period in Montreal), all said they would not sign up for a new round of the Kyoto Protocol, discussions are underway between the EU and G-77 for a possible deal in Durban that would preserve Kyoto (who’s first commitment period set to expire at the end of 2012), while launching more comprehensive talks about the long-term regime. Though much more is needed to build the political will necessary between now and then.
On the home front, the EPA announced that they would delay issuing a proposal for controlling greenhouse gases from power plants (which is now expected out in late September and the final rule is still expected in May of 2012) and it remains to be seen whether a new smog standard, which Administrator Jackson is expected to deliver to the White House this week, will sufficiently answer the calls which have poured into the White House to ensure it protects health and is endorsed by President Obama. And in a party-line vote, the House Appropriations Committee moved to fund climate disaster relief by cutting programs that fight climate pollution and build clean-energy resilience, with a $1 billion in high-speed rail funding to provide emergency flood-related funding to the Army Corps of Engineers for the Mississippi River valley and deep cuts to solar energy, fuel efficient vehicle funding, energy efficiency research, weatherization and biomass research.
These moves came despite three separate new reports highlighting the economic and job creation benefits of investing in clean energy. A nationwide, bipartisan survey conducted by The American Lung Association showed that Americans across the country are overwhelmingly supportive of the Environmental Protection Agency and their efforts to update standards for life-threatening air pollutants. The findings demonstrated massively out of step calls coming from this weekend’s Republican Leadership’s conference in New Orleans for dismantling the EPA.
Meanwhile, a new conservative coalition to address climate change, was launched by former South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis, who pointed out that acting in accordance with science should be at the core of conservative values. Also climate activists met inaction with action, as Greenpeace Executive Director Kumi Naidoo climbed onto a deep sea oil rig to demand an end to Arctic oil drilling, saying: ‘We have to draw a line somewhere and I say we draw that line here today.’
Michelle Dixon, Outreach Director