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Obama Adviser Signals White House Giving Up on Climate Change Treaty

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Obama Adviser Signals White House Giving Up on Climate Change Treaty

Is Copenhagen Dead?

by David Corn

Is the Obama administration giving up on reaching a comprehensive international climate change agreement this year? A statement released on Friday by John Podesta, who headed Barack Obama’s presidential transition, is a big hint that the White House is looking to dramatically downplay expectations.

[The sun sets above a cement factory in Sai Son village, outside Hanoi September 23, 2009. A summit of world leaders has dimmed hopes for a strong new U.N. climate pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol in Copenhagen in December, with details looking ever more likely to be left for sometime in the future. REUTERS/Kham]The sun sets above a cement factory in Sai Son village, outside Hanoi September 23, 2009. A summit of world leaders has dimmed hopes for a strong new U.N. climate pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol in Copenhagen in December, with details looking ever more likely to be left for sometime in the future. REUTERS/Kham

In the statement, Podesta, the head of the Center for American Progress, and Rajendra Pachaur i, the chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, declare, “The world’s leading economic powers remain inactive in preventing an increase in the serious impacts of climate change.” The pair do not explicitly criticize the United States and the Obama administration. But their statement suggests that the Obama administration has not succeeded in leading the major global powers toward effective action:

While current impacts of climate change may not have reached alarming proportions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that will happen soon enough if we do not take early action. What is causing increasing concern, as the December UN climate summit in Copenhagen draws ever nearer, is the continuing deadlock in political action to deal with this challenge.

Podesta and Pachauri note that the commitment reached last July by G-8 countries-including the United States-to reduce global greenhouse emissions by 50 percent by 2050 is not sufficient and that the ongoing negotiations in advance of the Copenhagen conference do not “reflect this imperative.”

The two paint a bleak picture of the road to Copenhagen:

The interim U.N. meetings over the summer leading up to Copenhagen have not gone well. Still unresolved are fundamental differences between developed countries about whether the Kyoto Protocol should be continued or be abandoned altogether for an entirely new treaty. The document under discussion at the U.N. is some 200 pages of contradictory provisions from a variety of submissions from different countries. Practically every sentence contains bracketed language still needing debate and revision. The prospect of shaping this up into a coherent document by December, with only two more interim meetings to go, appears grim.

They conclude that the negotiations have reached an impasse, with the developing and developed countries disagreeing about how far each side should go to reduce emissions: “While it is true that developed countries carry the burden of historical responsibility, and must prove to be the first movers in mitigation, developing countries will become bigger emitters in the future; this intractable dynamic is proving unconstructive.”

Looking for “a more positive track,” Podesta and Pachauri urge the G-20 countries meeting in Pittsburgh-nations that together produce 80 percent of global warming emissions-“to focus on a series of mini-agreements that could be reached at or before Copenhagen.” Their wish list includes measures that set-up multilateral collaborations to develop low-carbon technologies and that create financing arrangements to assist developing countries in meeting energy-efficiency goals and in slowing deforestation.

For enviros holding out hope for Copenhagen, the Podesta-Pachauri statement is a major downer. The two are dramatically depressing expectations-and plotting out an alternative track to the Copenhagen process. What makes Podesta’s pessimism especially noteworthy is that for years he was a mentor to Todd Stern, who is now the senior US negotiator for Copenhagen. The two are close friends, and it is unlikely-make that, unimaginable-that Podesta, an experienced political player in Washington (who was a chief of staff for President Clinton), would express such a discouraging position on Copenhagen without consulting Stern.

Given that Podesta is quite well-informed on these matters, this appears to be a strong signal that the Obama administration-as the Senate puts off acting on climate change legislation-is giving up on achieving any grand accord to redress climate change this December. It’s a stinging vote of no confidence in Copenhagen-and a sign that Obama administration officials, believing they cannot steer the nations of the world toward a meaningful treaty, are looking for a Plan B.

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Written by bearmarketnews

September 27, 2009 at 4:15 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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