Monday, June 15, 2009

Pressure Builds For U.S. Climate Change Commitment

Jan 12: Today's posting includes two related articles focusing on the growing pressure for a firm U.S. commitment on climate change policy. While the Administration and President Obama have expressed the commitment many times there are still doubts being expressed on the international stage regarding the U.S. short-term reduction targets and the ability of the Administration to get the 60 votes necessary in the Senate to pass climate change legislation.

EDF Says Pressure Is On Obama To Lead On Climate Treaty

Jun 12: Calling the progress at the latest round of climate change talks in Bonn, Germany [See WIMS 6/12/09], "painstakingly slow," Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said world leaders are waiting to hear a solid commitment from President Obama. Annie Petsonk, EDF International Counsel issued a statement at the close of the June 1-12 meeting attended by more than 4,600 participants including government delegates from 183 countries.

Petsonk said, "Slow progress at the U.N. climate talks in Bonn is proof positive that the world needs to hear U.S. President Barack Obama say he is pursuing a climate pact with a very good chance of keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius. When President Obama goes to the July G8 meeting in Italy, he'll be on stage with world leaders asking him, 'Are you willing to commit and say we have to limit warming to two degrees above pre-industrial levels?'

"He has to be able to stand up and say yes. Because if he wavers, these talks will crumble into 180 government pledges that don't add up to stopping dangerous climate change. The painstakingly slow progress we've seen in Bonn tells us that countries are waiting for Obama to come forward and say what science-based goal he is aiming for. Right now we're just treading water. Because without that basic measure -- without knowing how much warming the world's richest nation is willing to accept -- nobody has any way of knowing how much negotiation and compromise is needed."

Petsonk said many nations were signaling, on the sidelines of the Bonn session, a willingness to move forward if the U.S. President shows he is committed to leadership. She pointed to Wednesday's announcement by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva saying Brazil is open to adopting a greenhouse gas emissions target if rich countries do more to curb climate change.

Briefing On U.S.-China Climate & Energy Issues

Jun 12: Todd Stern, Special Envoy for Climate Change with the Department of State held a press briefing to discuss the recent U.S. delegation's June 7-10 trip to China to discuss climate and energy Issues. Stern was joined by John Holdren, the President’s Science Adviser; David Sandalow, Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs at the Department of Energy, as well as colleagues from Treasury and EPA, and a team from State. Stern said he had a particularly in-depth conversations with Xie Zhenhua the vice chairman of the NDRC in China, and their chief climate negotiator.

Stern said, "I wouldn’t characterize my discussions on climate change as producing any breakthroughs, but we talked very openly and candidly and in a lot of detail about what needs to be done on both sides to advance toward a successful outcome in Copenhagen. And by the way, I never had any notion in my mind that we were going to get breakthroughs on this trip. It’s not what the trip was about. . . I was very favorably impressed by actions that China’s already taken, and by – taking, and by China’s commitment to develop a low-carbon path forward and to take potentially far-reaching steps to contain their greenhouse gas emissions. . .

"The stark reality, though, is that the world cannot contain climate change and cannot avoid dangerous levels of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere without very significant action by China. And we discussed this point, as well as the science behind it, in great detail. Again, as I said, Dr. Holdren was there with us and was very helpful in conversations on the science."

In response to a question regarding the possibility of the Waxman-Markey ACES bill (H.R. 2454) passing the House this summer and perhaps being stalled in the Senate for a lack of 60 votes, Stern responded: "I think that this is a one-step-at-a-time kind of deal. I think that it was a huge, big step under the leadership of Chairman Waxman and Markey to get the bill reported out of Energy and Commerce. My general sense is that there’s a -- there is a kind of commitment and objective to get it through the House this summer. I think that there’s a good chance that that’ll happen, and we’re strongly supportive of that, obviously.

"And I don’t have any -- I am absolutely not prepared at all to say that I don’t think it’s going to get 60 votes in the Senate. I think that this bill is going to become law. I can’t give you a time frame because I don’t know the timeframe yet, but I think that the President is committed to it, the Administration’s committed to having strong, comprehensive energy legislation passed. And I think that there are -- that there will be a lot of support in the Senate, and there’ll be, undoubtedly, a lot more negotiation and debate that’s going to have to happen first. But I am in no way pessimistic about that."

Access a release from EDF (
click here). Access the complete transcript of the press conference (click here). Access a video of the press conference (click here).