Monday, October 05, 2009

Expectations Dim; Tensions Mount In Climate Negotiations

Oct 2: At a Washington, DC "ideas forum" known as the First Draft of History, sponsored by the Atlantic magazine, Carol Browner, the White House climate chief offered some interesting insights into the Administration's thinking and expectations on climate change legislation in advance of the international meeting in Copenhagen in December. On the critical question of whether the White House expect to have climate change legislation by the end of the year or before Copenhagen, Browner said, "Obviously, we'd like to be through the process. However the chance of having a bill signed by the President and ready to go to Copenhagen. . . That's not likely to happen. But we could perhaps be out of committee... We could be out headed to the floor, there could be a leadership bill out there ... We will go to Copenhagen with whatever we have."

Another Atlantic magazine report indicates that Browner also floated the possibility of the EPA implementing cap-and-trade energy policies. . . (i.e. under the authority of the Clean Air Act). When asked, during an interview with Atlantic Media Political Director Ronald Brownstein, about the difficulties of passing the stalled energy/climate bill -- which would implement a cap-and-trade carbon emissions scheme -- through the Senate, Browner reportedly said, "We also have the reality of EPA, under current law, moving forward... to start the traditional regulatory clock." She then said that such an action would "obviously encourage the business community to raise their voices in Congress" -- since businesses could wind up with a less cohesive regulatory scheme, more difficult to comply with in multiple states, if the EPA moves forward on its own.
However, the Atlantic and Browner both emphasized that "the Obama administration strongly prefers a congressional consensus, as creating a cap-and-trade scheme would be a massive, controversial, and perhaps unprecedented undertaking for the EPA." Browner indicated "it's much better if Congress does it, and that's what the president wants," adding that legislation is "absolutely" the administration's preference over EPA action.

Meanwhile, as 180 countries begin their second week of talks in Bangkok, Thailand [
See WIMS 9/28/09] the UK's Guardian is reporting that, developing countries are showing "their deep frustration at the slow pace of the negotiations on Kyoto's next round." Reportedly, Yu Qingtai China's special representative on climate talks said, "The reason why we are not making progress [in the talks] is the lack of political will by Annex 1 [industrialized] countries. There is a concerted effort to fundamentally sabotage the Kyoto protocol. We now hear statements that would lead to the termination of the protocol. They are introducing new rules, new formats. That's not the way to conduct negotiations."

Also reported is that, Lumumba Di-Aping, Sudanese chair of the G77, the UN's largest intergovernmental organization of developing states which represents 130 countries at the talks has said, "Feelings are running high in the G77. It is clear now that the rich countries want a deal outside the Kyoto agreement. It would be based on a total rejection of their historical responsibilities. This is an alarming development. The intention of developed countries is clearly to kill the protocol."

Another article in the Guardian reports that there is a high degree of secrecy in the Bangkok negotiations. They report, ". . .the press, the NGOs, even business - are not allowed to see or hear any of the negotiating sessions. And our EU leaders plan just one short session with the world's media on Friday afternoon when the talks here finish."

Additionally, the buzz in the climate change community is whether President Obama will make a return trip to Copenhagen in December after his recent trip to press for the Olympics to be held in Chicago. At a demonstration in Copenhagen, Greenpeace displayed a large banner St. Nicholas Church Tower reading Right city, wrong date.” Bloomberg reports that Phyllis Cuttino, director of the Pew Environment Group’s U.S. Global Warming Campaign in Washington said, “I would hope since he went to push Chicago’s bid for the Olympics, he would go back in December to help save the world from climate change.” And, Annie Petsnok, a lawyer for Environmental Defense Fund said, "Other nations hope the president’s willingness to go to Copenhagen for the Olympics signals that he will be willing to do the same kind of outreach needed to move the climate issue forward."

In terms of what is being officially reported from the Bangkok meetings, at a press conference held midway through the Talks in Bangkok on October 2, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer spoke of encouraging signals that the Talks can deliver the tools and rules essential to a successful climate change deal in Copenhagen. He said, "Solid progress has been made already in some key areas of a global agreement, such as adaptation, technology and capacity-building in developing countries." However, he reported there is lack of clarity on two issues that are key to success in Copenhagen: rich nation emission reduction targets and financial support for climate change action in developing countries. He said progress on industrialized nations' emissions cuts "remains disappointing," and movement on raising money and deploy assistance to developing countries also "remains slow."

Access a report and videos of Browner's remarks from the Atlantic (
click here). Access a second article on Browner's comments from the Atlantic (click here). Access the Atlantic's First Draft of History website for more information (click here). Access a detailed article in the Guardian (click here). Access Guardian series of articles and reports "Countdown to Copenhagen" (click here). Access the G-77 website (click here). Access the Bloomberg's article on the President's Copenhagen return trip (click here). Access a video of the de Boer press briefing (click here). Access complete details on the Bangkok meetings including on-demand webcasts and links to all documents for both meetings (click here). Access day-by-day reporting from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) (click here). Access IISD Twitter feed (click here).