Thursday, November 12, 2009

UN Head Ban Ki-moon Urges Congressional Action On Climate Change

Nov 11: Just 24 days before the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 15) in Copenhagen, December 7-18, 2009, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Congressional leaders in Washington, DC to make a continuing pitch to "seal the deal" by enacting a global climate change agreement. However, following the disappointing results of the last major negotiation session in Barcelona, Spain [See WIMS 11/6/09], even the Secretary-General is beginning to temper his words in describing the possible outcomes in Copenhagen..

On November 9, the Director of Ban’s Climate Change Support Team, Janos Pasztor, told a news conference in New York that, “The Secretary-General is confident that governments will reach agreement in Copenhagen on the fundamental issues that will form the substance of a legally binding international agreement which is the end goal for guiding action on climate change.” But, the statement was qualified and indicated further that, "Although in all likelihood it will not be possible to complete all the work needed for a legally binding agreement at Copenhagen, the meeting should make clear what needs to be done in the three core fundamental issues that remain unresolved -- ambitious mitigation targets in the developed countries; how to consider mitigation actions in developing countries; and financing."

Pasztor said, “Those are the three key issues where there still needs to be agreement, and they are precisely the issues where heads of State and heads of government need to be engaged because those issues are so important for the overall economic development of the countries that you cannot expect the negotiators themselves to make a move.”

In DC, on Veterans Day, at a media briefing, flanked by U.S. Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), the Secretary-General said, “No country is more important than the United States in resolving this climate change issue. All eyes of the world are looking to the United States and to this august body, the US Senate.” Ban urged the United States to take a leading role in forging a new international pact to combat global warming, warning that the consequences of failure outweigh the cost of tackling climate change.

Ban indicated that the world leaders meeting in Copenhagen, must conclude “a robust, global agreement that can serve as a foundation for a climate treaty.” He said, “From what I heard today, there is great support in the Senate for action on climate change. But for some, there are lingering doubts about whether we can afford to take action during this hard economic crisis.” Acknowledging that there is a price to pay in battling climate change, Ban stressed that the costs are insignificant compared with the cost of not taking action. He said, “Inaction will mean a weakened economic recovery, a loss of global competitiveness, increased global instability and further human suffering. A global agreement on the other hand will unleash investments that will do more than any single other action could do to jumpstart and sustain global economic recovery.”

Ban voiced appreciation for the U.S. Government, particularly President Barack Obama, in showing their initiative, leadership and commitment in addressing a climate change bill, as well as for Mr. Obama signaling a willingness to participate in Copenhagen. On November 10, President Obama reportedly told Reuters news service in an interview, "If I am confident that all of the countries involved are bargaining in good faith and we are on the brink of a meaningful agreement and my presence in Copenhagen will make a difference in tipping us over edge then certainly that's something that I will do." Ban said, “Copenhagen offers us all an unprecedented opportunity. We must use our time before that historic gathering for maximum effort.”

Reuters reported that President Obama said, "The key now is for the United States and China, the two largest emitters in the world, is to be able to come up with a framework that, along with other big emitters like the Europeans and those countries that are projected to be large emitters in the future, like India, can all buy into."

A report from the Washington Post on the press briefing indicates that Senator Lugar, the Ranking Member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, "I don't see any climate bill on the table right now that I can support. We really have to start from scratch again." Senator Lieberman reportedly said, "We are going to try to move the Senate as far as we can before Copenhagen."

On November 10, the Senate Finance Committee, Chaired by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) held a hearing entitled, “Climate Change Legislation: Considerations for Future Jobs.” Witnesses testifying at the hearing included representative of the: International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Shipbuilders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers, Department of Government Affairs; Nuclear Energy Institute; American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research; American Council for Capital Formation; and Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

In an opening statement, Chairman Baucus who has already said he thinks the 20% greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction target by 2020 (from a 2005 base), contained in the Kerry-Boxer bill is too high, said, "I am committed to passing meaningful, balanced climate‐change legislation. I am committed to legislation that will protect our land and those whose livelihood depends on it. . . So I’m going to work to pass climate‐change legislation that is both meaningful and that can muster enough votes to become law." Baucus said he convened the hearing to address competing claims that the legislation will either stimulate or impede job creation, in order to better determine what the Finance Committee might do to facilitate job growth as it develops energy and carbon emissions reduction legislation.

He said, “What America needs now is jobs. And while there are differing views on the climate issue, we have an opportunity to retool energy to support domestic production and cut damaging pollutants and dependence on foreign sources, while creating jobs in the process. We need to find ways to help make that happen.”

Access a Nov. 9 UN release (click here). Access a Nov. 11 UN release (click here). Access the Reuters article on the interview with the President (click here). Access a report on the press briefing from the Washington Post (click here). Access a webcast of the Finance Committee hearing (click here). Access the hearing website for links to all testimony and opening statements (click here).