Friday, December 18, 2009

Obama: "I Come Here Today -- Not To Talk, But To Act"

  • Note: As we wrap up 2009, President Obama is still in Copenhagen attempting to reach an agreement and reports are just coming in that some sort of a deal with China and others has been reached. A news conference is expected soon (4:15 pm EST). We will be taking a few days off for our annual Christmas/New Year's break and return on Monday, January 4, 2010, to begin our 30th year of environmental news services. We wish all of our subscribers and readers a happy and safe holiday season and wish you well in the coming new year. Thank you all for your continuing support.

Dec 18: President Obama delivered brief remarks at the morning plenary session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) High-level session. The session included 119 heads of state and government representing countries that account for 89% of the world's GDP, 82% of the world's population and 86% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Included in the 119 countries are the 20 largest economies and the top 15 greenhouse gas emitters in the world.

President Obam summarized the current situation as follows, "After months of talk, after two weeks of negotiations, after innumerable side meetings, bilateral meetings, endless hours of discussion among negotiators, I believe that the pieces of that accord should now be clear.

"First, all major economies must put forward decisive national actions that will reduce their emissions, and begin to turn the corner on climate change. I'm pleased that many of us have already done so. Almost all the major economies have put forward legitimate targets, significant targets, ambitious targets. And I'm confident that America will fulfill the commitments that we have made: cutting our emissions in the range of 17 percent by 2020, and by more than 80 percent by 2050 in line with final legislation.

"Second, we must have a mechanism to review whether we are keeping our commitments, and exchange this information in a transparent manner. These measures need not be intrusive, or infringe upon sovereignty. They must, however, ensure that an accord is credible, and that we're living up to our obligations. Without such accountability, any agreement would be empty words on a page.

"I don't know how you have an international agreement where we all are not sharing information and ensuring that we are meeting our commitments. That doesn't make sense. It would be a hollow victory.

"Number three, we must have financing that helps developing countries adapt, particularly the least developed and most vulnerable countries to climate change. America will be a part of fast-start funding that will ramp up to $10 billion by 2012. And yesterday, Secretary Hillary Clinton, my Secretary of State, made it clear that we will engage in a global effort to mobilize $100 billion in financing by 2020, if -- and only if -- it is part of a broader accord that I have just described.

"Mitigation. Transparency. Financing. It's a clear formula -- one that embraces the principle of common but differentiated responses and respective capabilities. And it adds up to a significant accord -- one that takes us farther than we have ever gone before as an international community."

The President continued, "We know the fault lines because we've been imprisoned by them for years. These international discussions have essentially taken place now for almost two decades, and we have very little to show for it other than an increased acceleration of the climate change phenomenon. The time for talk is over. This is the bottom line: We can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, continue to refine it and build upon its foundation. We can do that, and everyone who is in this room will be part of a historic endeavor -- one that makes life better for our children and our grandchildren.

"Or we can choose delay, falling back into the same divisions that have stood in the way of action for years. And we will be back having the same stale arguments month after month, year after year, perhaps decade after decade, all while the danger of climate change grows until it is irreversible.

"Ladies and gentlemen, there is no time to waste. America has made our choice. We have charted our course. We have made our commitments. We will do what we say. Now I believe it's the time for the nations and the people of the world to come together behind a common purpose.

"We are ready to get this done today -- but there has to be movement on all sides to recognize that it is better for us to act than to talk; it’s better for us to choose action over inaction; the future over the past -- and with courage and faith, I believe that we can meet our responsibility to our people, and the future of our planet."

On December 17, House Speaker Pelosi, Leader Steny Hoyer, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, and Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming Chairman Edward Markey held a press briefing at the Bella Center in Copenhagen (see link below).

At approximately 8:00 PM, Copenhagen time, a draft agreement was emerging from the negotiators.

Update: In the early evening, U.S. time, a "deal" -- the Copenhagen Accord -- was announced which President Obama called a, "meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough here in Copenhagen." See link to the President's statement and press briefing following the deal below.

Access the full text of the President's address (
click here). Access a current report of the progress from the New York Times includes latest, still draft agreement (click here). Access the official Copenhagen Accord posted by the UNFCCC (click here). Access the President's statement and press briefing following the deal (click here). Access pictures and a blog post of the President in Copenhagen (click here). Access the transcript from the House press conference and a video (click here). Access the U.S. Department of State Copenhagen website for text and video of U.S. press briefings and various releases (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for links to all documents and videos of all press briefings (click here).