For the last few weeks, politicians from developed countries around the world have been stockpiling lipstick – to spruce up the pig they are about to unveil in Copenhagen.
It has become increasingly clear that the Obama administration is undermining the push for a global climate deal and would like, instead, to scale back the expectations for the Copenhagen Climate Conference, while still finding a way to take a victory lap at the close of the proceedings.
The central issues have been the same for over a decade – developed countries have to clean up the mess they made and stop trashing the place. It’s a fundamental principle of fairness, right? You break it, you pay for it. And that’s exactly what has happened with our climate. The developed world got rich on cheap energy and, in the process, dumped enormous quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Now that it’s time to pay the bill, the developed world, led by the Obama administration, would like to avoid drastic cuts in their emissions while demanding that the less developed countries pick up part of the tab.
That’s sort of like going to lunch with a glutton that orders everything on the menu and then figures splitting the tab is a good plan. Right.
The Washington Post reported today that “Less than a month before international negotiators meet in Copenhagen with the ambitious goal of crafting a deal that will curb the world’s greenhouse gas emissions for years to come, the Obama administration is considering scaling back by endorsing a limited, short-term climate pact instead.” The theory is that such a short-term agreement can become a building block for a future, more comprehensive agreement.
The possible decision to support such an interim agreement — which falls far short of what many European and developing nations envisioned when President Obama took office — is an attempt to keep the U.N.-sponsored talks from being viewed a failure, say administration and congressional officials.
They emphasize that the trimmed-back approach should not be seen as a withdrawal of commitment, but rather as a first step: “An interim, operational deal is not meant to be seen as a substitute for a real agreement,” Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy on climate change, said in an interview. “It’s meant to be seen as substantive building blocks to a full, legal agreement, and perhaps the best chance of getting such an agreement.”
Well, Todd, I’d like to respectfully suggest to you and your boss that the best building blocks to a full, legal agreement are a few frank acknowledgments: that the developed world created the problem, that wealth directly correlates to carbon footprint, that the poor will always bear the burden of climate change since they cannot afford to shield themselves from its consequences, and that the blatant inequity of that situation constitutes a deep and unacceptable immorality.
It is not too strong to say that the wealthy are knowingly committing murder with their continued inaction to slow greenhouse gas emissions.
Global Exchange will be at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen with a Climate Justice delegation. We will post frequent updates between now and the end of the conference and we make you one unbreakable promise. We will tell you the truth.
My suggestion for Barack Obama is that he put the first building block to a full, legal climate agreement in place by making the same commitment. Take your victory lap when you deliver a strong and just agreement, not when you have failed.