Faced with the prospect of continued bickering over the shape of a new climate agreement to extend the Kyoto Protocol, President Barack Obama’s bold leadership has apparently saved the world.
The U.N. Climate Change Conference, scheduled for December in Copenhagen, was clearly headed for failure before Obama’s intervention. The Copenhagen conference has been considered by many scientists and political leaders to be the world’s final chance to agree on aggressive greenhouse gas emission cuts before the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period expires in 2012, leaving CO2 emissions unregulated by any legally binding international treaty.
Short term emission cuts between now and 2020 are widely regarded as the most important factor in determining whether the world will be able to avert catastrophic climate change, so the failure to adopt a new agreement now would likely make climate disaster unavoidable. Luckily, Barack Obama has publicly endorsed Danish Premier Lars Lokke Rasmussen’s proposal to give “the troubled U.N. climate negotiations breathing space by aiming for a politically binding agreement in Copenhagen. Legally binding details would be worked out later.” (Reuters – APEC nations back face-saving climate plan)
Obama explained the thrust of the proposal to press assembled at a hastily convened news conference at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
When faced with the prospect of failure, it was important to me and to the entire world to rescue the Copenhagen talks and redefine the situation in a way that made success possible. We have, I think, done that.
A lot of folks fail to consider the fact that CO2 emissions have already dropped as a result of the economic crisis. I was thinking about that in the shower this morning and came up with a way to leverage that emissions drop into an agreement at Copenhagen, so as soon as I dried off I called up Lars and we worked out this new plan.
What we are going to do in Copenhagen is adopt a political agreement that the U.S. will cut back CO2 emissions from fossil fuels by 5.6% in 2009. According to the Energy Information Agency, that’s how much emissions have already dropped due to the economic meltdown, so we don’t have to lift a finger to make that commitment.
The rest of the world will be so happy that the U.S. is finally doing something that they’ll agree to pretty much anything, so we plan to ask developing countries like China and India to take on the bulk of the greenhouse gas reduction burden. That will leave the U.S. free to carry on with business as usual.
Not bad, huh? Now we have a chance to succeed at Copenhagen. The rest is up to the developing countries and I’m pretty sure they’ll be tickled pink with the agreement. And if not, it’s on them. We’ve done our part.