Climate week began with world leaders participating in a full day of
discussions on global warming. Over 100 world leaders were in
attendance -- the largest gathering of world leaders on global warming
and the first in many respects. The leaders of a number of the key
countries provided remarks. Yesterday's events were intended to give a
much needed injection of energy to the final stretch of the
international negotiations to secure a new agreement in Copenhagen this
Remember, there are five key building blocks for the agreement that
emerges from Copenhagen so we need to watch what details are filled in
on each of these:
*Strong leadership from developed countries with firm and aggressive emissions reductions targets.
*Willingness of developing countries to undertake significant emissions reductions on their own
that tangibly reduce the growth of their emissions in the near-term
(e.g., to 2020) and lay the foundation for even deeper cuts in the
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*Turning the corner on efforts to combat global deforestation.
*Properly designed and performance-based incentives from
developed countries to encourage even greater developing country
*Support for adaptation to the impacts of climate change in the least vulnerable countries.
As I discussed there are some "rays of hope"
in international efforts to address global warming. And leader after
leader effectively said something to the effect of: "the fate of future
generations depends upon our choices today and our future is in our
hands" (or something like that). Some said it more eloquently than me,
but my speech writers aren't paid as well.
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The UN climate summit provided some boosts to the international
negotiations as we lead into the final stretch before Copenhagen. Some
of these were significant enough to attract attention in the media,
while others slipped a bit below the radar but are no less important.
President Hu Jintao outlined a set of new actions that China will
undertake to reduce their global warming pollution. Most significant
they signaled that they would reduce their emissions intensity
(emissions per unit of Gross Domestic Product) by "a notable margin by
2020 from 2005 levels." They held back the actual number that they
would reduce their intensity by in 2020, but this is a negotiation (as
I discussed here) so this isn't surprising at this stage. But as I discussed here and my colleague Barbara Finamore discussed here, this action could mark an important shift in China's efforts.
It is getting harder and harder for countries to hide behind the inaction of China with these promising signs from China.
The details of this new commitment are important, but it is clear
that China is willing to take steps to cut its emissions and they
signaled that internationally. The US has an important role to play in
helping to secure that the detailed commitments that emerge from China
are strong. The Chinese will be looking to what the US will do
domestically through its clean energy and climate bill, but also what
the US will be asking of them through the US-China bilateral
agreement. A huge opportunity!
India. Over the last couple of weeks India has shown some very promising shifts in their position. As my colleagues have discussed here and here,
India recently announced it would quantify the emissions cuts it will
make under its National Action Plan on Climate Change. And India's
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh explained that India is:
"...prepared to take on, voluntarily, unilaterally, mitigation actions
as part of a domestic legislative agenda."
Anybody that has followed the negotiations will notice that this is
a big shift in the Indian position. They used be resistant to
committing internationally to undertake efforts to reduce their
emissions, even though on-the-ground in India they had actually moved
on a number fronts to reduce emissions. Details of these commitments
need to be firmed up, but this another new opportunity!
Japan. The new
Japanese government came to the UN and offered internationally to
increase their emissions reduction target to 25% below 1990 levels by
2020. This is an important improvement from the offer that the
previous government put on the table.
Japan is a highly efficient economy in many respects so this more
aggressive target is a positive sign. It is a new opportunity that
provides a much needed boost to the targets that developed countries
are committing to!
US. President Obama spoke before the UN and as NRDC's President stated:
Obama clearly understands the urgency of the climate crisis and the
benefits to our economy, our health and our security that will come
from shifting to a clean energy economy. With his continued engagement
the United States can enact strong legislation at home and mobilize the
international community to meet this challenge."
This is an opportunity that can be seized by the Senate beginning
next week as the debate on the climate bill begins in earnest when a
bill is expected to be released by Senator Kerry and Boxer. A lot of
work is occurring behind the scenes in the Senate, so I'm optimistic
that a bill can move quickly through the Senate. Passage of this bill
will put the US in a strong position to secure a strong international
agreement and seize this opportunity!
Seizing the Opportunity. These bits of
momentum provide an opportunity as world leaders meet in Pittsburgh for
the G20. The question is will they seize this opportunity, build upon
it in Pittsburgh, and provide an extra boost for the final stretch of
the international negotiations.
Will they commit to move forward the important debate on providing
the needed investments in developing countries on clean energy,
deforestation, and international adaptation?
I'll be here in Pittsburgh watching this debate and nudging for a
clear signal from world leaders that they will bring a commitment to
Copenhagen to support the needed investment in developing countries.
And they'll have to provide a clear signal that they are poised to
secure a strong agreement in Copenhagen.