By Frances Beinecke
While I was gathering with my family this Thanksgiving holiday, I was grateful for the news out of Washington and Beijing, affirming that the leaders of the United States and China will bring important commitments to the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen.
When he travels there next week, President Obama will bring the full power and prestige of the highest office in the land to bear on the single greatest environmental challenge of our time.
He takes with him a serious climate protection proposal from the United States, a pledge to reduce carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
That shows we mean business and are ready to lead. And it will help advance efforts to secure commitments for action from other countries around the world.
Similarly, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao announced Thursday that he will attend the summit, bringing his country's promise to cut carbon intensity by at least 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. That means China will emit less carbon for each pair of jeans, computer, automobile or other good it produces going forward.
These developments are encouraging for the United States, for China and for the world.
Between the two of us, the United States and China account for roughly 40 percent of the carbon emissions that are warming our planet. A global solution begins with the two of us. That's why the participation of Obama and Wen is so vital to Copenhagen.
It sends the signal that both countries stand ready to work with our friends and partners around the world to help combat climate change.
In the process, we're building a pan-Pacific strategic partnership that will help both countries to cut or curtail the growth of carbon emissions, promote the use of renewable energy sources and develop the next generation of energy-efficient cars, homes and workplaces.
Almost overlooked amid the swirl of U.S.-China developments, the United States and India agreed last week to strengthen the clean energy and climate partnership between these two countries.
At a White House summit last Tuesday, Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manhoman Singh agreed to several new initiatives aimed at joining forces to create a clean and sustainable energy future for both countries.
They also agreed to work as partners at Copenhagen to address four central issues: curbing carbon emissions, helping poor countries adapt to the ravages of climate change, sharing clean energy technology and providing financing to aid low income nations in their transition to a sustainable energy future.
This is precisely the kind of senior-level cooperation we need to develop a global solution to the global scourge of climate change. We won't solve it all at Copenhagen. But with the kind of leadership we've seen in recent days, Copenhagen can become what Obama said last week he hopes it will be: "a stepping stone to a legally binding treaty" that can gather the entire international community around the common goal of creating a healthier future for us all.
By Frances Beinecke