Some very good news on the international front, as the UK Guardian reports today:
During a hastily convened breakfast meeting in Singapore, the US president supported a Danish plan to salvage something from the moribund negotiations by aiming for a broad political agreement and postponing contentious decisions on emissions targets, financing and technology transfer….
The deferral plan was outlined to 19 leaders, including Obama and Chinese president Hu Jintao, who were in Singapore for a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
“Given the time factor and the situation of individual countries we must, in the coming weeks, focus on what is possible and not let ourselves be distracted by what is not possible,” the Danish prime minister, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, told the leaders after flying in overnight for the unscheduled discussion. “The Copenhagen agreement should finally mandate continued legal negotiations and set a deadline for their conclusion.”
… This would give breathing space for the US Senate to pass carbon-capping legislation, allowing the Obama administration to bring a 2020 target and financing pledges to the table at a UN climate meeting in Mexico or Germany in mid-2010.
This is no big surprise to CP readers or anyone who follows international negotiations or domestic politics. For 8 years, U.S. negotiations were run by hard-core anti-scientific conservatives, who not only blocked any domestic action and opposed any international deal — but the Cheney-Bush negotiators actually actively worked to undermine the efforts of other countries to develop a follow on to the Kyoto Protocol.
It was never possible that team Obama — in just a few months — could undo that and simultaneously develop a final international deal and pass bipartisan U.S. climate legislation — a very slow process, given the experience with our last major domestic clean air bill, the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments.
As the NYT’s Revkin blogs this morning, “Many seasoned participants in nearly two decades of treaty negotiations aimed at blunting global warming had predicted this outcome.”
The new plan for Copenhagen makes the prospects for a successful international deal far more likely — and at the same time increases the chance for Senate passage of the bipartisan climate and clean energy bill that Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen Lieberman (I-CT) are negotiating with the White House. The NYT print story reports:
“There was an assessment by the leaders that it is unrealistic to expect a full internationally, legally binding agreement could be negotiated between now and Copenhagen, which starts in 22 days,” said Michael Froman, the deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs. “I don’t think the negotiations have proceeded in such a way that any of the leaders thought it was likely that we were going to achieve a final agreement in Copenhagen, and yet thought that it was important that Copenhagen be an important step forward, including with operational impact.”
Indeed, had leaders gone into Copenhagen without this recognition of the obvious and let the whole effort collapse under the weight of unrealistic expectations, that would have been all-but-fatal to the domestic bipartisan climate bill.
Now it will be obvious when the Senate takes up the bill up in the winter that the rest of the world is prepared to act — that every major country in the world has come to the table with serious targets and/or serious commitments to change their greenhouse gas emissions trajectories. Every country but ours, that is.
The few key swing Senators will understand that they are the only ones who stand in the way of strong US leadership in the vital job-creating clean energy industries and stand in the way of this crucial opportunity the world now has to preserve a livable climate through an international deal. Their role in history will be defined by this one vote. And, yes, I do think that matters to people like Dick Lugar (R-IN) and perhaps even John McCain (R-AZ).
UPDATE: One can expect those who have long opposed serious action on climate change to trumpet this good news as bad news. The WSJ, for instance, writes, “International efforts to combat climate change took a significant blow when the leaders of the APEC forum conceded a binding international treaty won’t be reached when the U.N. convenes in Copenhagen in three weeks.” What do you expect from a paper that has long trumpeted disinformation on climate science and the economic impacts of climate action? Yes, this was a “news” story, but consider this line from the story: “The election of Obama, a believer in strict limits on greenhouse gas emissions, had raised hopes among environmentalists that Copenhagen would produce a tough, binding treaty to follow the Kyoto accords of 1997.” Notice how Obama is framed not as someone who believes in climate science, but merely in regulations. And again, notice how for the WSJ, the only people who care about those regulations are “environmentalists” rather than, say, all of humanity or even those who understand the climate science laid out by the IPCC that sets the basis for international climate agreements.