Senior legislators from 17 countries met in Washington, D.C., on Monday to discuss their role in shaping climate action plans as world leaders continue to hash out the details of a new international climate treaty.
The Global Legislators Organization (GLOBE) is hosting an International Commission on Climate Change and Energy Security summit, which comes just after climate negotiators kicked off their meeting in Bonn, Germany, on Sunday, and just before the leaders of the world’s biggest economies plan to gather in London for the G-20 summit on Thursday.
GLOBE was formed in 1989 to allow legislators from G8 and major developing nations to work together outside of formal negotiations. The new panel that kicked off on Monday aims to “create political conditions” for a successful international climate treaty to come out of talks in Copenhagen in December.
“There are certain political realities that need to be put on the table if countries are to ratify a Copenhagen climate deal,” said GLOBE President Elliot Morley, a former Labor representative in the British Parliament. “As legislators, we are uniquely suited to explore the trade-offs that will be made at the U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen.”
Participants include legislators from the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Korea, China, India, Russia, Japan, Italy, Mexico, Denmark, South Africa, Brazil, Germany, Australia, Canada, France, and Indonesia — the same nations President Obama has invited to a Major Economies Forum on climate change next month.
An international climate treaty would need to be approved by the national legislatures of participating nations, and as we’ve seen in the United States Congress, that can be quite a hurdle. The Senate voted unanimously against joining in the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, as Morley pointed out on Monday. Like U.S. legislators, the GLOBE participants represent unique regional interests that will affect their own votes on a successor to Kyoto.
Representing the U.S. on the panel is Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), chair of both the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment and the Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming. He’s expected to introduce draft climate legislation with Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) on Tuesday. Markey noted in his opening statement on Monday that while the legislative climate has changed in the United States, these meetings will be key for moving a treaty forward.
“Change is coming because science demands it, the people demand it, and the planet demands it,” said Markey. “Together we have to build a sustainable future … It will not be easy, either at the national or international level.”
United Nations climate chief Yvo de Boer, who addressed the meeting via satellite from Bonn, reiterated his contention that treaty talks must lead to near-term emission-reduction targets for both developing and developed nations, and a system to provide financial resources to help poorer nations invest in clean technologies and adapt to climate change.
But legislators had tough questions for de Boer about many of the outstanding concerns in international climate policy, like the role of deforestation, biofuels, and carbon-capture-and-storage technologies.
In their own speeches, leaders from China and Brazil emphasized that their countries are already taking action. “We are ready to participate in a friendly and sincere discussion on climate change topics,” said Chinese legislator Pu Haiqing, noting that his nation has increased use of solar power and taken some of the dirtiest power plants offline.
But Pu also called on developed nations to take the lead. “Current climate change is largely due to the long-term, accumulated emissions of developed countries,” he said. “[We] have common but differentiated responsibilities.”
Over the course of the two-day GLOBE summit, legislators will discuss economic concerns and stimulus efforts, as well as the major political hurdles in their home countries. They plan to submit a statement before the G20 conference, which starts on Wednesday, and will convene again in Rome June 11 to 12 before the G8 meeting. They will issue a report on the outcome of their meetings ahead of the Copenhagen climate talks in December.