Jon Hiskes / GristAs the U.S. Senate begins work on a climate and energy bill this week, senators shouldn’t be surprised if they get a phone call from the guy who counts every person on Earth as a member of his constituency. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, said Monday that he plans to contact senators to urge them to pass a bill before December.
“I’m going to engage myself with not only government leaders but with senators of the United States,” Ban said at a press conference in Seattle.
He didn’t elaborate on who, or how, or what strategy he would employ to jumpstart the world’s most deliberative deliberative body. But his pledge illustrates how heavily the American legislative process weighs on the minds of those preparing for the UN climate conference in December.
China, India, Brazil, South Africa, and Mexico are all “ready to make some political compromises only if and only when the United States is ready to [pass a bill],” Ban said. “Leadership and initiative from the United States will be crucially important at this time. We have only six weeks to go. We don’t have much time.”
Ban maintained that reaching a treaty in December was still his goal, even as prospects for that diminish. He acknowledged that work toward a treaty would likely continue after the Copenhagen conference concludes, though he added, “I’m sure we will have an agreement there.”
Ban was in Seattle to accept an honorary degree from the University of Washington. He also stopped by the home of Bill and Melinda Gates to discuss ways to address maternal death rates and child health.
I asked him what benchmarks would make an effective U.S. climate bill, and Ban said it wasn’t his role to become involved in a domestic bill.
“Even with this domestic legislation, it may not be sufficient, but it can have a huge political impact with other negotiators, other countries,” he said.
Ban did sketch (in broad terms) what he considers the most crucial elements of an international climate treaty, largely echoing his op-ed in Monday’s New York Times. First, it must have ambitious mid-term targets for emissions. (He mentioned goals for 2020, as opposed to, say, 2050.). They must be backed by binding commitments. And wealthier countries must supply “substantial” financial aid to help poor countries adapt to the impacts of climate change.