The global climate negotiations in Poznan opened on Monday with all expected pomp and circumstance. Two prime ministers and Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Nobel-Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, addressed thousands of delegates and observers who have swarmed into this cold, dark town in western Poland.
However, while the proceedings dominated the official headlines, the buzz in the hallways was all about events in the United States.
The election of Barack Obama has injected new hope into the global climate negotiations. Reporters around the conference center are asking anyone they can grab, “What about Obama?” There’s Obama buzz in the air.
Delegates and NGOs alike are itching for the U.S. to come back into the fold in a productive and — dare we say — leadership role in these U.N. climate negotiations. President-elect Obama appeared to take a strong first step in a high-profile speech to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent climate conference. Sure, there are bones to pick with the Obama’s plan, but it’s clear the U.S. is coming back in a big way.
Still, things here in Poznan are not so simple. As Obama said, there’s only one president at a time, and the one still charting the course for the U.S. delegation has a different type of buzz associated with him.
What is needed here in Poznan is for the wave of hope generated by the U.S. election to move the discussions forward. The challenge for those pushing for action in Poznan will be to keep the outgoing U.S. team from holding up progress in the name of “preserving all options for the incoming administration.” As the ECO newsletter noted on Monday [PDF], the only valid mandate held by the Bush delegation is to keep the seats warm for the Obama team.