Obama Returns to Copenhagen

The President returned to Copenhagen, this time to address the United Nations Summit on Climate Change. His speech was not well received. From the UK Guardian:

In his address, Obama did say America would follow through on his administration's clean energy agenda, and that it would live up to its pledges to the international community.

"We have charted our course, we have made our commitments, and we will do what we say," Obama said.

But in the absence of any evidence of that commitment the words rang hollow and there was a palpable sense of disappointment in the audience.

Instead, he warned African states and low island nations who have been resisting what they see as a weak agreement that the later alternative -- no agreement -- was far worse.

"We know the fault lines because we've been imprisoned by them for years. But here is the bottom line: we can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, and continue to refine it and build upon its foundation," he said.

"Or we can again choose delay, falling back into the same divisions that have stood in the way of action for years. And we will be back having the same stale arguments month after month, year after year - all while the danger of climate change grows until it is irreversible."

He also took a dig at China, drawing attention to its status as the world's biggest emitter and reinforcing America's hardline on the issue of accountability for greenhouse gas emissions.

The lacklustre speech proved a huge frustration to a summit that had been looking to Obama to use his stature on the world stage - and his special following among African leaders - to try to come to an ambitious deal.

Here's some other reaction. From Friends of the Earth:

Friends of the Earth U.S. President Erich Pica had the following response to President Obama's speech:

"President Obama's rhetoric is empty. The U.S. has failed to significantly improve upon the weak position it brought to these talks.

"This speech appears to be more of a face-saving exercise for President Obama than an attempt to unite countries around a truly planet-saving agreement.

"The United States came to these negotiations with a weak position, and now appears to be attempting to take the rest of the world down to our level. It simply must do better."

From the World Wildlife Fund:

"In coming to Copenhagen at the critical final stage of this two-year process, President Obama outlined the building blocks of a deal and expressed his conviction that work still needs to be done.  He has put an emissions target on the table and pledged his commitment to long-term climate financing - both critical pieces of a final deal.

"But that's not enough to knit together the world community at this pivotal hour. As the President has said numerous times, all countries need to stand behind their commitments and agree to make those commitments transparent.

"That applies to the US as well.  The only way the world can be sure the US is standing behind its commitments is for the President to clearly state that climate change will be his next top legislative priority. The ultimate test of his leadership will be engaging the Senate and delivering action in Congress early next year.

"The world's future hangs in the balance.  At this critical hour, the `fierce urgency of now,' of which Dr. King spoke so about eloquently, is ringing loudly."

If I find other press releases, positive or negative, I'll post them.

Via Jamie Henn of Common Dreams, the response of Bill McKibbon of the 350 Global Initiative:

"In the face of leaked UN documents showing that this agreement is a sham, we were hoping for some movement from the President. Instead, his response was take it or leave it. 100 other nations are not making reasonable demands because they want to make the President's life harder. It's because they would like their countries to actually survive the century."

The text of the President's speech is below the fold.

The text of the President's Speech as prepared for delivery:

Good morning. It's an honor to for me to join this distinguished group of leaders from nations around the world. We come together here in Copenhagen because climate change poses a grave and growing danger to our people. You would not be here unless you - like me - were convinced that this danger is real. This is not fiction, this is science. Unchecked, climate change will pose unacceptable risks to our security, our economies, and our planet. That much we know.

So the question before us is no longer the nature of the challenge - the question is our capacity to meet it. For while the reality of climate change is not in doubt, our ability to take collective action hangs in the balance.

I believe that we can act boldly, and decisively, in the face of this common threat. And that is why I have come here today.

As the world's largest economy and the world's second largest emitter, America bears our share of responsibility in addressing climate change, and we intend to meet that responsibility. That is why we have renewed our leadership within international climate negotiations, and worked with other nations to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. And that is why we have taken bold action at home - by making historic investments in renewable energy; by putting our people to work increasing efficiency in our homes and buildings; and by pursuing comprehensive legislation to transform to a clean energy economy.

These actions are ambitious, and we are taking them not simply to meet our global responsibilities. We are convinced that changing the way that we produce and use energy is essential to America's economic future - that it will create millions of new jobs, power new industry, keep us competitive, and spark new innovation. And we are convinced that changing the way we use energy is essential to America's national security, because it will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and help us deal with some of the dangers posed by climate change.

So America is going to continue on this course of action no matter what happens in Copenhagen. But we will all be stronger and safer and more secure if we act together. That is why it is in our mutual interest to achieve a global accord in which we agree to take certain steps, and to hold each other accountable for our commitments.

After months of talk, and two weeks of negotiations, I believe that the pieces of that accord are now clear.

First, all major economies must put forward decisive national actions that will reduce their emissions, and begin to turn the corner on climate change. I'm pleased that many of us have already done so, and I'm confident that America will fulfill the commitments that we have made: cutting our emissions in the range of 17 percent by 2020, and by more than 80 percent by 2050 in line with final legislation.

Second, we must have a mechanism to review whether we are keeping our commitments, and to exchange this information in a transparent manner. These measures need not be intrusive, or infringe upon sovereignty. They must, however, ensure that an accord is credible, and that we are living up to our obligations. For without such accountability, any agreement would be empty words on a page.

Third, we must have financing that helps developing countries adapt, particularly the least-developed and most vulnerable to climate change. America will be a part of fast-start funding that will ramp up to $10 billion in 2012. And, yesterday, Secretary Clinton made it clear that we will engage in a global effort to mobilize $100 billion in financing by 2020, if - and only if - it is part of the broader accord that I have just described.

Mitigation. Transparency. And financing. It is a clear formula - one that embraces the principle of common but differentiated responses and respective capabilities. And it adds up to a significant accord - one that takes us farther than we have ever gone before as an international community.

The question is whether we will move forward together, or split apart. This is not a perfect agreement, and no country would get everything that it wants. There are those developing countries that want aid with no strings attached, and who think that the most advanced nations should pay a higher price. And there are those advanced nations who think that developing countries cannot absorb this assistance, or that the world's fastest-growing emitters should bear a greater share of the burden.

We know the fault lines because we've been imprisoned by them for years. But here is the bottom line: we can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, and continue to refine it and build upon its foundation. We can do that, and everyone who is in this room will be a part of an historic endeavor - one that makes life better for our children and grandchildren.

Or we can again choose delay, falling back into the same divisions that have stood in the way of action for years. And we will be back having the same stale arguments month after month, year after year - all while the danger of climate change grows until it is irreversible.

There is no time to waste. America has made our choice. We have charted our course, we have made our commitments, and we will do what we say. Now, I believe that it's time for the nations and people of the world to come together behind a common purpose.

We must choose action over inaction; the future over the past - with courage and faith, let us meet our responsibility to our people, and to the future of our planet. Thank you.

Tags: Copenhagen COP-15, global climate change, Obama Administration (all tags)

Comments

6 Comments

I am disappointed...

but not surprised in the least !!

It appears that, when it comes to action, there is no difference between those who believe and those who do not believe in global warming ~ noone is prepared to do anything about it.

by Ravi Verma 2009-12-18 11:45AM | 0 recs
Re: I am disappointed...

You can only look at those nations who signed Koyoto... have their emissions gone down? No.

by vecky 2009-12-18 11:59AM | 0 recs
Re: I am disappointed...

Yeah... and thank you for supporting my point !!

by Ravi Verma 2009-12-18 12:47PM | 0 recs
who are we kidding

It's not going to pass Congress. Obama could promise more but it would be a lie.

by John DE 2009-12-18 12:10PM | 0 recs
Re: who are we kidding

Depends... deadline is march as i see it. Kerry-Boxer or that Lieberman-Graham vapor bill are going to be contentious, as much so as HCR. If HCR passes in Janurary, Congress has a couple of months of a window before the public gets tired of.

by vecky 2009-12-18 12:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Returns to Copenhagen

Maggie Fox, CEO of Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection (which I work for but does not sign my checks), had this to say in an email release on the more positive side:

Wow. It was a truly dynamic convening of thinkers, leaders and activists here in Copenhagen this past week. And today, President Obama addressed this historic occasion and the full conference with a call for international cooperation and action.

Affirming the global impact of a clean energy economy and the urgency of the climate crisis, President Obama recognized the progress made here at COP15 and reasserted America's pledge to forward the work of the conference agenda back home in the United States.

With the steps taken in Copenhagen over the course of the last two weeks, our work at the Alliance is more important than ever -- and the President needs to hear about your commitment to clean energy and climate protection now more than ever before.

What the President asked of the world today we must now ask of our own nation -- to put aside the politics of the day and embrace a spirit of cooperation and bold action. For the workers who need jobs, our families who want security, and for our children who deserve the prosperity, safety, and health that a clean energy future will bring through American leadership.

by Nathan Empsall 2009-12-18 12:27PM | 0 recs

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