I wish all Americans could travel to the streets of Copenhagen and the halls of Bella Center to hear the excitement about President Obama and the hope that he brings. Many people from around the world – I’ve spoken with people from Nmibia, Kiribati, Denmark, Copenhagen, Australia, Dominican Republic, etc. – think Obama can help seal some kind of deal.
I envy this optimism. I struggle to find it on this chilly, wintry morning. Yesterday the hope buoyed protesters and concerned citizens to demand entrance to the Bella Center (a limited number of observer organizations were allowed inside, and even fewer today), but inside where heads of state and negotiators sat it was relatively calm. As the High-Level Segment (HLS) began, the first of 130 heads of state spoke the will of their country at three minute intervals. Only a handful of leaders spoke on Wednesday, but the divide that was prominent earlier in the week remains. Developing countries want a two-track process, and demanded Annex I countries under the Kyoto Protocol reduce their emissions by 40% or more by 2020, in addition to providing billions of dollars of funding annually for developing countries to adapt and transfer to renewable energies. Developed countries reiterated the desire to limit warming to 2 degrees C (above preindustrial levels) but that a new inclusive agreement that forces commitments from the U.S. and China were necessary to reach that goal. Connie Hedegaard stepped down as President of the COP in order to continue with one on one negotiations in order to help reach an agreement by tomorrow. The Prime Minister of Denmark now resides over the HLS proceedings. There is still no specific deal to seal.
So what can Obama say or do, in his allotted three minutes, that will bring this conference to a close? His hands are tied by a Congress that was unable to pass a climate and energy bill prior to Copenhagen, and he can’t commit to greenhouse gas emissions more than what is in the current draft of the climate bill (17% reducations below 2005 levels by 2020, corresponding to a 3% reduction below 1990 levels). He has, however, in the last week sent members of his cabinet and leaders in his administration to Copenhagen to show that the US is committed to change and has other means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar spoke to audiences in Copenhagen to discuss energy and climate policies. The US EPA announced last week that greenhouse gases are a danger to human health and could therefore be regulated, sending a message to Copenhagen that the Obama administration has the power to address emissions without new legislation from Congress. Obama is clearly showing his dedication to combating climate change by using current laws and administrative powers to do so, as he waits for Congress to send him a bill to sign.
On November 19th, 1863, in less than three minutes, Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address to a warring nation. His remarks helped to end the civil war by reminding those fighting of the original, unifying intent of the creation of the United States – a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Perhaps Obama can use his three minutes to unite and inspire the fractioned parties to the conference, reminding them of the original, unifying goal of the United Framework Convention on Climate Change – the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. In other words – limiting climate change to a level that will provide a healthy planet for future generations.
“Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope” – President Barack Obama.
- posted by Adina Abeles