Copenhagen Day 8: Obama’s Catch-22, Weekend Protests, and a U.S. Pledge For Clean Energy Technology
Week two of the Copenhagen Climate Summit began today, amidst reports of weekend protests, stalled negotiations, and a major player deciding to come two days early. There’s a lot to cover, but first, let’s take a look at some analysis that emerged over the weekend from the New York Times.
John M. Broder wrote on Saturday about the specific challenges President Obama faces as he makes his way to Copenhagen later this week. Although the House did pass a bill in June that includes Obama’s pledge to reduce emissions by 17 percent over the next decade, the Senate hasn’t even gotten around to debating the issue. And without Senate action, any promise Obama brings to the Copenhagen table is just that–a promise that may not be enough to persuade other nations to act.
As Republicans and Democrats in Congress refuse to accept legislation that threatens their constituents’ jobs and industries, the president finds himself heading into Copenhagen with his hands seemingly tied. While he could use the recent EPA ruling to regulate the country’s emissions, the president has made it clear he favors a “messy Congressional compromise.” Given all this political wrangling, there’s no doubt everyone is waiting to hear what he will bring to the table.
Meanwhile, in a Friday editorial, the Times highlighted the tough talk coming from China so far in Denmark, and the United State’s blunt responses. Todd Stern, the chief American negotiator, has made it painfully clear that there is no way to address the problem of climate change without the cooperation of China and other major developing nations.
Protests continued over the weekend, resulting in the arrest of over 900 activists. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets Saturday, some dressed as penguins and polar bears, carrying signs proclaiming “Save the humans.” The protesters are advocating a legally binding agreement in regards to climate change, and have been mostly peaceful. There were reports of a group throwing rocks at police, but there has also been talk of police overreaction in the face of largely peaceful demonstrations.
Two of the industrialized world’s major powers made moves today to show their commitment to the issue at hand. According to the UK Guardian, Gordon Brown, the UK prime minister, announced that he would fly to Copenhagen on Tuesday, two full days before he had originally planned. A spokesperson for the prime minister said that Brown believes negotiations cannot wait until the last minute, and wants high-level leaders involved as soon as possible. He is looking to leave the conference with a political, rather than a legally binding, agreement.
The second major statement came from the U.S., as Energy Secretary Steven Chu promised the conference a $350 million fund for the development of new clean energy technologies. In an appearance at the US pavilion in Copenhagen, Chu likened the pledge to the breakthrough of seed technology in Asia, saying, “We need a gamechanger like the green revolution was for agriculture.” The announcement was part of an attempt by the Obama administration to illustrate to the international community how serious the U.S. is about addressing climate change.
And lastly, the Economic Times reported Monday on the two-hour stall in negotiations after the African bloc accused developed countries of “killing the Kyoto protocol” and attempting to sideline poor nations. With China and India by their side, the African nations demanded a firm commitment from rich countries on their emissions targets. With this latest deadlock, hopes of reaching an all-encompassing agreement are fading.
As we kick off this second week, there is still a lot of work to be done. Probably most crucial, however, is the world’s response to whatever President Obama comes to the table with later this week.