Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Can Obama Save the Climate Summit?

It is hard to believe that anybody can save the Copenhagen climate summit as the final two days for negotiating approach but British environmentalist and columnist George Monbiot thinks Obama can do it. In his column in The Guardian Monbiot writes that “Because of the size and weight of the United States, and the moral power invested in the current president, it is Barack Obama, and Barack Obama alone, who can rescue the climate negotiations from dismal bickering into which they have slumped.” I doubt if very many Americans believe Obama can save the day. After all, whatever he proposes has to be approved by the US Congress. How is that for an unmovable obstacle? Here is what Monbiot says Obama should say in his upcoming speech: "I hereby commit the United States to cutting greenhouse gases by 50% against our 1990 levels by 2020. I commit to this cut regardless of what other nations might do, but I urge you to compete with me to exceed it. We should be striving to outbid each other, not to undercut each other.” Congress is having trouble passing a bill with target as low as about 5% below 1990 levels. What Republican or Blue Dog Democrat would vote for 50% below? Monbiot says Obama should end his speech by saying "I have no illusions about the resistance these proposals will encounter. This will be the political battle of my life. But I know it is a battle worth fighting. If I duck it, future generations will never forgive me, just as they will not forgive anyone in this room for failing to rise to our greatest challenge. This is the battle we owe to our children and to their children. This is the time to do not what is expedient, but what is right." Last I heard Obama is hoping to get something passed on health care reform very soon and then take on financial regulatory reform and job creation next year. Where would he have time for waging this fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? At this point it doesn’t appear that President Obama or anyone else on the planet can save this meeting from tanking.

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