Due to having quite an unexpected experience this morning on my way to the Bella Center in Copenhagen I thought it would be a good idea to make sure our readers are aware of who is who amongst the top Copenhagen officials. As I was walking off the Metro this morning I happened to be walking next to one of the UN’s top aids to top climate change official Yvo de Boar. Little did I know of him much less be able to pick his face out of a crowd of a bunch of Norwegians, Danes, Swedes and others. Unfortunately, I did not realize who he was until he was literally swarmed by “politi” and security once he entered the conference center. In light of this experience here is a little rundown of some of the top officials you/we may see while spending time around the Bella Center (mid to later part of next week most likely).
Yvo de Boar – Yvo is being discussed as the most important head official attending the conferences this week in Copenhagen. He is known for much of his good humor and extreme devotion to duty and diplomatic skills. His title of Executive Secretary of the UFCCC speaks to his knowledge not only with the European systems but amongst the many international policy systems as well. De Boer has been criticised for lacking sufficient ambition for a global climate change deal and for praising the commitments of the United States despite what some see as its spoiler role in international climate negotiations.
Marthinus van Schalkwyk – Van Schalkwyk was appointed as the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism in the South African cabinet as a reward for aligning his party with the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Initially judged with scepticism by many environmental activists groups, his career has been marked by a number of decisions and initiatives that have been increasingly welcomed by environmentalists alike. He has been the main driving force for many of the South African nations that are experiencing some of the worst of what climate change has presented.
Todd Stern – Stern was the assistant to the President and Staff Secretary in the White House from 1993 to 1998. His main focus lies in climate change and environmental issues. He also acted as the senior White House negotiator at the Kyoto Protocol and Buenos Aires negotiations. On January 26, 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Clinton appointed Stern to be a special envoy for climate change in light of the high profile negotiations this week in Copenhagen. He is known heavily for the extreme criticism of the Bush Administration years and was a big player in the climate debate in Bonn, Germany last April.
Connie Hedegaard – Hedegaard is the Danish Minister for Climate and Energy and also is the chair of the Copenhagen negotiations. She has been behind Denmark’s energy successes for yeas now and has no intention of stopping her drive against climate change and time soon. In April, she signed an action plan with India on renewable energies and has also achieved her goal in introducing Denmark’s Energy Policy from the years 2008 to 2011. The policy made her country the first in the world to commit to an overall energy reduction, not just a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Yesterday Todd Stern, the US State Department’s Special Envoy on Climate Change addressed the House select committee on climate change. I didn’t get a chance to watch the hearing, but a couple of interesting things came out according to media reports.
First, he reiterated the importance of having Congress pass a climate bill by the time that the UN convenes climate negotiations in December, saying that having a climate law immanent would give the US “credibility and leverage” in negotiations.
Of course, he was speaking to the wrong audience. The House passed its version of a climate and energy bill in June and is now waiting on the Senate. The Senate has delayed consideration of climate legislation with the battle over health care reform taking center stage in Congressional deliberations. This has make Senators from a wide variety of backgrounds less than optimistic about passage of legislation. Some key Senators–namely Kerry and Boxer–are not giving up the fight and expect initial legislation to be introduced this month.
Stern also made mention of the difficulties ahead of Copenhagen with regard to aid to developing countries to shift to low carbon economic growth. This is a major issue in negotiations with large emitters like China insistent that significaant financial flows from North to South be included in any agreement. For countries poorer than China, guaranteed aid to deal with adaptation as well as mitigation is essential.
Before Stern’s remarks the European Commission released a plan that assumed developing countries would need $145 billion annually by 2020 in climate-related aid. Stern made no definitive response to the European proposal and a document released today by the US Treasury Department in advance of a meeting of G-20 finance ministers calls for increased money but doesn’t provide specific committments.
The European proposal has been seen as a way to jump-start negotiations, but the US silence suggests the move may not have been entirely successful.
Obama is scheduled to give a major speech on climate at the UN meeting in New York later this month. Perhaps at that juncture he will be bit more forthcoming with the US position.
Photo of Todd Stern: Center for American Progress
If it seems like this blog is obsessing over Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, it’s not by intention. Rather, Ramesh seems to make news daily in his effort to solidify the Indian position in global climate change talks.
The latest Ramesh salvo is directed at economist Sir Nicolas Stern–the author of the eponymous Stern Report on the economic consequences of global warming and an advocate for a strong international agreement that requires an equitable deal for developing countries.
Seeing that developed countries pay their fair share is the main position of Ramesh and the Indian government, Stern would be an unusual target for the Indian minister. Apparently Ramesh was irked at a recent speech Stern gave at Chatham House on the issue of India and climate change.
Stern emphasized the responsibility of developed countries to cut their emissions, but also made the point that it will nearly impossible for the world to meet the 2 degree centigrade warming limit being discussed without a deviation by India and China from business as usual projections. Stern argued that India could maintain its moral authority and help solve the climate crisis by agreeing to cuts from business as usual projections under the condition that developed countries also have strong reductions and that developed countries get financial assistance to transition to a low carbon economy.