The White House just announced that US President Barack Obama will be going to Copenhagen…to support Chicago’s Olympic bid.
If the President is willing to travel across the world to try and lobby the International Olympic Committee to award the games to Chicago, there should be no excuse for him to travel back to Copenhagen in December to help hash out a climate deal.
Many heads of government have announced their intention to attend the COP15 talks–including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. In Brown’s estimation, having the highest level of representation in Copenhagen shows the urgency needed to hash out a global deal.
If Obama goes to Copenhagen to support a two-week sporting event and fails to attend a historic meeting in the same city to transform the world’s economy towards a low-carbon path, the symbolism will be noted by delegations from other countries.
It won’t bode well for generating a global response for dealing with one of the most pressing issues of our time.
With the first meeting of global heads of state to discuss climate change being convened this week at the United Nations headquarters in New York, it is becoming imperative that aggressive high level leadership will be needed to get a global deal negotiated by the end of the year.
One way of moving forward in this regard is for world leaders to get personally involved in the negotiating process instead of deferring the job to underlings. Thus, it is promising to note that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced that he will personally attend the UN Climate Change negotiations in Copenhagen.
It was also reported today that US President Barack Obama may go to Copenhagen as well. His potential visit, however, will be in October to meet with the International Olympic Committee to support Chicago’s Olympic bid.
If Obama is more willing to engage personally for a sporting event instead of one of the most important global policy discussions of the twentieth century, it is not likely to be perceived as a positive step by climate delegates in Copenhagen.
Photo: Downing Street
UK climate minister, Ed Miliband, released the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan today.
I haven’t had a chance to read it in its entirety, but the Guardian has a good rundown of its proposals.
The main goal is to reach a midterm (2020) target of a 34% reduction below 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Half of the reductions are to take place in the electricity sector, which will mean that 40% of power will be generated in a low-carbon fashion (which includes nuclear).
Other tools used to reach the goal will be to increase energy efficiency in buildings and strive to have at least 1.5 million households produce energy.
Also given significant focus is the transportation sector, which is scheduled to cut its emissions by 14% through various policies. One component that stuck me as interesting is a proposed $47 million competition for a “Sustainable Travel City” which would fund improvements in a British metropolitan area to serve as a national showpiece. Putting significant money behind a best-practices model could spur other cities to emulate successful low-carbon transport policies.
This type of mid-term committment will give the UK influence at the Copenhagen talks later this year–particularly given the slow and relatively unambitious efforts going on in Washington. There is a lot that leaders in other developed countries can learn from this plan–particularly the US Senate as it deliberates over the American Clean Energy and Security Act.