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Obama Shifts Schedule, Coming to Copenhagen When It Matters

This sudden, surprise announcement by the Obama administration-to delay his trip to Copenhagen from December 9th to the 18th-is a much bigger deal...


This sudden, surprise announcement by the Obama administration-to delay his trip to Copenhagen from December 9th to the 18th-is a much bigger deal than it may sound. It means that the White House feels there's a really good chance of getting a deal done in Copenhagen, and this decision also makes that deal a lot more likely.He had planned on stopping by on his way to Oslo to pick up the Nobel Prize, coming to the COP15 talks on Wednesday of the first week. While every day of these two week meetings will be crucial, there wasn't much that Obama could offer that early in the process, other than a photo op and some positive energy. The last day of the talks has long been blocked off for heads of state to meet, and 65 other national leaders had already committed to coming on the 18th. Right place, wrong time was the general consensus."The president's decision to come at the end of the Copenhagen negotiations on December 18 means he will be here in person with other world leaders to seal the deal, not just to present the U.S. position," said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.White House press secretary Robert Gibbs gave this take on the decision:Based on his conversations with other leaders and the progress that has already been made to give momentum to negotiations, the president believes that continued U.S. leadership can be most productive through his participation at the end of the Copenhagen conference on December 18 rather than on December 9. There are still outstanding issues that must be negotiated for an agreement to be reached, but this decision reflects the president's commitment to doing all that he can to pursue a positive outcome.It also means that the president feels confident that there's a deal to be had in Copenhagen. You can be sure that the administration is running some political calculus and it's showing that there's a good enough chance for a deal, and that Obama's presence can help make it happen. Since the announcement late yesterday afternoon, already Italy's prime minister Berlusconi (a marginal player in these talks, but still) and the India prime minister Manmohan Singh (a hugely important figure) have said that they'll come to Copenhagen. "It's like dominoes falling," is how Italian sustainability expert Andrea Cinquina described it to me this morning.For some personal perspective, I can tell you firsthand that the news lifted spirits here in Copenhagen. Word cascaded through the bar last night where a bunch of NGO and youth climate activists were gathered, and the renewed sense of hope amongst all these insiders was palpable.Here's Dave Roberts' take, which is worth reading, and the official White House statement below._______________FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEDecember 4, 2009STATEMENT FROM THE PRESS SECRETARY ON THE UNITED NATIONS CLIMATE CHANGECONFERENCEThe President strongly believes that all nations have a responsibilityto combat the threat of climate change. He has already takenunprecedented action to do so at home, including an historic investmentin clean energy solutions that will reduce our dependence on oil andcreate jobs. Abroad, he has engaged leaders bilaterally andmultilaterally on the issue of climate change, and agreed to participatein the climate conference in Copenhagen.After months of diplomatic activity, there is progress being madetowards a meaningful Copenhagen accord in which all countries pledge totake action against the global threat of climate change. Followingbilateral meetings with the President and since the United Statesannounced an emissions reduction target that reflects the progress beingmade in Congress towards comprehensive energy legislation, China andIndia have for the first time set targets to reduce their carbonintensity. There has also been progress in advancing the Danish proposalfor an immediate, operational accord that covers all of the issues undernegotiation, including the endorsement of key elements of this approachby the 53 countries represented at the Commonwealth Summit last weekend.This week, the President discussed the status of the negotiations withPrime Minister Rudd, Chancellor Merkel, President Sarkozy, and PrimeMinister Brown and concluded that there appears to be an emergingconsensus that a core element of the Copenhagen accord should be tomobilize $10 billion a year by 2012 to support adaptation and mitigationin developing countries, particularly the most vulnerable and leastdeveloped countries that could be destabilized by the impacts of climatechange. The United States will pay its fair share of that amount andother countries will make substantial commitments as well. InCopenhagen, we also need to address the need for financing in the longerterm to support adaptation and mitigation in developing countries.Providing this assistance is not only a humanitarian imperative - it'san investment in our common security, as no climate change accord cansucceed if it does not help all countries reduce their emissions.Based on his conversations with other leaders and the progress that hasalready been made to give momentum to negotiations, the Presidentbelieves that continued US leadership can be most productive through hisparticipation at the end of the Copenhagen conference on December 18thrather than on December 9th. There are still outstanding issues thatmust be negotiated for an agreement to be reached, but this decisionreflects the President's commitment to doing all that he can to pursue apositive outcome. The United States will have representation inCopenhagen throughout the negotiating process by State Departmentnegotiators and Cabinet officials who will highlight the great strideswe have made this year towards a clean energy economy.
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