There is no doubt that the main focus of talks this week between UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Obama will be the economic meltdown. They will be talking about a “global new deal”.
But let’s not forget climate change needs to be totally and utterly integral in any agreement or action. Brown’s visit coincides with a meeting on UN meeting on global warming which will be attended by the State Department’s envoy on climate change, Todd Stern, as well as Ed Miliband, the British Energy Secretary.
It is beyond question that the Obama presidency has reenergised the international debate on climate after the wilderness years of the Bush Administration. The NYT reported at the weekend that President Obama’s election “has radically shifted the global equation, placing the United States at the forefront of the international climate effort and raising hopes that an effective international accord might be possible.”
The perception that the United States is now serious “has set off a flurry of diplomacy around the globe.” Obama’s chief climate negotiator, Todd Stern, has said that the US will be involved in a “robust way”. But does robust mean sufficient or even radical? Before we all get too excited, a global treaty still faces huge – and some say insurmountable – hurdles both in the US and abroad.
As Mark Hertsgaard The Nation’s environment correspondent, noted last week: “I recently attended an off-the-record briefing by a climate change insider, a thirty-year Washington veteran, who stressed again and again–to a very green audience–how “complicated” and “difficult” it will be to get agreement on Obama’s emissions targets. Forget that Obama had just won an undeniable electoral mandate and that Democrats control both houses of Congress. Republicans are opposed, so saving the planet is just too ambitious.”
But the fact that Obama is not Bush and has compltely different policies and priorities on climate has got the diplomatic ball slowly rolling. But time is short and whether the ball will reach any kind of speed that matters is at the moment anyone’s guess.
John Ashton, the British Foreign Secretary’s special representative for climate change argues that “The No. 1 thing will be for everyone to see that the U.S. is on an urgent and transformational path to a low carbon economy — that would have a galvanizing effect”. But can this happen in time?
Copenhagen is really the last chance. As the EU’s environment chief Stavros Dimas warned last week, the world faces a “final opportunity” to agree an comprehensive deal on climate change in Copenhagen in December. Copenhagen is the “the world’s last chance to stop climate change before it passes the point of no return”.
As the politicians pontificate – for many people actions speak louder than words.
Today, there is a day of direct action against the coal-fired Capital Power plant in DC , a “plant that powers Congress with dirty energy and symbolizes a past that cannot be our future”. Wendell Berry, Bill McKibben and Gus Speth are some of the environmental luminaries who say they will get arrested, to pressurise the Obama Presidency on its clean energy path.
So if you want to speak out about dirty king coal find out more here.
If you are going, the organisers ask you to attend in your “Sunday Best”!!