carolSo the cracks have become a widening chasm.

Amongst the grinding deadlock of the climate talks is the growing realism that President Obama faces not just one public humiliation in Copenhagen but two. All in a space of just over three months.

Fresh from his defeat over the Olympics, he now faces going to the Copenhagen climate talks in December like a busted flush, with no Senate bill to act as bargaining power in his back pocket.

Carol Browner (pictured), President Obama’s top domestic adviser, has admitted that it is unlikely that a final bill will be signed before Copenhagen.  Her bleak prognosis deepens growing concerns that negotiations will fail to produce anything meaningful in December.

Speaking just days after the Democrats announced their plans for the Senate, Browner said: “Obviously, we’d like to be through the process, but that’s not going to happen. I think we would all agree the likelihood that you’d have a bill signed by the president on comprehensive energy by the time we go in December is not likely.”

Browner said the U.S. could still take a leading role at the Copenhagen talks, even without a new climate law. “We will go to Copenhagen and manage with whatever we have,” she said.

And “whatever we have” may well be not what the Democrats want but what their Republic opponents have been arguing for years. The Washington Post today argues that up for discussion is a system by where the world’s major emitters could forge a pact that encompasses nationally binding goals and is subject to some kind of international review, rather than internationally binding cuts.

The paper quotes James L. Connaughton, who chaired President Bush’s Council on Environmental Quality, who believes that the outcome in Copenhagen could resemble what Bush and his top deputies had wanted for years.

“What countries came to realize after Kyoto was it was hugely problematic to have international environmental negotiations establishing domestic economic and energy policy without first forging a domestic consensus,” said Connaughton.  “What all major economies realized this time around is that they need to establish a domestic consensus on an agreed level of effort as a stronger basis for the commitments they make internationally, and as a catalyst for international cooperation.”

This kind of language is music to the ear’s of the corporate lobbyists. Arch-climate sceptic and villain, William O’Keefe, who is now the head of the right-wing George C. Marshall Institute, said he could accept a global agreement that “pays allegiance to Kyoto but is much more flexible and focused on objectives” rather than specific emissions targets.

“If that happened, that would be a big step forward,” says O’Keefe, playing lip-service to the fossil fuel lobby.

In reality it would be a big step backwards. And the possibility of a Democratic president signing a climate deal that excites Republicans and the fossil fuel lobby is not something that people who voted for Obama could have expected.

That is not really change they can believe in.


  • If they want to have agreement on the Waxman bill they must drop the Cap&Trade componant. C&T is the reason why there is an impass. Dump Cap&Trade!

  • Sigh. Suppose it’s time to play Taps for 2009 climate legislation.
    Then 2010 is an election year, 2011 is the run up to the Pres. elections, and 2012 is out. So maybe 2013.

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