Increasingly it looks like Barack Obama will make only one trip to Scandinavia next month – and that is not going to be to Copenhagen and the climate talks.
Instead he will be going to Oslo to pick up his Nobel Peace Prize. And, although its only an hour by plane to Copenhagen, where dozens of world leaders will be gathered for the crucial climate conference, don’t count on Obama to join them. Obama is refusing to say that he will attend, although it is looking increasingly likely that he won’t as he does not want to be seen to be attending a dead-end Summit.
“It’s very hard to send the president to an event where there’s going to be intense focus on the lack of a U.S. policy and intense blame levelled on the United States for not having a policy to offer,” argues David Victor, an energy policy expert at Stanford Law School.
“With nothing to report, inaction and gridlock in the Senate, it seems like a wiser move to stay home.” a senior Senate Democratic aide told the politico.com website.
But the very act of Obama staying at home, makes any deal less likely. “I think he should go simply because the stakes are so high,” says Al Gore. “The U.S. has so much at risk because all around the world, the topic of conversation with regard to climate is: When is the U.S. going to act?”
So when is the US gong to act?
It is time Obama stepped up to the plate and, not only said he will attend, but also did everything to make sure a deal happens.
If not Obama risks becoming the climate fall-guy.
Already the sharks are beginning to circle.
Another reason for Obama to stay at home is to push forward his health reforms. This is a misguided priority. Bill McKibben the founder of 350.org argues that:
“For a year now it’s been clear that the president is not particularly focused on applying the political pressure that would have been necessary to reach any kind of pact, much less one that approaches what the science demands. Despite the deadline of the Copenhagen conference, Obama placed energy second on his priority list, guaranteeing that health care would occupy most of the year.”
He is not alone in arguing the President has got his priorities wrong.
Today’s editorial in the Washington Post argues: “One reason for the Senate’s delay is that Mr. Obama chose to focus on health-care reform before climate change, even though Copenhagen loomed. He should take the lead on climate now …It’s time for the Obama administration to make a commitment on emissions reductions.”
Germany’s premier news magazine Der Spiegel has a hard-hitting piece by one of its own editors, Christian Schwaegerl, condemning Barack Obama’s handling of climate change. It states that:
“US President Barack Obama came to office promising hope and change. But on climate change, he has followed in the footsteps of his predecessor, George W. Bush. Now, should the climate summit in Copenhagen fail, the blame will lie squarely with Obama.”
He continues: “Obama has proven himself to be unable to put an end to the lies that modern American society is based on. He is unable to overcome the entrenched lobbyists of the oil and coal industries and make the reality clear to his compatriots: They are the worst energy wasters on the planet — and are thus, indirectly, a major threat to world peace in the 21st century.”
So just as Obama picks up the Nobel Peace prize, his growing critics in Europe argue the US’s stance on climate is a threat to world peace.
As McKibben says: Obama’s “legacy won’t depend on the shiny medal the Norwegians hang around his neck next month; it will depend, more than anything else, on whether or not he really tackles the biggest problem the planet faces. There is still time for him to make the crucial difference, but not if his administration continues in fib-and-spin mode.”