26 September 2009

President Obama Plays Down Copenhagen

We are in the lowering expectations phase of the run-up to Copenhagen. From today's Guardian:
Barack Obama has talked down the importance of sealing a global deal on climate change before the end of the year, world leaders said yesterday.Obama's comments, made in private talks at the G20 summit, downplay the need to reach a strong deal at UN talks in Copenhagen in December and contradict the United Nations and others, who have billed the meeting as a crucial moment for the world to avoid catastrophic global warming. The president did win a partial victory on his signature climate issue at this G20 summit – removing fossil fuel subsidies – but there was no headway on the much bigger issue of climate finance, which Obama had taken up as his issue at the last G20.

Barring small but significant steps forward from China and India, there has been little progress this week at a UN summit or the G20 towards a deal at Copenhagen. Obama's remarks yesterday resonated among world leaders, who have been looking to America – as historically the world's greatest polluter – to lead on climate change.

"I would cite what President Obama said to us at our meetings and that is that while Copenhagen is a very important meeting we should not view it as a make or break on climate change. It will be a step, an ongoing step, in an important world process to deal with this critical issue," Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, said yesterday. Harper cited the comments when he said he was not inclined to take up Gordon Brown's challenge to attend the meeting himself, in order to add political weight to the negotiations.

South Korea's Lee Myung-bak also referenced Obama's remarks. "The Copenhagen climate summit meeting is not the end, but it is going to be the start of a new beginning, and having that kind of perception is more realistic," he said. There was no immediate comment from the White House on Obama's remarks.


Not Whitey Bulger said...

Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/GCA-G20Pittsburgh/idUSTRE58N72R20090925

"The U.S. official said the United States would follow the cuts as well and emphasized that Obama had proposed to get rid of all oil and gas subsidies in his 2010 budget."

National Review Online: http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=ZWNmNDMwZGIyNzJjNjk0NjFiNmEwZjlmMjNjYWQ5YzU=

"...the U.S. has spent approximately $72 billion on fossil fuel subsidies over the last eight years. The bulk of that — $54 billion — consists of various tax breaks. The rest is direct spending on programs that liberals like, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program ($6 billion), and programs that the government is unlikely ever to get rid of (even though it should), such as the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (another $6 billion). The study also counts funds spent on carbon-capture research ($2 billion) as a subsidy to Big Coal, even though the Democrats' climate-change bill would vastly increase those expenditures."

Looks like policy magical thinking to me. Is Obama going to get rid of oil heating subsidies for the poor and dump the strategic petroleum reserves? Are other countries like India going to stop subsidizing domestic oil sales to millions of citizens?

Eric said...

Global warming seems to fail the political reality test. The EU Poznan conference delivered very little. British ambitions were thwarted by the Germans and Poles who have manufacturing sectors and aren't totally dominated by the banking industry.


Copenhagen will deliver even less.

One has to wonder how many scientists or politcians actually believe the end of the world is imminent.

I suspect none, not even the lunatic fringe like James Hansen and his NASA colleague at RealClimate (Gavin Schmidt).

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