Word of U.S. draft legislation on climate change has reached Bonn, Germany — where discussions are underway about how to secure a new global agreement this December in Copenhagen.

Reports from The Nature Conservancy’s team in Bonn tell us that the hunger for U.S. action and leadership is palpable — and with U. S. Special Envoy Todd Stern’s opening remarks and now this draft legislation, that hunger is permeating the meeting.

I touched base with Andrew Deutz, the Conservancy’s director of international government relations, for his thoughts on the significance of this draft bill for the international negotiations. Here’s what he had to say, just off a lunch conversation with the Swedish Deputy Prime Minister:

“The single most important thing in achieving a global climate change solution is for the United States to bring something to the global table. Getting this process started with the Waxman-Markey discussion draft — a.k.a. the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA) bill — is a critical step, and comes at a critical time.

Yet the question on many people’s minds is — is it a big enough step? The conversation internationally is framed around what IPCC science tells us we need to do to avoid the consequences of two degrees of warming: Reduce the emissions of developed countries by 25-40% from 1990 emissions levels by 2020.

While the Waxman-Markey near-term targets aren’t quite that ambitious, the framework heads us in the right direction by setting a cap on U.S. emissions and enabling complementary policies that can get us even further reductions. And that just might be the political reality for what is possible in the United States after an eight-year hiatus from action on climate change.

“But getting a deal in Copenhagen isn’t just about the numbers. It’s about creating the space, incentives and opportunities that will give other countries confidence to also take serious action. The Waxman-Markey draft gets us started in some very important ways.

“First, it provides an opportunity for two of the four top emitting countries (Indonesia and Brazil) to sit down at the global negotiating table with the potential to offer significant emissions reductions. Waxman-Markey creates a framework that would generate revenues and incentives to help countries like these take significant strides towards stopping deforestation, which causes 20 percent of global emissions and close to 80 percent of Indonesia’s emissions. And the draft recognizes the important role and rights that indigenous people have in this process.

“Second, Waxman-Markey offers a starting point for discussions on how to finance efforts to safeguard people and nature in the face of global warming impacts, and bring the most vulnerable and least developed countries to the table as well. The draft saves a place for adaptation funding — both at home and abroad — and offers fresh opportunities for the United States to get it right by carving out dedicated funding for adaptation in the weeks ahead.

“So, is it a big enough step? Time will tell. But in the meanwhile, the world should take this to mean that the United States is serious — and that momentum is building for success in Copenhagen.”

(Image: Sunrise in Bonn, Germany. Credit: Curnen through a Creative Commons license.)

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  1. Thank you for this post. While ACESA is an important step in improving our EE, promoting clean energy, and providing new opportunities in green tech jobs, it is important to be wary of the provisions that may undermine our global obligations. The offsets provision threatens to undercut our efforts at emissions reductions. 2 billion offsets is enormous, and could prove to promote non-additional “renewable energy” projects in developing countries rather than real and sustainable clean development. See the new analysis by International Rivers and Rainforest Action Network: http://www.internationalrivers.org/en/node/4223. Comments always welcome.

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