The White House made an interesting and important announcement last Friday that increases the odds of a successful outcome at the UN climate summit that convenes this Monday in Copenhagen.
For the past year, the negotiators of the other countries that will be assembling in Copenhagen have been waiting for the United States to provide commitment and clarity on two things – how much the United States will reduce its own emissions and how much it can contribute to support the most vulnerable developing countries in reducing their own emissions and adapting to an emerging world with different and in many cases less favorable climatic conditions. These were the two obligations to which the United States and other developed countries agreed two Decembers ago in Bali, when the plans were laid for the Copenhagen summit.
There has also been considerable interest in whether President Obama would come to Copenhagen…and when.
We now have important answers to all these questions — answers that give real cause for hope.
The White House gave a partial answer two weeks ago, when it announced that Obama would attend the meeting in Copenhagen and that he is prepared to put on the table a U.S. emissions reduction target in the range of 17% below 2005 levels in 2020 and ultimately in line with final U.S. energy and climate legislation. However, there remained concerns that the president would be in Copenhagen the week before most other world leaders and that the U.S. contribution to a global climate finance package remained unclear.
Friday’s dual announcement — that President Obama would travel to Copenhagen on December 18th for the conclusion of the international climate conference rather than on the 9th as previously scheduled, and that the administration has “concluded that there appears to be an emerging consensus that a core element of the Copenhagen accord should be to mobilize $10 billion a year by 2012 to support adaptation and mitigation in developing countries, particularly the most vulnerable and least developed countries that could be destabilized by the impacts of climate change” and that the United States will pay its fair share of that amount – is significant. The announcement answers the second question on finance, and it also means that the president will represent the United States in dialogue with the many other world leaders who will be attending during the closing days of the conference.
Mark Tercek, The Nature Conservancy’s president and CEO, saluted the White House announcement, remarking that “[t]he president is to be commended for his deep personal engagement in working to find a global solution to climate change – one of the most pressing issues of our time.” Tercek further noted that the U.S. commitment on finance “can help us to address the pressing threats to human and natural communities, especially in the most vulnerable and least developed countries, and to support efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation, which contributes significantly to the emissions of dozens of developing countries.”
The Conservancy will engaging in Copenhagen to draw attention to the role that conservation of natural systems can play in reducing emissions and helping human communities become more resilient to the effects of climate change. We will also be watching the results of the meetings carefully. President Obama’s announcement Friday helps to contribute to an environment that is already forming in which both developed countries and developing countries are making meaningful offers to reduce emissions.