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Nov. 25 2009 - 3:00 pm | 481 views | 0 recommendations | 5 comments

Copenhagen is on; Obama proposes a treaty and leads U.S. delegation

Blue Marble (Planet Earth)

Image by woodleywonderworks via Flickr

First the climate bill was dead, then the climate bill was not dead yet, then Copenhagen was dead, then Copenhagen was not dead yet, and now it’s all back on the table, right where President Obama said it would be: a legally binding climate treaty calling for an ambitious reduction in carbon dioxide–83 percent by 2050.

Patience, people, patience.

Obama’s call for such a treaty today closely follows three other significant events:

• His announcement that he’ll attend the Copenhagen Climate Conference on Dec. 9 to call for the treaty in person. I’ve always said that his decision to attend would depend on the likelihood of a treaty being signed, and the likelihood of a treaty being signed would be worked out behind the scenes in meetings between diplomats from the U.S. and other major players. But not only is Obama attending, according to the White House:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson are all scheduled to attend, along with Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, and Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner.

• Obama’s announcement follows key meetings between Obama and the leaders of China and India, the two developing nations whose participation in the treaty is most essential to its success.

• The treaty Obama has called for matches the climate bill that already passed the House and the one likely to pass the Senate: not the bill that passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, but the one likely to be worked out in a compromise with that bill’s sole no vote, Sen. Max Baucus. Both the House bill and the likely Baucus compromise call for a 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020.

For the first time, the U.S. delegation will have a U.S. Center at the conference, providing a unique and interactive forum to share our story with the world. In addition to working with other countries to advance American interests, U.S. delegates will keynote a series of events highlighting actions by the Obama Administration to provide domestic and global leadership in the transition to a clean energy economy. Topics will range from energy efficiency investments and global commitments to renewables policy and clean energy jobs.


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  1. collapse expand

    Thanks for posting the beautiful cover of Contrary, and for mention of my poems. The cover is stunning. I’m so happy that you included the Darwin series. Rock on!

    Marilyn Kallet

  2. collapse expand

    Let’s just hope it is not too late.

  3. collapse expand

    I look forward to your reporting on the happenings there in December, Jeff.

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    About Me

    Environmental reporting recruited me 25 years ago—on my first day as a reporter for my college newspaper, when I discovered my college was discarding radioactive waste in the regular city trash. Since then I've written hard news for dailies, including the Arizona Republic, and slanty news for alternative weeklies, including Newcity. I've written a column for New Times, stories on the Web for Forecast Earth, essays for PEN International and other magazines. I lived in an idyllic California village nestled among volcanoes and vineyards until my batteries were full of sunshine, and then I returned to my origins on the South Side of Chicago, where hope persists with no illusions about the struggle ahead. I cross the asphalt jungle by bicycle and el, mostly to get to the University of Chicago, where I teach journalism. But what matters more than any of this is a lifelong love for the natural world. We are all born with it, I believe, but some turn away.

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