Friday, December 18, 2009

UN Summit on Climate Change

“EC from DC” today is actually “EC from Copenhagen”. Late Wednesday night, after the House recessed for the holiday, I joined a bi-partisan delegation who boarded a plane for Denmark. As climate change and the creation of green jobs have become a huge part of my agenda in Washington and back home in our District, it was my honor to be asked to represent the United States Congress during the UN Conference.

We have met with representatives from key countries involved in the negotiations and also with advocacy and business leaders to discuss job creation. This morning, the President joined our delegation as the Conference entered its final crucial negotiations. Unlike prior Climate Conferences, on the ground here in Copenhagen it is clear that the world is looking for American leadership on this issue of global significance.

We have worked to put our nation in a place where it can negotiate from a position of strength on the issue of climate change.

Earlier this year there was great excitement about the legislation that had been enacted in the latter part of May through the Energy and Commerce Committee and my Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming in the House of Representatives. While the Senate has failed to act, I do believe there is recognition around the world that our nation is finally taking the issue of climate change seriously, and that we are here to lead, not follow.

We have certainly been late to the table. As an example, Denmark was 99 percent dependent on foreign oil at the time of the 1973 embargo. Unlike in America, where we quickly forgot the lessons of fuel shortages and long lines at the pump, in 1976 the Danish public supported a massive effort to transform energy in Denmark. In the last 30 years the Danes have reduced their reliance on fossil fuels by more than 20 percent even though modernization, population growth, energy demand has remained constant.

There is much we can learn here, but also a great deal we can teach the world.

The day our delegation arrived in Denmark, I took great pride in watching my friend the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton announce that America will develop a fund over the next 10 years that will devote $100 billion to the developing world. The Secretary’s announcement signals that the United States is committed, serious and recognizes the needs of other countries in the world, especially the developing countries.

But as much as these talks are about partnering with the world, it is far more about what we can do for ourselves. We believe climate change is an issue of national and economic security. But also, as the Speaker of the House said, we come to Copenhagen with one word uniting us: jobs.

These negotiations are about changing the trajectory of a warming planet, but also about fundamentally shifting America’s workforce to once again be a supplier to the world. Over 100 years after the industrial revolution, the green revolution is upon us.

This is a singular and extremely rare moment. 193 representatives from every nation in the world are here dedicated to tackling an issue that is truly universally agreed upon will effect every man, woman, and child across the globe. We have a chance for different countries to agree to work together rather than work against each other. Perhaps it is a shame that it requires a global calamity to draw us together, but we must not waste this moment.

As we wrap up negotiations, there seems to be two large sticking points emerging:

1) China remains a stumbling block. They have put on the table a target of 40 to 45 percent intensity reductions, but they didn’t put in place any transparency standards to prove they are reaching those goals. Our position reminds me of the old Cold War adage: Trust but verify. It remains to be seen if this can be worked through, but barring verification of reductions from the world’s fastest growing polluter, the world will have real difficulties meeting its reduction targets — even with significant commitments from the United States.

2) One big debate at this conference has been setting a target for the limit on the global temperature rise between 2 degrees Celsius and 1.5 degrees Celsius. We believe that 2 degrees Celsius is the proper goal for this moment in history.

The targets that the United States set out in our legislation call for a 17 percent reduction of carbon emissions by 2020 and then an over 80 percent reduction by 2050. These goals are consistent with the science that will limit global warming.

The American goals were developed to avoid reaching the tipping point where dire consequences may be irreversible. The United States believes these are very important targets and we would hope that other countries would recognize that as well.

The bottom line is the next few hours will be difficult. For the first time, America and European nations have largely agreed on a series of carbon emission cuts and a package of financial aid for poor nations. However, developing nations, led by China, have refused to accept several key provisions.

It is an honor to be here. I hope that something good can come from this conference, but regardless of the final agreement, we are further along in this critical discussion than ever before.

The President just briefed us on a tentative deal reached as a result of the Summit. Considering where negotiations were just hours ago, this announcement represents a herculean effort by President Obama.

According to the President he has reached a deal with China, India and Brazil that has broken the stalemate for an agreement that will be ratified by the full convention later.

BOTTOM LINE: It is not perfect, but what appears to be up for ratification is that developed and developing countries will agree to list their national actions and commitments, there will be a financing mechanism to assist poorer nations, the world will set a critical mitigation target of 2 degrees Celsius and nations will provide information on the implementation of their actions that will be analyzed under clearly defined guidelines.