Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

‘Not Exactly the Spike-the-Ball Moment Obama’s Supporters Envisioned’

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Grist’s David Roberts is disappointed with the climate accord.

What’s remarkable is that the accord already represented an enormous diminution of hopes and expectations, wan even compared to drafts that had circulated earlier in the week. It achieved only the barest of Obama’s aims: one, to draw the major emitters among the developing nations — China, India, and Brazil — into a process that would yield concrete commitments on their part, and two, to get funding flowing from developed countries to developing countries to aid their efforts to deal with climate change. The idea was to pull big emitters into a political agreement that would, at next year’s COP16 in Mexico City, become a legally binding treaty. Obama adopted this two-step process after it became clear that a full treaty simply wasn’t in the offing this year; he wanted something that could be operationalized immediately and serve to build trust in the intervening months.

Thanks to what Obama called, at a Friday-evening press conference, a “fundamental deadlock in perspectives” (read: China won’t budge!), the accord ended up in an attenuated form that even its architect conceded is “not enough” to do what needs to be done. Gone was the firm commitment to reduce global emissions 50% by 2050. Gone were any short-term emissions targets for 2020. Missing were the concrete commitments to “measurement, reporting, and verification” (MRV) Obama wanted from China, in its place vague language about “national communications.”

Perhaps most fatefully, gone was any explicit pledge to formalize the agreement as a binding treaty next year. That’s worrisome, because Copenhagen is only the first challenge in a three-part political obstacle course Obama will need to navigate to reach success on climate change. First was drawing China and India into an agreement. Next will be using the Copenhagen accord to fortify the U.S. Senate to pass a climate bill. Third will be to use that U.S. climate bill to convince UNFCCC countries to sign on to a binding legal treaty in 2010.

I for one wasn’t expecting any touchdown—but most of the activist left seems pretty disheartened.

Written by gerrycanavan

December 19, 2009 at 11:08 am

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