In Doha it looks like the US has the same strategy as last year bring zip to the table and demand others bring more. But there's one reason that US negotiators Todd Stern and his deputy Jonathan Pershing should be less stressed than normal. It's common knowledge that politicals from the land of the free are shackled by grubby desires of polluting corporations. And the doublespeak of Stern and Pershing is about as old hat as crappy UN wi-fi, even if still maddening during the experience.There's really one universal priority Parties have for the US in Doha, which could almost be achieved with the US delegation demonstrating a little less arrogance and more collegiality than in previous negotiations. The international community wants an indication that the US will not sabotage the climate talks, and that it will allow progress towards a legally-binding agreement by 2015. This was the one real victory over the US stalling strategy in Durban.Unfortunately, the first public briefing by Pershing in Doha had the same pontificating air as his last briefing in Durban. According to him, Washington is taking aggressive action on climate change, and the efforts are enormous.
Wow. In the reality of the US delegation, climate ambition will truly be incapacitating once President Obama begins using his position to educate Americans about dangerous climate disruption and Congress passes a climate bill. In everyone else's reality, we see that this wealthy country, which is responsible for more climate pollution in the atmosphere than any other, has no intention of investing more than a pittance to save even itself from a rapidly warming planet and very expensive climate impacts.
To the contrary, yesterday we saw President Obama signal that his priority at the moment is to avoid US climate responsibility. He actually signed a bill that bans Americans from complying with the climate policy of the EU. The most egregious case of illicit US climate exceptionalism was when President Bush unsigned the Kyoto Protocol, which Obama took for granted when he was inaugurated in 2009. Yesterday, President Obama signed a law that bans US-owned airlines from complying with EU climate pollution law.By signing the anti-climate airlines bill (S.1956), President Obama accomplished nothing but a signal of obstinacy against serious climate pollution reduction efforts during Doha. If global aviation were a country, its climate pollution would be the 7th highest, and it's increasing by 3 4 percent annually.Integrating aviation into its climate pollution regime wasn't quick or easy for the EU, which even postponed compliance by non-EU airlines for another year. S.1956 called for 'emissions' to be addressed in ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), where the United States has fought for years against all legitimate proposals. ICAO had given itself an ultimatum on climate policy years earlier, after which its members (i.e., EU) would be free to develop it on there own. Prior to Obama signing S.1956, ICAO had already set a deadline for a global agreement on aviation by next October.Hopefully, the EU calling the US bluff will have worked. The lesson for now, at least, is that the Obama administration needs to be made to follow when it comes to international action against global warming. Other countries should keep this in mind during the negotiations these next two weeks here in Doha.
Kyle Ash formerly served as Greenpeace's Legislative Policy Expert, responsible for domestic and international climate change policy analysis and campaign strategy. He has been quoted in Politico, Greenwire, the New York Times, and CNN, and was one of the most frequently quoted sources during the Copenhagen Climate Conference.