Obama, other world leaders at APEC announce “deal” to punt on climate treaty

by Mike Gaworecki

November 16, 2009

The new "deal" to delay signing a climate agreeement until next year, which was announced at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting this past weekend, is nothing more than an attempt to lower expectations for the climate talks taking place in Copenhagen this December. It’s especially disappointing given President Obama’s key role in the announcement. What we really need is for Obama to step up and lead the world as a bold advocate of an ambitious and binding treaty.

What’s even more disturbing is that this is part of a larger trend in Obama’s handling of the climate crisis since taking office. In his inaugural address he promised to “restore science to its rightful place,” yet he has not followed through on that promise. Instead, he sat back and watched as the coal industry essentially rewrote climate legislation as it moved through the House. And now that the Senate is in no rush to pass a similar bill, Obama is letting that dictate his foreign policy and stalling an international climate agreement.

Fed up with the stalling and lowering of expectations? I know I am. Tell Obama that December is the time to sign an ambitious climate treaty, not some unspecified future date.

This brazen stall tactic is all the more unconscionable when you consider the fact that it ignores the plight of the developing world, which will be hit hardest by global warming even though they did not have nearly as large a hand in creating the problem as developed countries like the US had. There’s more on this topic and the “deal” to not make a deal in Copenhagen in this statement from Greenpeace International:

“ Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen has become complicit in a so-called ‘deal’ which would put Obama’s political difficulties ahead of the survival of the world’s most vulnerable countries,” said Kaisa Kosonen, Climate Policy Advisor for Greenpeace International, in Copenhagen ahead of tomorrow’s “Pre-COP” gathering of key environment ministers in preparation for December’s climate summit.

“I don’t think a majority of countries will buy this face-saving plan. When Obama started downplaying the Copenhagen outcomes, did he check with the world’s most vulnerable countries as to whether their survival was now negotiable? That’s certainly not the message we have heard – climate change impacts are already affecting millions across the developing world and they need action now. There is no real excuse to postpone decisions on legally binding, ambitious action,” said Kosonen.

She questioned whether any EU leaders knew about Rasmussen’s cop-out deal. They were not at APEC, which only includes some of the world’s industrialized countries – the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Japan.

“ EU leaders, including Merkel, Sarkozy and Brown, must immediately step in and publicly oppose this back down from a legally binding climate agreement in Copenhagen,” she said.

Just two weeks ago in Barcelona the 43-member Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) expressed outrage at attempts to steamroll the world’s most vulnerable countries into accepting a watered down political agreement at the Copenhagen Climate Summit. Their calls are supported by the African Group, which said it would accept only legally binding commitments on deep emission cuts and adequate funding from the industrialized world for climate adaptation and mitigation, including tackling deforestation.

“This is not about time but rather the absence of political will from industrialized countries, which are refusing to take their fair share of the global efforts and instead continue to postpone important decisions into eternity. Denmark should be ashamed of itself for caving in to Obama in this so-called deal,” said Kosonen.

Industrialized countries recognized two years ago that they would need to cut their emissions in the range of at least 25-40%. But right now their aggregate emissions stand at a mere 10-17%, not enough to stop climate change. The industrialized countries at the APEC meeting are largely those at the lower end of this range.

The bill passed by the House is certainly at the lower end of emissions reductions targets, aiming for a mere 4% reduction relative to 1990 levels by 2020. Half-measures like this will doom us all to runaway climate change we can believe in – because we’ll be increasingly witnessing its effects with our own eyes.

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