Obama will go to Copenhagen… a week too early

by Mike Gaworecki

November 25, 2009

Once again, President Obama will be in the right city at the wrong time.

News has just come out that the President will be going to the UN climate talks in person – except he’s going about a week too early. He’s stopping in Copenhagen on December 9th on his way to pick up his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on the 10th.

The Copenhagen climate summit is not about a photo opportunity, but unfortunately that seems to be how Obama is treating it. The climate talks in Copenhagen are aimed at getting a fair, ambitious, and binding global agreement to stop global warming.  President Obama needs to be there at the same time as all the other wold leaders – December 18. This is the last day of the negotiations, when all the heads of state show up, are presented with the agreements achieved so far by their delegates, and do the high-level negotiations that lead to a final agreement.

Greenpeace activists welcome Obama to Copenhagen though he showed up on the wrong date

On October 2nd, 2009, when President Obama was in Copenhagen to lobby for Chicago to host the Olympics, Greenpeace activists let him know that he’d shown up in the right city on the wrong date. © Greenpeace/Juan Hein

Obama needs to be there on December 18 to ensure we get the right agreement. But once again, Obama is going to be in the right city on the wrong date.  Given the shamefully weak emissiosn targets Obama’s administration is going to announce ahead of the climate change talks, it almost seems like he’s just not even taking this issue seriously. Tell Obama it’s time to sign an ambitious treaty in Copenhagen!

Update: The White House issued a statement on Nov. 25 confirming that President Obama will be traveling to the talks on Dec. 9th — a week too early — and officially stating the tragically weak emissions targets the Obama Administration is bringing to the table. And that’s not even the worst part.

Science tells us we have to reduce emissions 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 in order to avert the worst impacts of climate change. Obama’s White House has just issued a statement — little more than a week before the international negotiations aimed at achieving those ambitious reductions — calling for 17% reductions below 2005 levels. That works out to only about 4% below 1990 levels. Half-measures in the face of the worst environmental crisis the planet has ever faced is not the leadership we were looking to Obama for.

But the most disappointing part of the White House’s statement is what it doesn’t say. There is no commitment to provide financing for developing countries to help them adapt to and mitigate the impacts of global warming. Nor is there a commitment to fund forest protection, one of the easiest ways to quickly lower greenhouse gas emissions. Financial assistance from wealthy countries like the United States is an essential component of any deal that developing countries will be willing to accept.

I’m not saying this to harshly criticize Obama and his administration. I’m saying it because he can do better. America can do better. America must do better.

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