Friday, December 18, 2009

Voices from Copenhagen: Obama and Jiabao

xin_4803021411059783118412 At the COP15 conference in Copenhagen, President Barack Obama did not seem very pleased:

So America is going to continue on this course of action [toward carbon emission reduction goals] no matter what happens in Copenhagen. But we will all be stronger and safer and more secure if we act together. That is why it is in our mutual interest to achieve a global accord in which we agree to take certain steps, and to hold each other accountable for our commitments.

And perhaps a little doubtful of the outcome of the conference:

We know the fault lines because we've been imprisoned by them for years. But here is the bottom line: We can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, and continue to refine it and build upon its foundation. We can do that, and everyone who is in this room will be a part of an historic endeavor -- one that makes life better for our children and grandchildren.

Or we can again choose delay, falling back into the same divisions that have stood in the way of action for years. And we will be back having the same stale arguments month after month, year after year -- all while the danger of climate change grows until it is irreversible.

Not precisely the speech Obama wanted to give, we suspect.


Another portion of Obama’s speech appears to be rapping China’s knuckles:

We must have a mechanism to review whether we are keeping our commitments, and to exchange this information in a transparent manner. These measures need not be intrusive or infringe upon sovereignty. They must, however, ensure that an accord is credible and that we are living up to our obligations. For without such accountability, any agreement would be empty words on a page.

China has not notably wanted such a mechanism. We took a look at Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s speech to see if he responded to or at least addressed the same issue. Answer: not really, though this glances against it:

Concrete actions and institutional guarantee are essential to our effort on tackling climate change. The international community should make concrete and effective institutional arrangements under the Convention and urge developed countries to honor their commitments, provide sustained and sufficient financial support to developing countries, speed up the transfer of climate-friendly technologies and effectively help developing countries, especially small island states, least developed countries, landlocked countries and African countries, strengthen their capacity in combating climate change.

And that’s not a very close glance. (The nice thing about these international conferences is that leaders with drastically different approaches to governance can say the same kinds of things – call it generic poli-speak.)

We’ll let the conference and its results shake out over the weekend and see where it all ended up on Monday. Our hunch: on to Mexico City and COP16!

Wen Jiabao. We’ll reduce emissions this much if you reduce them that much.

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