Can Obama Appease UN on Climate Change?

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As Josh noted earlier, with climate action stalled out in the Senate, President Obama faces a difficult task Tuesday morning as he addresses the United Nations summit on climate change in New York. With hopes for a Senate cap-and-trade bill this year seriously dampened, Obama must convince world leaders that the United States can be a productive participant in treaty negotiations this fall even without a solid commitment from Congress.

The meeting, convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, will bring heads of state and government together to dig in on a new climate change treaty. The goal, said Ban, “is to mobilize the political will and vision needed to reach an ambitious agreed outcome based on science at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen.” It comes alongside the UN’s annual, two-week-long General Assembly, and just ahead of Group of 20 meetings in Pittsburgh on Thursday and Friday, where climate will be one of several issues on the agenda.

Many leaders—including US climate envoy Todd Stern—are now downplaying the idea that Copenhagen will lead to a final agreement, which buys the US more time to pass a bill. But even if Copenhagen is no longer seen as the final step in the process of negotiating a successor to Kyoto, UN leaders are maintaining hope that these fall summits can bring world leaders closer to agreement on issues like near-term emissions cuts for both industrialized and developing countries and the level of funding industrialized countries will devote to help poorer nations adapt to climate change and invest in clean tech. Obama’s address will likely be seen as an indicator of just how serious the administration is about pushing Congress toward action in the coming months.

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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