Will the Senate Sink Copenhagen?

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With the Senate signaling that it won’t pass a cap-and-trade bill this year, the Obama administration is now dropping major hints that UN climate talks—which were supposed to culminate in a new international agreement at Copenhagen in December—will also need to be pushed back to 2010. US climate envoy Todd Stern previously told Congress that climate legislation was crucial for the “credibility and leverage” the Obama administration needed to persuade other countries at Copenhagen to cut their emissions. Yesterday, though, he had lowered his sights considerably: “The mission is to get the most ambitious, most far-reaching accord that we can in Copenhagen, and to the extent that there’s some things that need to be completed after that, then that will happen,” he told reporters, according to Climate Wire.

While Stern and Energy Secretary Steven Chu have been putting a brave face on the delay, some foreign officials are telling it like it is: “The United States is just one of the 190 countries coming to this Conference. But the United States emits 25 percent of all the greenhouse gases that the Conference is trying to reduce,” said the EU’s ambassador to Washington, John Bruton, in a statement. “Is the US Senate really expecting all the other countries to make a serious effort on climate change at the Copenhagen Conference in the absence of a clear commitment from the United States?…I submit that asking an international Conference to sit around looking out the window for months, while one chamber of the legislature of one country deals with its other business, is simply not a realistic political position.”

 

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