Copenhagen status whipsawed in last week

The last week has seen a great deal of activity leading up to the Copenhagen conference on climate change in December.  President Obama announced the obvious in his Asia trip by noting that the US will not have a domestic binding agreement by December.  Nevertheless, he and other national leaders put a game face on, noting that they still expected an agreement on a “framework” for moving forward, and that they expect to conclude a binding agreement in 2010.

Freed from International pressure, the US Senate signaled that it will postpone climate change debate not only til after health care, but also after financial reform.  Senator Reid indicated that a floor debate was likely by April 2010.

Meanwhile, more and more sceintific and economic reports come out indicating worse and worse news; and the sniping in the international realm has started, blaming the United States for all of the ills of failing to reach an international agreement.

Is there anything left to hope for from Copenhagen?  I think there is.  First of all, it seems that countries appear ready to agree on the principle of funds transfers to the developing world to pay for climate change damage.  Moreover, there are some interesting ideas on how to implement such a policy.  Work also continues on the careful design of a US and International trading system, and many proposals will be put forward at Copenhagen on carbon market design (one of which I will be participating in).

Blaming the US for all climate change failures is counter-productive and inaccurate, but it does illustrate how important the United States is to reaching an international agreement.  President Obama’s team has already accelerated the timetable for EPA regulation of greenhouse gases in the absence of federal legislation, and appear poised to argue that this represents major US action which should prompt some agreement from the developing countries to take action.  This also opens the possibility for all countries to agree to reduction programs even without an accepted binding cap, which itself is a good step in the right direction.

The preliminary negotiations ended today, but there could still be some surprises.  Watch this space for new Copenhagen developments.

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