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DC Hill Update 12/15: Copenhagen, One Week In


DC Hill Update 12/15: Copenhagen, One Week In


With the start of the COP-15 negotiations in Copenhagen, we saw movement on climate in… the U.S. Senate! Senators Kerry (D-MA), Graham (R-SC), and Lieberman (I-CT) released their framework for a climate bill and Senator Cantwell (D-WA), along with Senator Collins (R-ME) released her long-rumored take on a carbon cap. The Copenhagen negotiations have moved in fits and starts, with pressure remaining for a fair, ambitious, and binding post-Kyoto Protocol treaty coming out of the negotiations this week. Finally, President Obama also accepted his Nobel Peace Prize this week, and the Senate and House made progress on health care and financial regulatory reform to clear the way for climate legislation early next spring.

1. December Climate Timeline

With the holiday season approaching, the Senate has a maximum of 2.5 more weeks of session before winter recess.

  • UN Climate Negotiations in Copenhagen, COP15 : Dec. 7 - Dec. 18
  • President Obama In Copenhagen: Dec. 18 (although some rumors he will arrive Dec. 16)
  • Senate in session (floor time for health care): Nov. 30 - Dec. 23
  • Senate winter recess (projected): Dec. 24 - Jan. 4, 2010

While Senate action moves slowly forward, 1Sky is calling on President Obama and Treasury Secretary Geithner to "step up" on climate by bringing us closer to a fair ambitious and binding global deal.

2. Copenhagen Update

Copenhagen kicks off the process of reaching an extension to Kyoto and a post-Kyoto agreement. The international community has spent years preparing for these negotiations, and many nations have been anticipating a fair, ambitious, and binding treaty to come out of the conference. However, in the months leading up to Copenhagen, developed countries -- including the U.S. -- have been actively lowering expectations for the conference, claiming that the negotiations will merely establish a framework for a binding agreement that will follow in 6-12 months.

The global climate community is pushing for a fair, ambitious, and binding treaty as soon as possible. The global south stands largely aligned in saying anything short of a legally binding agreement that gets us to 350 ppm and substantial financing for adaptation, avoided deforestation, and clean tech transfer is a suicide pact – and therefore a non starter. Meanwhile, 1Sky joined other U.S. NGOs in nominating the United States for the highly publicized “Fossil of the Day” award from the global NGO community yesterday -- meaning a sign of the highest dishonor -- for their negotiating position of 4% below 1990 levels by 2020 and no long-term financing commitments. The U.S. won the award handily, beating out the European Union for first place.

Here are a good collection of posts offering overviews and updates from the Copenhagen negotiations:

3. President Obama Accepts the Nobel Prize and the Global Community Urges: Earn it in Copenhagen

President Obama was in Oslo, Norway on December 10th to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. He acknowledged that it was a surprise and suggested that it could be seen as premature, but said he accepted it with "deep gratitude and great humility." In his speech, President Obama also acknowledged the role that climate change will play in global peace, saying "the world must come together to confront climate change. There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, famine and mass displacement that will fuel more conflict for decades."

1Sky encourages the President to live up to his stated ambitions and his award when he attends the Copenhagen negotiations this week at A fair, ambitious, and binding climate treaty will foster global peace that will make our nation safer.

4. Senate Climate Action

Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman released the general 4-page framework for their climate bill last Thursday. The blueprint includes a target "in the range of 17%" below 2005 levels by 2020, in line with the House-passed ACES bill, and the target President Obama is bringing to Copenhagen, but below the target of 20% below 2005 levels set by the Senate EPW committee.

The Kerry-Graham-Lieberman framework is supportive of investments in clean energy, but also promises significant funding for and expansion of dirty fuels such as coal plants, oil drilling, and nuclear power.

1Sky is encouraged by the bipartisan acknowledgment of the very real danger our planet is facing. However, 1Sky has some serious concerns with the framework introduced by Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman. Emissions reductions of 17% below 2005 by 2020 (4% below 1990 levels) are simply not enough to stave off the worst effects of global warming, or seal a strong global deal. Suggesting that Clean Air Act requirements for dirty coal plants are mere bargaining chips to be given away is also not a very good sign.

Senator Cantwell joined forces with Senator Collins to introduce the "Cantwell-Collins Carbon Limits and Energy for American Renewal (CLEAR) Act" last week. Key features of the bill are promising, such as large per-capita rebates for consumers and zero offsets, but it also contains a less ambitious short-term carbon reduction trajectory than the House-passed bill or Kerry-Boxer -- all Congressional targets remain way too low to tackle the problem.

5. Other Senate Bills


A Senate vote on health care is possible within the week. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said last week that if the Senate moves this week, conference committee negotiations and final votes could be completed before the end of the year, allowing the Senate to focus on financial reform and climate at the beginning of next year.

Financial Regulatory Reform:

On Friday, the House passed its financial regulatory reform package to a vote of 223-202, mostly along party lines. The package is the most significant overhaul of the financial system to be legislated since Roosevelt's New Deal reforms in the 1930s. The Senate is expected to take up financial regulatory reform early next year. A similar bill from Senator Dodd (D-CT) is in the Senate Banking Committee right now.

This last week, 1Sky HQ staff headed to Capitol Hill to deliver art made by 1Sky supporters from across the country. These beautiful handmade murals represent the deep base of grassroots support for strong legislation. Thanks again to all the committed artists/activists who helped make this possible!

Prepared by Nick Santos and Jason Kowalski from 1Sky’s policy team. Please direct questions or comments to

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