The Skywriter

Guest blog: Copenhagen is not Kyoto


Guest blog: Copenhagen is not Kyoto


By Aimée Christensen, CEO of the Global Observatory.

A few days ago, a key group of ten senators sent a letter to President Obama presenting their advice to him as he prepares to travel to Copenhagen. Their advice is a very different message than the one note negative message of warning that the Clinton Gore Administration received from the Senate (95-0) prior to Kyoto, headlined by: don’t sign something that doesn’t include developing country commitments with the same compliance timeframe as developed countries.

The ten senators who signed the letter instead said, yes, seek agreement on emission reduction goals; promote technology exports and energy security; help vulnerable nations to adapt; provide incentives for developing nations to act; and put in place a verifiable agreement. Yes, there are warnings to protect energy intensive industries from feared trade impacts, and calls for protection of intellectual property, and guidance to seek the most cost-effective actions. But this is a very different message, coming from ten Senators who represent arguably the middle road among their peers.

As President Obama heads to Copenhagen he has guidance, yes, but also support for reaching an agreement. It will still be difficult, given the expectations of developing nations for much deeper cuts than the Congress seems willing to support -- at least so far -- but there is also momentum from new and growing important voices outside Congress.

Over the past few months, there has been a growing call for action on climate change coming from a diverse set of leaders in the United States: business leaders, security leaders, and faith leaders. Over 250 business leaders urged action by the Senate in person in early October, including 100 CEOs. Last week business leaders from a wide range of industries lauded Obama’s participation in Copenhagen, whether driven by their business interests or merely their own sense of what is needed, and what is the right thing to do.

Increasingly, security leaders have raised their urgent concerns about climate change and America’s reliance on foreign sources of oil, from former Senator John Warner (former Secretary of the Navy), to former Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, to former General Chuck Wald. The CIA’s National Intelligence Council reported that global warming threatens U.S. energy supplies and may damage military bases, increase food and water shortages, and stress the economy. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said early this year

[t]he Intelligence Community judges global climate change will have important and extensive implications for U.S. national security interests over the next 20 years.

And faith leaders have increasingly spoken out about the moral imperative for action. This important community represents one-third of our financial markets, and one half of our educational systems. In addition, a moral call to action is powerful. Earlier this month faith leaders from nine of the world’s major religions came together to announce their own commitments to reduce their impact on global warming, and to collaborate in doing so, setting an example for the world’s governments.

In the United States, the Christian Coalition has spoken out about their concerns:

The time is right for Christian Coalition supporters and allies to step forward to promote environmental and energy independence initiatives. Taking responsibility to care for God's creation and protecting the future of our children and grandchildren is a core family value.

Now that the negotiations have started, President Obama’s own commitment and diverse support from key communities -- in the United States and globally -- are a promising advancement. It appears that although there are some loud voices fighting against progress on climate change, a wave of larger numbers, motivated by diverse reasons, are overtaking them. Here in Copenhagen, our Global Observatory team will keep reporting on and analyzing the implications of the moment by moment developments.

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