Thursday, September 24, 2009

Climate Change Week: China Showing Leadership America Must Follow

This has been a busy week for those involved with combating climate change. Today world leaders are meeting at the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh. With the Copenhagen Convention (COP 15) now only a bit more than two months away, leaders are seeking ways to find an international agreement on a climate change strategy.

On Tuesday, UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon hosted the UN's Global Climate Summit before the UN General Assembly in New York. President Hu Jintao also unveiled China's impressive plans to fight climate change, leading UN climate chief, Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, to predict that China would become a world leader in fighting global warming. This announcement could appease some of those who harbour suspicions about developing emitter nations.

There is a great deal of money being invested in sustainable initiatives all around the world. Dollars and Sense reports that Jubilee's G20 assessment indicates that there are $180bn in carbon-friendly stimulus dollars, Despite international initiatives, the US and China must be part of the solution to limit emissions. Given the fact that these two nations account for 46% of global carbon dioxide emissions, the rest of the world's efforts will all be in vain if we do not see real action from the US and China.

Both presidents Hu Jintao and Obama are seeking agreement on cuts in global emissions and China's new carbon intensity goals are an important step forward. However, the ongoing rancorous health care debate in the US is confounded with so much misinformation that it may make passage of climate change legislation difficult before December. The G20 can encourage the passage of legislation in the US by sending a wakeup call and shaming them onto a more sustainable course.

Mr de Boer suggested that China’s announcement could help President Obama to muster domestic support for US action on climate change. Although hopeful that the US Senate will pass climate change legislation before the end of the year, Mr de Boer said it was not essential to pass the legislation ahead of COP 15, “If the US representative comes to Copenhagen and signs up to a target, that is good enough for the international community,” he said. “He does not have to show his credit rating. People will take him at his word.”

The British Energy and Climate Change Secretary said there was reason to be optimistic that a deal could be reached at Copenhagen. There does appear to be considerable desire to find agreement on a climate change deal. The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said “If it is necessary to clinch the deal, I will personally go to Copenhagen to achieve it — and I will be urging my fellow leaders to do so too,” he wrote in Newsweek magazine.

Earlier this week President Obama delivered his first address to the UN General Assembly, promoting cooperation in the fight against climate change. He pledged the US would lead by example, and called on other nations to find common ground, however he did not provide any details on the crucial issue of how he intends to work with the Senate to pass climate change legislation.

Some US business leaders appear to understand the importance of immediate action, KPAX reports that a group of 100 Montana business leaders are urging the state's US Senators to support climate and energy legislation.

When domestic policy favors clean energy, it generates tremendous economic activity and drives innovation. Even if America ignores the economic incentives, as a matter of competitive necessity, the US will need to catch up with the Europeans, Japanese, and increasingly, the Chinese. With state plans to spend on low carbon energy on the rise all around the world the Senate must clear the road to COP 15 by passing climate change legislation. The G20 will play an ever increasing role in the management of the environment, the question is will the world's largest economy be amongst them.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtfull post on leadership. It should be very much helpfull.

Karim - Mind Power