The First Draft: Team Obama’s Full-Court Press on Climate
As a drippy day dawns in Washington, Team Obama is suiting up for a full-court press on climate change. Three cabinet secretaries — from Energy, Transportation and Interior departments — the head of the EPA and the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Five — are headed for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the first of three full days of hearings.
As those hearings go forward, President Barack Obama is announcing a $3.4 billion program to build a “smart” electric grid, which would among other things carry solar and wind power, which are free of carbon emissions.
It’s all meant to convince international climate negotiators that Washington is serious about tackling climate change. A global gathering set for Copenhagen in December aims to set up a system to curb climate-warming carbon emissions after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. For months, environmental activists have looked to the Copenhagen meeting as a deadline for action. But now, the deadline is looking a bit blurry.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appeared to acknowledge this when he told business leaders in Seattle on Monday, “We will do our best and try to have a substantive agreement (in Copenhagen) … After Copenhagen we may not expect … to agree on all elements. But we should have a broad agreement.”
Ban’s climate adviser made clear the secretary-general was planning for “post-Copenhagen” talks.
The international environmental community has said repeatedly that the United States needs to take the lead in forging a global climate agreement. But what would show U.S. leadership? Does a climate change bill have to come to a vote in the Senate? Does it just have to get out to committee? Does it need to land on the president’s desk before the Copenhagen meeting? Is it enough that legislation seems to be moving forward?
And an even more basic question: do you agree that the United States needs to lead on this? If so, would it make a difference if Obama attends the Copenhagen meeting? (He’s going to be in the neighborhood anyway to pick up his Nobel Peace Prize.)
Let us know what you think.
Photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed (President Barack Obama looks at a model of a wind turbine at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, October 23, 2009)
REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (University of Pittsburgh Panthers guard Antonio Graves fights a full-court press by Louisville Cardinals guard Andre McGee in Big East Tournament game in New York’s Madison Square Garden, March 8, 2006)