Yesterday, leaders from across the globe joined their negotiators at COP15, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. After a week of conflict, disagreement, and near gridlock, the “pessimistic tone” seemed to lift when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced America’s support for a global pool of funds to help poor countries that will face negative impacts from global warming. This offer demonstrates a laudable attempt to move the negations forward, although details still remain unclear regarding America’s contribution to the pool. As the conference comes to a close within the next day, it is of the utmost importance that the U.S. ensures, as best it can, that countries sign an agreement in Copenhagen.
In her statement, Clinton advocated for a fund of at least $100 billion dollars per year by 2020, to aid countries in dealing with the climate-related disasters that could be on their way. While the EU did not seem overly impressed with the announcement—an indication of potential disappointment at the suggested sum—Clinton’s voice re-energized other players, leading negotiators in the right direction. India’s Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh “hailed” the announcement, calling it a “‘very important step.’” Considering India’s role as a leader among developing countries, this new outlook could prove significant.
However, despite this positive turn-around, the United States must propose stricter targets for reducing its own emissions if it hopes to reach an agreement, and furthermore, mitigate the harmful effects of climate change. Developing countries rightly expect nations like the U.S. to take responsibility for centuries of greenhouse-gas emissions, and President Barack H. Obama should take this message to heart upon his arrival.
Clinton’s proposition came with strings attached. She explained that the U.S. supports the fund only if developing nations will submit to “international scrutiny” surrounding their greenhouse-gas mitigation efforts. We agree that developing nations must reduce their emissions significantly, and call upon China and India to act as leaders among developing nations by agreeing to scrutiny. In fact, it is a shame that these countries have resisted binding emissions targets so far, since they play an ever-more prominent role in the emerging climate crisis. Unfortunately, China and India must embark on a different path to development than Annex II nations forged; unsustainable growth is no longer an acceptable option considering the state of the planet.
While the Obama administration has shown drastic improvement when compared with the country’s previous stance on climate negotiations, the U.S. simply must go further. Considering the conference’s imminent end, failing to act now could lead to a disappointing—and unacceptable—outcome.
Once the conference ends, we strongly urge the U.S. Congress to ratify any agreement that comes of COP15, to avoid an outcome similar to the Kyoto Protocol disappointment. Additionally, in years to come, the U.S. must help ensure that other countries comply with any commitments to which they agree.
For today, however, signing in Copenhagen is the priority. All nations must put pen to paper to ensure that the world moves forward in the fight against climate change.