President Obama has announced that he will personally attend the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen. Arriving at the beginning of the conference, he is going to pledge for the United States to cut emissions 20% below 2005 levels by 2020. That’s only about 3% below the 1990 benchmark — not as ambitious as many scientists recommend. By comparison, the European Union has pledged at least a 20% cut below 1990 levels. Then again, the EU always moves faster than we do with progressive changes.
It will actually pretty bold for Obama to pledge any carbon cuts before the Senate has passed cap-and-trade. He would essentially be ignoring the angry voices in the Senate who will certainly not give up on shouting down the Kerry-Boxer. Of course, those voices would still have a chance to shout down the international treaty.
Speaking of the international treaty, don’t count on one being signed this year. It’s possible, but the Danish are proposing to defer a final agreement until 2010, and I wouldn’t be surprised if other countries agree to some extra breathing room. There are a wide range of opinions on delaying the treaty, so I guess you can choose the one you like best. The important thing is that the treaty is effective. It could have a huge impact, so they need to get it right on the first try.
Now back to Obama. I said earlier that he is attending the beginning of the Copenhagen conference, but he is planning to leave before the other world leaders show up for the major discussions. (Interestingly, he’s flying from Copenhagen to Oslo, where he’ll receive the Nobel Peace Prize.) He will be virtually saying “Forget you” to GOP Senators and putting his credibility on the line by promising an emissions cut, but a lot of people would’ve liked to see him take part in actual discussions.