170 countries meeting for climate negotiations haven’t resulted in any headway on central issues: fixing mandatory emission reduction targets for industrial countries, setting objectives for developing countries to rein in their own rapidly expanding emissions, and raising some $100 billion a year to help poor countries adjust to changing climate conditions. There’s nothing surprising in that sentence: it’s not like those countries are in any way held accountable to their citizens if they don’t make progress. Still, their negotiators keep at it, which is saying something. Interestingly, in response to the jammed negotiations, President Obama is duplicating an effort that Bush tried: have the 17 largest economies meet together since that’s where the primary problems are arising.
The first meeting is scheduled for April 27-28 in Washington, with more leading up to a July summit in Italy. Among those invited are the swiftly developing economies of China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia and South Africa. Korea and Japan join the U.S., Russia and several European countries from the industrial world, as well as representatives of the European Union. Denmark won an invitation as host of the decisive Copenhagen meeting.
Will the supposedly more focused set of meeting make more of a difference? I doubt it. Although, having President Obama’s people in place for a longer period of time might help spur things along. Unfortunately, they seem to be adopting the Bush attitude that the U.S. won’t be the primary responsible party to get climate action underway.
President Obama seems to recognize that delay is no longer an option. I hope that attitude translates to real action and an aggressive course of action to come out of the Copenhagen, Denmark talks later this year. Otherwise, some of the costs we face, like those outlined in this table from the NRDC (based on somewhat conservative estimates), will come to fruition. Anything we do now will be cheaper.