catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Change you can believe in

with 3 comments

Jeffrey Sachs blames Obama, amongst others, for the Copenhagen fiasco. (HT. Mankiw)

Responsibility for this disaster reaches far and wide. Let us start with George W. Bush, who ignored climate change for the eight years of his presidency, wasting the world’s precious time. Then comes the UN, for managing the negotiating process so miserably during a two-year period. Then comes the European Union for pushing relentlessly for a single-minded vision of a global emissions-trading system, even when such a system would not fit the rest of the world.

Then comes the United States Senate, which has ignored climate change for 15 consecutive years since ratifying the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Finally, there is Obama, who effectively abandoned a systematic course of action under the UN framework, because it was proving nettlesome to US power and domestic politics.

Obama’s decision to declare a phony negotiating victory undermines the UN process by signaling that rich countries will do what they want and must no longer listen to the “pesky” concerns of many smaller and poorer countries. Some will view this as pragmatic, reflecting the difficulty of getting agreement with 192 UN member states. But it is worse than that. International law, as complicated as it is, has been replaced by the insincere, inconsistent, and unconvincing word of a few powers, notably the US. America has insisted that others sign on to its terms – leaving the UN process hanging by a thread – but it has never shown goodwill to the rest of the world on this issue, nor the ability or interest needed to take the lead on it.

For me, the image that remains of Copenhagen is that of Obama appearing at a press conference to announce an agreement that only five countries had yet seen, and then rushing off to the airport to fly back to Washington, DC, to avoid a snowstorm back home. He has taken on a grave responsibility in history. If his action proves unworthy, if the voluntary commitments of the US and others prove insufficient, and if future negotiations are derailed, it will have been Obama who single-handedly traded in international law for big-power politics on climate change.

That is probably an accurate description of what Obama did. But it seems to me that this is how Americans always behave when confronted by the UN and other more silly international initiatives. They always act strictly in their own interests and there is nothing wrong with that. Obama’s speech in Copenhagen could have been delivered to a US domestic audience (emphasis added).

As the world’s largest economy and the world’s second largest emitter, America bears our share of responsibility in addressing climate change, and we intend to meet that responsibility. That is why we have renewed our leadership within international climate negotiations, and worked with other nations to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. And that is why we have taken bold action at home – by making historic investments in renewable energy; by putting our people to work increasing efficiency in our homes and buildings; and by pursuing comprehensive legislation to transform to a clean energy economy.

These actions are ambitious, and we are taking them not simply to meet our global responsibilities. We are convinced that changing the way that we produce and use energy is essential to America’s economic future – that it will create millions of new jobs, power new industry, keep us competitive, and spark new innovation. And we are convinced that changing the way we use energy is essential to America’s national security, because it will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and help us deal with some of the dangers posed by climate change.

So America is going to continue on this course of action no matter what happens in Copenhagen. But we will all be stronger and safer and more secure if we act together. That is why it is in our mutual interest to achieve a global accord in which we agree to take certain steps, and to hold each other accountable for our commitments.

It takes a long time before Obama moves from ‘we’ to ‘our’.

Furthermore all the Europeans and lefties were carrying on about restored American leadership blah, blah, blah, when Obama got elected and now they’re unhappy when the leader shows some ‘leadership’ telling everyone ‘here’s the deal and I’m going home’.

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Written by Sinclair Davidson

December 22, 2009 at 8:14 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. The press for Rudd today is universally scathing. Copenhagen for he, Turnbull and the NOW! NOW! ETS pants-wetters was an epic humiliation.

    C.L.

    December 22, 2009 at 11:24 am

  2. LOL. Hamilton attacks Flannery:

    http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2777595.htm

    Warmists at war!

    C.L.

    December 22, 2009 at 11:26 am

  3. Nicholson perfectly summarises Rudd’s ETS debacle.

    C.L.

    December 22, 2009 at 12:54 pm


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