Senate Engagement Key to Success in Copenhagen
Memories of Kyoto have led many to believe that the Obama Administration should arrive at Copenhagen prepared to negotiate only those climate commitments which the Senate is prepared to support. A logical conclusion after the debacle of Kyoto. But unless things change in the U.S. Senate and its willingness to move meaningful climate legislation by the middle of December, the U.S. could become the single biggest obstacle to a global deal.
In 1997, the Clinton Administration signed the Protocol, but before the ink was even put to the paper they knew they lacked a single vote in the Senate to ratify the treaty. The Protocol moved forward, imperfect and flawed, and without ratification or participation of the U.S. - one of the few developed countries to abstain, and at the time the world's largest emitter.
Twelve years later, both science and public opinion tells us that needs to change. A steady stream of scientific reports and practical experience show that climate change is coming faster and hitting harder than we thought even a few years ago. And recent polls show 71 percent of Americans support climate legislation. To achieve the kinds of pollution reductions necessary to avoid catastrophic impacts, we need a truly global partnership. And that can only happen with the support of the United States.
Right now, the Obama Administration is hobbled in its ability to negotiate an agreement because it doesn't have a clear indication of support from the Senate. Other countries find it difficult to negotiate in the absence of a clear position from the United States. Many of these countries are already taking more action than the U.S. and are skeptical of making further concessions unless they have greater assurance that the U.S. will ultimately ratify the deal.
The only way to fully unshackle negotiations is for the Senate to move a climate bill prior to Copenhagen. Such a step would eliminate the guesswork and inject a much-needed dose of confidence into the process.
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