It's time for the U.S. to play it's REDD Card
Some have described this week of the Copenhagen climate talks as being all about bridging the past and the future, bridging the North and the South, and bridging the US and China. There's a clear path forward in making this happen and some easy cards for the US to play.
First and most obvious is REDD. The Senate bill already dedicates five percent of the revenues generated from the sale of emission credits to go towards reducing deforestation. That's smart money, not just because deforestation represents 15 percent of global emissions, but because the set-aside provides the best bang for our buck. The five percent allocation is estimated to generate the equivalent of an additional 10 percent reduction in US emissions (720 million tons annually by 2020) on top of the 17 percent 2020 emissions target in the House-passed bill - putting emissions cuts at a much more ambitious level.
The primary obstacle in the negotiations now is long-term climate finance. One of the most important ways to unlock an agreement here is to agree on a 2020 finance target to complement 2020 emissions targets. Without it, we'll be hard pressed to get out of Copenhagen with a success. So far, however, the American delegation has not put the 5 percent commitment on the table. This has led other countries to soft peddle the commitments they might make in return.
The U.S. delegation's resistance to using the five percent allocation is misplaced. This is one of the most important cards the President has to play here in Copenhagen. This investment was included in both the House-passed climate bill and the bill passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee in November. It would support a resource Americans hold dear, with recent polls showing strong and deep support for protecting forests among the U.S. population writ large.
President Obama and Secretary Clinton need to elevate the discussion here in Copenhagen, look other leaders in the eye, put commitments like REDD on the table, and encourage our team to clarify, not obfuscate, the language that joins us with other countries in solving this problem.
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