Ball is in our court
As reported in the Post, the joint declaration between President Obama and Chinese President Hu yesterday included a hopeful clause that the Obama administration is likely to offer emission-reduction targets in Copenhagen if the Chinese offer its proposal as well. This could grease a sticking point in negotiations and allow a political accord on greenhouse gas reductions next month, with a legally binding treaty coming next year sometime.
Assigning blame is a rather pointless exercise. We are where we are and the two-step process is the only practical path forward with the Copenhagen conference just a few weeks away. However, Copenhagen must achieve some agreement on emission reduction targets. Reliance on some collective "bottom up" process based on best efforts of nations overly constrained by their economic doubts will only produce the grandest tragedy of the commons. The science indicating the scale and timing of emissions reductions needed to avoid dire consequences from climate change leaves no room for delay, much less inaction.
As the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, participation by both the U.S. and China is essential. However, with our per capita emissions about four times greater than that of China, the ball is clearly in the U.S. court. With even the conservative party leaders of European nations, such as Germany's Angela Merkel, pleading with the U.S. to act to set emission reduction targets and policies to achieve them, it is obvious that our nation is the lynchpin for a global agreement needed to save our planet as we know it. While legislation will certainly not be passed before next month's conference, our President should go to Copenhagen and make that good faith commitment.
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