Challenge Equals Opportunity
Three countries have been seen as potential obstacles to success in Copenhagen - the United States, India, and China - but there are signs of change. The U.S. is considering both legislation and regulation to bring emissions under control. China is moving rapidly to become a major manufacturer and user of clean energy technologies. And last week in Washington, India's environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, promised, "We are not going to be a deal-breaker in Copenhagen."
Ramesh talked at length about the danger of climate change to India, including the very real threat that the glaciers in the Himalayas - the water source in summer months for Asia's great rivers, supporting the lives of more than 1 billion people - could shrink away within the next 25 years, with unthinkable consequences.
Ramesh said India is now ready to reduce its emissions through "specific performance targets embedded in domestic legislation." These include mandatory fuel economy standards and building codes, as well as targets for renewable energy generation and forest protection.
This points the way to a successful outcome in Copenhagen, where the press of time will make achievement of a comprehensive new treaty difficult. Agreement on areas of immediate action could build confidence in the negotiations and lead to the broader deal the world needs soon afterward. Just as important, it will be another signal of the global transition to a clean energy economy.
America's competitive strength lies in its ability to innovate - to envision the future and create it. The economic self-interest of the nation is tied to change - to the disruptive turbulence of remaking the world.
Tens of trillions of dollars will be invested over the next 20 years in energy - to sustain the rich countries and empower the poor ones. If those investments are made in the dirty and depleting resources of the past, the U.S. and the world will be the loser. If they are made in low-carbon, high-tech energy solutions, the U.S. will capture the greatest economic opportunity of the 21st century - and the world will have a chance to avoid catastrophe.
October 5, 2009; 1:56 PM ET
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