Countdown to Copenhagen

This blog was written by Jennifer Rennicks, former Senior Director of Policy & Communications at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | November 11, 2009 | Climate Change, Energy Policy

In less than one month, world leaders and representatives from nearly 200 nations will gather with technical experts, business leaders, advocates and concerned citizens in Copenhagen, Denmark for the United Nations’ 15th annual Conference of the Parties where the primary focus will be to seek agreement on a new global climate treaty.

This week, President Obama stated that the U.S. and China must step-up to lead in these negotiations and indicated he would travel to Copenhagen if negotiators get close to a framework deal and his presence could help to clinch it.

Heartening news, indeed, when you consider that former President Bush was a perennial no-show at these annual climate summits.  Moreover, the U.S. delegates who did attend proved to be so counter-productive in discussions in Bali in 2007 that a delegate from Papua New Guinea invoked the words of the famous American writer, Thomas Paine, imploring our nation to either, “lead, follow or get out of the way.”  In order for the U.S. to lead on the international stage as a credible player in the upcoming negotiations, it is essential that we can demonstrate some measures of progress made advancing climate and energy policies at home.

In less than one year, the United States has achieved some credible gains in domestic climate and energy policy.  In January, President Obama cited climate change and the need for solutions in his inaugural address, and the next month we saw the passage of an economic recovery package that included tens of billions of dollars in incentives for energy efficiency measures, such as weatherization, clean energy.

In May, the Administration indicated it would begin to craft a single new national automotive emission standard while increasing the fuel efficiency of cars and light trucks in order to reduce oil imports and global warming pollution at the same time.  Then in June, the U.S. House of Representatives — for the first time in history — debated and then passed the American Clean Energy & Security Act, a bill that would set a limit on global warming pollution while promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Although the Senate has been slower to act, this month saw not one but two critical steps towards enacting climate legislation in this Congress. As the Senate Environment and Public Works committee debated and approved the democratic-introduced Clean Energy Jobs & American Power Act, a bi-partisan trio – Senators Kerry (D-MA), Graham (R-SC) and Lieberman (I-CT) – announced that they will begin work on a “dual track” climate bill with help from the Obama Administration.

While these individual steps don’t yet equal the comprehensive clean energy and climate policies that we need, when taken as a whole they are hopeful signs the U.S. is finally serious about legislating solutions at home, essential if we are to lead abroad.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy will be among the attendees in Copenhagen next month, as discussed in a recent radio interview on Conservation Matters/You Need to KnowFollow our blogposts and Twitter updates and join us for a webinar designed to keep our members and allies updated on the proceedings and outcomes as SACE works to show Congressional and world leaders that businesses and citizens from the Southeast want a clean energy future and expect bold climate action.

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