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From Copenhagen to Cancun — Obama diminished

On Monday, the sixteenth “Conference of the Parties” to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will begin at the Mexican resort of Cancun. In a post just below this one, John exposes the redistributionist agenda that helps animate this conference. As John notes, Ottmar Edenhofer, who admits that international climate policy is economic rather than environmental policy, will co-chair the Working Group on “Mitigation of Climate Change” at the Cancun confab.
Last year’s conference in Copenhagen occurred to much fanfare. President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and Speaker Pelosi all attended. This year, they all apparently will be absent. The U.S. delegation will be led by a state department official named Todd Stern.
The Copenhagen conference was to be a coming out party for the Obama administration’s transformation of U.S. climate change policy. It didn’t work out that way, though. Obama arrived in Denmark without climate change legislation, which made it impossible for him to enter into any treaty or grand bargain. Instead, Obama told the Conference that the U.S. would reduce its emissions “in the range of” 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2010.
A year later, with no prospects of enacting climate change legislation, the administration is left to rely on implementing EPA regulations that will cut emissions from power plants and factories. The Republicans will likely attempt to pass a resolution negating such regulations. In fact, led by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, they came close to accomplishing this in the last Congress. This year, such a legislation might pass, but Obama presumably would veto it.
According to Robert Stavins of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, however, Obama’s regulatory approach will not put the U.S. on the path to the 17 percent reduction (or reduction in that range) that he spoke about at Copenhagen. Thus, the U.S. heads to Cancun unable to strike a grand bargain and unable even to convince anyone it will do what it said last year it would do.
Then, there is the matter of the commitment, also made in Copenhagen, to provide $30 billion short-term and $100 billion long-term to developing countries to assist them in dealing with climate change. It’s not clear where the Obama administration will find the money to fund its share of this commitment in the current fiscal environment.
So, the answer to Jim Inhofe’s question, what will the conferees do in Cancun “other than go swimming?” may be this: heap abuse on the U.S. for falling so short of the world’s expectations for Obama. In a sense, the abuse will be deserved.
Ideally, the ongoing futility of the “Conference of the Parties” would cause the U.S. and others to shift to conferences (if conferences there must be) of more plausible parties – a group of major players, rather than the 120 nations that will be represented in Cancun. But that concept is politically incorrect and contrary to the redistributionist ethos that drives the climate change movement in the West.

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