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U.S. Opening Statement in Barcelona Shows Little Progress Has Been Made Toward Resolution in Copenhagen


Ryan Brown—Chicago, Illinois

November 10, 2009

In his opening statement in Barcelona, John Pershing outlined a stance by the United States that includes little progress toward an international climate treaty at COP-15 in December. This lack of progress, while not stated explicitly by Pershing, is implicit in the ambiguity of the stance of the United States which he laid out in his statement.

Pershing said in his statement that it is the position of the United States that developed nations must make, “robust absolute emission reductions in the midterm from a base year—for example, 1990 or 2005.” This issue about a setting a base year has been a point of contention between the United States and the international community for quite some time. Despite the near global consensus that the base year for setting emission reductions should be set at the more ambitious year of 1990, the U.S. still continues to insist that it set its own goals to the meager year of 2005. The America continues to insist that these years may be interchangeable as can be seen by Pershing using the examples of 1990 or 2005.

It is obvious that these years are not interchangeable as the U.S. contends—especially because the United States saw a period of growth and prosperity between the years 1990 and 2005 that has seldom been matched in American history. When one combines this with the fact that in 1990 America was just coming out of the deep recession of the late 1980’s, it becomes easy to see that the starting year of 1990 would be far more of an ambitious date for a base year.

Furthermore, the United States saw a near economic collapse just one year ago. The effects of this collapse on both the economy in the long term and emissions remains to be seen. However, it is clear that as America’s GDP has fallen since 2008, so has its output and emissions. In fact, it is likely that the American economy (and by extension its emissions) may have contracted from its 2005 levels. Thus putting the base year at 2005 may require America to do little to nothing at all.

As a result of these two effects it is clear that the base year of 2005 requires far less from the world’s second largest polluter than a base year of 1990. I believe that both American citizens and the world as a whole should insist on a higher standard by the world’s only superpower. We must lead on climate change, not drag behind!

One Comment leave one →
  1. anthony permalink
    11/12/09 1:54 pm

    great comments on the base year. i hadn’t thought about the recession linked to 2005 levels.

    the only thing is i think pershing really does mean well and wants ambitious reductions. do you think he’s just having to do what he’s told, or is the part about china and india more accurately cutting emissions the reason he wants 2005 levels? maybe both?


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