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Obama Addresses the World

12/18/09

I just heard a speech President Obama gave at 12:30 today to heads of government, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon, and Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC Yvo de Boer. In his speech, Obama maintained the U.S.’s position, and he did not introduce any new targets or goals. I was watching the speech in Klimaforum, an alternate, downtown, conference area. Obama’s speech mostly drew boos and derision from the audience.

Obama immediately said that he was here to act. He continued by saying that the U.S. is ready to tackle climate change, and is ready to take action today. The U.S. must change the way energy is produced because it is essential to maintaining a strong, competitive, and growing economy.

President Obama laid our three clear and necessary goals for a global accord. First, all major economies must put forth decisive efforts and ambitious target; he added that the U.S. was committed to their target of 17% reductions by 2020 below 2005 levels and 80% by 2050. Shortly before Obama gave his speech, Chinese negotiators walked out of a plenary, so it is clear that Obama was including China in the  “major economies” group.

Secondly, there must be mechanisms to verify emissions reduction efforts. Obama maintained that these verifications do not have to be intrusive and can still maintain the sovereignty of all nations. This point was the specific source of conflict between that led to the walkout by Chinese negotiators.

Thirdly, there must be financing to developing countries, especially to the very poorest countries. Obama reiterated the U.S. position of helping to provide $12 billion by 2012. He added to this target that the U.S. was also committed to helping provide $100 billion by 2020 for developing countries.

Obama clearly stated the U.S. wants a deal that focuses on mitigation, adaptation, and financing. A deal of this structure will maintain the idea of common but differentiated responsibilities. Obama concluded with a call for all countries to work together to arrive at a global deal even if it means that each country will not get everything it wants in the accord.

Obama’s speech was disappointing because he failed to further the U.S. commitment. He maintained the position that U.S. negotiators have had for years. It is clear that only an accord between the U.S. and China will propel the world to a global deal.

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