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Copenhagen Withdrawals?


Tyler Hess, Louisville, KY

Looking for places, people, and countries to shift blame to in regards to the failed Copenhagen talks? Here’s a short list:


Photo Courtesy of: The White House

Demonized by some of the international media as someone who could have done something, but didn’t, Obama ultimately looks like he failed all of the world’s people. Bill McKibben, founder of, in one of his recently published articles, said that “The president has wrecked the UN and he’s wrecked the possibility of a tough plan to control global warming.” Germans, Brits, and many more are consistently spewing their thoughts about our American president. However, does anyone take a moment to step back and look at the situation as a whole. Obama is the leader of one country. Granted, the US is the second largest carbon dioxide emitters and one of the largest developed countries that of course must play a large part in the negotiation process. Nevertheless, Obama is more of a head of a state than we believe. He cannot act without the approval of congress and we know they are just oh so busy with healthcare at the moment. Additionally, the US Congress mainly acts based upon business interests in their district. Sen. McConnell (R-KY), the Senate minority leader, acts in large part with the Republican caucus and large coal industry in Kentucky. And Sen. Inhofe (R-OK), the assistant chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, still vehemently denies the science of global warming. To say the least, there is conflicting interests (due to money, lack of sound science, or more) within the United States. Moreover, blaming the failed Copenhagen summit on Obama fails to look at other world leaders. Canada has still failed to act despite their continuous rise in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to their northern tar sands. Still, the Obama administration has done much more than any other administration in United States’ history for the “climate”, “earth”, “planet”, or whatever you want to call this luscious homeland upon which all civilization and life exists. Rising fuel efficiency standards, a House passed cap-and-trade bill, international talks, and a progressive EPA administrator, are just a few accomplishments of OBAMA. Demonize as you will, I’ll stand behind the man who is fighting quite the hidden and corporate battle that many of us, including myself, don’t fully understand.

2. The United Nations!
DevelopED countries. DevelopING countries. What’s the difference?… Anyone? And I think that’s the point. The way many see the difference between these United Nations defined targets comes down to putting a few large countries into each category and calling it a day. China and India are of course the rock-stars of the developing country sector with the United States being the figurehead of the developed country bloc. Having such ambiguous and 17 year old defining terms harms the United Nations that is already internationally viewed as a failure. More than 170 leaders attended the outcome, “the biggest meeting of heads of state and government in the history of the United Nations and possibly in history,” said UNFCCC Information Officer John Hay. “It’s the first time that heads of state and government have got involved in drafting text.” Sure, we can talk about the disgusting nature of what ever little happened within the boundaries of the Danish capital. Yet, the world focused upon a single northern European city for two straight weeks. During these weeks, the world’s people waited as a deal was supposed to be set. And even when you’re expecting it, failure still hurts. But the United Nations should not get the entire blame, regardless of its delirious definitions, incredible ineffectiveness, and hollow hope.

President Barack Obama briefs European leaders following a multilateral meeting at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. Participants include British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Danish Prime Minister Lars L. Rasmussen, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel

When I said this was going to be a short list, I meant it. The world, through the international press, are rebelling against two major figureheads: Obama (and the developed countries) & the United Nations.
Obama is the leader who supposedly engineered the Copenhagen Accord between the United States, India, China, Brazil, South Africa, and a few key European leaders. “It was not driven by one leader, or two leaders, or three leaders,” said Robert Orr, the U.N.‘s assistant secretary general for policy planning. “I would have to count on two hands the number of leaders who played a really instrumental role.” Still, having a sitting US President take such a leadership role in climate change talks is unprecedented. Additionally, blaming the United Nations is usually never helpful. I guess all we can do is follow Jessy Tolkan, Executive Director of the Energy Action Coalition, and her advice of ramping up our efforts for 2010. The Copenhagen talks are over. Mexico City is only 11 months away, let’s get back to work!

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