Excerpts of this report by Kevin Tuerff are published on EnvironmentalLeader.com
(POZNAN, POLAND, Dec. 11, 2008)
It was a historic moment that passed with little fanfare. U.S. Climate Change Ambassador Paula Dobriansky just told more than 100 foreign ministers that “the United States will agree to reductions in greenhouse gases by AT LEAST fifty percent by 2050.” She emphasized the words, “at least.”
Her remarks received tepid applause from those in the massive room at the UN Climate Change Conference. But, it was a whole lot better than the chorus of boos she received last year at this same even in Bali, Indonesia.
Of course, President-Elect Obama has already agreed to make a far stronger commitment, an 80 percent reduction by 2050. Yet, some countries are calling on the largest polluting countries to reduce by 95 percent.
President Bush will now go down in history as having come full circle on global warming. America never signed onto the Kyoto Protocol, and even up until the last few hours of last year’s conference, the Administration robustly disagreed with any specific emission targets until countries like China and India had similar ones. It was all about economic competition.
Ambassador Dobriansky politely got in a related dig to China by saying that a recent World Bank study says that some poor, developing countries will switch to become rich, developed countries within two decades. (HINT: CHINA!). Her point is that China shouldn’t get by with lower emission reduction goals than the USA.
But don’t you think we could address that in a few years? The overwhelming majority of countries were painfully clear in their remarks: Those who pollute the most need to start taking action immediately before expect us to.
Ah, but what about the economy? A rare appearance by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon kicked off the informal ministerial roundtable. Moon said, “a financial crisis cannot be a used for backsliding on your commitments. Rather, we must expand our field of vision.”
Australian ambassador Penny Wong concurred: “Some in Australia have suggested that we delay action in climate change. This is not the view of our government. Our view is delay will simply increase the costs.”
The French Ambassador said the economic crisis provides a historic opportunity to provide massive green infrastructure .
Sweden today announced it would give an impressive $500 million and Canada announced it was contributing $100 million to help poor countries deal with climate change adaptation.
And as I sat in the back of the room on my laptop, Ban Ki Moon just walked three-feet in front of me. I have witnessed history. For my friends who still don’t believe in climate change, you’ll have the next 50 years to complain about it, or try to find ways to live sustainably.