Disappointing. That’s our general feeling about the results from the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Poznań. Too much talk and shell games with numbers.
Climate Ambassadors argued for several hours about whether the text in official documents should read “environmental” or “ecological.” They also argued (and created a rebellion) by using the phrase “indigenous people” instead of the plural “peoples.”
The European Union (in Brussels) gets major props for approving a plan to reduce greenhouse gases by 20 percent by 2020. Meanwhile the EU Environmental Minister in Poznań said next year they want to change that target to 30 percent, hoping the global financial crisis will be better. See the Financial Times article: “Europe urges rest of world to follow its lead on climate.”
As we reported from Poland, the Bush Administration committed the U.S. to a 50 percent reduction by 2050, but President-elect Obama has already said we need to commit to an 80 percent reduction by 2050. And still, many developing countries are saying the carbon-obese countries like the U.S. should really reduce by 95 percent.
Valerie Davis found this beautiful Christmas tree in the Prague town square, featuring cascading, energy-saving lights on the branches. We hope Congress will put some eco-legislation under America’s Christmas tree this year.
My prayer for 2009 is that Congress just gets busy with implementing pollution prevention and mitigation measures rather than solely discussing the goal. Its shameful staff of Democratic senators were running around the UN conference declaring zero action would be taken in the U.S. Congress before next year’s huge UN meeting in Copenhagen, due to the economic crisis. All while critcizing other countries.
It’s just like when any overweight person says, “I’m going to lose weight.” You can talk about losing 100 pounds all day, but until you start moving more and eating better, you aren’t going to lose a pound.
Heart surgeons give patients about to undergo bypass surgery the Cabbage Diet to immediately shed 10 pounds. America needs the equivalent carbon diet.
So what are the elements Congress should put into the 2009 carbon diet?
1. In addition to Obama’s stimulus package of green jobs for weatherizing government buildings, massive grants should be given to states to implement home weatherization for low-income families with older homes that presumably waste lots of energy, air conditioning and heating the outside.
2. Pass a cap and trade bill (How about Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s Climate MATTERS bill?) to send a signal to industry of what’s coming next. We can delay the implementation a year, if necessary.
3. Set a national Renewable Energy Standard so state utility regulators change their focus away from all-coal, all the time.
4. Amend the federal Clean Air Act slightly, to insert greenhouse gases, just as the Supreme Court directed, as well as allocate appropriate funding to the EPA and state and local environmental agencies to immediately conduct emissions inventories and plans.
5. Redirect transportation dollars to move toward much greater investment into public transit. One day the price of gas will go back up, or we’ll have to raise the gas tax to force consumers to scale back consumption, just like last summer when gas hit $4 per gallon.
6. Book December 10, 2009 on the President’s calendar for a trip to Copenhagen. The international climate change leaders will be rightfully impressed, and that will give our country an extra year or two to jump-start action to fully implement the new Copenhagen Protocol, the successor to Kyoto.
Just like the Cabbage Diet, these items are just the starting point. After heart surgery, you have to change your behaviors to live a healthier life if you want to keep living.
- By Kevin Tuerff, Reporting from Berlin