Environmental groups and elected officials have warned Barack Obama that America was emerging as the spoiler of the UN climate summit in Durban, unless there is a big shift in its negotiating stance.
In two separate, but strongly worded rebukes, Obama heard from some of his closest allies that his administration was not living up to his election promises on climate action.
Both appeals on Wednesday reflect the frustration among environmental groups that Obama will be more focused on avoiding any potential damage to his re-election prospects, than on moving towards a global climate deal in South Africa.
The letter to the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, from the leaders of 16 aid and environmental groups, said American negotiators were blocking progress on key elements of the Durban summit, including the creation of a fund, worth up to $100bn a year, to help poor countries cope with climate change.
The organisations, including the Sierra Club, the largest mass-based environmental organisation in the US and the Union of Concerned Scientists, said Obama had generated enormous hope when he was elected in 2008, promising US action on climate change.
“Three years later, America risks being viewed not as a global leader on climate change, but as a major obstacle to progress,” the letter says. “US positions on two major issues – the mandate for future negotiations and climate finance – threaten to impede in Durban the global co-operation so desperately needed to address the threat of climate change.”
It accuses US negotiators of being unwilling to work with EU and Chinese negotiators to come up with an arrangement for global emissions cuts as well as clinging to its position even as other countries make compromises.
Global Warming forgotten in 2012 US Presidential Race
By Ed Rogers
One interesting phenomenon of the 2012 race has been the disappearance of global warming as a campaign issue. Not surprising among the Republicans, but not even President Obama is talking about it.
When President Obama was running during more flush economic times, he promised to raise everyone’s power bill in order to save the planet. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board on January 17, 2008, President Obama stated that, “Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” Any such utterance today would be political suicide.
Even this year’s worldwide confab of climate change zealots and anti-growth fanatics in Durban, South Africa is very low key. Representing the U.S. at the conference is Todd Stern, the State Department Special Envoy for Climate Change (Todd Stern is an able public servant — they should give him a job where his talents could be put to good use), and Jonathan Pershing, the Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change. Expect a dry written statement from the Obama administration, with empty phrases like “progress made” or “a deepened understanding among nations is developing.”
Since the last election, the science surrounding global climate change has been tainted by scandal, while economic realities have become all too clear. We need an environmental policy that is no longer connected to global weather maintenance. Pursuing the global remedies that the left wants includes giving money to other countries and raising American families’ power bills. We can’t transfer green technology money to Solyndra, much less to foreign countries.
But maybe there is a legitimate change of course that could be incorporated into campaign 2012 debate and benefit the U.S. and the environment everywhere. I wish the Republican campaign included an environmental policy acknowledging that we need diplomatic initiatives that include how we keep the oceans clean, reduce cross-border air pollution, and the use and disposal of dangerous chemicals, etc. Republicans should have an affirmative environmental agenda that doesn’t just celebrate the collapse of the global warming crusade.
However, some environmental issues need to be approached diplomatically. The modern era of globalization affects many environmental issues: Every country has a role to play, and there must be a level playing field. America doesn’t lead by unilaterally raising our cost of energy. And by the way, many of our unilateral actions, especially EPA regulations on power plants and manufacturing, are counterproductive unless the rest of the world does the same.
Speaking of energy prices, I keep mentioning this, because I think it is an important issue politically, and it’s underreported – and that is gasoline prices. Today, oil is $110.07 per barrel vs. $82.83 per barrel a year ago, and the average gasoline price is $3.368 per gallon today vs. $2.876 per gallon a year ago. Higher gasoline prices suck cash out of the economy, with real political consequence that are worse for President Obama than for anyone else. I’ve never heard him say if he wants gasoline prices to be lower, or if he has a plan to lower gasoline prices. But if he stays with the old orthodoxy that higher energy prices are desirable because it will make people use less energy, he will pay a price in the election next November.