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With Copenhagen Summit Approaching, Leading Polluters US and China Undercut Hopes of Substantial Pollution Cuts

Has the UN climate summit in New York just set the stage for disappointment in Copenhagen?

ANJALI KAMAT: World leaders gathered at the United Nations on Tuesday for a one-day global summit on climate change. The conference drew nearly 100 heads of state and came seventy days before the major climate summit in Copenhagen in December to update the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the talks, saying the failure to reach a new treaty this year on fighting global warming would be, quote, "morally inexcusable."

    SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON: A successful deal must strengthen the world's ability to cope with inevitable changes. In particular, it must provide comprehensive support to the most vulnerable. They have contributed least to this crisis and are suffering first -- and worst.

    Failure to reach broad agreement in Copenhagen would be morally inexcusable, economically shortsighted and politically unwise. We cannot go down this road.

ANJALI KAMAT: President Barack Obama, in his first speech at the United Nations, said the United States was "determined" to act on global warming but offered no specific proposals to jumpstart talks on a UN climate pact.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It is true that for too many years mankind has been slow to respond or even recognize the magnitude of the climate threat. It is true of my own country, as well. We recognize that. But this is a new day. It is a new era. And I am proud to say that the United States has done more to promote clean energy and reduce carbon pollution in the last eight months than at any other time in our history.

ANJALI KAMAT: All eyes were also on China's president, Hu Jintao. China and the United States account for more than 40 percent of the world's carbon emissions. In his address, Hu Jintao spoke of reducing emissions by a "notable" margin, but did not give a specific target.

    PRESIDENT HU JINTAO: [translated] First, we will intensify our efforts to conserve energy and improve energy efficiency. We will endeavor to cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by a notable margin by 2020 from the 2005 levels. Second, we will vigorously develop renewable energy and nuclear energy. We will endeavor to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in prime energy consumption to around 15 percent by 2020.

ANJALI KAMAT: Hu Jintao and Obama are scheduled to meet for one-on-one talks after the summit. Both leaders will then head to Pittsburgh for the G-20 summit, where climate change is a top agenda item.

AMY GOODMAN: Scientists and activists are warning the international community is at a crossroads and must take decisive steps to tackle global warming. Earlier this week, Nobel Peace laureate Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warned that current emissions trajectories will be speeding the world towards the panel's worst-case possibilities, including heat waves, droughts, melting glaciers, loss of the Greenland ice sheet and other dangers.

For more, we're joined by three guests.

Andrew Revkin is with us, award-winning science reporter with the New York Times , writes the "Dot Earth" blog for the Times website. He was at the UN covering the climate summit yesterday. He joins us in our firehouse studio here in New York.

In DC, we're joined by Ted Glick, policy director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

And joining us from Pittsburgh is Anna Pinto. She is an indigenous rights activist from India who's there as part of the New Voices on Climate Change program, representing the Meitei from northeastern India. And she's co-founder of CORE.

We welcome you all to Democracy Now! Andrew Revkin, let's begin with you. The significance of the climate change UN summit that took place yesterday, and then how it fits into the progression from there to G-20 to Copenhagen?

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