Copenhagen Is On; Obama to Lead U.S. Delegation

First the climate bill was dead, then the climate bill was not dead yet, then Copenhagen was dead, then Copenhagen was not dead yet, and now it’s all back on the table, right where President Obama said it would be: a legally binding climate treaty calling for an ambitious reduction in carbon dioxide–83 percent by 2050.

Patience, people, patience.

Obama’s call for such a treaty today closely follows three other significant events:

• His announcement that he’ll attend the Copenhagen Climate Conference on Dec. 9 to call for the treaty in person. I’ve always said that his decision to attend would depend on the likelihood of a treaty being signed, and the likelihood of a treaty being signed would be worked out behind the scenes in meetings between diplomats from the U.S. and other major players. But not only is Obama attending, according to the White House:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson are all scheduled to attend, along with Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, and Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner.

• Obama’s announcement follows key meetings between Obama and the leaders of China and India, the two developing nations whose participation in the treaty is most essential to its success.

• The treaty Obama has called for matches the climate bill that already passed the House and the one likely to pass the Senate: not the bill that passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, but the one likely to be worked out in a compromise with that bill’s sole no vote, Sen. Max Baucus. Both the House bill and the likely Baucus compromise call for a 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020.

For the first time, the U.S. delegation will have a U.S. Center at the conference, providing a unique and interactive forum to share our story with the world. In addition to working with other countries to advance American interests, U.S. delegates will keynote a series of events highlighting actions by the Obama Administration to provide domestic and global leadership in the transition to a clean energy economy. Topics will range from energy efficiency investments and global commitments to renewables policy and clean energy jobs.

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