Statement on Major Climate Meetings in New York and Washington

The United Nations and the United States convened major climate meetings during the week of September 24, 2007, to discuss future international climate change efforts.

Statement by Eileen Claussen, President, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change

 

September 28, 2007

This week’s climate meetings in New York and Washington demonstrate that climate change is finally taking its rightful place at the top of the global agenda. The high-level UN meeting, in particular, underscored a strong and growing consensus among world leaders on the urgency of forging a new global agreement addressing climate change. Both meetings also reaffirmed the United Nations as the appropriate forum for negotiating this agreement.

The meetings also laid bare key differences between the approaches favored by the Bush administration and by most other governments. In convening its Meeting of Major Economies, the administration hoped to sway other governments to its vision of a voluntary international framework. Under this approach, as President Bush described it in his address this morning, countries would agree on a long-term global goal but each would decide independently what its contribution to meeting it would be. Thankfully, other countries rejected the idea that the climate challenge can be met through voluntary measures alone, and emphasized the need for new international commitments.

In describing their own domestic efforts, other developed nations also showed they are prepared to take much stronger action than the Bush administration. Europe reiterated its commitment to reduce emissions 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Canada said it plans to reduce emissions 20 percent below current levels in that timeframe. Australia said it plans to establish a domestic cap-and-trade system by 2011. Meantime, the Bush administration clings to an emissions intensity goal that keeps emissions rising through 2012, and continues to oppose bills before Congress to establish a mandatory economy-wide cap-and-trade system.

Perhaps the clearest message to emerge from this week’s meetings is the importance of the UN climate negotiations later this year in Bali. An effective agreement can be reached only if formal negotiations are launched. Bali is a critical opportunity to do just that. If President Bush is sincere in his goal of an effective UN agreement, the United States must support the launch of formal negotiations in Bali.