America’s role in COP15 undetermined

Delegates from around the world will meet in Copenhagen this December, but will America be heading the charge or hiding out in the back of the class?
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Delegates from around the world will meet in Copenhagen this December, but will America be heading the charge or hiding out in the back of the class?

December 2009 marks the 15th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference. For two weeks, representatives from 192 countries, as well as those from civil organizations and press outlets, will meet to discuss global initiatives for climate change. These initiatives include the controversial Kyoto Protocol, which has been met with mixed reviews in the United States.

The Bush administration stood firmly against commitment to international climate change protocols, often citing the strain of such regulations on the economic well-being of the country. Now that Obama’s in office, international leaders seem hopeful for change and increased U.S. participation.

"We all have a lot of homework before Copenhagen, but the world is looking towards the United States to provide leadership,” said Connie Hedegaard, Minister for Climate and Energy of Denmark in an interview with The Guardian. Great Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown shared her sentiments, stating “I believe you, the nation that had the vision to put a man on the moon, is also the nation with a vision to protect and preserve our planet Earth.

All visionary rhetoric aside, the U.S. government’s track record on Kyoto remains spotty. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted to this fault. According to Clinton, the U.S. “has definitely been neglectful in living up to our responsibility.” In the next breath in the interview, she seems to put the blame on China (who has finally surpassed the U.S. in greenhouse gas emissions). It seems to me that U.S. politicians haven’t changed their views on our own participation in climate change, but instead are focusing on the one country who’s worse than we are.

I think it’ll take an ideological overhaul before December if the U.S. wants to be a leadership force in global climate change. Not only do we need to create and adhere to multilateral goals, but we must also set interim reduction goals for our nation. Obama has hit some roadblocks in Congress, mostly due to the ongoing financial crisis. Planning for the COP15 begins in late March, with negotiations continuing into mid-summer. Will the U.S. be able to set an example by going green at home before standing on the world stage?

—Adrienne Saia Isaac

United Nations Climate Change Conference