As I’m sure the Obama Administration transition team is aware, Poznan, Poland is currently hosting a very important UN-sponsored climate change conference. At stake is nothing less than the next round of emissions reduction commitments (a Kyoto successor) — which Barack Obama has said he wants the U.S. to participate in.
If they haven’t already, the Obama folks need to make contact with the U.S. delegation in Poznan immediately. One would think that the U.S. Del. would take the initiative itself, but I’m getting word that they feel that the ball is in Obama’s court.
Apparently, current U.S. delegation members — mostly career people with honorable intentions and a willingness to continue to serve (with some notable exceptions) — are waiting for the call. This is no time to fight about protocol, or who is supposed to call who. It’s time to start turning the ship around.
Things are going to slow down for the weekend and then pick up again on Tuesday. The framework that comes out of this week can still be quite ambitious and, at the same time, workable in the U.S. and in the Senate. The Obama people have from now until Tuesday to make their goals for Poznan clear, but the sooner, the better.
Obviously, the global emissions goal should come up in this conversation, along with adaptation and a host of other issues on the negotiating table. One thing the Obama people might want to articulate: this is no time to celebrate the “success” of the Major Emitters process (MEM), which President Bush convened last year mostly as a talk shop. Whether or not an ongoing dialogue of major emitters should continue parallel to the UN process is a reasonable question. But the Bush and Sarkozy Administrations are actually planning a party to celebrate its success. This should beg the question: in what way exactly has the MEM succeeded?
Sadly, this celebration is the symptom, not the disease. It’s a symptom of relative indifference to the real and tragic consequences of climate change. It’s a symptom of incompetence in policy matters. And it’s a symptom of conference-itis, which tends to infect members of both parties, civil society, business, and everyone who microscopically views negotiations and meetings as ends in and of themselves.
Obama folks: if you haven’t done so already, please pick up the phone. Your input is needed.
— Scott Paul