Transition Team Needs to Reach Out to Poznan


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

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7 comments on “Transition Team Needs to Reach Out to Poznan

  1. mark says:



  2. NWO says:

    I have to agree with J Dec; the US delegation is made up of career and political people who work for our president…who happens to be George W. Bush at the moment. Any back chanelling by the Obama team during an international climate conference at this moment will not be helpful.
    Imagine how you would feel 4 or 8 years from now at a similar conference if the U.S. delegation was being given communication/instructions from an in-coming President Palin; it sets a poor precedent.


  3. Zathras says:

    The answer to this problem is a CODEL with junior members of Obama’s transition team along as staff.
    Objections to usurpation of the authority of an incumbent administration’s officials are not trivial. However, unless I am misinformed no binding commitments are likely to be made at this meeting. The Obama team’s intentions can be adequately conveyed to foreign governments as well as our own delegation at Poznan through communications from a small group of legislators selected by the President-elect’s team and staffed by people working for him. The legislators would have (by definition) no authority to negotiate or otherwise usurp the authority of the offical American delegation, but would be able to communicate the likely orientation of the incoming administration. This means would also engage part of the Democratic caucus in the House and/or Senate in what the new administration planned to do on an important issue, a bonus.


  4. Scott Paul says:

    J Dec, thanks for your thoughts.
    I think I was clear here that the Obama folks are not being called
    on to provide instructions. I’m encouraging them to provide, as
    they’ve done on a host of other issues, some guidance as to
    what future policy might be so that a smooth transition takes
    place. This is what the current administration (or at least the
    relevant pieces of it) wants and what the Obama team wants too.
    No one is suggesting that the U.S. Del. suddenly declare its
    allegience to the future president and ignore instructions from
    the current boss.
    Everybody’s on the same page now — this isn’t a power struggle
    between Bush and Obama. This is a communication problem.
    The current delegation needs to know which way the arrow is
    pointing for its policy so it can act accordingly. Excepting a very
    few bomb throwers in the current administration, everybody else
    — even in the White House — wants this too.
    More coming from Poznan soon.


  5. J says:

    Sorry, this won’t happen, nor do I think it should happen. Obama has been very clear that “There is only one President at a time”. Not to mention the Constitutional issues involved.
    Do we really want to wake up to a Washington Post story that Obama advisors have been providing instructions to U.S. government delegations when George W. Bush is still our constitutional President?


  6. JohnH says:

    The best part of the UK law is that everyone involved will be dead by 2050. In bureaucrateeze, a 5 year horizon is in the foreseeable future, 10 years is eternity. So what is 40 years? Well beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.


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