December 17, 2009 - 10:02am ET
As President Obama flies to Copenhagen later today to join dozens of other heads of state at the climate change talks there, The New York Times joins other media outlets in concluding that "continued bickering among delegations would seem to be making the likelihood of a significant breakthrough increasingly slim."
Nonetheless, Reuters quotes administration officials that they believe Obama can use his stature to salvage meaningful agreements from the talks.
"The president is hopeful that his presence can help... and hopeful that, again, we leave Copenhagen with a strong operational agreement even as we work toward something even stronger in the future," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Wednesday.
But that was before Politico's Glenn Thrush reported that China won't agree to the kind of "operational agreement" that the U.S. was hoping for and would instead only commit to a "short, noncommittal collective statement."
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that the U.S. would participate in the $100 billion global fund to help less-developed countries with green energy initiatives, but that is contingent on China committing to monitoring of its greenhouse emissions efforts that so far China has refused to allow.
Nick Bering on Open Left writes about how he and 50 members of Friends of the Earth were frozen out of the Copenhagen conference even though they had valid credentials, because "we were considered a security threat." That dispute was partially resolved, but not a much more important issue:
One of the key roles Friends of the Earth has played at the conference has been to advocate for climate justice and the interests of the poor countries that have done the least to cause the climate crisis but will feel some of its strongest impacts. Negotiators from those countries are tremendously under-resourced here. For example, I've worked with negotiators who have no media officers (I do media work) to help them communicate their position. They are totally outgunned by the massive delegations of the rich countries, and now thanks to the UN's decision to exclude us, they will have even less support inside the Bella Center to fight for a fair agreement. An agreement that already feels so far out of reach. It's really frustrating, and shameful.
Bill McKibben writes for Mother Jones that one of the first substantive declarations of the Copenhagen talks didn't even happen in Copenhagen, but in Paris, where Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy after receiving a phone call from President Obama.
"That was enough to persuade [Zenwali] to sign off on, in essence, the American deal. Two degrees. (Never mind that the IPCC had made clear that two degrees more heating means four degrees in Africa, which means better find some habit to replace eating.) $10 billion in "fast-start" financing. (Given the 4 billion people in the developing world, that's $2.50 apiece; sorry about that global warming, but enjoy this fries-and-a-Coke.) This is how power works. The US president doesn't want to put political capital on the line to push the US Senate, so the leader of the African negotiating bloc gets the word, and the deal gets cut. It's wonderfully naked, and the extra bonus up-yours was cutting the deal along the Champs Elysees."
White House proposals for clean energy tax credits are highlighted by The Christian Science Monitor: "The step, which, it's hoped, will spur private investment for $15 billion in total spending for manufacturing, was announced today by Vice President Joe Biden, who was hosting chief executives as part of an unveiling of a new framework to aid US manufacturing. He characterized it as an investment in the nation's future. ... US manufacturing groups such as the Alliance for American Manufacturing applauded the step, citing a 'flood of subsidized competition from Asia and Europe seeking to capitalize on new demand for clean energy products in the United States.'"