Proponents of cap and trade legislation and an international treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are pushing for President Obama to make the trip to Copenhagen. For instance, Carter Roberts, CEO of the World Wildlife Fund affirmed, “We believe it’s fundamental for the president to go to Copenhagen, to look other leaders in the eye convey our commitment as a country, and secure theirs.”
President Obama has the left the plane door open for a trip to Denmark, saying, “If I am confident that all of the countries involved are bargaining in good faith and we are on the brink of a meaningful agreement and my presence in Copenhagen will make a difference in tipping us over the edge, then certainly that’s something that I will do.”
Granted, that’s a big ‘if’ since the hype surrounding Copenhagen has dulled a bit and the chances of an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are dwindling. But the timing of the President’s remarks is interesting; his absence at the fall of the wall anniversary in Berlin drew much criticism both here and abroad.
President Obama’s staff cited a packed schedule for him not making the trip; of course, the date of the Berlin Wall hasn’t changed. German newspaper Der Spiegel called it “Barack Too Busy”, and especially given Ronald Reagan’s integral role , Newt Gingrich said President Obama’s absence was “a tragedy.”
Regardless, if President Obama does make the trip to Copenhagen, he should go with these things in mind:
• Byrd-Hagel Still U.S. Policy: Heritage Senior Policy Analyst in Energy & Environment writes, “In 1997 the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, which warned President Clinton not to enter into any global warming treaty that leaves out developing nations or hurts the American economy.” Any country, including the U.S. that agrees to emissions cuts is also agreeing to stunt its economic growth, which is why we see a growing divide between the developed and developing countries. Indian climate envoy Shyam Saran asserted, “Whatever emerges from Copenhagen should enhance our prospects for development, not diminish them. Climate change action should not become a pretext for the perpetuation of poverty.”
• Kyoto Did Not Work: The 1997 Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was largely a failure. Emissions from most developed nation signatories outpaced those of the United States but their efforts did not come without cost.
• Copenhagen Could Threaten U.S. Sovereignty: In testimony to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Heritage Fellow Steven Groves warns that “the contemplated post-Kyoto treaty is a serious threat to American sovereignty and other vital U.S. national interests because of its legally binding nature; its intrusive compliance and enforcement mechanisms; and the inability to submit reservations, understandings, or declarations to its terms.”
• Copenhagen Could Threaten National Security: Because the military is the nations’ largest consumer of fossil fuels and capping carbon dioxide emissions would tax energy, Heritage Deputy Director James Carafano advises that a climate treaty “would make the economies of the U.S. and its allies less competitive, depriving them of the capacity to defend themselves and aid other nations.”
• China Has Real Environmental Problems: Many praise China as a leader in renewable energy investments but the country is a leader in coal – over 40 percent of the world’s coal use and climbing. Heritage Research Fellow in Asia Economic Policy Derek Scissors stresses that China has bigger environmental concerns: “Water shortage and pollution are more important to the PRC, and most of the world, than greenhouse gases. Nearly two-thirds of Chinese cities, plus over 200 million rural residents, face water shortages. At the end of 2008, close to half of key river and waterway sections were classified as being so polluted that they were unsuitable for human contact and, in some cases, even irrigation.”
For more on Heritage’s work on the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, visit Copenhagen Consequences.