Obama’s (first) big speech on global warming is going to come sooner than expected.
And all the nonsensical media reporting on how the administration is supposedly backing away from a sense of urgency on the climate issue — urgency on passing the clean air, clean water, clean energy jobs bill and getting a global deal — should be dispelled by reading today’s House testimony from our top climate negotiator, Todd Stern (here, excerpted below). Every word in that testimony is signed off on by the administration, so when Stern presses Congress for a bill ASAP and says Obama is committed to action, that comes from the White House.
E&E News PM reports:
President Obama will speak on global warming later this month during a special U.N. summit in New York where world leaders will try to jump-start talks on a deal that succeeds the Kyoto Protocol.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs today confirmed Obama’s role in the Sept. 22 event that comes on the eve of general debate in the 64th session of the U.N. General Assembly.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called presidents and prime ministers together for the climate meeting in an attempt to “mobilize the political will and vision needed to reach an ambitious agreed outcome based on science at the U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen.”
Obama’s role in the U.N. session is sure to spark widespread international attention, especially after eight years of resistance to significant steps on climate change under former President George W. Bush’s administration.
Obama is expected to appear alongside a handful of other government leaders and climate activists during a morning session that opens the U.N. climate meeting.
I think he’ll still need to give a more political speech before the Senate vote. When will that vote be? A key administration witness testified in front of a House Committee today that it really needs to be before a certain big international climate conference in Europe this December:
Also today, Obama’s top climate change diplomat urged Congress to keep working toward passage of a comprehensive climate law, saying it would be a useful tool for U.S. diplomats as they try to reach agreement in Copenhagen.
“The most important thing is Congress send the president legislation,” Todd Stern told the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. “It gives us the kind of credibility and leverage that’d be useful in the context of these negotiations.”
Stern, the special envoy for climate change at the State Department, praised the House-passed global warming bill for the leverage it gives the United States as it talks to more than 180 other countries, including developing powerhouses China and India.
But Stern said that a final law would be even better, given the amount of interest focused on Obama as he sends his team to its first U.N. climate summit. “It’d be extremely helpful for the Senate to pass legislation before Copenhagen,” Stern said. “I’m certainly doing everything I can to help make that happen.”
At the same time, Stern said the Obama administration would adapt if Congress can’t get through with its bill. “If legislation is moving on a good track that isn’t passed yet, there will undoubtedly be ways to try and accommodate that,” he said.
Stern’s remarks to the House panel, and reporters afterward, reflect the difficult position the administration is in as officials push Congress on global warming at the same time as its full-court press on health care legislation. Senate action on the climate bill is expected to pick up later this month, though it is unclear how quickly senators will move.
The slow-going nature of the Senate debate was not lost on several House Democrats.
“The House has already acted,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). “We’re three months away from Copenhagen. So I think it’d be important to either close the Senate down or get them to do something they don’t like to do, which is vote on legislation.”
Worth noting is that Stern doesn’t pull his punches on the cost of inaction or the historical . As he testified:
Moreover, the national security threats posed by climate change are real. As detailed in a recent front page story in the New York Times, discussing the rising concerns of the national security community, a world of uncontrolled climate change – with ever worsening storms, droughts, floods, the increased spread of disease; melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and more severe shortages of food and water – means a world of new and intensified security threats as millions of people are displaced, states are destabilized, and competition for resources intensifies.
In short, we have a lot of work to do this fall. The Congress has a crucial role to play on the domestic front. And internationally, we will be engaged full-out on all three of our fronts – the UN talks, the Major Economies Forum, and bilateral consultations with every relevant country and country block. President Obama and the Secretary of State, along with our entire Administration, are committed to action on this issue.
We are approaching this issue with the sense of urgency that it demands and are determined to do all we can to make the progress that is necessary to have a successful outcome in Copenhagen. Mr. Chairman, the world is going to make history over the course of the next months and years. We will either make it for the right reasons – because we found common ground and set ourselves on a path toward a new, sustainable, low-carbon model; or for the wrong reasons – because we blinked at the moment of truth and left our children and grandchildren to face the consequences. We have to get this right.