That’s the banner headline at the Politico, which reports:
“It would be a mistake to conclude that the international community’s failure to reach a final treaty in Copenhagen is due to a lack of domestic legislation in the United States,” said a senior White House official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity.
The United States, said officials, plans to propose a near-term emissions reduction target as part of a “meaningful submission” the country will present at the talks.
The BBC’s story is even more specific on the proposed target (though I think a little off):
The US will announce a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions before next month’s UN climate summit, according to a White House official.
The target is expected to be in line with figures contained in legislation before the Senate — a reduction of about 17-20% from 2005 levels by 2020.
While this is being hailed as big news, I don’t think it’s terribly surprising, since it’s pretty obvious that the Senate target will be in the ballpark of a 17% reduction +/- 3%. It’s certainly not going to be a lot higher nor would I expect it to be a lot lower. The House Bill does include allowances allocated for ending international deforestation equivalent to a full 10% of U.S. emissions (see “Tackling Climate Change by Saving Forests“), so I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama put that on the table, too.
Yes, the U.S. target is quite wimpy and inadequate compared to the other big players (see “Climate negotiating positions of top emitters“), but it is the best the American political system can do right now — given that conservatives led by the Bush administration blocked any action by the U.S. for a decade, including reneging on a 2000 campaign promise to cap utility CO2 emissions. We simply have a bigger hill (of our own making) to climb back down.
U.S. negotiators are holding out hope that a bipartisan effort by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) will give them some momentum heading into the climate talks. The trio of senators is expected to release a framework laying out broad principles of their bipartisan proposal before the conference.
Aides and experts suggested that the White House could introduce a provisional target that would be subject to congressional approval.
I take this White House announcement to be another clear message that, yes, they will be insisting on an economy-wide cap-and-trade bill in the Senate (see Carol Browner strongly backs economywide, bipartisan cap-and-trade bill: “Slicing and dicing isn’t going to work. It’s time to finally have comprehensive energy legislation in this country”).
But environmental advocates say the targets alone will not be enough to get a deal without presidential assurances that the legislation will eventually become law….
“They’re looking for that assurance from the president himself that this is going to get done,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Administration officials said Obama would decide over the next few days whether he would travel to the conference. More than 60 world leaders plan to appear at the conference. Obama will be in the region during the talks to receive his Nobel peace prices in Oslo on Dec. 10.
He ought to go, and I expect he will.